Whether you’re a beginner or an avid runner, a gps running watch is basically your bread and butter.
There are multiple brands when it comes to getting the best running watch but one of those that is the most popular is definitely Garmin. With their emphasis on in-depth features for runners and constant updates it has made them one of the giants. From the Fenix, to the Forerunner, they are impeccable watches that don’t fail to surprise.
We’ve tested the top Garmin models and dissected what sets them apart, we have a clear winner at the end although with good merit, read on to find out more and share your comments if you own your own Garmin.
Garmin GPS Running Watch Reviews
Below is a summary of what we consider the best running watches made by Garmin. We’ve also gone in-depth in individual reviews which you can go more into detail with. We’ve reviewed these against factors such as features, price and durability.
1. Garmin Forerunner 945 – Best All Rounder GPS Running Watch
Reasons to buy
- Great Battery Life
- Virtual Pay Options
- Triathlon Sport Modes
Reasons to avoid
- Only One Color Option
- Less Affordable Than Other Watches
For runners looking for a great GPS Garmin running watch they can rely on, the Forerunner 945 is an excellent choice. From runners to triathletes, this watch has all the training tools a person could want, and more.
It’s packed with more features than other Garmin Forerunner watches have had in the past, and that gives it the edge for runners who are looking for all the information they can get about their times and abilities. Serious, focused athletes can get a lot of great value from this Garmin offering.
Getting an overall profile of life as an athlete is important, and this watch will track everything from the steps during a run to the runner’s sleep at night. All the little details can really matter to someone who’s trying to get healthy, stay that way, or even just train harder and increase their distance or shorten their times.
This watch gives runners and other athletes all the features to track all the important aspect of their training, easily and conveniently, with a battery life and value they can rely on.
The newest model of the Garmin Forerunner 945 also supports easy music playback, and can even store as many as 1,000 songs. They can be MP3s, or songs synced from Spotify or another music service. Another great feature of this Garmin running watch is the maps. They’re in color, and they were previously only on the Garmin Fenix series. Now that they’re available on this Forerunner model, it’s possible for runners and adventurers to find their way around a lot more easily.
As the maps display on the watch, runners can work their way around new cities and other terrain, without getting lost or worrying about where they are. Generating round-trip courses to run is easy and convenient, too, and runners won’t need a computer to do that.
They can do it right from the watch, making it a great way to try out a new route and make sure getting lost isn’t an option. Because the battery life is good, runners also don’t need to worry about their watch running out of battery in the middle of a run.
This is one of the best Garmin running watch options available, and also tracks swims and bike rides with ease for anyone who wants to add more to their workouts. It’s lightweight and comfortable, and Garmin Pay makes it easy to buy things on the go without carrying around a wallet.
Heat and altitude are part of the training metrics, and runners can even make sure family and friends can monitor them, so they can add another level of safety to their workout. There’s automatic incident detection, too, protecting runners and bike riders in the event of an accident or collision by alerting designated people to the event. It’s a great watch for so many reasons.
2. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro – Best GPS Watch For Experienced Runners
Reasons to buy
- On-Screen Maps
- Large Display
- Rugged Durability
- Great Battery Life
Reasons to avoid
- Lower Affordability
- Large Size May Not Fit Smaller Users
One of the best things for a runner to note about this Garmin running watch is how rugged it is. It’s designed to provide runners with all the best that the brand has to offer, and adds to the great, refined formula that the company has become famous for.
With features like POV navigation and offline maps, this watch can go nearly anywhere and still provide everything a runner needs to get information and feel confident at the same time. It’s one of the best Garmin running watch options available today.
The battery life, screen, and menu system have all been improved, and the watch does so much that some runners and athletes may feel like they won’t really use the full list of features it has to offer. But it’s generally better to have too many features than not enough, and with the level of rugged strength this watch has, it’s likely to be a favorite of many runners both now and in the future.
All the good things about this watch generally wipe out any concerns about the size or slight overkill on the functionality, at least for most users.
The watch is a little weighty when compared to its counterparts, so it may not work as well for very lightweight athletes or those who are looking to avoid anything extra while they run. It’s also a large size, so users with smaller wrists might find that they have trouble keeping it in place.
For others, though, the only downfall to this watch is that there are many other, more affordable options. While those options do provide fewer features for the user, it’s also unlikely that most runners will use all the amazing features that are packed into this watch.
For true athletes and adventurers, who are also focused on the great data they can collect and analyze, this Garmin running watch is the one to choose. Long-distance runners, those who are training for a marathon or other race, and people who frequently hit the gym, may all find that this is the kind of watch they want and need in their life.
Not only is it a great choice for runners, but it’s good for hikers and those who like to explore the great outdoors. Because this watch has so much to offer, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular choice with people who want plenty of functions and the Garmin quality, and who are comfortable with a higher price point.
3. Garmin Forerunner 245 – Best Overall Budget GPS Running Watch With Features
Reasons to buy
- Adaptive Training
- Performance Monitoring
- Syncs with Spotify
Reasons to avoid
- Short Battery Life
- Too Many Screens to Scroll Through
The Garmin Forerunner 235 was a classic Garmin watch that many runners and other athletes really loved. So much so, that many of them still have it. But with the changes and upgrades offered by the Garmin Forerunner 245, even those dedicated to its predecessor may want to make the choice to upgrade. One of the biggest benefits with this GPS Garmin running watch is being able to listen to music without taking the phone along.
Runners can leave their phones at home, and not worry about the extra weight and bulk while still having all the great tunes they want to run to. There are two easy ways to listen to music with no phone required. The first is to sync the phone to Spotify or another type of streaming service.
The second is to use Garmin Express to add podcasts and music right to the watch itself. Either way, runners will have what they need, ready to go for their next workout. It’s not just about the music, though. There are other great advancements to consider with this Garmin watch.
There are training plans that can be adapted to what a runner needs, so they can make changes that work for them, and adjust as they get faster or start to run longer distances. Performance monitoring is available, too, for runners who want to see how they’re doing and whether they’re getting better at their speeds or hitting their fitness goals.
The safety features and upgraded health features that come with this watch make it a great choice for nearly any runner. Sleep and menstrual cycle tracking are both available, to help runners keep track of other aspects of their health and how it may affect their runs and fitness.
When using the GPS feature and streaming music at the same time, the battery life on this Garmin running watch is only 6 hours. While that’s certainly long enough for most workouts, it means the watch will need charged more frequently than what might be convenient for some people, depending on whether they’re wearing it all the time, or mostly just for workouts.
Rewinding or advancing songs or podcasts can also be a little frustrating, as there are multiple screens that need to be scrolled through. Despite those small frustrations, though, this is a solid GPS running watch from a trusted company that’s well-established in providing quality and value.
Benefits like performance monitoring and health tracking make this watch a solid choice for most runners to enjoy, as long as they don’t plan to use it for long workouts with music and then wear it for the rest of the day without stopping to give it a charge. It’s an excellent option for runners to keep up with their fitness goals.
Reasons to buy
- Smartwatch Functionality
- Affordable Quality
Reasons to avoid
- Limited Options for Advanced Training
The Garmin Forerunner 45 is considered by many to be a beginners watch, but that’s only the case if runners are looking for something with a lot of advanced training options. Otherwise, it’s a quality smartwatch with a high level of affordability and a lot to offer. Many runners don’t use a lot of the advanced functions that come with other Garmin running watches.
For them, this kind of watch can be the perfect choice. Simple and easy to use, it gives runners the basic information they need to keep improving their times, distances, and fitness levels, all in one, compact place.
This watch is just slightly smaller than many of the other GPS Garmin running watch options available today, but that’s not a bad thing. Runners who are smaller and lighter, as well as those who are just starting out and those who don’t want all the extra options can really enjoy the feel and functionality of this watch.
Even with the smaller footprint, this watch has a battery life that’s respectable, and all the Garmin quality runners expect from the brand. The smartwatch ability and wrist-based monitor for heart rate both work well, and are easy and convenient to use.
For athletes who want more metrics and information, though, this might not be the right choice for the best Garmin running watch. It doesn’t offer a barometer or pulse oximeter, and there aren’t any options for advanced training analytics.
That means runners won’t be able to have running dynamics such as the length of their stride, live segments, or virtual partner opportunities like they could with other watches. For runners who aren’t focused on these things, that won’t be a problem, but it’s important to note that they aren’t available at all with this watch.
A lot of runners don’t use those advanced features, or they use them as a novelty on the watches they have. The difference between what’s neat or interesting, and what’s actually going to matter and be used, is an important consideration for any runner thinking about this watch. It’s important not to sacrifice metrics and features that are really needed or desired.
But all the main, basic smartwatch functions needed by runners are included in the Forerunner 45. If that’s enough for a runner to be happy with, then this watch can be an affordable, quality investment in basic information about fitness levels and their improvement.
Reasons to buy
- Connectivity With Bluetooth, WiFi, ANT+
- 60 hours battery life in GPS mode
Reasons to avoid
- Less Affordable Option
This watch is big. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important for any runner who’s considering this watch to recognize that its size might not be an advantage in some cases. It’s an eye-catching GPS Garmin running watch, for sure, but it may also feel bulky and heavy on the wrist, and smaller and lighter runners may not find it to be very comfortable.
The good news with the size of this watch, though, is that there are actually three different sizes to choose from. While they’re not a whole lot different from one another, they have enough variation for runners to consider which size might be the best choice for their needs.
The Fenix 6X may be one of the best Garmin running watch options, for several reasons. Among those reasons is the battery life. With the solar charging options, many runners can get 66 hours from the battery before it needs to be charged. Extended run tracking takes the battery life to 148 hours, which is a lot more than most running watches can provide.
Still, that’s only with the solar charging option. Without it, the battery life is much more comparable to other Garmin watches, and GPS running watches from other brands.
Another big advantage of this particular GPS Garmin running watch is that it has a large screen. That’s something that runners can’t get as easily with a smaller watch, making this bulkier option a good choice for anyone who doesn’t mind the larger size. Being able to see the screen so easily is a significant benefit, especially during a run.
Athletes and runners who don’t want to stop to study a tiny watch screen won’t have to worry about that with this model. They can see the screen on the go fairly easily, and keep moving down the road and toward their fitness goals. With turn-by-turn navigation, they’ll also find their destinations more easily.
While there are more budget friendly options than this particular GPS running watch, many runners are enamored by the long battery life (13 hours with the solar charging option) and easy connectivity, along with the convenience of the larger screen. Runners who want a smaller watch can consider the S model, which is the smallest version of this watch. However, they’ll be giving up a bit of battery life. Choosing the X model, which is the largest size, provides the most battery life in this particular watch.
Reasons to buy
- Stylish Enough to Wear All Day
- Advanced Sensors
- High Value for Affordability
Reasons to avoid
- Interval Recording Not Available
- Base model doesn’t offer music
The Garmin Venu Sq is one of the more unique options for a GPS running watch. It’s not a typical round style, and opts for a more square look. That’s a look often seen on standard watches that aren’t used for tracking running or other athletic endeavors, but runners shouldn’t let them fool them about what this great running watch can do.
There are more versatile and stylish options being created for running watches today, which adds to the value of them for a lot of people. Many runners want to be able to wear their watches to events and for everyday wear, as well as for workouts, and having a different style of watch can make that easier.
Unique look or not, this watch has a lot to offer. It provides GPS tracking with great accuracy, and most of the other basic tracking runners expect from these types of watches.
That includes cadence, VO2 max estimates, and data pages that are customizable. Runners who choose this GPS Garmin running watch can also expect to enjoy optical HR, along with the ability to mark their laps manually or allow the watch to handle that task automatically.
The pulse ox sensor to measure blood oxygen levels is a nice touch, and a feature not necessarily expected of a watch with such a great level of affordability. As a step up from the 45 model, this watch provides all the quality and value that runners have come to expect from Garmin, along with a stylish look nearly everyone can appreciate. That’s especially true if they want something that doesn’t look like all the other running watches on the market today.
The biggest downside of this watch for most people is the lack of an interval-training option. If the opportunity to use interval training and have the watch track it is important to a runner, they’ll need to seek out a different Garmin option for their needs.
The basic version also doesn’t store any music, and runners who want to have their playlist stored on their phone can either pay extra for an upgraded version that offers it, or seek out a different watch that will provide them with the storage they’re looking for.
All in all, though, this is a great watch that’s affordable and offers most of the options runners are seeking out for their needs.
Reasons to buy
- Excellent Battery Life
- Solar Charge Extends Battery
Reasons to avoid
- Can’t Sync With WiFi
- No Map Option
Need serious battery life? For runners who are very focused on having a long-lasting battery in their GPS Garmin running watch, the Enduro is the right choice. Not only does it offer the quality and value expected from Garmin, but it can be an excellent choice for anyone who’s into adventuring and exploring.
Not being able to charge their watch for multiple days isn’t a problem for runners and other athletes who choose this particular Garmin model. The Enduro is essentially the same as the Fenix, but with some reduced functionality to increase the life of the battery.
That’s a balance that some runners will love and others may not appreciate. Each runner will have to decide on their own whether the increased battery life is more important to them, or whether they’d rather have more functions. There’s no right or wrong answer here, as all the Garmin running watch options provide value and quality for help runners work toward their fitness goals.
The Enduro offers a battery life of up to 70 hours, and that can be increased to 200 hours in extended run mode. That’s some seriously long runs, but for those who run long-distance races and explore the world, it can be a great fit for a GPS running watch.
The lack of maps can be frustrating for some, as can the inability to sync from WiFi. But runners who are on multi-day adventures or runs that total hundreds of miles need to have a watch they don’t need to worry about charging. This is one of the best options for those needs.
The watch measures GPS location once per second, but that changes with the extended settings, so the battery life lasts longer. GPS setting still continue to update frequently, so runners can keep track of where they are and make sure they’re staying on their route in unfamiliar territory.
Reducing features to get better battery life is one of those trade-off options that may not be the best for every runner, but that certainly works for some of them. There are still plenty of features in this great watch, and for serious runners who are going to be away from their charging stations for a long time, having the solar charge to extend the battery life can make the difference. This is the best Garmin running watch option for true long-distance running adventures.
Reasons to buy
- Good Display
- Excellent Affordability
- Strong Battery Life
- Built-In Music
Reasons to avoid
- Fewer Features Than Other Garmin Options
For runners who want accessible, affordable, wearable options for strong tech and plenty of fitness information, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 can be a great choice. It isn’t as strong on options as the Forerunner models, but it’s also a more affordable choice that still has a lot to offer.
Runners can stream music right from their watch, take a look at all kinds of stats, and get full GPS options and great levels of exercise tracking, so they can see where their fitness is and work toward where they want it to be.
The integration with Spotify isn’t as user-friendly as many runners would like, and can be finicky, but for the most party it works well once everything’s connected. One of the biggest downsides is the ANT+ HR broadcast mode.
While it’s a great idea, it doesn’t work as well as it should and needs some revamping to really be effective or valuable. There’s also no training load or performance conditioning monitoring, both of which serious runners may want to have on their GPS Garmin running watch.
But that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the best Garmin running watch options for a lot of runners. As a touchscreen watch, it’s solidly in the middle of Garmin’s lineup when it comes to the affordability and the features it offers. That can make it a great option for beginners and intermediate runners who want something with quality and value, but don’t need the high-end options that more serious athletes may want to have to add value to their training.
Overall, the Vivoactive 4 is a quality option for runners who don’t mind doing without a few of the stat monitoring options that can be found on other devices. The month-to-month comparisons can be valuable, but they aren’t required in order to get plenty of information from this running watch. The controls are well-placed and easy to use, too, which makes it less likely for runners to accidentally pause or stop their exercise tracking when they use the touchscreen.
An updated version with solar charging would be a nice touch to increase the battery life, but it’s not a requirement to make this watch worthwhile. Since it’s a mid-range option, it’s got plenty to like and all the basic features that most runners would ever want. The battery life is strong, and the built-in music can make going for runs a lot more enjoyable.
#1 Choice – Editor’s Pick:
Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS Running Watch
- The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the perfect all-rounder Garmin GPS running watch. With its added battery life amongst all the popular training features, the altitude/heat and Vo2 Max figures. If you’re ever going to be heading for a Triathlon then you can also be rest assured this model can record open-water swimming whilst many of the others other than Fenix don’t.
How to Choose the Best Garmin Running Watch?
Choosing the best Garmin running watches is important, especially for people who are serious about running and dedicated to improving. Many of these watches have more than just one or two functions, and runners can use them to track their fitness, find their way, read their texts, and more.
Instead of looking for a watch with all the functions it can possibly have, runners will want to focus on the things they want and need most in their watch. There’s no reason to choose one that won’t provide the most value.
For some runners, that’s durability. For others, that may be a GPS feature or a Bluetooth sync. With all the options, the best Garmin running watch is the one that works for the person using it.
Sure, there are other brands and options, too. But Garmin has a reputation for quality and value that’s hard to beat. Runners who are focused on their abilities and interested in continuing to make a habit out of their fitness hobby can choose a great Garmin running watch that will give them everything they need, and even more.
Whilst some runners may need Triathlon or Multi-sport modes, you may not. In that case if you are just after running then something as simple and affordable as the Forerunner 45 could be good. Whether or not you need music capabilities is another thing you should consider, ultimately weigh out the features and see whats best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Garmin has been making fitness trackers and runner’s watches since 2003, and in that time the company has really become the “go-to” choice for these items. Since Garmin is so popular, and has been in the market for such a length of time, it’s safe to assume that the brand provides both quality and value for anyone that’s serious about running. That’s not to say that other brands aren’t good quality, but they really can’t fully compete with everything that Garmin can offer.
Whether the GPS feature is “necessary” is a question only an individual runner can answer for themselves. But most runners would say that it’s definitely valuable, and something that’s really nice to have. It can help runners find their way, map out new routes, and show them where they’ve been and how many miles they’ve run. For those reasons, it’s something a lot of runners prefer to have, especially if they’re dedicated to getting their miles in or choosing new routes to explore as they expand their running time.
These kinds of watches are designed to be well-used. They’re resistant to water, sweat, and damage, including shocks and impacts. Like any electronic device, they aren’t indestructible. But they’re certainly designed with the way they’ll be used in mind. In short, they’re focused on strength and quality, so runners don’t have to worry about harming them with normal use. They can keep up with the way serious runners will use them, and they’ll last for a long time with reasonable care.
There are Garmin running watch options for every different kind of runner. From the people who run nearly every marathon they can, to those who jog around the block a few times per week, there are good options. Anyone choosing the best Garmin running watch for their needs should consider the features that are most important to them. Then they can get the right watch, and they won’t end up with a lot of additional features that they might never use. There are plenty of watches in the Garmin family that will be great choices for runners of all types and at all different skill levels.
Take the time to go into depth with our individual reviews on the above watches. You will need to weigh out the features to see which one is the most suitable for you.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is through constantly challenging yourself.