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The best Garmin running watches you can buy (October 2021)

Garmin has lots of running watches to choose from. These are our favorites.
The Best
By
November 23, 2021
Garmin Forerunner 55 review daily suggested workouts todays suggestion
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Table of contents

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. Since then, running watches have come a long way, and we’re here to round up the best Garmin running watches you can buy in 2021.

Also read: Garmin wearables buyer’s guide

BLACK FRIDAY 2021

Products in this category are discounted for Black Friday 2021! Check out our best Garmin deals overview and our roundup of the best Black Friday deals for more details.

Buying the right Garmin running watch for your needs

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 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.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 35, 235, and 935 are still capable running watches, even though they’re a bit old. You can also find them at significant discounts.

Garmin Forerunner 745: The best Garmin running watch

Garmin Forerunner 745 running distance timer pace
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

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.

Garmin Forerunner 745 running watch black and yellow
Garmin Forerunner 745
945 too expensive? The 745 might be right for you.
The Forerunner 745 slots in nicely between the high-end Forerunner 945 and mid-range Forerunner 245 Music. It's still pricey but offers most of Garmin's advanced running features.

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 essential 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 945 in black watch face
Garmin Forerunner 945
The best GPS running watch you can buy
Garmin's Forerunner 945 is the best GPS running watch you can buy, period. It has all the advanced running watch features you could ask for in a smaller form factor than the Garmin Fenix 6 line. Now, it's over $100 off!

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The best mid-tier Garmin running watch

garmin forerunner 245 music running watch recent activities screen

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 significant 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.

garmin forerunner 245 music aqua strap
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Middle of the road
Hit the road with the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. The 245 Music is Garmin's mid-range running watch, featuring onboard music storage, Garmin Coach plans, and training status support.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music.

Garmin Forerunner 55: The best cheap Garmin running watch

Garmin Forerunner 55 review watch face display on table 2
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

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 somewhat 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.

garmin forerunner 55 black model watch face
Garmin Forerunner 55
Garmin's cheapest running watch, improved
The Garmin Forerunner 55 offers major hardware and software improvements over its predecessor. New training features, more than double the battery life, and a new design are just some of the upgrades you'll get with the Forerunner 55.

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 the 935 is actually the cheaper watch at the time of this writing.

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.

Garmin Forerunner 35
$169.99 at Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 235
$165.00 at Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 935
$499.99 at Amazon

Honorable mentions

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.

Looking for more brand-specific recommendations? Check out the following guides: