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Best Garmin GPS Watch for Running

Best Garmin GPS Watches for Running 2020

We got tired of suffering through GPS watches that didn’t do what we needed them to. That’s why we took the time to develop the best Garmin GPS Running Watch review we possibly could. 

After tons of research, we narrowed down all the best Garmin GPS watches for running to the Fenix 6 Solar. In terms of specs and features, this is the best GPS watch for running, and it can do everything competitors can’t.

But if you’re still on the fence about what watch is best for your running style, needs, and budget, keep reading, and we’ll break down everything for you. 

Product Reviews

We took the time to review seven of the best Garmin GPS watches for running. We found that they all have unique features to offer, so what might be best for one person might not have what another is looking for. To find the best Garmin running watch for you, just keep reading!

Best Overall Garmin GPS Watches for Running in 2021

Overall Best Garmin GPS Watches for Running –

 Fenix 6 Solar – 5 Stars

  • 32 GB of storage
  • Water-resistant up to 100 meters
  • 9 to 14-day battery life
  • 9-hour battery life when using all features
  • Large 1.8-inch screen
  • Can’t replace the battery yourself

Product Overview

While Garmin makes a ton of great products, picking their best overall wasn’t difficult. The Fenix 6 Solar is the best Garmin GPS watch for running and so much more.

It comes with all the features the other Garmin GPS watches offer, but then packs in a few extra features and extends the battery life with a solar-powered screen to really set this watch apart from the pack.

It dwarfs its competitors in size but sits flush against the skin, so it doesn’t feel like a behemoth. Even better, despite its 1.8-inch screen, it only weighs just over 3 ounces. It’s incredibly lightweight and durable, giving you the best of both worlds.

You can easily pair it with your smartphone or another device to get even more benefits, but unlike many other smartwatches, this isn’t a necessity. If you’re not looking to access texts or voicemails from your smartwatch, you simply upload your music and track your runs!

Best Overall Garmin GPS Watch For Running the Fenix 6

Features and Benefits

It’s hard to find some features that the Fenix 6 Solar doesn’t offer. It comes equipped with a wide array of sensors that lets you track your oxygen levels, heart rate, body temperature, acceleration, and of course, tracks your location through state-of-the-art GPS technology.

But the features on the Fenix 6 Solar go beyond a watch that’s jam-packed full of sensors. Its sport tracking features can handle over 30 different activity methods and can track every part in a triathlon if that’s what you’re into.

These features allow you to track your pace in real-time and map out routes for current or future workouts. After every workout, it will provide you with a wide range of stats on how you did and what to improve on.

Of course, a smartwatch wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the apps. The Fenix 6 Solar has more apps than you’ll know what to do with.

There are apps for music, Uber, and Lyft, and even for mobile payment. As an added perk, the Garmin Spotify app allows you to download up to 2,000 songs for offline use. No matter how long your workout, you won’t run out of new music.

Battery Life

What sets the Fenix 6 Solar apart from the pack is its super-long battery life. The screen itself acts as a solar panel to help charge the watch, but you’d never be able to tell by looking at it.

If you’re using it like a traditional watch and disable a few of the health trackers, it can last up to 14 days before you need to charge it. Without disabling any of those trackers, it can last up to nine days with minimal use of its GPS and music streaming features.

But of course, you’re getting a GPS watch to use those features, and the Fenix 6 Solar can last up to 9 hours of continuous GPS and music streaming before you need to charge it. This is long enough for most people to finish a marathon so that this watch can last long enough for almost any application.

Best Garmin GPS Watches for Running The New Favorite – 

Garmin 745 – 4.5 Stars

  • Water-resistant up to 50 meters
  • 7-day battery life
  • 6-hour battery life when using all features
  • 1.2-inch screen
  • Has incident detection

Product Overview

The Garmin 745 is one of their newer releases and, as such, has some of the newer and nicer features that some of their older models don’t offer. The screen size is smaller compared to other Garmin models at only 1.2-inches.

While it’s heavier than some of Garmin’s other GPS watches, it’s still insanely lightweight at only 1.6 ounces. Despite the smaller weight and screen size, the resolution on the watch is phenomenal. The Garmin 745 has 240 by 240-pixel resolution and is easily visible in direct sunlight.

It pairs with your smartphone for instant text, voicemail, and incident alert protection.

Features and Benefits

Being a newer release, Garmin loaded the 745 with all of their latest innovations and apps. One of the most significant is the automatic incident alert technology. If you’re in an accident, the Garmin 745 will automatically alert your preloaded emergency contact.

This innovative safety feature allows you to leave your phone at home when you head out for a run but still get help if you need it.  

Of course, the Garmin 745 comes with the ability to track a wide range of physical activities. So, if you’re looking for a watch that can track your runs, swims, and bike rides, the Garmin 745 might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

But that’s not all it tracks, it also covers activities like kayaking and skiing, so it’s perfect for the adventurist. It helps you optimize your workouts while tracking a ton of metrics and data.  

From oxygen levels to your heart rate, the Garmin 745 tracks it all. It even has a stress monitor and a body energy monitor that lets you track your levels throughout the day. Of course, it comes with technology that enables you to optimize your workouts and stream music straight from your watch.

These features make the Garmin 745 a great GPS watch for those that want a watch jam-packed with extra features.

New Favorite Garmin GPS Watch for Running the Forerunner 745

Battery Life

While the Garmin 745 comes with many unique features that help set it apart, one of the most significant drawbacks to this new design is the limited battery life.

When you’re using it as a smartwatch, it can last up to seven days, but you significantly reduce that battery life when you turn on the GPS tracking or start streaming music. In fact, if you’re doing both, the Garmin 745 only has a 6-hour battery life, and that’s if you start your workout with a full battery.

This means you have to be mindful of your battery life before you start a workout. While this might not be a big deal for some, it might be a deal-breaker for those that enjoy longer workouts.

4.5/5
  • Metrics for biking, running, and swimming
  • Extensive outdoor activity profiles from kayaking to skiing
  • Streams music
  • Workout suggestions
  • ConnectIQ options for applications

Best Value Garmin GPS Watch for Running – 

Garmin 245 and 245 Music – 4.5 Stars

  • Water-resistant up to 50 meters
  • 7-day battery life
  • 8-hour battery life when using all features
  • 1.2-inch screen
  • Tons of training tools
  • No GPS maps – only GPS tracking

Product Overview

The Garmin 245 is the epitome of a sports watch. It has a small 1.2-inch screen and comes in two different models. The only difference between the Garmin 245 and the 245 Music is that the 245 Music can store up to 500 songs for offline streaming.

However, with the Garmin 245, you can still control music playback through your smartphone straight from the watch. Both watches come with a bright display that you can easily see in direct sunlight. Even better, the display is in full color, giving it an extra burst of exclusivity and style.

Features and Benefits

While the Garmin 245 doesn’t come with all the smartwatch features that some of the higher-end models offer, that doesn’t mean it lacks great features. It still comes with GPS tracking, although it doesn’t have maps built-in.

That means you’ll be able to see the route that you ran, and it’ll accurately track your distance and performance metrics, but it won’t have streets and roads loaded onto the screen.

The Garmin 245 has an assortment of apps you can download from the Connect IQ store. These apps allow you to get specialized workout plans based on your data and other useful apps and widgets.

Whether you’re looking for a quick weather update or trying to stream GPS maps from your phone, the Connect IQ store allows you to upgrade your Garmin 245 into the exact device you’ve been looking for.

Just like the Garmin 745, the Garmin 245 comes with an incident detection system that can let a preprogrammed emergency contact know if anything happens to you. This enables you to leave the phone at home and still rest easy knowing that you can get a hold of help if you need it.

Best Value Garmin.GPS Watch the Forerunner 245

Battery Life

The advantage of a watch without a ton of extra features is that the battery life gets significantly extended. Both the Garmin 245 and 245 Music have a seven-day battery life when used as a traditional smartwatch.

While you’re using the tracking features, the battery can still last an impressive 24-hours. However, if you’re using the Garmin 245 Music and actively streaming from it while tracking your location, the watch can only last up to 8-hours.

That’s still better than most GPS watches, and it’s long enough to complete some of the longest workouts. Whether you’re finishing your first marathon or a triathlon, the Garmin 245 can last the entire event.

4.5/5
  • Choose between the 245 and 245 Music model
  • Access a huge selection of performance metrics
  • Add more functionalities with the Connect IQ store
  • Wear a comfortable GPS watch with a stylish design
  • Read data easily thanks to the bright and colorful display

Best Entry Level Garmin GPS Watches for Running– 

Garmin 45/45s – 4.5 Stars

  • Water-resistant up to 50 meters
  • 7-day battery life
  • 13-hour battery life while using GPS tracking
  • Small 1-inch screen
  • Limited training tools
  • No GPS maps – only GPS tracking

Product Overview

Unlike some of the other GPS watches that we reviewed here, both the Garmin 45 and Garmin 45s lack many of the lifestyle features that most smartwatches offer. That makes the Garmin 45 more of a limited sport monitoring and training watch.

The screen is much smaller than the other smartwatches, measuring just over one inch in diameter. The only difference between the Garmin 45 and Garmin 45s is that the case body on the Garmin 45s is slightly larger than the Garmin 45.

It’s lightweight and perfect for long-distance runs and gives you access to live trainers to help during workouts.

Even better, it comes with built-in safety features. Leave the bulky phone at home on your next run without having to worry about what to do if you need to contact someone in an emergency.

Features and Benefits

Unlike other Garmin GPS watches that allow you to track a wide array of physical activities, the Garmin 45 only allows you to track a limited number of sport profiles.

Even though it’s water-resistant up to 50 meters, it can’t track swimming workouts, making it fundamentally incompatible with triathletes. However, if you’re looking for a smartwatch for cycling or running, the Garmin 45 might be a perfect fit.

It gives you access to live coaches, actively monitors all of your stats from pace to distance. This data helps you determine new workouts to maximize performance during future workouts.

Garmin designed the 45 to be a performance tool, and in that regard, it’s hard to beat. Of course, it comes with incident detection technology providing you with an extra sense of security during your workouts.

Finally, the Garmin 45 and Garmin 45s allows you to choose from a limited number of apps and widgets that are available on a special app store just for the watch. These apps allow you to personalize your watch a bit, but it’s not as wide-ranging as other GPS watches.

Battery Life

With a limited capability comes phenomenal battery life. It has a 7-day battery life when you’re using the standard watch features. Even while you’re working out, the Garmin 45 and 45s have a 13-hour battery life, by far making it one of the longest-lasting watches when you’re utilizing GPS tracking.

However, these numbers are slightly skewed because the Garmin 45 models don’t offer any music streaming options, significantly reducing battery life. Still, unless you’re competing in ultra-marathons or other extreme distance events, 13-hours is more than enough.

4.5/5
  • Live coaches to keep you on track with your fitness goals
  • Quickly get notifications from your phone to your wrist.
  • Lightweight and comfortable fit
  • Incident detection adds to safety and security.

Best Battery Life – Garmin 945 – 4.5 Stars

  • Waterproof up to 50 meters
  • 14-day battery life
  • 14-hour battery life while using all features
  • 1.2-inch screen
  • Tons of training tools
  • Full GPS mapping
  • Tons of unique features

Product Overview

Garmin just released the 945 in April of 2019, and they loaded it with tons of great new features and technology. It has a 1.2-inch display screen capable of producing full-color turn-by-turn directions and even lets you know when to expect changes in terrain.

One of the few drawbacks to the Garmin 945 is that it only comes in one color option and size, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if Garmin released more color options and sizes in the future. As it is, it’s a subdued gray that lets it seamlessly blend into most workout attire.

Best Battery Life Garmin GPS Running Watch

Features and Benefits

The Garmin 945 is packed full of features. Not only can you sync it to your smartphone to receive texts, alerts, and voicemails all from your watch, but you can get turn-by-turn GPS instructions delivered straight to your watch.

It’s packed full of workout enhancement features that span across a wide range of activities. Whether you’re a traditional runner or someone that likes to hit the great outdoors across a ton of different activities, the Garmin 945 can track it all.

It has a heart rate monitor, VO2 monitor, fitness tests, and breathing exercises all built right in. It also gives you weather forecasts and other useful planning tools, allowing you to plan your entire workout from start to finish.

It’s a watch Garmin built for athletes, but it does more than just athletic enhancement. Its music apps allow you to store up to 1,000 songs, and you can download the Garmin mobile pay app so you can use your watch to make purchases.

The Garmin 945 is one of the first Garmin watches to upgrade from water-resistant to waterproof up to 50 meters. While the distinction might seem small, it’s a big deal if you plan on using your watch to track your swimming workouts.

The Garmin 945 is trying to keep up with Apple in its unique features but take it a step further by offering elite training tools for marathoners and casual fitness advocates alike.

Battery Life

One of the most significant upgrades that Garmin made in the 945 is its battery life. Not only can it last up to two weeks without a charge if you’re using it exclusively as a smartwatch, but it can last up to 14-hours if you’re streaming music while you work out.

Even the Fenix 6 Solar, our best overall, can only last 9-hours when doing this. You won’t find a GPS watch out there that can do so much for so long before you need to charge it.

When it comes to battery life, the Garmin 945 sets the bar insanely high.  

4.5/5
  • Accurate and high-tech GPS
  • Ultra-lightweight with a durable and waterproof design
  • Music syncing
  • Contactless payment
  • Safety tracking features

Best Classic Garmin GPS Watch for Running – 

Garmin 235 – 4.5 Stars

  • Waterproof up to 50 meters
  • 4-week battery life when used as a smartwatch
  • 9-day battery life while using all features
  • 1.2-inch screen
  • Excellent training tool for runners
  • Customizable apps through Connect IQ

Product Overview

Unlike the newer models that we reviewed here, some of which came out in 2020, Garmin released their 235 models in 2015. Despite the earlier release date, it still comes with many great features and has retained its place as one of the more popular GPS watches.

It has a 1.2-inch display screen and is completely waterproof up to 50 meters. You won’t ever have to worry about rain, sleet, or snow damaging your watch. You won’t even have to take it off while you’re taking a shower.

Best Classic Garmin GPS Watch for Runners the Forerunner 735

Features and Benefits

Even though Garmin released the Garmin 235 in 2015, it still has a ton of great features. Not only does it work as an activity tracking GPS watch, but it’s also completely waterproof and comes with a few training tools to enhance a runner’s workout regimen.

It’s one of the first smartwatches that offered a continuous heart rate monitor and has a modern, sleek design that fits into any workout attire.

You can download customizable apps and widgets through the Garmin Connect IQ apps store. Whether you’re looking to download some games or a widget to help you track the weather, Garmin has options available for you.

Even better for training purposes, you can download your data to the Garmin Connect app so you can monitor and track your progress all in one place.

Unlike some of the other models we reviewed here, the Garmin 235 doesn’t have a music playing app. Nevertheless, Garmin did release a 235 Music model that allows you to stream and download music straight to the watch. However, this will have a significant impact on battery life.

Battery Life

One of the great features of the Garmin 235 is that it allows you to disable the features you don’t want to use. If you disable all smartwatch features and location tracking features, the battery can last up to nine weeks.

However, if you’re using it as an activity tracker, it can last up to eight weeks, and even if you’re using all of its smartwatch features, it can last an impressive four weeks. It’s only when you enable the heart rate monitoring that the battery life comes down to a still remarkable nine days.

While you might not get all the fancy features that the newer GPS watches offer, you won’t have to worry about your battery giving out on you towards the end of a long workout. It’s because of this that the Garmin 235 has retained its popularity despite newer models flooding the market.

4.5/5
  • Tracks distance, pace, time, heart rate and more
  • Connected features¹: automatic uploads to Garmin Connect™, live tracking, audio prompts, smart notifications and social media sharing
  • Activity tracking² counts daily steps, distance, calories and sleep
  • The Garmin Forerunner 235 continues to be a Runner’s Favorite. Even though it is an older watch, it’s still a great value!

Great Value Classic Garmin Watch For Running –

 Forerunner 735 XT – 4 Stars

  • Water-resistant up to 50 meters
  • 11-day battery life when used as a smartwatch
  • 14-hour battery life while using GPS features
  • 1.2-inch screen
  • Excellent training tool for running, cycling, and swimming

Product Overview

The Garmin 735 XT is the predecessor to the Garmin Forerunner 745 that we reviewed above. As such, it has fewer features and perks, but it comes at a lower price and still has some great features.

The screen is just over 1.2-inches and has a resolution of 215 by 180 pixels. This is a lower resolution than the other models that we reviewed, but you can expect that in an older model. It’s water-resistant up to 50 meters and can be used to track running, cycling, swimming, and general activity.

Features and Benefits

The Garmin 735 XT doesn’t come with near the number of features that the newer Forerunner 745 model comes with. However, that doesn’t mean that it lacks features.

The Garmin 735 XT still has the following great features built right in:

  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Daily resting heart rate data
  • Sleep monitoring
  • Hydration monitoring
  • Menstruation tracking

For performance tracking, the Garmin 735 XT has features that can track your runs, swims, and cycling trips. While the Forerunner 745 has advanced swimming features, it utilizes the same tracking apps for running and cycling.

If you’re looking to save a little money and don’t need all the extra features that the Forerunner 745 offers, the Garmin 735 XT might be the perfect way to save some money while still getting exactly what you want.

Garmin 735xt Favorite Classic GPS Running Watch

Battery Life

While older GPS watches have fewer features, the tradeoff is that they often have a slightly better battery life. When you’re using the Garmin 735 XT as a regular smartwatch, it has an 11-day battery life. When you’re using it in Ultratrac mode, it can last up to 24-hours.

Even when you use the Garmin 735 XT in GPS mode, it can last an impressive 14-hours. This is more than long enough for you to use it during your longest workouts, or even if you’re trying to get in a quick run after using your watch all day!

4.5/5
  • Numerous profiles for various types of athletes
  • Has many of the same features as the  newer 745 but at a lower cost
  • Available in 3 different bundles in three different bundles: watch-only, run, and triathlon.

Value Editorial

With so many great options available, it might seem impossible to pick out the perfect GPS watch for you. Don’t worry. We’ll break down everything you need to know and help you figure out what features matter to you.

After you’ve read our editorial, you’ll know exactly what you need!

How to Choose the Best Garmin GPS Running Watch for You

Before deciding what the best Garmin GPS watch for running is, you need to determine what matters to you. Do you want a watch that’s going to help you come up with future workouts to improve your training?

Do you plan on streaming music straight from your smartwatch during your runs? Do you want to track things other than runs? All of these questions will have a significant impact on what Garmin smartwatch you need.

If you’re planning on streaming music straight from your phone and only want a smartwatch to help you track your runs, you won’t need one of the newer models with all the fancier features.

However, you’ll still need to decide if the incident monitoring that newer models offer is worth the added price. If you live in a rural area where you’ll be running at night or along busy roads, the added security might be worth the price.

Of course, if your only purpose for getting a Garmin GPS smartwatch is to maximize workouts, you might want to get a simpler model like the Garmin 45. It comes with tons of apps and features that let you maximize your workout but doesn’t come with all the fancy features that other models offer.

So, what smartwatch do you need? That depends on what you need it for.

What Are the Benefits of a GPS Watch?

There are tons of benefits that a GPS watch offers. The most significant advantage is that it provides an in-depth analysis of every step of your workout.

While you can get a simple GPS tracker on your smartphone through an app like MapMyRun, it doesn’t offer the same amount of data that a Garmin GPS watch provides.

Your smartwatch will monitor acceleration, your heart rate, and so much more. Whether you’re on a bike or taking a swim, a GPS watch can track it all with the flip of a switch. Furthermore, smartwatches can do all this while keeping you up to date with texts and other alerts on your phone.

Even better, newer smartwatches will make recommendations on future workouts and let you know how you’re holding up every step of the way. This will help you improve your runs week after week and help break you out of a funk if you’re regressing.

Since some of Garmin’s smartwatches offer live training help, it also gives you the inherent advantage of having someone hold you accountable. This can make all the difference between finishing your run strong or taking that last-minute shortcut to get home a little faster.

What to Look for in GPS Watches

There are a few things that you need to look for in a GPS watch, but it often comes down to what you’re looking to do with your GPS watch. Are you searching for a watch that can track your swimming workouts as well as your latest runs?

Or do you avoid the pool like the plague and only want a watch that tracks your latest runs? Not every Garmin GPS watch comes with the same features.

If you don’t plan on wearing your watch outside of workouts or you never plan to swim with it, you can save yourself some money by buying a watch without those features.

Another feature to consider is the size of the screen. While the screen size is similar across most of the watches, there are some with smaller screens, and the Felix 3 Solar has a much larger screen than the other options available.

If you’re worried about accessing and seeing all of your watch’s features, it might be worth the extra money to get a slightly larger screen.

Finally, the most significant feature you need to look for in your GPS watch is battery life. Nothing’s worse than having a watch that you can’t use as much as you’d like because the battery keeps dying.

It’s especially important to remember that the battery lives listed are how long they’ll last when they’re still new. As the watch ages, the battery life will wear out, and unlike regular watch batteries, you can’t replace them yourself.

When in doubt, spend the little extra money and get a watch with slightly longer battery life and save yourself the frustration that comes with dealing with a watch with a short-lived battery.

How Long Do GPS Watches Last?

If you’re looking at buying a GPS watch, there’s good news about how long it will last. Most Garmin GPS watches last at least a decade. However, like all electronic devices like laptops and cellphones, you will notice battery life degradation as the watch ages.

While most Garmin GPS watches can last at least a decade, a wide range of factors can affect this. While it’s rare that you’ll need to replace these watches before then, they only come with a one-year limited warranty.

So, if you do get extremely unlucky and get a dud, you’re a bit out of luck in most instances.Conclusion

While it took a bit of time for us to research all the best Garmin GPS watches for running and come up with a clear winner, once we did, it was clear that the Fenix 6 Solar was a step ahead of the pack.

Not only does it come with unique features that the other models simply don’t have, but it also has one of the longest-lasting battery lives of all the watches we reviewed.  

While the Fenix 6 Solar took the crown, the Garmin 945 was the clear runner up. Garmin released it in September of 2020, and they packed it full of features that allow you to maximize your workout and come up with new plans to take your fitness to the next level.

Of course, whether or not you need all those fancy features depends on what you’re looking for in a GPS fitness tracker watch, which is why we recommend answering the questions of why you need one and identifying which benefits apply to you.

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to step up your workout with a phenomenal GPS watch from Garmin!

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Robby McClung

Robby McClung

This article was written by the editorial staff of the Canaan Valley Running Company and Robby McClung. Robby is the founder of the Canaan Valley Running Company. You can read more in the about section of the website on Robby and the Canaan Valley Running Company.

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