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 tells you the basics to a watch you can use to program and navigate your watch, there are plenty of options. We chose a Garmin running watch 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 running watch for trail running, what are 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? do you want a watch that has all the bells and whistles of a running enthusiast watch or are you just looking for an entry Garmin jogging watch?
  • Price: How much are you willing to spend? Garmin watches range in price to suit all budgets and commitment to running.
  • 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 however, you might want to look at a solar power watch that charges when you are on the run. 
  • Durability: Trail running can be tough on gear, so you’ll need a watch that can withstand the elements and won’t start to discolor or wear easily. 

Updated 01/01/24

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 fenix 7 deal

    FENIX 7 – DISCOVER MORE       

    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 745


    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 track your heart rate at the wrist. It is the ideal choice for those who like to do no more than a half marathon regularly. 

    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 55 watch



    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 255 running watch

    255 – FIND OUT MORE

    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.

    Choose from black or white 

    Garmin running watch 45s garmin jogging watch


    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 a robust solution for those regularly hitting the muddy trails. With a trackback 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 who 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 instinct rugged watch for running

    Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch

    Best for Day to Day Activity 

    The Garmin Vivoactive is pre-loaded with 15 different sports whether its yoga, swimming or 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. 

    garmin vivoactive running watch



    It’s not to say that Garmin running watches are for everyone. We have some friends that run with TomTom, Apple watches, Fitbits and other brands. You will certainly find in a poll of a group of runners that the majority favour Garmin running watches though. 
    The most important thing is to decide what you will use your Garmin running watch for. How much you will use it and does it have the technology you need or want? Is it within your budget and does it do everything you need it to do?  

    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.