10 Best Garmin Running Watches Rated & Reviewed

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Searching for the best Garmin running watches? Take a look at the top choices for 2017, Pros & Cons and what to be aware of before buying one in a store!

Fitness trackers, running watches, step counter with a ton of other cool gadgets and functions. What ever you want to call them, these fitness watches are a trend that is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it seems that we’re just getting started with this type of technology.

Most of us know Garmin is a trusted name in GPS devices, so it only makes sense that they are able to produce some really great fitness trackers and running watches as well.

Our Top 3 Picks

Garmin Vivoactive HR
  • Garmin Vivoactive HR
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Built-in GPS
  • Price: See Here
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
  • Garmin Forerunner 735XT
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Multisport data tracking
  • Price: See Here
Garmin Forerunner 235
  • Garmin Forerunner 235
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Real-time coaching
  • Price: See Here

We have put together a basic guide which covers some of the best models from Garmin, based on customer ratings and overall practicality. There are models ranging from those that deliver the basics, to some which seem to do everything except make you fly. Then below our list of the best Garmin running watches, we will offer a little bit of guidance which includes some frequently asked question to help you think about what you really need as well as some things to consider.

10 Best Garmin Running Watches


Garmin Vívoactive HR GPS

Garmin Vívoactive HR GPS
Garmin's Vivoactive HR is the number one seller on Amazon, as far as Garmin watches go. The features and functionality are the major keys to this product's success. Think about how much gear you would have to carry if you needed a single device for each individual function that this watch does. It would be a lot to carry. Garmin has taken advantage of the latest technologies to bring you products that completely change the way we run, especially those who like to take their runs off-road. let's take a look at what this thing can do.
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First of all, everyone will like the fact that the screen is actually readable in bright sunlight. A watch of any kind doesn't do much good if you can't even read the display. So, that is a simple but huge plus! Here is another big plus, the battery life lasts up to 8 days in watch mode, and up yo 13 hours in GPS mode.
Set your goals and monitor your progress against them. There are even built in sports apps that will help you set and follow custom goals. You can also pair this unit with a compatible smartphone and set notifications to be displayed on the Vivoactive.
This watch even allows the heart rate to be monitored 24/7 without any extra straps or other apparatus. And, of course, This model has a function that Garmin is is the most well known for, Spot on GPS tracking. The Garmin Vivoactive HR is a top seller, purchased and used by runners, hikers, outdoor nuts, and general fitness lovers alike.
There are reviews that even make statements like "the best tracker on the market"!
Pros
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring
  • Pair with compatible smartphones
  • GPS tracking
  • Exceptional battery life
Cons
  • The glass on the face is a bit more fragile than expected


Garmin Forerunner 235

Garmin Forerunner 235
The number two spot on our list goes to Garmin's Forerunner 235. The Forerunner series is one of the most popular choices in fitness and training watches around. This is partly due to its overall functionality and ease of use. It even seems that the Forerunner is part of many runner's standard kit for training.
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Starting with heart rate monitoring, keep track 24/7 for accurate data. And the screen? It's a lot bigger than most other brands and models.
Read emails, text messages, alerts, reminders and much more when you pair the Forerunner 235 with your compatible smartphone.
Want some help with your training? Receive audio prompts about laps and other tracking alerts regarding your training session.

The battery life is pretty decent too. You can get up to 12 weeks out of a battery while operating in watch mode, but just 12 hours while used in training mode.
Pros
  • Get text messages, emails and other alerts when paired with your smartphone
  • Monitor your heart rate 24/7
  • Plenty of fitness tracking tools through Connect I.Q.
Cons
  • Many suggest that this works best for sustained running, much better than some other fitness training


Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Garmin Forerunner 735XT
The 735XT is the lightest weight multisport watch currently made by Garmin, which seems like a small thing, but really isn't in the scheme of things. This one allows multisport capabilities which are supported by the 735XT include running, cycling, swimming, hiking, paddle sports and cardio training. Read below to find out more.
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Monitor your heart rate around the clock, with no extra gear required.
There are a ton of features that can be accessed through Garmin Connect. Some of those include detailed live tracking, music control, smart notifications and even access to social media sharing.
You can also get all of your notifications from you smartphone, which is really great, and is becoming more of a standard with theses types of devices.
This fitness watch offers all of the necessary and critical tools that can be crucial to effective training.
Pros
  • Get emails and other notifications form your smartphone
  • Support training data for multiple sports
  • Day and night heart rate monitoring with no extra gear
  • Get live tracking,  audio alerts, and social media sharing through Garmin Connect
Cons
  • This one is expensive

Garmin Vívosmart HR Activity Tracker

Garmin Vívosmart HR Activity Tracker
With a sleek and low profile design, Garmin's Vivosmart activity tracker is an excellent option when you want just the functions that you need, and in a less intrusive size and style. From controlling your music to keeping track of distance, heart rate and even the intensity of your workout, let's look a bit further and see what the Vivosmart is all about.
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Although heart rate monitor that are built into fitness watches seem to be almost standard practice these days, It is pretty awesome that this model doesn't require any extra gear to keep track of it. Besides heart rate, the Vivosmart can also track things like steps taken, distance run or walked, estimated calories burned, and even floors climbed.
It is also able to be paired with a smartphone to access emails, text messages, call alerts and even social media. This model will also allow you to control your music as well as the controls for a VIRB action camera, if you happen to have one.
Remember to stay active with reminder from the Move Bar as well as vibrating notifications. There is absolutely no excuse not to keep going. If you stop, it seems that this thing will basically call you out and get you moving again.
Pros
  • The move bar and vibration alerts remind you to stay active
  • Sleek comfortable design
  • The display is visible in sunlight
  • Access your music controls
Cons
  • This model may not be the ideal choice for more rugged activities.

Garmin vivofit 3

Garmin vivofit 3
It's actually a bit difficult to find technology like this that is just bare bones or basic. But, if you are looking for a fitness or running watch that does just what you need, plus a few extras, then the Vivofit 3 may be a good match for you. If you just want to seriously track your goals and progress, let's look at some of the features that can help you do it.
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The water resistant, no nonsense design is really great if you don't want to be distracted by all of those bell and whistles found in some of the more expensive models. The watch works with Connect I.Q.,allowing you to track activities such as running, biking, swimming and cross training. You can set goals monitor the tracking in detail through your desktop or mobile app via Garmin Connect.
It also tracks the basics like steps taken, distance and burned calories. It even tracks the intensity minutes in your session.
This model is literally intended for tracking progress and activities 24/7. It will even track your sleep.
If you are serious about fitness, but prefer a more subtle fitness watch, the Vivofit would make a really good option to consider
Pros
  • Set your own personal goals to analyze on Garmin Connect
  • Reminds you to stay active with audible alerts
  • 1 year + battery life
  • Tracks steps, distance, intensity and even sleep
Cons
  • Some needed more functionality

 


Buying Guidance

Garmin makes some products that include really cool and often helpful features, which a lot of people use and get the most out of. But, what if you really don’t need all of the extra, or know that you probably won’t use all of them. Tracking your fitness is important, but so is minding your budget getting the product that works best for you own needs.

Below are some frequently asked questions that we have gathered in hopes that one or two will get you thinking about your own needs.

FAQ

Q:  I run the same route in my neighborhood everyday as part of my routine, and never take my run outside of my route. Is a watch with GPS really necessary?

A:  If you really only keep your run on a route that you have measured the distance of and know well, then GPS would be an option that you may not need.

Q:  Are the product that are reviewed in the list above all of what Garmin offers.

A:  No. Garmin produces many different models that are also available on Amazon. The purpose of our list is to showcase and review the product which have the highest customer ratings.

Q:  Can I swim with one of Garmin’s fitness trackers or running watches?

A:  They produce some multisport models in which swimming is one of the activities that is tracked, so the answer is yes for many models.

Q:  I tend to do a lot of trail running. Are these fragile, or will they stand up to more rugged activities?

A:  They do make some model that are designed for more rugged use and environments, but when you are looking for more, expect to hand over a little bit more money.

Q:  I want to post my run stats on social media. Do Garmin running watches pair up with all smartphones.

A:  If you want to pair your watch with your smartphone to take full advantage of all of those kind of features, you will need a compatible smartphone. For that information, you will want to check the specifications and requirements of the specific model of watch that you are planning to purchase.


Those are a few points that we thought seemed to be useful in trying to figure out the best product to meet the needs of a specific runner. Not everyone will use or need the same tools or features. And, not everyone is super savvy with all technology, which is something that is easy to forget these days, with technology all around us 24/7.

We really hope that the information in this buying guide was helpful. Good luck and keep on running!

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