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The best Garmin running watches you can buy (April 2022)
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 all the way back to the Garmin Forerunner 101. Since then, dedicated devices have come a long way, and Garmin has kept up. We’re here to round up the best Garmin running watches you can buy in 2022.
Also read: Garmin wearables buyer’s guide
Buying the right Garmin running watch for your needs
Garmin specializes in all types of sport watches, but many of its most popular products are aimed at runners. While all Garmin watches can track basic running metrics, the Forerunner series excels at inundating athletes with useful tools and features. Consider the factors below when choosing the right running watch for you.
- Onboard GPS: Built-in GPS is a no-brainer for runners. If you settle for a device with connected GPS you will need to pocket your phone out on the road or trail.
- Heart rate data: For the best training and recovery data, choose a device with an optical heart rate sensor. Accurate heart rate data can help you maximize your performance while keeping cardio health a priority.
- Battery life: The last thing you want is a watch that runs out of juice before you do. Long battery life is key, especially for long-distance runners.
- Budget: You don’t have to spend a fortune to own a powerful device. On the other hand, you can find plenty of specialty features on Garmin’s top watches if money isn’t a concern.
- Sport modes: If you like to cross-train with a variety of activities, you will want a device with plenty of sport profiles. Most running watches offer basic exercises such as walking, cycling, and swimming.
- Route guidance: Higher-end running watches offer additional navigational features such as built-in maps and route guidance. These can be important tools for triathlon runners.
The best Garmin running watches
- Garmin Forerunner 745: The Forerunner 745 the best Garmin running watch you can buy, thanks to its combination of advanced running metrics and smartwatch features.
- Garmin Forerunner 945: The best Garmin for triathlon runners, the Forerunner offers offline mapping and a 36-hour battery life with GPS usage.
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The best mid-tier Garmin running watch is the Forerunner 245 Music due to its all-around solid feature set and ~$300 price point.
- Garmin Forerunner 55: Garmin’s Forerunner 55 is the company’s best cheap running watch. It packs onboard GPS, a two-week battery life, and even more running features for under $200.
- Garmin Forerunner 35, 235, & 935: These Garmin devices are all still capable watches, and since they’re a bit old, can also be found at significant discounts.
Garmin Forerunner 745: The best Garmin running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is our pick for the best Garmin running watch you can buy. Most importantly, its combination of training and smartwatch features makes the 745 stand out as the company’s “goldilocks” running watch. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s $100 cheaper than the Forerunner 945. The 745 is nearly the same as the pricier model, only with less onboard storage, shorter battery life, and no offline maps.
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. Plus, it also has a barometric altimeter, which the 735XT does not.
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 all the same tools the 745 offers, as well as offline routable maps and a battery that will last up to 36 hours on a single charge with GPS usage — an essential metric for athletes who will be out for hours on end. The Forerunner 945 also 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 consider the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro. Garmin’s multisport Fenix 7 lineup matches the 945 in running metrics and capabilities but has even more features for hikers and general outdoor enthusiasts. It also offers solar charging.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The best mid-tier Garmin running watch
If the thought of spending $500 on a running watch doesn’t sit well, we wouldn’t blame you. Luckily Garmin offers a powerful mid-tier device as well, the Forerunner 245 Music.
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.
Learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music in our full review.
Garmin Forerunner 55: The best cheap Garmin running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 55 builds on the outgoing Forerunner 45 series and is the perfect Garmin watch if you’re looking for something compact and affordable. To cut down costs, the device simply focuses on Garmin’s fundamental features, so users are still left with a well-rounded device.
The Forerunner 55 includes a standalone GPS, tracking for common health metrics, VO2 max estimates, and Garmin’s Elevate heart rate sensor. Smartwatch features, like notifications and music controls, are also present. There are a host of new additions, too. The Forerunner 55 borrows styling touches from the Forerunner 245, extends battery life to two weeks, and offers several runner-orientated features like cadence alerts, Race predictor, and PacePro.
However, 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 if you’re on a budget.
Learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 55 in our full review.
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? Garmin’s older 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.
Just note that these older watches won’t feature onboard music storage or Garmin Pay. Likewise, these devices won’t offer 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 Plus ($449.99): The Garmin Venu 2 pro is a solid running watch overall if you don’t need advanced training features. It has excellent standalone GPS accuracy and long battery life as well as some useful smartwatch features.
- Garmin Fenix 7 Pro ($699.99): As mentioned above, Garmin’s top-end Fenix 7 series matches the Forerunner 945 in running features. Plus, it also throws in additional sport profiles for those who spend their time on a variety of activities, not just running.
- Garmin Vivoactive 4 ($329.99), Venu 2 ($399.99) and Fenix 6 ($599.99): Garmin’s last-gen multisport watches are still capable running watches in 2022. Again, you won’t get many training features with these devices, but they do have standalone GPS.
Garmin running watch FAQs
Q: Are Garmin running watches compatible with all smartphones?
A: These Garmin running watches are compatible with both Android phones and iPhones.
Q: Can Garmin connect to Strava?
A: Yes! Garmin watches are compatible with the popular running and cycling app Strava. To link your accounts, open Garmin Connect, and find the settings menu. Open connected apps and select Strava, then sign in to your Strava account.
Q: What’s the best overall Garmin watch for most users, not just for runners?
A: Garmin has plenty of great devices for athletes of all kinds. Check out our guide to the best Garmin watches you can buy for more options beyond the company’s running lineup.
Q: Are Garmin watches waterproof?
A: Most Garmin watches are water-resistant up to 5ATM.
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