10 Best Garmin Watches for Runners Rated
Garmin may also be known among consumer electronic enthusiasts for its role as a leading producer of GPS multisport devices – it launched the world’s first. The watches that Garmin creates carry the same navigational and tech-heavy equipment embedded in its slew of marine and automotive outdoor and operational equipment.
Whether swimming, dancing, hiking, tennis, golf or running – Garmin produces a watch that could serve as your next best friend, tracking and encouraging you daily with fitness goals. Garmin’s were searched from across the web, we compared and contrasted the tech-enabled options, researched and reviewed consumer reports and rankings, to bring you a complete Garmin Watch for runners buying guide, complete with criteria and FAQ following the rankings.
- Garmin Forerunner 920XT
- Smart Notifications
- Garmin Forerunner 220
- social media sharing
- Garmin HRM-Run
- Real-time data
Here is a list of the Garmin top ten, a ranked list of superior fan-fave Garmin watches that runners delight in:
10 Best Rated Garmin Watches for Runners
1. Garmin Forerunner 920XT
This multisport watch sports a metronome feature complete with sound and vibe alerts, trackers that measure your foot bounce average, steps per minute and the amount of ground contact time.
Compatible with other health/heart tech devices
The 920XT can calculate your VO2 if you also use a heart rate and a power meter as part of your workout regiment. Use with a heart rate monitor to access recovery status data, a recovery check is performed to estimate racing potential. Both cycling and running can benefit from this feature.
Cost and Value
Garmin watches are available at a pretty wide price point, however many tend to be at the mid to higher end price points, a luxury item purchase for some - this is definitely not a bargain watch.
This is more than a watch though, it is a piece of equipment loaded with the functionality of many products or tools. There must be assigned value to a watch that can measure your average speed and how high your foot bounces off the ground. The 920XT comes in a US and EU Version and comes bundled with a HRM-Run monitor and VIRB Elite action camera4.
- HRM-Run monitor enabled
- VIRB Elite action camera4
- Record speed/distance/ascent/grade
- Smartphone notifications of emails, texts, call alerts, calendar reminders
- V02 Max, Recovery Time and Race Predictor
- Available in only white/red and black/blue
- Price is equal to a car payment or mortgage
2. Garmin Forerunner 220
The screen is huge, circular and in color - the 220 is also known as the “coach” of Garmin watches, providing you motivation and hard-earned feedback. The GPS loaded watch can calculate your distance and pace, the built-in accelerometer can track you even through tunnels.
Features to help run Training
Besides uploading data and live tracking the Forerunner 220 can set alerts for run/walk, pace and heart rate. Save the history of your run, a handy and simple way to reach fitness goals.
This smart watch also keeps track of your longest run, notifying you of personal record setting achievements like your fastest run time to date!
Cost and Value
This watch is at a typical Garmin price point. The value that this watch carries is high though, it is extremely user friendly making it a popular choice available to both the young and old and male and female. The waistband design is suitable for a wide variety of sizes, the color display and simple push-button operation make this fanciful Garmin watch a top contender on the list.
- High resolution color display
- Built in accelerometer
- Track Distance/pace/heart rate
- Advanced gPS running watch
- Often sold out
- Some versions come without heart rate monitors
3. Garmin Fenix 3 HR
The Fenix 3 GPS is outfitted with a ton of features including the ability to count swim-related statistics like stroke count, pace and distance. The ski mode can calculate speed, distance and vertical drops.
A ton of handy gadgets and tools
This watch comes loaded with a bunch of gadgets besides Running Dynamics Features and a slick navigational system, ABC state-of-the-art sensors detect and provide real-time data. Check your built-in altimeter for the latest in elevation readings, crucial for a safe ascent and descent. A barometer helps to monitor changing weather conditions, never get lost with a handy companion like the smart 3-axis compass, a fun and crucial navigational tool.
Cost and Value
When looking at the price of the Garmin Fenix 3 GPS, it might be appropriate to reset the baseline for an average, or reasonable price. Sure, the dollar store has watches if you are looking for a piece of plastic to strap around your wrist that also tells time. Garmin Watches, are more than that, however, they are designed well and built to last. Heck, some are even rechargeable and waterproof. Yes, $500 could be considered a luxury purchase for the average consumer; however, when weighing the amount of features it possesses, data retention and display options available, as well as nifty tools (barometer anyone?)
A running watch, if you classify it as a piece of athletic or health equipment, is no longer considered a luxury purchase. Even for a watch, as many cheaper watches are in existence, there are many more watches that cost more. After all, a watch is a statement piece for many people. Even while working out.
So overall, a garmin watch is a great value. You are in effect purchasing a piece of wearable technology from a company renowned for GPS navigational and directional services. A company that has integrated the functions of some very advanced equipment (heart monitors) into a GPS enabled device that has a MULTITUDE of features. This is a tool, a great value for the amount of functions that this offers.
- Rechargeable Battery that can last 50 hours in UltraTrac mode
- WiFi data synching abilities
- Omni-directional EXO antenna
- Scratch resistant Domed sapphire lens
- 1.2” Chroma Sapphire Lens Display, high-resolution
- Very large and bulky design
- Some watches had GPS issues
4. Garmin Fenix 5X
The options on this watch are breathtaking, it shows with consumers purchasing this item till it is sold out in many styles, even at this high price point it has a heavy fan following. Four choices of glass (from regular to sapphire), choice of face sizes and bands.
The Bells and Whistles
With two navigational systems and sensors, GPS and GLONASS, never get lost as you streak through the wilderness environment. Run in safety with a barometric altimeter, gyroscope and 3-axis compass at your fingertips.
Cost and Value
This is a highly popular style, it is at a completely normal Garmin price point, which might be at the high point for some. However, the combination of features gives the watch value, there aren’t any other watches that carry this same line-up of options, packaged in a slick sapphire display.
- Protective PVD-coated bezel
- Reinforced housing
- Garmin Chroma Display with led backlighting
- Transflective technology
- Sometimes the software can freeze
- The colors of the bands are somewhat bland
5. Garmin Fenix 5S
Comes equipped and preloaded with activity profiles, suitable for all your training, sports and adventure needs. Training statistics are available on a performance widget at the the push of a button.
Techs and Specs
Available in a scratch-resistant sapphire lens, Garmin multisport watches also feature Wi-Fi connectivity as well as a online support community. The fenix 5S continues the Garmin tradition carrying all and including a superior navigational system, complete with sensors. The intricate navigational system will ensure that you never lose your way with a barometric altimeter, 3-axis compass and gyroscope.
Cost and Value
This is at a mid to higher price point, and could be a substantial cost. However, it is priced in line with Garmin watches as a whole. The value for the watch depends on how much use you are able to obtain from the features and how much you will use the watch. For the options and the tools that come with the watch, the Garmin Fenix 5S is appropriately priced.
6. Garmin Forerunner 230
The Garmin Forerunner 230 exudes high-caliber fitness appeal, it has a slight “Transformers” like edge, with a hint of Teletubby. The screen is HUGE, optimal for joggers and runners needing to take that split-second glance at the watchface - Garmin specifically designed the screen to be large, it averages 44% bigger screen area than the 220, with the same overall physical size.
Impressive Battery Life
More than just an appealing watch that comes in three distinctive shades (black/yellow/purple), this is a performer also. The Forerunner 230 also outperforms the 220 in terms of battery life, featuring up to five weeks in watch mode and 16 hours possible in training mode.
Cost and Value
The price and cost on the Forerunner 230 is on the low-end for Garmin watches, selecting this watch provides consumers with many of the features unique to Garmin multisport watches, while offering a sleek and thin profile. Some consumers like a bulkier watch, for those that prefer slimmer styles, it is wonderful to have an option that also has an affordable MSRP attached.
- Easily doubles as an activity tracker (fitbit abilities)
- Smart alerts (notifies messages, emails and texts)
- Larger screen
- Audio prompt enabled
- Bright purple and yellow options
- Does not include a heart rate monitor
7. Garmin Fenix 3
In addition to a fabulous 1.2” chroma display that is handily sunlight-visible and high-resolution, delight in a supercharged battery that will ensure an interrupted and positivity-fueled session. This is a rechargeable unit, the UltraTrac mode will net you 50 hours of juice and a staggering 6 weeks in pure watch mode.
Besides providing you the most accurate, pinpoint GPS measuring system available, use your Garmin proudly knowing a reliable exo antenna, forged from steel, assists the GPS system in faster directional positioning.
Cost and Value
This is a extremely stylish Garmin piece that is also loaded with features. The price point isn’t as high as some of the watches on the list. However, because of it’s availability as a performance bundle and also with a Heart Rate Monitor, the value placed on this model is high. The value of the watch is also exceptional due to the demand from return customers and the number of consumer reviews posted that were favorable.
- Use as a glove-friendly remote
- Comprehensive navigation and tracking functions
- Auto-calibrating ABC sensors
- Running metrics and running dynamics courtesy of HRM-Run monitor
- GPS chip can be inaccurate
- Repairs can be pricey
8. Garmin Vivoactive HR
This is an equal-opportunity performer, the size and shape of the watch makes it suitable for a wide-range of motions and activities, strap on the vivoactive for running, skiing, golfing, swimming, biking or any outdoor activity.
Elevate Wrist Heart Rate Technology
Keep tabs on all your vital health stats with Elevate, a technology developed by Garmin to track the heart rate via wrist sensors. This smart multisport piece can also display and record all types of activity data.
Cost and Value
The price is slightly higher than the affordable Garmin, the Forerunner 230. The price is a mid-priced option, not quite as high as the heavier priced, almost luxury price, higher-end Garmin options.
- Choice of different colored bands
- Lighter design
- Multisport functionality
- Advanced heart rate monitor functionality
- Some thought it was cumbersome
9. Garmin Forerunner 935
Users loved the comfy design, logging ample reviews for all-day wearing power. Built-in sports profiles help to track and monitor crucial performance data. Whether running, cycling, swimming, skiing, hiking or strength training, this watch can be your best companion.
Sports Bundle Bonanza
Nothing celebrates the consumer electronic gadget space like a amazingly-priced tech bundle. Here is where the Forerunner 935 shines, yes it has GPS and UltraTrac Mode - the sports bundle also comes with a handy USB cable, universal USB travel wall charger, microfiber cloth AND a 1 Year Extended Warranty.
Cost and Value
The cost is not the highest priced of the Garmin’s on the list, it is near the top - but not the most expensive. It does come with the most options and the most gadgets. The sports bundle includes every possible Garmin running watch feature, plus a lovely array of extra cables and chargers.
- Sports Bundle Option
- Multi-sport, triathlon watch
- Compatible with QuickFit bands
- Anaerobic Training effect metric
- Close to selling out
- Comes in black
10. Garmin HRM-Run
The highly-sensitive and tech-enabled strap is also super comfortable, winning rave reviews from readers for the easily adjustable nature and overall softness.
Thin is powerful, especially in the case of the HRM-Run, real-time data can enhance and assist planning of current workout regimens, a staggering six different running dynamic metrics are offered: vertical ratio, stride length, ground contact time, ground balance, vertical oscillation and cadence.
Cost and Value
The HRM-Run ranks second lowest on the list for the amount of reviews posted, the ones that were posted were supportive of product performance. The price is the most affordable priced Garmin on the list, offering running enthusiasts a slim option, a different alternative to traditional multi-sport timepieces for tracking workouts.
- Six different running dynamic settings
- Ultra sporty slim design
- Ultra lightweight and comfortable band
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Only one color, red/black
Garmin is a company that produces automotive navigational equipment, sports tracking equipment, marine, aviation, and cameras as well as wearables and watches. All of the top ten items on the list made it because they are styles and designs that had features that especially suited – and received favorable feedback – from runners and running enthusiasts alike.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Garmin Watches for Runners
In determining the rankings of the best Garmin watches for runners, we considered several factors – availability, features, price and reviews.
Considering that this is not just the best Garmin watch list, and is the top Garmin running watch list, what weighed the heaviest – were features that runners could use to enhance training or activity sessions. For example, all of the watches on the list come with Heart Rate Monitors or as an optional heart rate monitor bundle option. The HRM’s (and a myriad of other features) are what separates this group of running watches, enabling us to rank them. The reputation of the watch, consumers response to ownership and satisfaction of purchase were measured.
In addition to evaluating consumer response by the quality of the review, the amount of reviews posted were factored in also. Price was not a huge factor, the leading criteria used for evaluation were a tie – between the options/features and performance/value of each piece.
Features & Reputation
The following features offered on Garmin multisport watches were deemed to be beneficial to runners. It is the performance of each watch, that makes it a true runners tool – each timepiece and heavily tech-enabled device, offers supreme data tracking, calculations and assistance and inference upon performance.
When evaluating which Garmin watch would make the best runners companion, besides factoring in fan appeal and reviews, selecting watches that possessed the following tech features, were criteria in whittling down the final candidate pool.
All of the features are developed to empower all runners, beginners and expert alike
By tracking certain components of your personal health goals, you will be better able to maximize your run time activities. You now have the ability to tell if you should simply keep doing great run job….or, perhaps be notified that your run-game…needs work. Garmin has mastered the art of tracking physiological measurements, starting with the first…V02 Max.
This is a handy system that Garmin uses to “translate” raw data, into numbers that can be crunched and morphed into a performance-enhancing tool. Simply put, Garmin allows you track your bodies peak oxygen absorption rate, this measures the speed at which oxygen is transported into your body, thru your muscles – then converted into aerobic energy.
This can be a great running aid, everyone loves to see their system get stronger, their joints move more freely, the cutting definition of newly-built muscle – what could be a better way to kick off the weekend then inputting, tracking and improving on your personal V02 max score?
Another nifty tool that was a definite factor in the Garmin runners watch competition is Race Predictor. True to its namesake, this delightful algorithm has the ability to predict, to “forecast” your run times for various distances:
The display shows all of the numbers displayed en masse, you can handily scan the predetermined time. Race Predictor performs this calculation based on your V02 score.
Like a heart rate monitor with an opinion, we cannot deny the power of this next extremely handy Garmin gadget that reports heart rate, offering reports and status updates on your overall condition.
This is a real-time display of current abilities and activity levels. This function crunches quite a few bits of data, pace, heart rate, deviation from your baseline V02, etc. The result is that the Performance Condition is able to offer you a good or poor rating on your real-time performance. It is a entertaining way to track your bodies response, this feature tells you if this run is depleting or working your system more than normal – against your current pace.
This can be like a anti-overheat measure, or an early “wall” detector, be notified so you can downgrade accordingly before hitting the wall.
This is another pro-runner feature that Garmin offers, it has the ability to not just analyze the run that you just finished – but provides accurate insight into your long-term run habits. By using calculations powered by Firstbeat, training status can report the actual effectiveness of your workout, also offering guidance.
This nifty function calculates many customized features, using data from a personalized physiological models, seven day training load and changes in training load. This feature is designed to measure possible states of overworking your body as well as decreased fitness levels. By labeling and reporting training states, Garmin helps runners assess if current training loads are too much, or too little
- No Status
Garmin pulls out the big guns for runners with its arsenal of metrics called Runners Dynamics. Gone are the days where a mere total amount of steps taken is reported. Garmin’s Running Dynamics puts smart technology between your wrist and feet, measuring everything from stride length to ground contact time, proudly reporting everything on a sleek, anti-glare, anti-reflective display.
Ground Contact Time
This measures time, stepwise that is spent on the ground – during running. By tracking ground contact time data, runners can correct possible “over-striding” a run style that occurs when the foot lands so far in front, the body actually responds with a braking counter-balance maneuver. This type of running style usually results in lengthier ground contact times.
Ground Contact Time Balance
This awesome feature measures and monitors the right and left foot, and their ground contact time respectively. This is used to measure the balance between the feet, offering symmetry measurements while you run. Runners will notice that their symmetrical running form can be off-balanced, most commonly when going down or up inclines, sprint work or are excessively fatigued.
Garmin further ups the running watch game by quoting your personal cadence, this is your personal stride, measuring both feet, how many steps that you take per minute. This measurement is a fav of runners because it is a piece of data commonly tracked outside of Garmin world and Runners Watch world, cadence is a common metric in the running world – and it can reveal wonders about your form.
Although there are target running cadence figures floating around (180 steps/min), there is no one perfect cadence figure. Biologically, the height should affect cadence, and traditionally, taller runners do overall have slightly slower cadence levels.
Not only a fun piece of data for runners, but for all of us, it is pretty handy to know your stride length. It is easy to see why runners would love this detail, measuring running form overall is exciting, finding out exactly how your individual stride length changes up according to elevation, cadence and pace is all available via Garmin Connect. Flexibility, strength and body morphology are a few factors that affect stride length.
A lower oscillation number is preferred, considered beneficial – you use less energy going up and down. Runners can handily track vertical oscillation levels, and adjust running form and stride accordingly, if needed.
The final feature used to determine which Garmin watches were best for runners, measures running efficiency, splayed against the data retrieved when used in conjunction with vertical oscillation. When you run, the force with which your torso and hips are projected forward, can be measured. This is often referred to as how well you can propel the body forward – with each step. By factoring in the amount of bounce (vertical oscillation), crunched with stride length, your body’s own propulsion rate is measured – and expressed in vertical ratio.
Features lending to the reputation and performance of the watch were the single most powerful criteria for evaluating the most suitable Garmin running watches.
Wear-Tester Feedback & Opinion
Rankings and reviews were used in conjunction with optimal features – to produce the top ten list. After rounding up the top contenders loaded with runner-centric functions, the amount of reviews posted were counted. The number of reviews, along with the quality and strength of the ratings and comments were a deciding factor in rank. Customer feedback and satisfaction were measured, the usability of the special features of each watch are a favorite topic to discuss among garmin watch enthusiasts.
Value & Quality Compared to Cost
Simply put, price was not a factor in any of the rankings or the order on the list. The price also did not determine whether or not a entrant on the list was “too expensive” or “too cheap” to be on the list. When evaluating multi-purpose products like this, especially multipurpose sport watches, you are purchasing and receiving an instrument that is loaded with extremely specialized and advanced technological equipment. The cost of each watch is completely fair for the workmanship and performance of the goods. None of the pricing of any of the watches on the list was found to be overpriced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What could a Garmin offer versus a “fitbit” type of wearable?
A: The activity and step tracker that is on every Garmin on the list far outperforms a fitbit. People of different heights and leg lengths take different sized steps. Garmin watches calculate the length of your strides, resulting in a customized and precise user experience.
After determining the number of steps that you need for the day, it will also determine the amount of steps that you require, using your activity level (it varies with each day and sessions) and age. Decided to catch up on Youtube or taking a break that runs long? A alert called the MOVE! will encourage you to do such if stillness is detected for more than an hour.
Q: What are the connectivity features required to use digital features and smart notifications?
A: You won’t need to connect the garmin to your computer, if interested in using software like nikeplus or strava (or other software), when you sync your phone with your garmin, the uploads happen automatically for you. Additional features and services are available and accessed through the Garmin connect network.
Q: Which features of Garmin watches provide smartwatch type of features?
A: Many consumers are not interested in smartwatches or fitbit type devices, those consumers interested in enhancing their running game will benefit from smartwatch type features that Garmin includes. Receive social media alerts, there are displays that will show you, pretty much anything your phone shows, it will alert you to it.
Q: What is it like to run with GPS? Do I need it to run?
A: First of all, you never need anything to run, besides the sheer basics. Exercise and motion is something all of us really need to be proactive about, a comfortable and protective pair of shoes – and you are good. Add in some stretching, study a few articles or tapes on basic running form and you are off to a great start.
Many that use GPS say that it drives them crazy, serving as a distraction to running – regardless of how powerful the location detection function is. It depends on your personal style and how well you adapt to using and interacting with GPS. A good tip to see if you would benefit from a tool-loaded watch, is to try the feature on your phone first. Download a free GPS app (many are available) on to your phone first and see how you interact with it.
If you love the convenience of simply lacing-up and heading out the door, a multi-purpose sport watch might be for you.
Q: Is it possible to track my stress with this digital device?
A: Having a conversation with an ornery parent? Is it 115 degree outside and did you forget where you parked? Monitor stress levels with Garmin’s stress level tracker. Models such as the vivosport give you the opportunity to combat stress, alerting you so you can employ instant anti-stress measures.
Elevate by Garmin will serve to make you aware, by alerting you to stress levels. Target physical or emotional triggers that may cause elevated readings. Garmin is dedicated to helping everyone live healthier and fuller lives, this is a wellness tool to help runners stay balanced!
Need some shoes to match your tech? Here are some suggestions.