Anyone in the market for a running watch should consider buying from Garmin. The company has a long history in the running watch space, dating back nearly 20 years with the Garmin Forerunner 101. Running watches have come a long way since then, and we’re here to round up the best Garmin running watches you can buy in 2021.
Buying the right Garmin running watch
Garmin specializes in all types of sports watches, but some of its most popular products are aimed at runners. While all Garmin watches can track basic running metrics, the Forerunner series excels in this area. Typically, running watches need to have a few key features: onboard GPS, an optical heart rate sensor, and built-in maps and route guidance on some of the higher-end models. The Forerunner line has all of these features to varying degrees.
The best Garmin running watches
- The Garmin Forerunner 745 is the best Garmin running watch you can buy, thanks to its combination of advanced running metrics and smartwatch features.
- The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the best Garmin for triathlons. It has offline mapping and a 36-hour battery life with GPS usage.
- The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the best mid-tier Garmin running watch due to its all-around solid feature set and ~$300 price point.
- The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best cheap Garmin running watch. It packs onboard GPS, a two-week battery life, and even more running features for under $200.
- Even though they’re a few years old, the Garmin Forerunner 35, 235, and 935 are still capable running watches. The best part, they’re all pretty cheap now.
Garmin Forerunner 745: The best Garmin running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is our pick for the best Garmin running watch you can buy. Its combination of training and smartwatch features makes the 745 stand out as the “goldilocks” running watch from the company. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s $100 cheaper than the Forerunner 945, which some people might find the benefits of which aren’t worth the $100 premium. The 745 is nearly the same as the 945, only without offline maps, less onboard storage, and shorter battery life.
The Forerunner 745 features Garmin’s PacePro and ClimbPro modes, training load focus stats, heat and altitude acclimation, and of course now-staple features in Garmin devices like Body Battery, all-day stress tracking, a pulse oximeter for SpO2 readings, Garmin Pay, music storage, and more. It also has a barometric altimeter, which the 735XT does not.
Learn more about other watches in our comprehensive list of the best Garmin watches you can buy.
Garmin Forerunner 945: The best Garmin watch for triathlons
Need something even more feature-packed than the 745? The Forerunner 945 is Garmin’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink running watch. It has everything the 745 offers, in addition to offline routable maps and a battery that will last up to 36 hours on a charge with GPS usage — an important metric for athletes who will be out for hours on end. The Forerunner 945 adds Firstbeat Respiration Rate and double the onboard storage for music and maps.
If you find yourself on the trails just as much as the track, you might also consider the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. Garmin’s Fenix 6 lineup matches the 945 in running metrics and capabilities and has even more features for hikers and general outdoor enthusiasts.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The best mid-tier Garmin running watch
Is the thought of spending $500 on a running watch making you ill? We wouldn’t blame you. Garmin’s Forerunner 245 Music is likely the watch for you if you’re looking for a mid-tier device.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music has onboard music support (duh), a pulse oximeter, Virtual Racer and Virtual Partner, Garmin Coach programs, pool swimming, strength workouts, and Galileo. The hardware has been vastly improved over the 235, too, with the 245 Music sporting a higher-res screen and longer battery life with GPS use.
The big omissions from the Forerunner 245 Music are the lack of a barometric altimeter and Garmin Pay. Also, Garmin makes you pay $50 extra for the version with music. There’s a cheaper Forerunner 245 model without music, but this model also lacks Wi-Fi data uploads.
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music.
Garmin Forerunner 55: The best cheap Garmin running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 55 builds on the outgoing Forerunner 45 series. It’s the perfect Garmin watch if you’re looking for something compact and affordable.
Like its predecessors, the Forerunner 55 focuses on the fundamental Garmin features. It still includes a standalone GPS, tracking for common health metrics, VO2 max estimates, and the Elevate heart rate sensor. Smartwatch features, like notifications and music controls are also present. There are a host of new additions, too. Styling touches are borrowed from the Forerunner 245, battery life now extends to two weeks, while several runner-orientated features like cadence alerts, Race predictor, and PacePro also debut.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 still suffers from the usual issues, though. A blotchy display rather numbs the experience, while offline music storage is nowhere to be seen. We also found the Forerunner 55’s sleep tracking smarts to be questionable. If you can look past these, this is the Garmin running watch you should buy on a budget.
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 55.
Garmin Forerunner 35, 235, and 935: Discontinued watches still worth checking out
Many people buy Garmin running watches because they last for years on end. So, why not consider a few last-generation products and save some cash? The Garmin Forerunner 35, 235, and 935 are still available on multiple retailers around the web. These are of course the predecessors to the Forerunner 45, 245, and 945 lines. You can even find the 745’s predecessor, the 735XT, at various retailers, though at the time of this writing the 935 is actually the cheaper watch.
While less expensive, the three older watches miss out on onboard music storage, Garmin Pay, and other recently launched features like VO2 max, Body Battery, all-day stress tracking, and incident detection.
That’s it for our list of the best Garmin running watches you can buy, but it’s only a fraction of what’s out there. We also want to give an honorable mention to the following products:
- Garmin Venu 2: The Garmin Venu 2 is a solid running watch overall if you don’t need advanced training features. It has excellent standalone GPS accuracy and long battery life.
- Garmin Fenix 6 Pro: Garmin’s top-end Fenix 6 Pro matches the Forerunner 945 in running features. It also throws in additional sport profiles for those who spend their time on a variety of activities, not just running.
- Garmin Vivoactive 4 and Venu: Garmin’s last-gen multisport watches are still capable running watches in 2021. Again, you won’t get many training features with these devices, but they do have standalone GPS.
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