Garmin was originally known for its GPS technology, so its eventual foray into fitness trackers gave it an advantage in the market. And while Garmin makes a range of innovative wearables, finding the best Garmin running watch will come down to weighing your budget against what features are the most important to you. Luckily, Garmin has great options at every price point, and below, I break down what you can expect at every level.
While you can be sure that any Garmin watch you go with will accurately map your route and track your pace, you want to be sure that your watch has exactly what you need. For example, some Garmin watches are made just for running, but if you think you may want to try another cardio-centric sport like cycling or swimming in the future, you may want to invest in a multi-sport watch with more tracking features. These come at a slightly higher price point but are definitely worth it if you want the extra versatility.
As a general rule, the more money you spend the more you'll be able to track. Basic Garmin running watches can track heart rate, pace, and stride, but higher-end models will track even more, including the climate you're running in, additional vitals, and offer incident reporting. The more expensive models also tend to provide more storage for music and a better battery life, which may be something to factor in if you run for very long periods of time.
This brings me to my next point: Be sure to take a look at all the features high-tech Garmin sports watches offer before you make a decision. Garmin watches can get pricey very quickly, so you want to consider all the features and decide which ones are an absolute must-have. That way, you'll be able to choose exactly what you want without wondering if you overspent on your watch.
With so many models offering similar features, it's not easy to figure out which Garmin watch is the best for runners. Here's a round-up of some runner favorites to help you narrow down your options.
1. Best Overall, All Things Considered
Whether you're just starting or you've been running for awhile, the Garmin Forerunner 645 has something for everyone. It features Garmin's signature GPS technology, and it even enables live tracking so your friends and family can track your route no matter where you are. This watch also has a sensor on the wrist that monitors multiple running dynamics, including heart rate, pace, stride, and more. Plus, with the training status calculator, this watch synthesizes all your data to determine if you're training productively and when you should take a rest day. This multi-sport watch also has tracking settings for swimming and cycling workouts.
Best yet, this watch comes with a few great music features runners will love. Not only can you download and store up to 500 songs on your watch, but you can also connect to your favorite streaming platforms and download music offline — meaning you can listen to music or podcasts while you run without your phone near you (you connect to the watch using Bluetooth headphones). This is a nice feature for runners who hate the added bulk of running with their phones. This watch has a seven-day battery life when you use it as a smart watch, and it can last five continuous hours when you're using the more advanced features like GPS or music streaming (this watch will last up to 14 hours when you only use the GPS features). For the price, this is a great middle-of-the-road option runners will really love.
According to one reviewer: "This is a great running watch. I have it paired to two different sets of Bluetooth headphones, both of which work great. I can sync my Amazon Prime Music playlists to my watch, so I can run phone-free. And it gives me tons of data!"
2. More Features & Better Battery Life, At A Higher Price
If you're looking for a few more features, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is also an excellent pick. Like the Garmin Forerunner 645, this watch is jam-packed with high-tech features to up your running game, including GPS tracking and performance monitoring. That said, this option offers more tracking data that is key for anyone training regularly. First, there's the incident reporting. This watch keeps tabs on your vitals and location, and when it senses that you're injured, it sends out an alert to your emergency contacts. It also uses live satellite data to track the climate, acclimation, and heat index of your run, and it considers all those environmental factors when monitoring your training. This is also one of Garmin's multi-sport models, so you can track swimming and cycling workouts, as well.
For any runner training for a longer race or triathlon, this watch is a better pick as it boasts double the battery life of its cheaper counterpart above. This watch has a two-week battery life when used as a smart watch, and a 10-hour battery life when employing the GPS and music features (with just GPS, this watch can last 36 hours). It also has double the music storage, and can hold up to 1,000 songs downloaded at a time.
According to one reviewer: "Incredible device! More data than I know what to do with. I paired it with the running pod and now I can track everything imaginable. The GPS accuracy is phenomenal as I often run a measured course and it is never more than .01 of a mile off. The heart rate monitor is much more accurate than my FitBit ever was."
3. Best Garmin Running Watch For $100
If you're just dipping your toes into the smart watch world, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is a great first watch. It still features Garmin's high-powered GPS technology to track your routes and runs, and it even includes a monitor at the wrist to track your heart rate before, during, and after a run. The major difference between this watch and the pricier options on this list is versatility. It lacks some of the extra features like music storage and multi-sport tracking.
You won't be able to listen to music solely from the Forerunner 35, and for serious runners it may not offer enough data on your activity. It tracks steps, distance, intensity, and of course your running route, but it doesn't capture other vitals you may want to see if you're training for a big race (think: VO2Max and performance improvement suggestions). That said, when paired with your phone, this watch can preview emails and texts while you're working out and has a nine-day battery life when used as a smart watch (when you use the GPS tracking, it lasts 13 hours). For $92, this is a great entry point into the universe of Garmin wearables. Over 9,000 Amazon reviewers have invested in this watch and the reviews are an overall rave.
According to one reviewer: "Always on screen. Sure it's not color but no wrist acrobatics are required to turn on the screen. Clear contrast and large numbers make viewing a pleasure when running. This is a great entry-level device that ticks all the boxes if you're a casual runner looking to get into a Garmin device."
4. Best Splurge
Not only is the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro the best of the best for runners, but it can help you track and navigate tons of other sports, too. It features a wider face than traditional Garmin watches. It's also the first of its kind to feature Garmin's PacePro technology, which synthesizes all of your data, including your pulse oxygen levels, heart rate, and performance metrics, and pairs them with environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and acclimation, to provide you with grade-adjusted pace coaching while you run.
And if that wasn't enough, this watch also comes pre-loaded with over 2,000 outdoor maps so you can hike, walk, or ski anywhere and everywhere with complete confidence. This multi-sport option offers far and away the most versatility, with a number of exercise profiles you can enable based on your activity, including yoga, pilates, strength workouts, swimming, and cycling. This watch also can store up to 2,000 songs offline (and connect to your favorite streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music). And, if you're really looking to splurge, you can upgrade to the solar-powered version of the Fenix 6X Pro, which comes at an even higher price tag. Don't let any mixed reports of battery life fool you; Garmin says the Fenix 6X Pro can last up to 14 days in smart watch mode and up to 36 hours when using the GPS (10 hours when using GPS and music). Ultimately, this watch has earned a near-perfect, 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason.
According to one reviewer: "A running community staple."