10 Best Garmin Watches for Sports Rated & Reviewed
If you are a runner you know how much technology can change the game for you. Running watches nowadays will let you track your miles, monitor your heart rate, and even keep track of your blood oxygen levels. The best Garmin running GPS watches will keep you on the right path and help you reach those long-term goals you have been working so hard to achieve.
The best part about these watches, however, is that they aren’t just for runners. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, or an avid hiker or athlete, you will love our list of the top 10 best Garmin running watches—check them out below!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 13 hrs of research
Lots of color options with the bands
Compatible with Apple and Android
Has an altimeter and compass
Monitors your blood oxygen levels
Tracks your heart rate
Stores 500 songs
Great battery life
- Fenix 5x Plus
- Fenix 3
- Forerunner 735XT
- Forerunner 235
- Vívoactive 3
- Approach S20
- Forerunner 935 GPS
- Vívoactive HR GPS
- Forerunner 35
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Garmin Running Watches
1. Fenix 5x Plus
Lots of color options with the bands
Compatible with Apple and Android
Has an altimeter and compass
Monitors your blood oxygen levels
Tracks your heart rate
Stores 500 songs
Great battery life
Water tracking is unreliable
While this is one of the priciest, it's also one of the best Garmin running watches and you will find it is a great investment. So if you are looking for something you can use in the long run, whether it's to increase your PR's or just to keep you motivated, then this may be a great for you--if you don't mind the hefty price tag.Read more
This Garmin running watch offers a GPS, so you never have to worry about getting lost. The TOPO tech it offers ensures you don’t get lost—but that’s not all. This running watch also offers a heart rate monitor and blood oxygen tracker.--so if you want to take on higher elevations this is a great option to consider.
This running watch offers water resistance, so you don’t have to worry about it getting wet. It is also abrasion and scratch resistance—which makes it a perfect option for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts as well.
This is a perfect option for runners, but especially for runners who like to hit the trails. It is a great option for those of you who like to hike up steeper terrain and even comes with an altimeter so you can keep track of your elevation.
This watch is really responsive, and its GPS is reliable and designed to keep you in the right direction. This watch also has an altimeter that easily adjusts to your elevation levels so you can track everything as you go.
Since this watch offers several different band colors to choose from you will have some options. The watch’s face is also sleek and modern—so it isn’t to clunky or bulky.
2. Fenix 3
You can see everything despite the sunlight
It is waterproof to 100 meters
Many configuration options
Very nice design
Expensive for some
One of the best Garmin watches: the Garmin Fenix 3. It's perfect for running but will also work well when it comes to swimming. There’s even a bonus ski-board mode. Read more about the interesting functions of this watch!Read more
This watch offers 4 different modes to choose from—the one you choose will determine its overall battery life. When the GPS node is in use your watch will last 20 hours, then your UltraTrack mode is in use your watch will last 50 hours, and its lowest mode setting will allow it to last for up to 6 weeks! It also has an altimeter, barometer, and compass—and best of all it also has WiFi connectivity.
When it comes to water resistance this is a good one for those of you who swim and train in the water. It is built to last and designed to be really water resistant.
If you want a watch with additional feature you will love that this one can track your speed, heart rate, and cadence. It also has a race predictor mode, a recovery advisor, and a timer.
Thanks to the use of an EXO Antenna, this watch is able to accurately ensure you always know exactly where you are, and it automatically adjusts as you go along.
This running watch features a sporty design, although its still looks sleek and modern—and not too bulky.
3. Forerunner 735XT
- 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
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 more
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 your smartphone, which is really great and is becoming more of a standard with these types of devices. Ultimately, this fitness watch offers all of the necessary and critical tools that can be crucial to effective training.
Since this running watch allows for multisport training, you can also use it to swim. It is completely water resistant and can be submerged and exposed to water for long periods of time. It will also continue to track your athletic activity when its wet and while you are swimming.
This is a perfect watch for all types of athletes. You can use this watch to track your running, cycling, swimming, and hiking activities. On top of that, this watch will track your steps as well as any other sport or athletic activities you partake in.
This watch is pretty responsive—it has to be given how many different activities it is able to track
If you want something sporty and minimalistic, this is the perfect watch for you. You won’t be turning heads with this one because it isn’t designed to be super stylish—but it is definitely really functional.
4. Forerunner 235
- 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
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 kits for training.Read more
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.
This running watch is water resistant and can be used with water sports. it will track all of your activities, even your swimming.
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.
Starting with heart rate monitoring, keep track 24/7 for accurate data. And on the screen? It's a lot bigger than most other brands and models.
This sleek and minimalistic watch will look great with anything you wear--so you can wear it 24/7 no matter where you are.
5. Vívoactive 3
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
When you want a good watch to record your rotes, vitals, and that also offers good GPS tracking you cannot go wrong with the Garmin Vivoactive 3 running watch.Read more
We made sure to look for running watches that have the features you want and need such as being comfortable, durable, affordable, and stylish. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch is all of this and it also has much more to offer as well!
For advanced features, this GPS watch is water resistant, static resistant, and holds up well against impacts from drops and scratches from outdoor running and explorations. It is perfect for the outdoor runner who loves exploration!
This watch can be used to track routes and log information such as miles ran, elevations, locations, and much more. It is a useful tool for any runner to have for their health and wellness tracking, making it easier to record and reach goals and milestones.
With the Garmin Vivoactive 3 running GPS watch you can get up to 7 days of use per battery charge when used in normal tracking mode and 12-13 hours of batter life per charge when used in GPS mode.
This watch has a very sleek and stylish look to it that makes it easy to wear with every day attire as well as for times when you want something a little fancier. It can be easily worn all day long if needed for optimal convenience and maximum usage.
Great GPS accuracy
The battery life is excellent
It’s not bulky and it has nice design
Some buyers said that it is not bright enough at night
The Instinct GPS watch by Gamin is a great choice for any runner or athlete who wants an added boost to their workout and fitness routine. It is a great watch that has a ton of cool features and is designed to last!Read more
This is a watch that has everything you are looking for in a good reliable running watch. It tracks time, distance, and location with a high degree of accuracy which is important for many runners today. It is also comfortable to wear and stylish to boot!
The Instinct GPS watch by Gamin is not short on advanced features either as it is shock and water resistant making it great for outdoor excursions and can also handle the bumps and drops and scratches that commonly occur with a lot of wear and tear and use.
There are multiple applications and practical uses for this watch from basic time keeping to logging distance and vital to recording logs of performance, distance, and GPS locations for review at a later time. Any runner will find many ways to use this watch daily!
You get up to 14 days of continuous use in watch mode on one battery charge and up to 16 hours in GPS mode on a single battery charge, which makes the Instinct GPS watch by Gamin a smart choice for any runner looking for a reliable watch.
Like most things made by Garmin, this watch is stylish and easy to wear all day every day, whether you are running or not which make sit easy to take advantage of all of its great features to ensure you get your money’s worth out of this investment!
7. Approach S20
- Holds up to 500 songs
- Compatible with running dynamics pod
- Good battery life
- Accurate tracking
- Pricey compared to some watches
The Approach S20 is a smart choice for any runner or athlete looking for a durable and reliable watch that will hold up to the work and play of the golfing greens!Read more
This watch has great features that make it easy to wear and use day in and day out. It is comfortable and stylish while also being easy to wear for work or play or for working out. It also includes features like a streamlined display and great overall design.
The Approach S20 by Garmin is not lacking in special features either as it is durable and designed to resist scratching and cracking of the watch face. It has an easy to read display and user-friendly controls and programing. It is also water and shock resistant too!
The Approach S20 watch can be used for working out and training, for avid runners and nature loves, and anyone who knows how to work and play hard day in and day out. No matter what your needs are, if you want a smartwatch this is one to carefully consider.
This Garmin watch features a battery life of 3 weeks per charge when used as a smartwatch and in GPS tracking mode you get 8 hours of use per charge. This is not as much as some on this list but it is still a good choice for golfers and active individuals of all types.
The Approach S20 by Garmin is more than a practical watch it is also a stylish one! With a sleek and elegant look you will be wanting to show off this beauty to everyone you meet, so if you want a watch that can look great and help you with your runs then consider this one!
8. Forerunner 935 GPS
- Smaller size than other options
- Excellent battery life
- 24/7 accurate HR moniter
- Easy viewable screen
- Accurate GPS
- Lots of customization
- Compiles data efficiantly
- May have syncing issues
This Garmin watch is a great choice for runners. The Forerunner 935 GPS Watch is one of the smaller models on this list and is lightweight, which makes it an excellent option for people who find larger Garmin designs unappealing. This is an accurate and efficient watch that can easily meet all the needs of an active runner.Read more
The 935 has a lot of customizable features and options to use with your compiled information as well as a large easily readable screen that makes the information accessible to everyone no matter the situation or condition. The only drawback of this particular model is that some of its users had syncing issues between their watch and their phone.
This running watch is actually completely waterproof, so you don't have to worry about any water damage. You can use it in the rain or for waterproof and it will still accurately track your data.
This running watch functions as an activity tracker that you can use for all of your athletic endeavors. This one will track your running, hiking, swimming, and so much more!
The Garmin Forerunner 935 GPS watch is the watch to choose if you are invested in accurate and comprehensive recordings of not only your running statistics but also your vitals, the 935 containing a 24/7 heart rate monitor. The 935’s battery life also matches its users' extensive recording needs.
Overall the Garmin Forerunner 935 GPS watch is a strong performer in terms of information and accuracy and comes recommended to the runner who is interested in a sleek and customizable GPS watch.
9. Vívoactive HR GPS
- 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
The Garmin Vivoactive HR running watch one of the brand’s most popular products. It offers functional features that will ensure that you get a ton of additional bonuses that will help you reach your goals. If you are looking for an innovative, tech-savvy watch that will track all of your activities then you will definitely love this one.Read more
The screen on this running watch is really easy to read, even when it is really bright outside—which is really important since it won’t do you much good if you can’t see the screen. This watch will also track your progress and allow you to set your own goals. It is can be paired to your smartphone and you can receive your notifications directly on it.
This watch is waterproof and works well for all activities.
Whether you are a road runner or like to get off the beaten path, you will love this watch. It offers accurate GPS navigation that will prevent you from getting lost—and if you run your watch on GPS mode your watch will still last for up to 13 hours, so just keep that in mind if you decide to go with this watch.
This running watch is really responsive, and the GPS is spot on and extremely accurate when it comes to location tracking. It always adjusts as you go along, so you never have to worry about an inaccurate map.
If you want a stylish running watch, you will love this one. It is sleek and modern, and it goes with absolutely everything you wear.
10. 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
If you are looking for a more affordable Garmin running watch, you will love this one! Don't let its cost-effectiveness fool you though, this one also has a great GPS feature that you can trust.Read more
You can also control the music easily with this watch. You don’t need to upload data to Garmin connect as the watch does it for you. In this way, you can share your goals and compare your achievements with friends and family.
This one is water resistant, but not waterproof like other watches on this list.
It measures calories and pace to provide more running motivation. There’s also walk mode and your watch will inform you when you should slow down and walk, but it also will tell you when to start run again. You can also download other applications that Garmin offers.
While checking your heart rate, you don’t need any additional strap. Special alters vibrate to inform you about for example running prompts. The display has a square shape so it’s different from the other models but it’s still very readable.
If you want a sporty watch that is minimalistic but still modern, you will love this one.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
No one wants to deal with a product that’s so complicated that they can’t navigate the programming. At the same time, it’s important to make sure that your Garmin Watch can do everything that you need it to do. A lot of people enjoy products that have all of the bells and whistles, but some people really value simplicity. We looked at the features on each of these watches and measured them against usability and ease-of-use. The last thing anyone wants to do is stop mid-run to activate GPS tracking or to switch up their music.
A lot of people have gotten used to using their smartphones or compact music players to entertain them while they jog. If this is something that’s important to you, make sure to check out the capabilities of your Garmin Watch. A lot of them are able to hold a decent sized playlist and allow you to navigate it easily. Make sure that you’re not buying high-end technology just to have it, and that all of the features will appeal to your needs.
Being able to measure your progress with the touch of a button is a great way to motivate yourself. A lot of people have a difficult time getting out every day and sticking to their workout routine. The Garmin Watch puts your progress right in front of you and lets you see how your body’s reacting to your runs. Having a heart rate monitor is the best way to see whether or not you’re reaching your target for cardio and can make it easier to measure the peak times during your workout. A GPS tracker provides you with an exact measurement of how far you’re going and can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your workout program.
Take a look at the options offered by the Garmin watch that you’re considering. See if they can be customized to include or exclude features that you don’t particularly need. Part of having a really good workout program is having the ability to customize it for your needs.
Water resistance is a must if you live or run in an area with high humidity or high rainfall. Now if you think that doesn’t apply to you consider that there are other circumstances where this sort of structural integrity could be useful. Post gym showering means you won’t have to store your expensive equipment in a locker.
Also water resistant doesn’t mean just water, it applies also to moist conditions. Some people have issues with excessive perspiration and having a watch that won’t break simply because you sweat a lot is worth your consideration.
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? Not if we have a treadmill. We know from our experience that some options of particular watches work only outdoor. This is why you need to check it.
Additional features and options may be a really cool thing but there’s one more thing to consider- will I be able to learn how to use it in a short time. You may know the feeling when you receive the new product and you want to test it immediately but at first, you must read hundreds of 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 a special training program.
We recommend reading the instructions 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 the 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.
Its less about having a battery that lasts a long time for the point of use. It is doubtful you will have to run or use the watch for 14 to 24 hours straight. The point of extended battery life is so that anytime you live your wrist to utilize the watch it will be available and on. Long battery life is so you can take your off to charge at night, put it on when you wake up and be good to go for the rest of the day. We select watches with longer battery life because the convenience of this sort of accessibility is now a standard and no longer really an option.
Several aspects can go into the design of a GPS watch and its display to maximize visibility and minimize things that would hinder it. Specialized screens that reduce the glare that comes from running in bright sunlight. Have a large enough display can help those who have sight issues or aiding in a situation where seeing is difficult.
Many watches also come with a backlight, making it easily readable if you choose to go running at night. Some watches also offer the option to have a customizable color for the backlight. Being able to read the watch you are utilizing is the most essential aspect of a watch, so only watches that should have little to no issues with regards to readability are available on this list.
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 the 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.
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.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
In all fairness, these Garmin watches are all reliable products that offer competitive battery life and impressive durability. However, it's important to have a contingency plan in place in case these devices fail to provide you with tracking or GPS positioning features you need during a camping trip or an extended trail run. It's highly recommended that you bring a physical map of the area you plan on embarking to in addition to your GPS watch.
It can be hard to track the time changes with the seasons, especially when recent legislation has begun changing what countries and provinces observe this long-running tradition. While many of these devices will automatically adjust to daylight savings changes, remember to check online to ensure that these are still up-to-date to avoid being too far ahead or behind schedule.
Other Factors to Consider
GPS watches are the type of watches that tend to be very useful in most harsh running conditions. However, they won’t last forever. We’ve often seen that Garmin products will stay with 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 the delivery process.
There’s only one option to solve this problem- replace your watch. By replacing we mean to return it to the brand. Most Garmin watches have a warranty and it shouldn’t be a problem to get a new one. You need to be aware that sometimes, a different part of the watch has a different guarantee period. If you’re afraid that your product will be damaged during delivery, open the package in the presence of the delivery man.
Many runners tend to forget about these 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 your wrist is small, the 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 heavier.
At Runnerclick.com, we try to make sure that what we recommend will fit into your budget. Running is definitely an investment in your health, but this doesn’t mean they need to break the bank. Many of the watches are available for less than $300-$500 most of the time.
Higher-end models may go for more, but these usually have an abundance of features. Anything that improves your workout routine can be an excellent asset. We looked at watches from a variety of different price points, and part of what we love about Garmin is the ability to pick and choose exactly what you want.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: If I run the same route, do I really need a Garmin running watch?
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 to 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 a running plan and all basic metrics to show you your results even on this one track you use.
q: Can I swim with my Garmin running watch?
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 a 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?
They do make some models 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. While buying the watch with intentions 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.
q: I want to post my run stats on social media. Do Garmin products pair up with all smartphones?
If you want to pair your watch with your smartphone to take full advantage of all of those kinds 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 the information on your computer. This option is less popular but you can still try to look for it. If you have a problem with checking which smartphone is suitable for a particular watch, you can call Garmin consumer support or just simply send an e-mail.