Which Garmin Running Watch Is Right For You?

Garmin Watch Reviews to Pick the Best Garmin Watch for You

By The Fleet Feet Editors Updated on
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Trying to decide which Garmin running watch to buy for yourself or as a gift for a runner this holiday season?

Whether you’re looking to track how far you run, take your marathon training to the next level or you’re a fitness enthusiast who likes to record your activities and health metrics, we’re here to help you pick the perfect Garmin watch.

Choosing the best Garmin for running or other sports will depend on what you’re using it for and which features are most important to you. These GPS running watches pack a ton of tech onto your wrist, so to make the most of your Garmin, think about what you’d like to get from your smartwatch.

In addition to tracking your distance, steps, and heart rate, consider other features such as battery life, waterproof rating, music, advanced workouts and safety tracking.

In this guide, we break down all the models and features Garmin has to offer to help you find the best men’s and women’s Garmin watches for walking, running, trail running, hiking, triathlon, cycling, swimming and fitness.

[This article is part of our 2022 Gift Guide for Runners. See all the best gifts for runners by price, category and more. Can’t make up your mind? No worries. Check out our gift cards for a gift that keeps on giving.]

A man waits in the pool wearing the Garmin Forerunner 745
A person picks up a dumbbell weight wearing the Garmin Venu SQ
A woman cycles on the street wearing the Garmin Forerunner 745

Garmin Watch Features

Garmin packed its lineup of running and activity watches with features to help you train smarter. See each individual watch for its list of unique features.

  • GPS tracking: Garmin GPS watches tune in to navigational satellites to track your whereabouts. The data can determine your location, the distance you run or bike and your pace.
  • Activity tracking: When you're not running, Garmin watches act as an activity tracker to give you a full picture of your daily motion. As a tracker, the watch counts your steps, distance, calories and sleep.
  • Heart rate monitoring: Select Garmin watches include wrist-based heart rate monitoring. Garmin's Elevate heart rate technology identifies your heart rate zone and beats per minute in real time—all without the use of a chest strap.
  • Advanced running metrics: Watches like the Garmin fenix 6 series dial in the info you need to run smarter. The fenix takes biomechanical measurements, such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time, balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio. The key performance metrics help you analyze and improve your form.
  • Smart Notifications: Receive emails, texts and alerts right on your smartwatch when paired with your compatible smartphone.
  • Garmin Connect: Garmin's GPS and running watches sync to your phone with the company's online fitness community, Garmin Connect. With the free Garmin Connect app, you can log your workouts and compete against friends no matter where you run.

Garmin Sizing

Each watch face has a unique diameter, which indicates the space it will take up on your wrist, no matter the shape. Choose between circular, square or even rectangular watch faces to best suit your style.

For smaller sizing, look for "S" sizes. For example, the Forerunner 45S has a smaller watch face than the Forerunner 45.

For larger sizing, look for "X" sizes. For example, the fenix 6X Pro has a larger watch face than the fenix 6.

Best for Beginners: Garmin Forerunner 55

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Great for beginner runners as well as seasoned athletes, the Forerunner 55 offers a simple, easy-to-navigate interface that can be set up in minutes.

Elevated fitness tracking and a wide range of preloaded sports apps help you track runs, walks, hikes, yoga, pilates and more. This GPS running watch is also smartphone compatible and provides hours of non-stop tracking in a lightweight package.

Whether you’re just getting started with run/walk intervals or are training for a race, the Garmin Forerunner 55 offers updated features that help you train smarter, not harder.

Check out our full review of the Garmin Forerunner 55. In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Forerunner 55 also includes:

  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • GPS distance, pace and elevation tracking
  • Garmin Coach
  • Smart Notifications
  • Safety Tracking
  • 20 hours GPS mode; 2 weeks SmartWatch mode
  • 5 ATM waterproofing
  • 1.04” display diameter

Best for Music: Garmin Forerunner 255 Music

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Run and workout while listening to your favorite music—without carrying your bulky smartphone. The Garmin Forerunner 255 Music can hold up to 500 songs, including playlists from your Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music accounts (subscription may be required).

The Forerunner 255 Music has all the best features most people will ever need from their GPS running watch. It’s lightweight on your wrist and can track your distance, pace, elevation, heart rate and more to help you train and perform better.

Training for a race or have some big goals in mind? The Forerunner 255 Music has daily suggested workouts that adapt as you progress, and a race widget that helps you plan your course strategy and keep your training on track.

You’ll never have to worry about getting lost or stranded when you wear this running watch with music. The Forerunner 255’s battery can last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and uses multiple global navigation satellite systems to track your runs, walks, bike rides, swims and more. Plus, thanks to a LiveTrack, friends and family can follow your real-time location and view your pre-planned course.

Check out the full details on the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music.

In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Forerunner 255 Music also includes:

  • Training status and benefit
  • Training load
  • Lactate threshold
  • Daily suggested workouts
  • Open and auto intervals
  • RPE & Feel
  • Improved recovery time
  • Triathlon activity profile
  • Running Dynamics
  • Safety Tracking
  • Up to 30 hours of battery life in GPS mode
  • 5 ATM water rating
  • Storage for up to 500 songs or streaming from select services (255 Music only)

Best for Marathon Runners & Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 745

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Perfect for running, cycling and swimming, the Garmin Forerunner 745 was designed with runners and triathletes in mind.

Garmin engineered this GPS watch to track every part of your training from long-distance runs and open water swims to bike rides and recovery days.

A wrist-based heart monitor tracks your heart rate during the day, while a pulse ox monitor checks your blood oxygen saturation to show how you’re adjusting to altitude and sleeping.

Garmin also uses the watch’s monitors to give you training data like an estimate of your VO2 max, weekly training load and performance condition.

These powerful analytics help you better assess your fitness and can even help predict your race performance. Check out our full review of the Garmin Forerunner 745.

In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Forerunner 745 also includes:

  • Pre-loaded activity profiles for running, biking, swimming and more
  • In-depth fitness metrics like VO2 max and training load
  • Daily workout suggestions based on your recent training
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment system
  • Store up to 200 songs or stream from select services
  • Up to 16 hours of battery life in GPS mode
  • 5 ATM water rating
  • 43.8 mm face diameter

Best for Cross Country, Track & Field Athletes: Garmin Forerunner 255

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If you’re a student athlete or have a child that has joined your school XC or track & field team, the Garmin Forerunner 255 is a great option that will give you more than enough features to track progress, workouts, recovery, sleep and more.

Plus, it has a safety tracking feature that shares your exact location with friends and family so they can keep track of you while you're out running or just follow along with your race progress.

The Forerunner 255 does the hard work for you. Whether you choose between the classic 255 or the 255 Music ($50 more), you'll find everything you need to train smarter.

If you’re trying to stay under a budget, check out the Garmin Forerunner 55 for another quality GPS running watch. Check out the full details on the Garmin Forerunner 255.

In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Forerunner 255 includes:

  • Training status and benefit
  • Training load
  • Lactate threshold
  • Daily suggested workouts
  • Open and auto intervals
  • RPE & Feel
  • Improved recovery time
  • Triathlon activity profile
  • Running Dynamics
  • Safety Tracking
  • Up to 30 hours of battery life in GPS mode
  • 5 ATM water rating

Best for Trail Running & Hiking: Garmin Fenix 6

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Best for nature lovers who spend more time on trails than at home, the Garmin Fenix 6 is a bulletproof watch with all of the advantages of a GPS smartwatch. Wear this rugged watch for trail running, ultramarathon training or multiple-day backpacking trips.

It has point-to-point map navigation, a 10 ATM water rating and up to 72 hours of battery life in maximum GPS mode. In our Garmin Fenix 6 review, a Fleet Feet tester praised the long battery life, saying it will get you through almost any adventure you can imagine.

The Fenix 6 runs the gamut of pre-loaded activities to provide you with over 100 performance metrics, mapping, GPS tracking and so much more. It provides deep analytics essential for elite performance and will track you wherever you go over land and sea.

In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Fenix 6 also includes:

  • Pre-loaded activities ranging from running, biking and swimming to hiking and skiing
  • Find the most advanced performance metrics Garmin has to offer–over 100 to be exact
  • Color display, point-to-point map navigation, sunlight visible
  • Interchangeable bands to match your unique style
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment system
  • 10 ATM water rating
  • fenix 6S: 42 mm / fenix 6: 47 mm / fenix 6X: 51 mm diameter
  • Up to 72 hours of battery life in maximum GPS mode

Best for Health & Fitness Enthusiasts: Garmin Venu 2 & Venu SQ Music

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The Garmin Venu 2 and Venu SQ Music are geared more toward individuals looking to lead an active lifestyle, but who still want all the benefits of a traditional GPS smartwatch vs an Apple Watch.

They’re built to last through whatever your day throws at you, and it delivers the style that matches yours. Choose from customizable wristbands and watch faces to add a flare of your unique aesthetic to this essential piece of technology.

But the Venu 2 and SQ don’t stop when your workout ends: The watches sync with your phone for smart notifications and music, and they let you track your blood oxygen levels, stress and sleep for a fuller picture of your health.

In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Venu series also includes:

  • Garmin Coach plans workouts for yoga, pilates, cardio and more
  • More than 20 pre-loaded sports apps track a broad range of activities
  • Health monitoring gives insights on heart rate, step count, hydration and sleep
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment system
  • 5 ATM water rating
  • Up to 6 hours of battery life in GPS mode (Venu SQ Music); up to 22 hours in GPS mode (Venu 2)
  • Storage for up to 500 songs, or streaming from select services (Venu SQ Music only)

Best for Deep Analytics and Data Nerds: Garmin Forerunner 955

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Train and perform your best with the Forerunner 955, Garmin's most advanced running and triathlon GPS smartwatch in the Forerunner Collection.

The amount of data the Garmin Forerunner 955 can give you is amazing. In addition to the standard running watch features like pace, distance and heart rate, the 955 features advanced running and health metrics to give you a full picture of your training, performance and recovery. The running power feature shows how hard you’re pushing, and training readiness lets you know when you’re undertraining or overdoing it.

For long training blocks and races, you can plan your strategy with daily suggested workouts, course details and more using the race widget. Access full color maps from streets to trails thanks to multi-band GPS that gives you better tracking no matter where your training takes you. Plus, you can easily navigate through your maps and metrics using either the touchscreen display or traditional button controls on each side.

With all the features packed into this Garmin running watch, it still feels lightweight and comfortable on your wrist. And now you can go even longer thanks to an extended battery life of up to 15 days in smartwatch mode. Garmin also offers a Forerunner 955 Solar option that has up to 20 days of battery life in smartwatch mode.

Better training starts with better data, and the Forerunner 955 has plenty of it. In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the Garmin Forerunner 955 also includes:

  • Touch screen and side control buttons
  • Multi-band GPS
  • Heart rate variability
  • Training readiness
  • Race widget
  • Morning report
  • On-device running power
  • Pre-loaded activity profiles for running, biking, swimming and more
  • Full color on board maps
  • Store up to 2000 songs or stream from select services
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment system
  • 46.5 mm diameter
  • 5 ATM water rating
  • Up to 42 hours of battery life in GPS mode

Best for Minimalists: Garmin vivoactive 4

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Whether it’s your first time hitting the gym or you’re an athlete who prefers something simple and minimalist, the Garmin vivoactive 4 GPS watch gives you the guidance and analysis you need to set and meet your fitness goals without overwhelming you with advanced features and metrics.

For those who aren’t the most tech-savvy, easy-to-use features like Garmin Coach and animated, on-screen workouts provide the motivation and instruction you need to exercise creatively and consistently.

The vivoactive 4 is also available in the 4S for individuals looking for a smaller watch face.

In addition to the standard features offered on all Garmin watches, the vivoactive 4 also includes:

  • Over 20 pre-loaded sports apps
  • Fitness tracking, sleep monitoring, mindful breathing guidance
  • Garmin Coach and on-screen animations guide you through custom workouts
  • Store up to 500 songs from any music streaming service to enjoy a phone-free workout
  • 4: 45.1 mm diameter/ 4S: 40 mm diameter
  • 5 ATM water rating
  • Up to 15 hours of battery life in GPS mode

Garmin GPS Watch Reviews

Standing Behind Our Picks

With more than 45 years of experience, Fleet Feet is the expert in running and running gear. We picked the best Garmin GPS watches based on what we think will work for most people in most situations. What makes the perfect Garmin GPS watch for a runner comes down to the personal experience, goals, preferences and style of that runner.

If you buy a Garmin GPS watch from us and you don’t like the way it looks, fits or performs, bring it back within 60 days for a full refund.

Plus, we offer free shipping on all orders over $99 on fleetfeet.com, and we’ll match a lower price from a qualifying retailer. That’s our Happy Fit Guarantee.