When it comes to the right running watches, a Garmin running watch definitely deserves the spotlight. Although they didn’t invent GPS, the company certainly made the technology more accessible to the public. And now they are producing quality watches that are giving Apple and Fitbit a run for their money.
I left my Apple watch for a Garmin watch and ever since I’m a huge fan of the Garmin running watches. I was lucky to get to try some of their most popular models in order to review them for this article.
So today I will highlight the best Garmin running watch and give you a few comparisons from those that I got to run with. In order to find the best GPS watch, you should do your research and figure out which watch suits you best. I hope this overview will help you a bit to find the best Garmin running watch for you.
What is the best Garmin running watch to buy?
With wearable devices that track heart rate, pace, calories burned, and a ton of other important dynamic feedback options, it’s not a question of if you should invest in a watch as a runner, but which Garmin running watch you should choose.
Because there are a large number of great Garmin watches out there, I will narrow the list down to what I think are the 8 best Garmin running watches in 2019. Training with a Garmin watch has a lot of benefits – an added benefit is that every workout will upload to Garmin Connect™, the Garmin app for your phone.
Let’s explore some more benefits.
Garmin Running Watch #1: Forerunner 45
The Garmin Forerunner 45 has it all. My favorite part about this running watch is how reliable a device it is for having such a small price tag. I’d recommend it for those who have never purchased a watch for running before, or before the more expensive Garmin Forerunners – like the Forerunner 945.
✔ Smartphone, Bluetooth, and Garmin Connect Mobile connectivity.
✔ Heart rate monitoring and vibration alerts for responsive prompts.
✔ Light, comfortable, and durable fit.
✔ Affordable: the price = $120-$130.
✔ Good battery life.
𝗫 Nothing too sexy or flashy – depending on your preference, this could actually be a pro and not a con though!
𝗫 The learning curve can be difficult at first for using all of its features.
Garmin Running Watch #2: Forerunner 945
Here is another great Garmin running watch, not just for runners, but also for all types of endurance athletes. A lot of my Triathlon friends are actually training with the Forerunner 945. Because it is such a versatile device and has a lot of attractive features, this one will cost you more money ($475 – $650).
However, the price certainly justifies all of the great features. Some have even said they watch is like having your own personal running coach strapped to your wrist. You will get up to 2 weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode and 10 hours in GPS mode with music which is pretty impressive. If you don’t want to spend that much money on a running watch check out the Garmin Forerunner® 235 the smaller version of the 945 which also tracks your distance, pace, heart rate & automatically uploads your stats to Garmin Connect™. Check out the best prices for the Forerunner 945 here.
✔ A ton of performance monitoring applications for endurance athletes.
✔ Battery life is impressively long.
✔ Garmin Pay functionality, meaning you don’t need credit cards or cash on hand.
✔ Onboard maps for seamless navigation, which I found really helpful on new routes.
𝗫 The price tag might give buyers pause, ranging from $475 – $650. This is a higher-end watch, but depending on your needs and expectations from your device, this can deliver a lot of advanced metrics.
𝗫 Some syncing errors and reported software bugs sometimes affect the watch.
Garmin Running Watch #3: Garmin vívoactive® 4
I really like the look of this one which is why I decided to switch from my Apple watch to the Garmin vívoactive® 4 a few months back. It’s a mid-level device as far as the price of the watch goes. I like it because of the smartwatch capabilities, as well as the music option. It gets the job done as well with the right amount of tracking features to monitor while I run. With more than 15 preloaded sports apps it is super easy to start your workout and find the perfect fitting activity right in your GPS watch.
Just like I was able to on my Apple watch, I can receive calls and read text messages on the Garmin vívoactive® 4. What I find most impressive is that it’s able to estimate your VO2 max and fitness age which are 2 indicators of physical fitness that can often improve over time with regular exercise. Compare the best deals for this watch here.
✔ Music options and download functionality.
✔ You can create workouts and have them on your watch for convenient use. Great to have the reminder and refresher there.
✔ Cheap but not cheaply made!
𝗫 The heart rate monitor can be buggy sometimes.
𝗫 The battery life is not as good as some of the higher-end devices.
Garmin Running Watch #4: Garmin fēnix 6
This watch is great! It is expensive, but a pretty neat piece of machinery. It is also a multisport watch, so it has the same sort of versatility as the aforementioned Forerunner 945 and music features like the Garmin vívoactive® 4.
You can sync with music streaming services such as Spotify® to easily store and play your favorite songs right from your watch. This is a great GPS watch for all athletes and outdoor adventurers. The fēnix 6 Series watches are the high-performance way to beat your personal best and bring your maps and music along. Buy your Fenix 6 here.
✔ A ton of higher-end analytics to factor into your overall running performance and athletic abilities.
✔ Go as much as 14 days without having to charge your watch in smartwatch mode.
✔ Maps for terrains and great GPS capability. It’s Garmin, after all.
𝗫 Not the most comfortable, sleekest, or lightest watch.
Garmin Running Watch #5: Venu™
Is the Garmin Venu worth it? Yes, because it’s another great watch for runners made by Garmin. It has a lot of the same positive qualities as the others with an added level of sophistication from your run-of-the-mill fitness tracker. It’s the perfect watch if you’re living a very active lifestyle and would love to keep track of everything.
With this Garmin running watch, you will get reliability and a sleek look. One of my best friends has this Garmin running watch and she is wearing it everywhere she goes. Are you having trouble drinking enough water? Let the GPS watch help you and log your daily fluid intake as a reminder to stay hydrated. Check for the watch here
✔ Great look and colors.
✔ Reliable fitness tracker applications that track hydration levels, stress, heart rate, sleep monitoring, and more.
✔ Garmin coach and custom workouts
𝗫 Not much of a difference between the Garmin Vivoactive 4.
𝗫 Somewhat expensive. About $400 last time I checked.
Garmin Running Watch #6: Forerunner 935
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is for the multi-sport endurance fitness fanatic! In reality, if you are a marathon runner like I am and don’t regularly run triathlons, you might find this watch overkill.
Regardless of if you are a multi-sport athlete or not, this watch is often considered to be the best Garmin watch solely for bikers, runners, and swimmers. Or for all three combined – I see you, iron men and women!
Some have described the watch as a Fenix 5X in the body of a lighter, more comfortable Forerunner. Buy on Amazon.
✔ 24-hour battery life in GPS mode and about twice that when you are tracking activity – which is an incredible feature almost completely worth the heavier price tag.
✔ Great tech, features, apps, and accurate tracking.
It 𝗫 Really expensive! But this is expected because it’s a great, top-of-the-line watch.
𝗫 Not the best-looking watch or lightest, but still loads better than the Fenix 5X.
Garmin Running Watch #7: Forerunner 735 XT
Here is another great multi-sport watch. Although it was designed to accommodate Swimmers, Runners, AND Cyclists, the Forerunner 735 XT is so versatile that it can function as standalone watches for each sport without really facing a hiccup in functionality.
For how lightweight this watch is it’s surprisingly solid: in not only construction but also the features it boasts. The colors are great too! A big problem with a lot of multi-sport watches is that they tend to be a little hard on the eyes.
This one looks awesome! Check Amazon for prices.
✔ Pretty accurate pace monitoring. I felt pretty confident that the numbers were accurate while I was training.
✔ All of the bells and whistles of the meatier Forerunner watches without the added weight and bulk.
𝗫 The heart rate monitor is hit or miss sometimes, leading to inconsistent health tracking.
𝗫 Battery life isn’t as good as advertised.
Garmin Running Watch #8: Vivosport
Yes, this is a fitness tracker and not a “running watch” per se, but it still accomplishes the basic task of measuring GPS, VO2 max, and other basic fitness metrics.
Depending on your specific goals for fitness tracking, you might just find you needed a basic fitness tracker over a fully-fledged racing watch.
A basic fitness tracker is well worth the investment! Check Amazon for the best deals.
✔ Really affordable! And I mean, really affordable.
✔ Heart rate monitoring, performance tracking, and GPS for a low price.
𝗫 Limitations in functionality – this is on par with a Fitbit but with the added GPS.
𝗫 Obvious lack of a solid interface.
The Wrap-Up on my Garmin Running Watch comparison
So, there you have it. There are a lot of different fitness trackers and smartwatches available, but in my experience, these watches really stuck out to me during my training cycles.
I would still suggest going for the Forerunner 45 if it’s your first (or even second watch). And for the more advanced gadget-geek, I’d go with the Forerunner 945 GPS Cycle Running Watch, the 735XT, or the Forerunner 935.
How Accurate Are Garmin Watches?
Under normal weather conditions, the Garmin GPS accuracy is really great. Overall today’s GPS receivers are extremely accurate, thanks to their parallel multi-channel design. I learned that Garmin® GPS receivers are accurate to within 15 meters (49 feet) 95% of the time.
Elsewhere you will find accuracy within 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet). During the NYC Marathon, I expected my Garmin watch to be off multiple times due to the high-rise buildings and skyscrapers but it was really not as bad as I thought it would be. From all the devices that I had the chance to run with, including my Apple Watch, Garmin is the most accurate.
Is Garmin Better Than an Apple Watch?
This is a topic that deserves its own article, but generally speaking, I switched from my Apple Watch to my Garmin running watch because I found it super annoying in the summer when I was super sweaty and wet from all the water that I threw on me during my summer runs that I couldn’t stop my watch anymore. The touch screen wasn’t reacting. That threw me off a lot and then also the GPS wasn’t as good as Apple was praising it to be.
Looking back and comparing Apple vs Garmin the Apple Watch is a great smartwatch to track your activities and getting a feel of your overall fitness. But if you take your training more seriously, a running watch makes more sense. Even though the GPS of my Apple watch responds quicker, the Garmin devices are more accurate from what I experienced. Apple still wins when it comes to style for sure. At the end of the day I need a device that is made for runners and I think Garmin makes a way better job with that.
How long does a Garmin watch last?
Garmin running watches last pretty long, but it depends on the model you decide to purchase. Garmin claims that most of their models last from 8-14 hours. I ran a full marathon with the Garmin vívoactive® 4 and had after my sub 4 marathon more than 60% battery left. If you are consistent and have an eye on your battery levels, you will never run out of battery during your runs.
Do I really need a GPS watch for running?
If you want to take your training to another level, you need a GPS watch for running. Some may say, you can track everything on your phone with certain running apps but there are several reasons why a running watch still makes a lot of sense. I find it very annoying to carry my phone with me on my runs. Also, if you are doing intervals or want to know your splits you simply press a button on your watch and that’s it.
Your GPS watch comes with so many features and is so easy to carry with you. I know some of you may not agree, but a decent GPS watch is a must for me as a runner.
Which Garmin smartwatch is best?
It is very hard to answer this question because it really depends on your needs and expectations. Looking at the most popular models the Garmin Forerunners are some of my favorites. They come at different prices and everyone I know who runs with the Garmin Forerunner is super happy with it.
But again, I think it is hard to tell which Garmin smartwatch is best. None of them is bad. There are a lot of different fitness trackers and smartwatches available. During my Garmin running watch comparison, these 8 Garmin running watches really stuck out to me during my training cycles.