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 the other available statistics relating to your run. This is where the GPS activity tracker comes into its own, and for many, it is a key part of your running kit! From an entry-level watch that just tells you the basics to a watch you can use to program and navigate your watch, there are plenty of options. We chose the Garmin running watches range specifically because they are the watch of our choice and we reckon for every 10 runners we encounter, approximately 9 of them own a Garmin of some description.
When choosing a Garmin watch for trail running, you’ll need to consider your individual needs and preferences. Some factors to consider include:
- Features: What is important to you? Do you need built-in maps, music storage, or a colour touchscreen display?
- Price: How much are you willing to spend? Garmin watches range in price to suit all budgets.
- Battery life: How long do you need the battery to last? You’ll need a watch with a long battery life if you’re doing long trail runs.
- Durability: Trail running can be tough on gear, so you’ll need a watch that can withstand the elements.
Let’s start our overview of Garmin running watches with the watch for the experienced endurance runner who wants to invest a bit more into an activity-tracking device:
Garmin Fenix 7
Best Trail/Ultra Running Watch
The Garmin Fenix 7 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 7 (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 a Fenix 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 60-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 example requires you to toggle between screens to get what you ideally want. If you’re into your trail running and want to invest in a decent running watch then it’s most definitely worth it.
Garmin Forerunner 745
Best for Multi-Sport and Competitive Runners
With Garmin Forerunner 745 GPS smartwatch that utilizes various satellite systems to accurately track your workout routine, you can engage in activities such as swimming, cycling, running, and triathlons. You can switch up your workouts as frequently as you like, as the device comes equipped with preloaded activity profiles. In addition, you will receive workout suggestions based on your current training load and VO2 max, as well as training guidance through the Garmin Connect app and other platforms. For enhanced data analysis, advanced running, cycling, and swimming dynamics are available. Furthermore, you can easily sync with music services to play up to 500 songs and make contactless payments on the go with Garmin Pay. The smartwatch can last up to one week in smartwatch mode, 6 hours in GPS mode with music, and 21 hours in UltraTrac mode.
Garmin Forerunner 55
Entry Level Garmin Watch
If you are new to running or don’t want an all singing and dancing watch then the Forerunner 55 does the job. This GPS will track your distance, time and pace as well as tracking heart rate at the wrist. It is the ideal choice for those that like to do no more than half marathon on a regular basis.
Choice of colour
The silicone wrist strap comes in different colours including black, aqua and white and you can get interchangeable straps should you wish to accessorise. Track your workout then upload to Garmin Connect via bluetooth.
Garmin Forerunner 255 GPS Running Watch
Best Mid-Range Garmin Running Watch
The Forerunner 255 offers accurate tracking capabilities. Whether you’re tackling rugged terrain or exploring new trails, this watch will provide you with reliable data on your distance, pace, and heart rate. With this information at your fingertips, you can track your progress, set new goals, and push yourself to new limits.
But the Forerunner 255 doesn’t stop at just tracking. It also offers personalized coaching to help you reach your full potential. This watch comes with built-in training plans that adapt to your performance, providing you with guidance and insights every step of the way. In addition to tracking and coaching, this watch also offers advanced navigation features.
Overall, the Garmin Forerunner 255 is a great trail-running companion like no other if you want something with accurate tracking and personalized coaching. Where it won’t suit you is if you are an ultra running over 50 miles. The battery life is designed to last for 30 hours when
With a battery life of 14 days in smart mode and 30 hours when in GPS mode, it may not be the watch you want on a self-navigation ultra of more than 50 miles. Unless of course, you are a speed demon who can nail 100 in under 24 hours. Even then, you probably want the more sophisticated features of the Garmin Fenix range.
This watch is certainly a good all-rounder for 10ks, half marathons and marathons
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.
Garmin Instinct Rugged Solar
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.
It also comes in a range of colours including Sunburst Yellow, Blue/Graphite, Flame Red and Orchid although the price varies according to which colour/model you choose.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch
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.