Updated: October 21st, 2017
Garmin Running GPS Watches – Definitive Guide

In the world of running, endurance training, and triathlons, some of the best training watches come from Garmin.

Their Forerunner series constantly pumps out top of the line watches for everyone’s needs and budget, with more features being added or improved upon with every model.

Due to their extensive product line, it can be challenging to figure out which watch is worth spending your money on based on what you will actually be using it for. Lucky for you, this article goes through each watch in the series so you have all the information in one place, making it much easier to make your final decision.

The Garmin Forerunner series of GPS running watches

Forerunner 10

Garmin Forerunner 10 The Garmin Forerunner 10 is a lightweight, older, simpler model in the Forerunner series of watches.
It provides information on pace, distance, and calories burned, as well as will alert you when you have completed each mile or whatever “lap” distance you have set it for.

When you save your run at the end of each workout, it will tell you if you have reached a personal best, be it in distance, speed, or other, so it allows you to easily track your progress.
It has a virtual pacer which allows you to compare your current pace to your goal pace and also has a rest/interval feature, perfect for anyone doing workouts, as well as new runners starting out with walk/runs.

You also have the option of uploading your runs to Garmin Connect so that you can share your progress with your friends and family who also have Garmin Watches.

It is a simple, easy to use training watch perfect for the runner who doesn’t require all the bells and whistles of some of the newer, more complex watches Garmin has on the market.

Recommended Retail Price: $119
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Forerunner 25

Garmin Forerunner 25The Forerunner 25 is the next watch up in the long line of Garmin Forerunner watches.

For the most part, the 25 offers much of the same specs as the 15, including pace, distance, calories, and heart rate tracking, inactivity tracking and motivating reminders to move more throughout your day.

Its virtual pacer will send you updates on the run, including letting you know if you are falling behind the pace. The 25 comes in two sizes, small and large, with an 8-hour battery life in GPS mode for the small and a 10-hour battery life in GPS mode for the large.

Additional features for the Forerunner 25 includes auto-goal, a feature that learns your activity level and assigns you daily goals to meet, pre-loaded cycling profiles and tracking, and the ability to instantly share your runs via social media.

The new sharing and connection features also allows for live tracking, so your friends and family can actually follow along with your run while you are running it. Thanks to its ability to connect to your smart phone, your watch can also tell you if you when you have incoming calls, emails, and other notifications.

Recommended Retail Price: $139
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Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35The Forerunner 35 is a lighter, sleeker version of the 25. It has a wrist-based heart rate tracker, getting rid of the need for a chest strap, and tracks your heart rate constantly.

This GPS watch tracks your pace, distance, time, and can be set for intervals. Like the 25, it has live tracking features for your friends and family. What makes it better, however, is that its smart connection automatically updates to the Garmin Connect so you don’t have to, and it is able to receive notifications while you are running and going about your day without one interrupting the other.

With the Forerunner 35, you no longer need to run with a watch and a music player, because the watch controls music for you.
The Forerunner 35 tracks your steps and inactivity, sending you notifications to get moving.

It also tracks sleep, but has the added feature of tracking sleep quality, not just duration.
This upgraded watch has an increased understanding of movement, so it can tell that you are running, walking, or other movement types without you having to tell it.

The Forerunner 35 has a 9-day battery life on SmartWatch mode and a 13-hour span on GPS mode. It has a water rating of 5ATM, meaning that it can be used for water sports, including swimming, diving, and snorkelling (not scuba diving), as well as cycling cadence and speed tracking, intervals, and pre-loaded bike workouts, making it a good base option for those training for triathlons.

Recommended Retail Price: $199
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Forerunner 235

Garmin Forerunner 235The Forerunner 235 has all the features of the 35, and then some, including its ability to be used for most water activities.

It tracks movement, including auto pause when it senses you’ve stopped at a light or taken a brief rest when you’ve finished an interval. Its advanced GPS keeps track of you even when you are deep in the woods or city running amongst tall buildings. The 235 has audio prompts, smart notifications, and social media sharing.

The features that really sets the 235 apart from the 35 are the higher-resolution, color display and the addition of the GLONASS standard for a better satellite reception. In addition, it’s easily customizable with different straps and watch faces.
You can upload any photo to be your watches face or background using the Garmin Face It app, allowing you to add some personality to your watch.

Recommended Retail Price: $329
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Forerunner 735XT

Garmin Forerunner 735XTThe Forerunner 735XT is one of Garmin’s top of the line watches, and is one of the best not just for run training, but for triathlons.

The 735XT provides details on your running, swimming, and cycling, including stride length, vertical ratio, and ground contact time balance. This watch allows you to have all the details you want while training, and then strip the information down to the essentials for race day.

The 735 has pre-programmed profiles for indoor and outdoor running, indoor and outdoor cycling, and pool and open water swimming, as well as paddle sports, trail running, cross country skiing and running, and strength training. You can create your own workouts as well and download them onto your watch. The auto-multisport feature allows you to switch easily between sports with just the touch of one button, making it ideal for racing du- and triathlons.

The 735 has wrist heart rate technology that not only works for running and cycling, but also works underwater while your swimming, and provides feedback on VO2 max estimations and lactate threshold. The 735 watch is also the first in the lineup that is Strava compatible.

Like the other watches, you can still connect to your phone and receive notifications right to your wrist during long runs and rides, share easily with friends and family, and allow your family to track you while out on the road.

This watch continues to have the same activity tracking as the others, with some more advanced options for cycling, including rearview radar, smart bike lights, and Varia Vision in-sight display.

Recommended Retail Price: $399
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Forerunner 935

Garmin Forerunner 935The 935 is the latest addition to Garmin’s Forerunner lineup. It’s lightweight, monitors your performance to help you know when you’re overtraining or need to do a little more, and the longest lasting battery life yet.

Essentially, the Forerunner 935 not only helps you train better, it also helps you improve your recovery process. Because you will be wanting to wear your watch all day long for recovery tracking, it comes with easy switch bands so that you can change up the look of the watch everyday to suit your mood and style.

The 935 has advanced swim settings to track your distance, pace, stroke count, heart rate, and more, making this watch the best of them all for serious triathletes and especially for ultra-distance events like IronMan races.

As always, the 935 has connectivity to your phone, various apps, live tracking for your family, Strava, and more.

Lastly, the 935 allows you to attach a customized RoadID plate so that should anything happen to you while you’re out training, all of your medical information will be available right there on your wrist.

Recommended Retail Price: $499
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Other Garmin Watches Series and Activity Trackers

The Fenix 5

Gamin Fenix 5The Fenix 5 is one of Garmin’s top of the line premium multisport watches.

It has wrist based heart rate tracking, provides you with important stats from each workout and a performance widget that tracks your progress as you train and become more fit. Like the Forerunner series, the Fenix 5 is connected to your smartphone, has sharing capabilities, and has the same GLONASS satellite and GPS so it will work and know where you are anywhere in the world, not matter how far off the grid.

This watch comes in various sizes to fit every wrist, has a long battery life, and is water rated for up to 100m, making it one of the best for watersports and activities. It has a bright, high resolution color display for easy reading while on the move, and interchangeable wrist bands to match your style.

The Fenix 5 tracks your training, performance, and recovery with Training Status, a monitoring tool that analyzes your recent workouts and performance to help you determine if you are over or undertraining, and helps you ensure you are ready to go come race day, as well as analyzes your stride, form, and cadence.

What really sets this watch apart from the rest is it’s capabilities for multiple sports, not just swimming, biking, and running. It has training tracking features for stand up paddle boarding, rowing and other paddling sports, tracking stroke count, rate, and distance per stroke; skiing and snowboarding, tracking speed, distance, vertical drop, run time, and auto-pausing while on the lift; and golfing, tracking yardage to the back, front, and middle of the green, stat tracking, and more.

This watch is just as customizable as the Forerunner series, so you will easily be able to have a watch that suits your personal style.

Recommended Retail Price: $599
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The Vivosmart HR

Garmin VivoSmart HRThis mart tracker is a simple activity tracker that monitors steps, heart rate, floors climbed, and will even remind you to get moving after a period of inactivity. It tracks not just activity duration, but also activity intensity, and allows you to track progress and compare your fitness and activity levels to the recommended amounts.

It provides you with new goals and encourages you when you are close to achieving one, is compatible with your smartphone, and can even connect to your music with the purchase of an additional add-on.

All told, this tracker is best for the weekend warrior who wants to get in shape or continue to improve, and who wants a better idea of how active and fit they really are.

Recommended Retail Price: $179
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The Vivosport

Garmin VivoSportThe vivosport is a light weight, slim designed activity tracker. Not only does it track your workouts and activity, but it also tracks how your body responds to them and other stressors throughout your day.

It provides fitness estimates based on your age as well as VO2 max. Vivosport allows you to track both outdoor and indoor activity, preload your workouts onto the device, and comes with a set of its own preloaded workouts to try, including strength training. This tracker is great for anyone who likes to workout both in and outside.

Recommended Retail Price: $199
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The VivoActive HR

Garmin Vivoactive HRThe Vivoactive HR has avance wrist based heart rate tracking, and keeps track of every move you make, whether you’re walking to the office, playing a round of golf, hitting the slopes, or going for a run. It counts steps, floors climbed, and even monitors your sleep time and intensity.

This activity tracker is compatible with both indoor and outdoor running, cycling, lap swimming, golf, paddle sports, skiing and snowboarding, providing you with stats, workouts, and training tips for all of them.

As always, it is smartphone compatible and allows you to stay connected while on the go.

Recommended Retail Price: $249
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The Vivoactive 3

Garmin VivoActive 3The vivoactive 3 is the first in the short lineup of vivoactive watches by garmin. Like the other Garmin watches, the vivo3 is a smartwatch with wrist based heart rate monitoring, live tracking, and plenty of shareable features for your social media accounts.

The Vivoactive 3 is especially suitable for people who enjoy working out indoors, and has preloaded workouts for indoor yoga, running, swimming, and more than 15 other activities. This watch monitors your fitness by tracking your VO2 max, provides fitness estimations based on your age, and even helps you monitor how you handle stress.

Lastly, the Vivoactive 3 has GarminPay features, letting you pay for purchases using your watch, making grabbing coffee post run before heading to your locker a new possibility!

Recommended Retail Price: $299
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The Bottom Line

Garmin has a watch or activity traker for everyone’s needs and budget. All that’s left for you to do is to decide how much information you need for training and if you’re ready to take your training up to the next level.

Don’t forget to check out our selection of the best running shoes, constantly updated.

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