10 Best Garmin Running Watches Rated & Reviewed
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.
- Fenix 5
- Lighter than Fenix 3
- Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- Multisport data tracking
- Fenix 3
- Unbeaten accuracy
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 fenix 5
There’s no problem with reading the screen under sunlight
Simple in use
Looks great on the wrist
Some buyers said that the colors are little bland
Garmin fenix 3
You can see everything despite the sunlight
It is waterproof to 100 meters
Many configuration options
Very nice design
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
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.
- 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
- This one is expensive
Garmin Forerunner 235
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.
- 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.
- Many suggest that this works best for sustained running, much better than some other fitness training
Garmin Forerunner 630
Easy to read screen
Buyers really liked because it keeps you very motivated
Very stylish watch, available in 3 colors
Some buyers said that it’s very easy to scratch it
Garmin Forerunner 230
Great GPS accuracy
The battery life is excellent
It’s not bulky and it has nice design
Some buyers said that there is too low brightness
Garmin Vívoactive HR GPS
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"!
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Pair with compatible smartphones
- GPS tracking
- Exceptional battery life
- The glass on the face is a bit more fragile than expected
Garmin Forerunner 35
It’s cheaper than fenix models
The accuracy of the GPS tracking is great
Very long life of the battery for this price
This watch charges very quickly
It doesn’t have color display
Garmin vivofit 3
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
- 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
- Some needed more functionality
Garmin Vívosmart HR Activity Tracker
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.
- The move bar and vibration alerts remind you to stay active
- Sleek comfortable design
- The display is visible in sunlight
- Access your music controls
- This model may not be the ideal choice for more rugged activities.
These products are the best of the best and it’s not only our opinion but it’s essentially opinion of thousands users and reviewers. Choosing one watch may be a hard decision so we have prepared more information on how to choose the product and many more.
The Criteria That We Use While Searching For The Best Garmin Running Watches
We made the list of the factors that we’ve used for choosing the best products. You can use them and decide which are most important for you. This will definitely help you find the best watch for you.
Do you need so many features?
Garmin is a brand that offers many different features that can be really useful and you enjoy your running more with them. We know that some buyers think that the best watch for them is the one with the most features. This is bad thinking. Choosing the best watch is kind of personalizing it. It means that there’s no sense in buying watch with many features if you actually don’t need them. If you want just a simple watch to provide the position( if it’s GPS watch), burned calories, distance and all the basic metrics, don’t buy features packed watch. Watches with more advanced features aren’t needed for runners who run just for pleasure and they don’t take part in marathon and etc. Watches with big number of additional features are much more expensive and we don’t see the point in spending money on something you won’t use. Choose the most useful features for you. There’s also an option to buy a watch without GPS. Watch with GPS is perfect for providing position and recording your track but if you run in the same places all the time, GPS in watch will be just and additional cost.
Workout programs and motivation
Some people want use runners watches only to keep the records of the tracks( with GPS) and be able to check heart rate and calories burned. However, this may not be motivating enough. That’s why Garmin has special programs to keep you motivated while running. Preparing for the marathon is much easier with this watch as you can find appropriate program. You can seat your goals easily and the watch will track your progress. You won’t need to do anything, the watch will do it for you. Of course, you will have to run but that’s what we all like. You can then upload all your achievements on special Garmin community and share your results. You can also have the ability to compare your progress and tracks with other users, you can compete with them and this will be very motivating. Garmin offers many, not only for marathoners, training programs which were created by professionals. You need to just find the best for you.
How much money it should cost?
Garmin is very popular brand which offers really high quality products. That’s why these products aren’t the least expensive on the market. However, the quality is worth the price. We know that runners who run just for pleasure and they don’t take part in bigger events, they don’t need a watch for 500 dollars. On the other side, runners who are becoming more and more professional, they want to have access to more advanced metrics, they need something better. That’s why we try to choose watches which offer very advanced features for demanding runners but we also look for watches which are less price but they’re still very good. Remember that it’s really worth to look for sales as even 10% discount makes a difference.
Can you see everything on the display?
Good visibility is a must have when to comes to running watches. Sunlight can be very strong sometimes it enables you to check even an hour. That’s why Garmin offers the whole range of watches with special screens that are readable even when the sun is shining much. You must consider also more harsh weather conditions like rain or snow. And of course, don’t forget that sometimes, you may run in the dark and additional backlighting will be a good idea. Many runners choose watch with color display but you will have to spend a little more money on it. The font should be also large enough, especially if you have problems with eyesight.
Do you need water resistant product?
You may think at first that if you live in warm area, water resistant watch is a nonsense. However, we think that water resistant watch will be more practical. Let’s start with washing. You won’t need to put off the watch and you don’t need to worry that water can damage your watch. What’s more, even in very warm areas, there’s a chance that the rain will come and there’s high possibility that it will happen during your run time- better be prepared for that and buy appropriate watch. Water resistant watch will be also cool option for trail running.
How much buttery life do you want?
Buttery life may be less important for some runners, but for those who run long distance, it may be crucial. There’s difference of battery lifespan depending on the mode you use. GPS mode is most demanding mode and the life of battery is the shortest with it. There’s no one number of hours, every model has di8fferent buttery lifespan. What’s more, when manufacturer says that’s 20 hours, be aware that’s an approximately number. Some runners charge of after week of usage, marathoners can even charge it after one day. Evaluate your needs and choose the best option for you.
Other Important Factors To Consider When Choosing The Best GPS Running Watch
While our research, we have found that there are many more thing to consider before the purchase. That’s why we have some extra points that may be really useful for you. Enjoy!
Is it easy to use it?
Additional features and options may be really cool thing but there’s one more thing to consider- will I be able to learn how to use it in short time. You may know the feeling when you receive the new product and you want test it immediately but at first you must read hundreds pages of instruction. Nobody likes to read the instruction all day. Garmin products aren’t very difficult in use but it really depends on the person. The other problems may appear when you want to connect your smartphone or you want to use special training program. We recommend to read the instruction first. If you plan to buy this type of watch as a gift for your mom or dad, think whether they will enjoy using it or they will be more nervous as it will be too complicated for them. Also for many adults, using the watch may be hard at beginning but don’t give up. On Garmin’s website, you can find videos with instructions and everything should be clear after watching these videos.
Lifespan of the watch and guarantee
GPS watches are type of watches that tend to be very useful in most harsh running conditions. However, they won’t last forever. We assure you that Garmin will stay for you for many years as long as you take care of it. Unfortunately, there is a chance that your Garmin will be delivered damaged and etc. It doesn’t need to be the fault of the manufacturer- the product could be damaged during delivery process. There’s only one option to solve this problem- replace your watch. By replacing we mean return it to the brand. Most Garmin watches have warranty and it shouldn’t be problem to get a new one. You need to be aware that sometimes, different part of the watch have different guarantee period. If you’re afraid that your product will be damaged during delivery process, open the package in the presence of the delivery man.
What if you need to stay at home?
It’s not a secret, that the rainy days happen. In some areas, rain is a rarity, in the others, this is something normal. We know that there are people who enjoy running in the rain but most of us want to stay at home. Does it mean we need to resign because of the downpour. No if we have treadmill. We know from our experience that some options of particular watches work only outdoor. This is why you need to check it.
What about music?
We won’t lie if we tell that music is one of the most important parts of the running. Most of us use music to make the running more exciting. Music decides about the pace. It also makes us more motivated, especially when we listen to our favorite songs. Whenever we feel tired, music gives as more energy and without these songs, most of us wouldn’t run as often as we do. That’s why you need to care about the music and there’s option to control it only by using your watch. This is really helpful as you don’t need to change the song on your smartphone as long as you have your Garmin on your wrist.
How big and how much it should weight?
Many runners tend to forget about this two aspects but they’re really important as they are key to comfort. Let’s start with size. How big it should be or better question how big is your wrist? Be aware that if you wrist is small, bulky watch won’t look nice and it won’t be comfortable wearing. It shouldn’t be also too small, as you should easily see all the information as the display. What about shape? There are 3 options- round, square and rectangular shape. What about the weight? If it’s your first watch, you may not know that bulky and heavy watches are really uncomfortable and they don’t look good on your wrist. On the other side, watches with many additional features can’t be also very lightweight and if they’re intended to trail running, they will be more heavy.
Look is also important part of the watch. Even if your watch has many cool options but it has strange design, the probability that you will enjoy it less is very high. Garmin is a good brand if you search for stylish watches. They offer special bends that can be changed so you don’t need to buy a new watch, you just change the bend. There are many color options you can choose from- who said that the watch must be black? You should look at your wrist and you can ever measure it with ruler. Let’s say that display screen is 48 mm. See how big it is comparing to your wrist. Bulky watches look terribly especially when you’re woman. What about colorful display? It is much more readable and it’s not boring. You need also think about the width of the band- do you want wide or narrow one? We know that some people also pay attention to the buttons, for example- Garmin Forerunner 235 has buttons around the dial but some people don’t like it.
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.
We know that above criteria, readers are very interested in reading FAQ section. You can find here questions that are frequently asked by the other buyers and we try to answer. Have a look at the questions and check if you know the answers.
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.GPS option is perfect for runners who love discover different tracks, roads and etc. There are many adventurous runners who run in new places every day. GPS option is good when you run in unknown areas and you’re afraid of getting lost. If you really want to run on the same track every day, GPS is unnecessary. What’s more, watches without GPS tend to be much cheaper. Instead of GPS function, you should look for features more connected with creating running plan and all basic metrics to show you your results even on this one track you use.
Q. I’ve heard than you don’t need to buy the running watch because the technology is developing and all you just need is smartphone.
A. To be honest, we wouldn’t agree with that. It’s true that smartphones are very useful, we can download a lot of running applications and use apps to track our progress. However, have you ever wondered why Running Watches are so popular? It’s because of accuracy they provide. You can have all applications on the smartphone but they’re not as accurate as those in running watch. Running watches make easier to boost the performance and keep the records. Let’s say you want to check your heart rate. With smartphone, you will need chest wraps which are unpleasant for most of the runners and this is also an additional cost.
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.You should be aware that there are many different products that Garmin offers and you can choose from many watches. We’ve created this list to make it easier for you to find the best of the best. Remember however that the product that would be the best for you, may not be on our list. Every person has different demands, needs. In most watches on the list, there’s GPS function- you may not need it. Or maybe you just need the simplest watch, you don’t care about smartphone connection, you just want the watch to provide the track and basic metrics.
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. In some products on our list, there’s special swimming mode. It can measure the distance, pace, strokes and many more. Many watches on our list weren’t only designed for running. As you’ve read in our review, many watches have this ski or swimming mode. If you want to take part in triathlon, you can find on our list watch with swimming mode. However, Garmin doesn’t make watches only for runners. There’s special watch called Garmin Swim which was designed especially for swimmers and professionals. It’s your choice which one you choose but you must be aware that Garmin Swim is very good for swimming but not for running.
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. It’s not a secret that off-road running is much more demanding not only for the runner, but also for clothes and running stuff. Some products on our list shouldn’t be used during trail running as the display screen and bend aren’t hard enough. Firstly, your display needs very good protection, it can’t be the plastic one. Also stainless steel is something recommended. We think that fenix may be a good watch for you. There’s even possibility to download the application ,, trail running”. While buying the watch with aim of trail running, you need to purchase the product that is water resistant and you can easily see the screen even in more harsh conditions.
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. This may be a big problem if you don’t have a smartphone. However, you can always search for the watch which can send data and all information on your computer. This option is less popular but you can still try to look for it. If you have problem with checking which smartphone is suitable for particular watch, you can call Garmin consumer support or just simply send an e-mail.
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!
We provide our readers only true and proved information form reliable sources. Here’s the list: