No matter whether you are new to the world of running or a seasoned pro, you will be keen to know how far you have gone, how long it has taken you and other statistics relating to your run. This is where the GPS activity tracker comes into its own. From an entry level watch that just tells you the basics to a watch you can use to programme and navigate your watch, there are plenty of options. We chose the Garmin running watches range specifically because they are our watch of our choice and we reckon for every 10 runners we encounter, approximately 9 of them own a Garmin of some description.
Let’s start our overview of Garmin running watches with the watch for the experienced endurance runner that wants to invest a bit more into an activity tracking device:
Best Trail/Ultra Running Watch
The Garmin Fenix 6 range is perfect for the trail runner who likes a high level of data and additional features to enhance their run. Being able to load your routes and use it to navigate is perhaps the top of the list for trail enthusiasts. Not only that but the track back feature of the upper end of the range means you can retrace your steps should you take a wrong turn or find yourself in unknown territory.
Advanced training features of the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro (just one of the many watches in the range) include pacepro for grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity plus environmentally adjusted VO2 max and training status estimates. Set up your data screens and create your own preferred display to show elevation, pace, distance, heart rate… you choose!
Having one of these ourselves means we can happily recommend this particular watch. Having gone from following GPX routes on mobile phones and OS maps to being able to upload the route to a watch means that we save so much time and the margin for error significantly reduces. No longer do we have to worry about taking a wrong turn and the track back feature means that we can always find our way home. We first used this during a 50 mile ultra. We knew the route so it was the perfect way to test that it was accurate. It certainly was.
Set Your Chosen Data Screen
We also love the fact that you can set your own data screen. Personally we like to see the distance covered, the elevation and the time. Not something you can do with the more basic watches. The Garmin 235 for examples requires you to toggle between screens to get what you ideally want. If your’e into your trail running and want to invest in a decent running watch then it’s most definitely worth it.
You can read our full Garmin 6X Pro review here.
Best for Multi-Sport and Competitive Runners
The Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS running that is suitable for triathletes and those that are serious about running. You can download music to your watch including your Spotify and Amazon Music playlists. Monitor your performance including your V02 Max and training status. Adjustments can be made for heat, altitude acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time and more. In Smartmode, the battery will last up to two weeks, this reduces to 10 hours in GPS mode – enough to get you round that half Ironman. If you’re a marathon runner, it’s got more than enough battery life however, for the ultra runner or Ironman, you are going to need something with more battery life.
Maps, Safety and Tracking Features
With a full colour screen, you also have access to full colour maps plus the safety and tracking features include incident detection during select activities. We were informed by a fellow runner that they tripped up a step at home which triggered an alert to their husband so we know this feature works. Out and about without your wallet? no problem. This Garmin 945 GPS watch also features Garmin Pay contactless payment solution which means you can make payments from your watch.
Cheapest Garmin Watch for Entry Level
If you are new to running or don’t really want an all singing all dancing watch then the Forerunner 35 does the job. This GPS will track your distance, time and pace as well as tracking heart rate at the wrist. The batter life of the Garmin Forerunner 35 is 13 hours in GPS mode or 9 days otherwise. That is some impressive battery life.
Choice of colour
The silicone wrist strap comes in different colours including Frost Blue, Black, Limelight Green and White and you can get interchangeable straps should you wish to accessorise. Track your workout then upload to Garmin Connect via bluetooth.
Best Mid Range Garmin Watch
A popular choice among road and off road runners is the Garmin Forerunner 245 GPS watch. It tracks heart rate via Elevate Wrist Heart Rate technology, gives an VO2 Max estimate and acts as a recovery advisor. Automatically uploads to Garmin Connect as well as giving smart notifications on the move. Activity tracking counts steps, distance, pace, heart rate and calories burned indoors and out. It also records ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more.
A Good All Rounder For 10ks, Half Marathons and Marathons
We have been running with the Garmin 235 (its predecessor) for 4 years now and in fact, it is this model that is one of the more popular Garmin running watches amongst our peers and the athletes that we coach. My 235 has been going strong since January 2017 and continues to be reliable. It hasn’t lost charge. The only time it ever almost failed was during an ultra that took 13 hours. With only 11 hours charge, it meant charging on the go. This is a watch for those that aren’t running big distances and it won’t let you down. Definitely worth the price tag.
Garmin Forerunner 45S
Ideal Garmin Watch for Smaller Wrists
With all the regular features that most runners expect from a decent trail running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 45S, records pace, distance, heart rate at the wrist and allows you to set up your own interval training sessions etc. With automatic updates to Garmin Connect, you can keep track of your elevation and mileage while receiving incoming smart phone alerts Bia bluetooth. Safety tracking features allow you to send your real-time location to your emergency contacts.
Best for Battery Life
The name gives you some indication as to how robust this Garmin Instinct Rugged smart running watch is. Water resistant and shock absorbent, this watch is is a robust solution for those regularly hitting the muddy trails. With a track back feature, you can easily find your way should you happen to get lost or take a wrong turn. Finish your run, save it and it automatically uploads to Garmin Connect.
Charge on the Run with Solar Power
Being solar powered, this long lasting battery smart watch can be charged on the run during daylight hours. For those that run longer events and don’t want to charge their phone on the run, fussing around with cables and mobile chargers, this will give you the battery life that you require.
Best for Day to Day Activity
The Garmin vívoactive is pre-loaded with 15 different sports meaning whether its yoga, swimming and running, you can record your activity. You can also use Garmin Pay to pay for things using contactless payment when out and about. You can also personalise this watch with different faces and smart notifications.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links which may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you. The products we recommend are either those that we’ve used or that our fellow runners have used.