Best Garmin running watches

A look at the US giant’s running roster

For almost 30 years, Garmin has been producing GPS technology for a wide range of industries, including automotive, aviation, marine, and – crucially for our purposes – fitness.

Garmin is one of the top brands in the running watch world right now, and has one of the widest portfolios, from the budget Forerunner 10 to the expensive, but more fashionable, Forerunner 630. 

But - if you've decided to go with Garmin as your next running watch producer -  it can be tricky working out which is the right device for you and how much you should really spend (and don't want to push further out into the multi-sport models that can track you over a triathlon or hike).

So whether you’re looking to take your training and race analysis to the next level (thus enabling you to regale/bore your friends and family with details of your VO2 max, resting heart rate and running dynamics) or you’re simply taking your first tentative step into running watches, we've got the top models from Garmin right here for you.

Note: the following watches are ranked from cheapest to most expensive according to RRP - prices may vary over time.

1. Garmin Forerunner 10

Garmin’s entry-level offering

Screen size: Pink/White, Green/White, Violet/White & Black/Silver: 0.81-inch x 0.77-inch; Black/Red & Orange/Black: 0.98-inch x 0.94-inch | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 5 hours | Battery life on standby: 35 days | Onboard storage: 7 activities | Bluetooth connection: No | Smartwatch capabilities: No | Multisport: No

Very affordable
Waterproof up to 50m
Basic functionality
No heart rate ANT+ connectivity

The Forerunner 10 is Garmin’s cheapest and most basic running watch, designed primarily to compete in the saturated market of sub-£100/$130/AU$170 GPS watches. For novice runners, or those who aren’t too concerned with going into the forensic detail of every training session, this watch represents good value.

The Forerunner 10 will track your distance covered, pace, and calories – and for some runners that’ll do nicely. The user interface is easy to navigate and the watch is able to sync with Garmin’s powerful tracking and analysis software, Garmin Connect.

There’s a range of funky color options available and the watch is light and comfortable on the wrist, which is more than can be said for some of the more sophisticated watches on this list.

What it lacks in functionality the Forerunner 10 certainly makes up for in durability and it’s even water-resistant up to 50m. In short, this is a great value, entry-level option that won’t let you down – and that’s why it’s still one of Garmin’s best-selling running watches.

2. Garmin Forerunner 15

A simple, affordable GPS watch

Screen size: Black/Green, Teal/White & Violet/White: 0.81-inch x 0.77-inch; Black/Blue & Red/Black: 0.98-inch x 0.94-inch | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 8 hours | Battery life on standby: 35 days | Onboard storage: 7 activities | Bluetooth connection: No | Smartwatch capabilities: No | Multisport: No

Simple to operate
Cheap for a GPS watch
Relatively limited functionality
Basic screen

You won’t find a cheaper heart rate tracking device in the Garmin range, so this is an option for those on a budget who want to use a heart rate strap to check their pulse while jogging.

It’s perhaps fair to say that the Forerunner 15 is not the most aesthetically pleasing watch in the world (or even in the Garmin range), and it is often criticized for its flimsy build and basic screen, but then this is still a relatively affordable watch that you’re not buying for its looks.

As with all Garmin watches, the Forerunner 15 enables the user to sync their data with Garmin Connect, opening up a whole other level of analysis and sharing.

Coupled with the heart rate monitoring and activity tracking, this makes the Forerunner 15 a good value option for those looking for a slightly more advanced unit, without a hefty price tag. 

3. Garmin Forerunner 25

Basic GPS watch with smart notifications

Screen size: Purple/Black & White/Pink: 0.73-inch x 0.73-inch; Blue/Black & Black/Red: 0.91-inch x 0.91-inch | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: Small – 8 hours, Large – 10 hours | Battery life on standby: Small – 56 days, Large – 70 days | Onboard storage: 7 activities | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: Yes | Multisport: No

Bluetooth pairing with compatible devices
Affordable
No Virtual Partner
No Running Dynamics

Despite being at a comparable price-point to the Forerunner 15, the Forerunner 25 takes things up a technical notch, courtesy of its Bluetooth and smartwatch capabilities. 

As a running watch, it boasts a very similar list of features and metrics to the less advanced watches above, but the addition of Bluetooth pairing makes the Forerunner 25 an appealing upgrade.

The Forerunner 25 boasts a larger screen than the Forerunner 15, yet it is also more slimline and, frankly, a nicer-looking watch. 

While the running functionality is still relatively basic when looked at in the context of the entire Garmin range, you do get a reasonable selection of metrics (distance, pace, heart rate, calories), along with activity tracking.

The key selling point of this watch, though, has to be the ability to instantly upload your data onto Garmin Connect via Bluetooth – a feature which elevates the Forerunner 25 above its similarly-priced family members, which need to be connected by USB.

4. Garmin Forerunner 220

A high-performance, mid-range option

Screen size: 1-inch diameter | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 10 hours | Battery life on standby: 30 days | Onboard storage: 200 hours of activity | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: No | Multisport: No

Range of connected features
Simple interface
Inaccurate treadmill pace
Questionable choice of colors

All of the watches covered so far are suitable budget options, perfect for those new to running. 

But it’s high time we move to the more serious pieces of kit and accordingly the Forerunner 220 represents our first glance at the Garmin mid-range – and it’s a solid performer in that category.

The Forerunner 220 was one of the first Garmin running watches to be kitted out with a high-resolution color display, but the user interface retains the simplicity of earlier products. 

The watch boasts a long list of training features, including a custom workout function which enables the user to design workouts online and then download them to the unit.

Another impressive feature of the Forerunner 220 is the faster speed with which it locates satellites prior to a session. By regularly connecting to Garmin Connect, you are able to ‘pre-cache’ satellite locations, which will be sent to your device automatically, enabling it to locate satellites in record time.

You’ll have to dig a little deeper into your pockets to afford the Forerunner 220, but, in exchange for your cold hard cash, you’ll get a solid performer that includes all but the most advanced functions a runner could desire.

5. Garmin Forerunner 35

Sleek watch boasting wrist-based heart rate

Screen size: 0.93-inch x 0.93-inch | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 13 hours | Battery life on standby: 9 days | Onboard storage: 7 activities | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: Yes | Multisport: Cycling

Heart rate measured at the wrist
Long battery life
A touch overpriced
No VO2 max predictor

Jumping up another price bracket now, and we’re faced with the Forerunner 35, a more fashion-conscious mid-range unit that's packing some powerful functions.

The most obvious difference between the 35 and all of the watches detailed above is the introduction of Garmin’s Elevate technology, which enables heart rate monitoring at the wrist.

This addition means you don’t have to go to the trouble of donning a chest strap before every run, and it also enables the unit to measure your heart rate throughout the day, building up a detailed profile.

Whilst this is clearly of benefit, the wrist-based heart rate monitoring is not without its faults, particularly when it comes to tracking heart rate during interval sessions. When compared to the heart rate readings of a traditional chest-mounted monitor, the wrist-based version is a little slow to react to rapid rises and falls in heart rate, although it performs well on steadier runs.

The Forerunner 35 is arguably a tad overpriced, but if you’re keen to sample Garmin’s Elevate technology without breaking the bank, you can’t go too far wrong with this sleek watch that offers smartwatch capabilities as well.

6. Garmin Forerunner 225

Garmin’s original foray into wrist-based heart rate

Screen size: 1-inch diameter | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 10 hours | Battery life on standby: 28 days | Onboard storage: 200 hours of activity | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: No | Multisport: No

24/7 heart rate at the wrist
Hugely customizable interval workouts
Lack of running dynamics
No micro USB-charging

Continuing the theme of wrist-based heart rate readings, the Forerunner 225 was actually Garmin’s first unit to feature this innovation – although, this watch uses a sensor made by Mio, rather than Garmin’s own Elevate technology, which came later.

Garmin has made a concerted effort in recent years to make even its most advanced watches simple to use. 

This is evident in the 225’s interface, which is as intuitive and straightforward as the more basic devices above. The watch also features a sharp, color LCD display which really earns its keep when the color-coded heart rate zone training function is in use.

While the 225 lacks some of the super-advanced features that we’ll see further down this list, it caters for all but the most stat-obsessed runners out there. 

The intervals tool, for instance, provides good workout customization, allowing you to perform sessions created on Garmin Connect, combining metrics like pace, time, distance, heart rate and intensity.

7. Garmin Forerunner 230

Stylish and simple design, married with smart functions

Screen size: 1.22-inch diameter | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 16 hours | Battery life on standby: 35 days | Onboard storage: 200 hours of activity | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: Yes | Multisport: Cycling

VO2 max calculations
Long battery life
No Running Dynamics
No built-in heart rate monitoring

The Forerunner 230 was part of Garmin’s triple launch towards the end of 2015, when the 230, 235 and 630 were all announced to the running world. The 230 is the cheapest and least advanced of the trio, by virtue of it not having a built-in heart rate monitor, but it does have smartwatch capabilities and a very respectable battery life.

The 230 also includes some interesting post-run metrics, such as VO2 max calculation and Training Effect. The watch will give you a VO2 max value at the end of a run (if it has changed) and the Training Effect data can help you understand how much of an impact a given run has had on your body (this is massively oversimplifying a much more intelligent feature).

For those runners who are partial to a bit of two-wheeled action, the 230 helpfully includes a cycling mode, and the unit can be paired with ANT+ speed and cadence sensors as well. 

8. Garmin Forerunner 620

A touchscreen watch with tasty functionality

Screen size: 1-inch diameter | Touchscreen: Yes | Battery life using GPS: 10 hours | Battery life on standby: 42 days | Onboard storage: 1000 laps | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: No | Multisport: Cycling

Stats galore
Instant Wi-Fi sync
Unresponsive touchscreen
No built-in heart rate monitoring

The touchscreen Forerunner 620 is described by Garmin as an ‘Advanced running watch with Recovery Advisor’. Once Garmin’s flagship running watch, it has since been surpassed by the watches further down this list, but it still has enough going for it to warrant consideration.

The 620 doesn’t have smartwatch capability, but it does have VO2 max estimates and, when paired with an HRM-Run monitor, it can satisfy even the nerdiest of runners by providing data for cadence, ground contact time and vertical oscillation.

9. Garmin Forerunner 235

A good looking, lightweight smartwatch

Screen size: 1.23-inch diameter | Touchscreen: No | Battery life using GPS: 11 hours | Battery life on standby: 9 days | Onboard storage: 200 hours of activity | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: Yes | Multisport: Cycling

Lightweight
Detailed daily activity tracking
Optical heart rate technology needs work
Slight plasticky feel

The Forerunner 235 is very similar to the 230, which it was launched alongside at the back end of 2015. The 235 builds on the 230, though, in that it features Garmin’s Elevate technology. As has been mentioned above, this wrist-based innovation is not without its pitfalls, but it does account for the difference in price between the 230 and 235.

The 235 offers music controls and audio announcements (if you don’t mind bringing your phone along for the run) and you’re also able to pick up smart notifications for calls, messages and social media updates.

This impressive list of functions, coupled with the stylish appearance of the 235, makes it a formidable package that is tough to beat. That said, the Forerunner 630 below probably just edges it.

10. Garmin Forerunner 630

Knows your body better than you do

Screen size: 1.23-inch diameter | Touchscreen: Yes | Battery life using GPS: 16 hours | Battery life on standby: 28 days | Onboard storage: 200 hours of activity | Bluetooth connection: Yes | Smartwatch capabilities: Yes | Multisport: Cycling

Advanced running metrics
Superb battery life in GPS mode
No wrist-based heart rate
Lactate threshold function needs some work

The third watch to be introduced to the market in Garmin’s three-pronged 2015 launch is perhaps the most exciting. 

Commanding the biggest price tag of the three, it also boasts the most varied array of features, despite not having heart rate at the wrist. 

This advanced smartwatch lays claim to helping runners track just about every metric they can possibly imagine.

As well as the VO2 max function discussed above, the 630 will estimate your Lactate Threshold, stress levels and ‘Performance Condition’  (which gives an insight into how much energy your muscles have left while running), while advanced running dynamics such as ground contact time, balance, stride length and vertical ratio offer a whole new dimension of tracking and analysis.

There really is plenty for the data nerds to get their teeth into with this one – plus, it looks better on your wrist than models from previous years.