Garmin makes excellent smartwatches; they’re accurate, hard-wearing, and they provide REAMS of data. But what is the best Garmin watch for runners? Let’s find out…
Here’s the thing: Garmin watches are NOT cheap. The best Garmin watch, for most people, will simply be too expensive. For this reason, this list of the best Garmin watches has been designed with different budgets in mind – those on a tight budget and those not on a budget.
I have tested and vetted nearly all of Garmin’s watches in the past 24 months, used each of them extensively, got reams of data from Garmin Connect, and even tested their durability in pools, lakes, and even the ocean. Each of the recommendations below is based on all of the above, so whatever budget you have, you should find one that works for you…
Best Overall Garmin Watch – If Budget is No Concern
Garmin Fenix 6
If you’re serious about what you’re doing, whether it is running, cycling, swimming or hiking, or all four things, then the Garmin Fenix 6 is ultimately the best option from Garmin right now. This bad boy does it all and is completely water-resistant, robustly designed, and finished in high-end build materials.
For accuracy, the Garmin Fenix 6 is in a league of its own. Its GPS locks onto your position almost immediately and in 12 months of usage, it hasn’t missed a beat. The Fenix 6 can and will track pretty much anything you want to do – from walking and hiking to running and swimming. Its heart rate monitor even works underwater.
Designed for serious athletes, or those that aspire to become one, the Garmin Fenix 6 is not cheap. But it is one of the best multi-purpose sports trackers on the market. I love the design, it’s bulky and premium-looking like a proper watch. But it is also extremely robust and can handle whatever life or the trail might throw at it.
Add in things like Garmin Connect, the company’s market-leading data collection app, incredible battery life, and the fact that it can pull data about everything from your cadence to how much you sweat, and it is easy to see why plenty of pros swear by the Garmin Fenix 6. If you can stretch to its asking price, this is 100% the Garmin watch to go for.
GARMIN FENIX 6 SERIES
If you have the budget and want the best of the best when it comes to design, tracking, durability, and battery life, the Garmin Fenix 6 is 100% where it’s at right now. This thing is a monster and that is why it is used by plenty of professional runners.
Best Mid-Range Garmin Watch For Less Than $300
Garmin Venu 2
With its much lower price tag than the Fenix 6, the Garmin Venu 2 is a far more approachable smartwatch. But do not be put off by its cheaper price tag, the Garmin Venu 2 will still track everything you need it to – from your heart rate to your cadence as well as your splits and plenty more besides.
The Garmin Venu 2 looks more like a traditional smartwatch, it is more Apple Watch than Fenix 6 in the design department. The design, while pretty, isn’t quite as rugged as the Fenix 6’s. This means you need to take better care of it – dinks and scratches will show very easily. It also uses a beautiful, always-on AMOLED display too.
For runners, the Garmin Venu 2 is a great option. Like the Fenix 6, it has GPS – supported by Galielo and GLONASS – so it is very accurate and fast to pick up your position. It can also connect to a variety of gym equipment too, which is a nice touch. As are its myriad training modes and the fact that you get access to Garmin’s excellent Garmin Couch training plans which is perfect for building up to your first 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon.
For the money, the Garmin Venu 2 is one of the best and most feature-rich smartwatches on the market. I had a blast testing this one out; it looks amazing, tracks everything you could possibly want, and it is lightweight and has excellent battery life. And for less than $300, that’s just about all you could ever ask for.
GARMIN VENU 2
The Garmin Venu 2 is more of a smartwatch than the Fenix 6. It looks stylish, has an AMOLED touchscreen, and comes packed with all of Garmin’s usual features – GPS tracking for running as well as the ability to pair with loads of gym machines. It is also really well priced for what it does.
Best Cheap Garmin Watch For Those on Tighter Budgets
Garmin Forerunner 55
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is one of Garmin’s newest watches. It’s actually the one I’m using right now. The Garmin Forerunner 55 is designed to be lightweight, inexpensive (compared to other Garmin watches) but still track everything a beginner runner needs – things like heart rate, steps, cadence, split times, and much, much more besides.
If you’re just getting started with your running routine, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is the perfect watch for you. It doesn’t cost too much, it comes with Garmin’s legendary GPS, and it tracks all the metrics you need to know about inside Garmin Connect. Battery life is solid too – around 14 days on standby and 20+ hours with GPS.
If each of your runs is around 30 minutes, you’ll get, potentially, weeks of use from a single charge. I run most days, so I tend to run the Garmin Forerunner 55 down a little quicker than a beginner. But even then, I’m still only charging once a week on average. And this, combined with its GPS accuracy and tracking features, makes it a worthy upgrade from an Apple Watch or FitBit for new and aspiring runners.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 doesn’t have a touchscreen. Instead, you use five buttons around its case to interact with the watch. This can feel a little remedial at first, especially if you’re used to a proper smartwatch. But once you get to grips with what all the buttons do, using the Garmin Forerunner 55 is a cinch. Just click here, then there, and you’re tracking your run.
It also comes with things like Garmin Couch, so you can take part in professional training courses for 5K, 10K, half, and even full marathons for free. The Garmin Forerunner 55 is waterproof too. And it even comes with a suggested workout feature, whereby it will suggest what type of run for you to do based on your previous training session. It’s brilliant.
For the asking price, less than $200, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is by far and away the best Garmin watch for new and aspiring runners – or runners that want more accurate training data but are on a stricter budget. I’ve been using mine for a couple of months now and it has been brilliant, never missing a beat and it can also withstand pretty much anything life can throw at it.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 55
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the cheapest option on this list. But I’d argue, for runners, it is the second-best option. This watch is designed for runners, it has many of the Fenix 6’s features just at a much lower price point and this, for me, makes it one of the best Garmin watches for runners on the market right now.
How I Tested & Choose These Options
I started running back in 2017. I got up to half marathon distance, then I fell in a ditch on a dark trail and injured my knee. That put me out of action for six months. I got back into running again in 2018, then got injured again. No ditch this time, just a rolled ankle. I then had a break for a year. At the start of lockdown, I got back into running properly.
And I haven’t stopped since.
Because I run most days, I can quickly test out loads of different smartwatches. Between 2018 and 2021, I’ve tested nearly all of Garmin’s smartwatches. They’re all great in their own, unique ways but I put this list together based on price, durability, fitness tracking abilities, and battery life.
Each model had to nail all of these things at a specific price point – either high, middle, or lower end. And they all did, IMHO, which is why I included only three options. Personally, I hate list posts that just list out reams of options. For this reason, I kept things tightly focused for this post.
The Fenix 6 would be my ultimate recommendation if budget is no concern. Next would be the Garmin Forerunner 55; it is just a brilliant, beginner-friendly running watch and like the Fenix 6 it is very durable which you want if you’re running trails or in the rain. The Garmin Venu 2 is a brilliant option too, although it is more of a smartwatch with Garmin features than the Fenix 6 and Forerunner 55.
Best Garmin Watch For Running
- Best Overall: Garmin Fenix 6 – Check Prices
- Best Budget Option: Garmin Forerunner 55 – Check Prices
- Best Smartwatch-Style Option: Garmin Venu 2 – Check Prices
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.