Tracking certain elements of your runs and overall fitness is a great way to monitor your development and smash your goals.
There are plenty of running watches on the market these days to help you do just that, with Garmin making some of the best out there.
From basic models for running newbies to more sophisticated wearables designed for marathon training and beyond, Garmin consistently creates accurate, high-quality products to give you an in-depth analysis of your performance.
But with so many styles to choose from, it’s not always easy to tell which is the best Garmin running watch for your needs.
That’s why I’ve put together this guide, in which I’ve listed the 8 best Garmin watches for runners and who they’re most suitable for.
First, though, let’s take a look at the features you’ll need in a good running watch.
The 8 Best Garmin Running Watches in 2023
Features to Look for in a Running Watch
Garmin specializes in GPS technology – in fact, its very first product was a navigational aid aimed at the maritime market!
What’s more, Garmin’s GPS uses multiple navigation satellite systems.
Not only does this make its stats highly accurate, but it helps stop dropped signals if you’re surrounded by buildings or tall trees.
Other things to think about include:
#1: Battery Life
Long battery life is an important feature of a good running watch and means you won’t have to worry about charging your device between every run.
For each of the best Garmin running watches listed below I’ve included details of how long you can expect the battery to last.
Some – like the Enduro 2 – can last a whopping 34 days on a single charge, but only when used in smartwatch mode.
GPS mode uses a lot more battery life, but even the most basic model listed here will give you up to 20 hours with GPS, which is pretty impressive!
#2: Design and Fit
Garmin watches are designed to be sleek, and since they can track sleep as well as your runs, most are comfortable enough to wear in bed.
That being said, the models designed for trail running and other outdoor adventures are generally more chunky and rugged in appearance.
This is something to consider if you have a petite build, or if you are looking for a watch that won’t look out of place in a work environment.
All of the best Garmin watches for runners provide the basic data you’ll need for tracking your runs, but some of the premium models also include sophisticated features like barometers, altimeters, and maps, along with more in-depth training feedback.
Of course, these advanced features come at a price, so make sure you’re not spending more than necessary to capture a bunch of data you’ll never need!
Also consider if you’ll need extras like offline music, contactless payments, and notifications.
You’ll pay more for features like these, but they’ll enable you to run without your phone.
The 8 best Garmin Watches for Runners
Battery Life: 24 hours (GPS Mode), 9 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.3″, Touchscreen: Yes, Weight: 51 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 50 meters
|Bright display, easy to read in sunshine||No maps|
|Good safety and tracking features||No triathlon or swimming modes|
|Microphone and speaker for voice calls or voice assistant|
When I’m spending several hundred dollars on a watch, I like to be able to wear it for more than just running.
That’s why I love this sleek and stylish model that looks good for all occasions, has some great smartwatch features, but still delivers everything you need to track your workouts effectively.
Ideal for beginner and intermediate runners, the Venu 2 Plus offers sleep, body battery, and stress monitoring, and has a handy ‘health snapshot‘ feature that provides a useful report on your key stats.
You can use it to download up to 650 songs, make contactless payments via Garmin Pay, and receive emails, texts, and alerts right on your wrist!
Battery Life: 20 hours (GPS Mode), 2 Weeks (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.04″, Touchscreen: No, Weight: 37 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 50 meters
|Affordable||No Garmin pay|
|Easy to use||No offline music|
|Lightweight and comfortable||Small, low-resolution screen isn’t the easiest to read|
I always recommend this model as an entry-level watch to anyone new to running – but that doesn’t mean it’s short on cool features!
Bridging the gap between phone tracking apps and fully fledged running watches, it comes with five running modes, daily suggested workouts, cadence alerts to help you improve your form, and recovery advice – in short, everything a newbie needs to analyze their performance!
It also offers tracking for stress, fitness, and body battery levels, along with menstrual cycle and pregnancy tracking.
Battery Life: 57 hours (GPS Mode), 18 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.3″, Touchscreen: Yes, Weight: 79 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 100 meters
|Excellent GPS accuracy||Expensive|
|Highly durable||No microphone|
|Color TOPO maps||Somewhat bulky|
Along with exceptional battery life, phone-free music playback, and Garmin Pay, the Fenix 7 also delivers some of the most comprehensive training, fitness, and wellness data of Garmin’s models.
It features a fiber-reinforced polymer case perfect for rugged environments, and sophisticated navigation tools, including a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter.
The real-time stamina tool is fantastic and tells you just how much fuel you have left in the tank, which can be useful in finding the motivation to go that little bit harder, or in understanding when you need to dial things back.
The included maps are great, too, perfect for trails or for running in unfamiliar cities.
Battery Life: 42 hours (GPS Mode), 15 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.3″, Touchscreen: Yes, Weight: 52 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 50 meters
|Built-in profiles for triathlons, duathlons, brick workouts, and swimruns||Limited smartwatch features|
|Great recovery tools||No running power stats without buying the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod or HRM-Pro|
|Full-color maps built-in|
The Forerunner 955 is primarily designed for runners and multi-sport enthusiasts, allowing you to easily switch between sports with just a single press of a button.
It includes Garmin’s real-time stamina gauge to help you avoid over-exertion at the start of long runs and delivers training readiness data that suggests the amount of effort you should devote to training that day.
The display is clear and easy to read – even in bright sunlight – while the watch has a compact, low-profile design that feels comfortably light on the wrist
The touchscreen is very responsive – making it easy to swipe through your stats or maps – but there are physical buttons, too, which are just what you need when navigating unpredictable terrain with extreme temperatures.
Battery Life: 110 hours (GPS Mode), 34 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.4″, Touchscreen: Yes, Weight: 70 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 100 meters
|Advanced training features||Very high price tag|
|Very bright flashlight||Bulky|
|Preloaded TopoActive and ski maps|
With a Power Sapphire lens to harness the sun’s energy, the Enduro 2 has an astonishing battery life built for the most demanding multi-day adventures.
It offers a sophisticated set of training tools and feedback, including highly accurate GPS, multiple running modes, and an adventure racing activity profile that allows you to see metrics like your heart rate, elevation, and segment times throughout the race.
There’s also a useful ‘ultrarun activity‘ feature with a rest timer that allows you to log time spent at aid stations.
The only downside to this robust and powerful watch is that it requires some serious investment, and if the high cost makes your eyes water, then you might find the Fenix 7 a better option.
Its battery life may be shorter (although still impressive), but it shares some of the same features.
Battery Life: 30 hours (GPS Mode), 14 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.3″, Touchscreen: No, Weight: 49 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 50 meters
|Two sizes available||No offline maps|
|Triathlon support||Basic display|
|Garmin Pay functionality||Limited smartwatch features|
If you like the look – but not the price – of the Forerunner 265 (my top pick in this guide), then the 255 (its predecessor) is definitely worth considering.
No, it doesn’t have the eye-catching, bright touchscreen of the 265 – relying on physical buttons instead – but it is an impressive and durable model equipped with a barometric altimeter, advanced heart rate monitoring, and consistent, reliable positional accuracy.
It also includes multisport modes – a feature you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see at this price point.
The battery life is actually BETTER than that of the 265 (extended battery life is one of the benefits of a less remarkable display!) and it feels lightweight and comfortable on the wrist
Battery Life: 30 hours (GPS Mode), 28 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 0.9” x 0.9”, Touchscreen: No, Weight: 52 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 100 meters
|Extremely rugged and durable||Strap could be stronger|
|Intuitive physical buttons||Display is fairly dull|
|Good range of built-in sports apps|
If you’re looking for a watch with excellent navigational tools for your outdoor adventures – but the likes of the Fenix 7 and Enduro 2 are out of your financial reach – the Instinct 2 might be just what you need.
Thermal- and shock-resistant, it also offers excellent water resistance and is built with a super tough polymer case and scratch-resistant Gorilla glass screen.
The battery life is excellent and the GPS accuracy is spot on, thanks to its use of multiple global navigation satellite systems to enhance reliability.
An altimeter and barometer are included, along with handy smartwatch features such as app compatibility and email/text notifications.
Battery Life: 20 hours (GPS Mode), 13 Days (Smartwatch Mode), Display Size: 1.3″, Touchscreen: Yes, Weight: 47 g, Waterproof Rating: Up to 50 meters
|Provides training tools comparable with more expensive Garmin watches||No maps|
|30+ built-in activity profiles||Limited smartwatch features|
|Responsive, easy-to-read touchscreen|
Lightweight and comfortable, this is essentially an upgrade of the mid-range Forerunner 255 (also included in this guide).
It comes with a significantly higher price, but also some greatly improved features, including advanced training metrics and a bright, crisp AMOLED touchscreen.
On the downside, the brighter screen means the battery life is somewhat reduced, but 20 hours in GPS mode is still more than sufficient for most runners.
In addition to the touchscreen you also have the option of physical buttons, which are preferable when conditions make using a touchscreen difficult.
It comes in 2 sizes (42mm and 46mm), making it ideal for those with smaller wrists, and features onboard music and Garmin Pay.
The 8 Best Garmin Watches for Runners: Key Takeaways
Finding the best Garmin running watch for your needs depends on a range of factors, including your budget, the type of running you enjoy, and the features needed to deliver the data you’re looking for.
Whether you’d prefer a budget-friendly option like the Forerunner 55 or want the features and durability of a workhorse like the Enduro 2, I hope this guide has helped you identify the perfect watch for your next run.