Garmin is a well-known brand behind GPS technology. They made a good start into the running watch GPS market and have now established themselves as one of the best brands to consider when it comes to buying a running watch. They’ve released a variety of running watches over the years, some with lots of fancy technology and others much more simple for those who only want to focus on a few metrics. For those still deciding or considering a Garmin running watch then hopefully this guide can help you decide!

Why Buy A Garmin Running Watch?

Garmin has long been established in the running watch market so they have had a long time to refine much of their technology and to improve the user experience. In addition, depending on the model you buy, a Garmin running watch will have the ability to track your sleep, resting heart rate and steps taken daily which can give a useful insight into your general daily activity and how stress may be affecting you.

In addition, the last Garmin running watch models are now smartphone compatible via Bluetooth which means you can see your notifications and switch up your music quite literally on the run! The latest Garmin running watch models are even compatible with Spotify and Deezer and will store music on your watch so you don’t need to bring your phone with you on the run – just a pair of Bluetooth earphones.

If you’re looking for a cheap good quality pair I’d suggest these Mpow Bluetooth earphones as they give you a good bang for your buck, provide clear, crisp sound quality and are IPX7 waterproof!

To get the best GPS tracking data Garmin use GPS, GLONASS (the Russian GPS system) and more recent models also use GALILEO (a GPS system being developed by the European Union). Using each of these satellite positioning systems, you can be pretty sure your watch can track your every move whilst on and running.

And for those days when you just can’t seem to get your Garmin running watch to connect to GPS it’s even clever enough to know your stride length using the accelerometer and gyroscope inside whilst your running – and I’ve found this to be pretty accurate in my Garmin forerunner 735xt!

For the data enthusiasts, Garmin logs plenty of data of which you can study and analyse to your heart’s content from stride length to vertical oscillation and resting heart rate and more! It can even be interlinked to Strava where many runners, cyclists and swimmers log their training and share it with the rest of the running/cycling/swimming community. If you’re even more keen for data, I’d recommend buying a Garmin heart rate monitor as this will provide many more metrics which you can analyse such as ground contact time and the balance between your right and left foot when running. For triathletes, it may be worth investing in the ‘tri’ heart rate monitor which will provide heart rate data even whilst swimming! Heart rate monitors are particularly useful for athletes who train using heart rate training zones.

If you want to see the Garmin running watch models I suggest head straight to the bottom of the page for links to the products!

Which Garmin Running Watch Should I Buy?

There’s lots of different Garmin running watches available for you to buy at a whole set of different price ranges. Here I’ll go into 5 watches that I feel are best suited to different niches and types of people. Keep reading for I’ll link all the products down below with images!

#1 – The Trendsetter – Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

For those that want a large set of features that many GPS running watches provide with some of the trendiest technology at a low price. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music will provide you with the following:

  • Touchscreen display
  • GPS that lasts up to 13 hours without music and 5 hours with music
  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Gyroscope and accelerometer
  • Thermometer
  • Compass
  • Barometric altimeter (for tracking air pressure and altitude)

But those are only just some of the features available. Here is what I feel really puts the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music in such a good position.

 

Pros

  • Smartphone free music (as long as you have Bluetooth earphones).
  • Compatible with Spotify and Deezer.
  • Can use it for transactions with Garmin Pay (yes you can use your running watch for payments!).
  • Many core running and daily activity features included.
  • Bright touchscreen for visibility in sunlight.
  • Stores up to 500 songs.

Cons

  • Garmin Pay gives thieves a little more potential to steal from you as your bank details will also be on your wrist essentially.
  • Music function with GPS only lasts 5 hours.
  • Some running dynamics such as cadence (steps per minute) are not tracked.

#2 – The Jogger – Garmin Forerunner 35

For those that want to keep things simple and stick to a watch that pretty much only logs data for running and general daily movement and activity, this is the watch for you. It features:

  • Sleep monitoring
  • GPS that lasts up to 13 hours in training mode and 9 days general use
  • Smartphone connectivity
  • Accelerometer
  • Step counter

Its features are quite basic, but that’s what puts it at a lower price point than all the watches. If you want to keep things simple and not get too gimmicky about all the data, this watch is probably best for you.

 

Pros

  • Has basic cycling features as well.
  • Gives running metrics such as cadence (number of steps per minute).
  • Estimates VO₂ max.
  • Built in heart rate monitor.
  • Cheapest of the watches at around £100.

Cons

  • Very simple features (although you may prefer this).
  • May require a heart rate monitor for a more accurate VO₂ max estimate.
  • Some running dynamics such as ground contact time cannot tracked.
  • Only records 7 activities before data needs to be transferred to store more activities.

#3 – The Data Enthusiast – Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series

If you have the money to spend, want to maximise your performance with data and are absolutely convinced that all the insights this watch will provide you with can be utilised in some way for your benefit, then you can’t go wrong with the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. Or maybe you simply like seeing all the data and numbers – I don’t blame you!

There are 3 variants of Garmin Fenix 5 Plus:

  • Garmin Fenix 5S Plus
  • Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
  • Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

Each watch corresponds to a different sizing, with the 5S being the smallest model and the 5X being the largest. Whilst almost all the features are the same, there are a couple of key differences.

The Fenix 5X Plus (the largest) can display maps on the screen and also has a feature known as ‘Pulse Ox Acclimation’ where the watch actually shows blood oxygen saturation levels to monitor how you’re adjusting to higher altitudes.

Here are some unique features the watch provides you with:

  • 10 ATM water resistance (up to 100m underwater)
  • Lasts up to 25 hours in UltraTrac mode (uses GPS signal sparingly to save battery)
  • Smartphone connectivity
  • 16GB watch memory/storage
  • Many outdoor recreation features for: hiking, climbing, skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, snowboarding and more!

For the features that will sway you to buying this watch (or not), here is what I think sets it apart.

 

Pros

  • More expensive model has extremely durable sapphire glass.
  • 5X model has pulse ox acclimation (useful for those training at altitude or in different environments).
  • Can estimate the aerobic and anaerobic training effect from your training.
  • Can calculate training load from the past 7 days based on your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
  • Has many cycling, golf, daily movement, running, swimming and outdoor recreation features.

Cons

  • Fairly expensive (you’re looking at spending over £500).
  • May require a heart rate monitor to get data for all the running metrics and for more accurate data if you want to calculate your lactate threshold.
  • A bit heavier than other running watches.
  • All the data and options available to you may feel overwhelming!

#4 – The Runner/Swimmer/Cyclist/Triathlete – Garmin Forerunner 735XT

For the (tri)athlete or exerciser who doesn’t just like to run, but enjoys swimming and biking and wants to see their data for those activities, you can’t go wrong the the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. It features:

  • Smartphone connectivity.
  • GPS that lasts up to 14 hours in training mode with GPS and optical heart rate
  • Up to 80 hours of activity data.
  • Wrist-based heart rate monitor.
  • Tracks steps, calories burned and sleep.

This watch is absolutely great for triathletes (or those who simply like to run, swim and cycle) because of all the data it provides for the three activities. Here are some of the pros and cons I feel which will help you decide if this watch is for you!

 

Pros

  • Great for triathletes with running, swimming and cycling profiles.
  • With a heart rate monitor, it can measure your: ground contact time, vertical oscillation, lactate threshold, heart rate variability, stride length and balance.
  • Can detect your swim stroke and efficiency automatically.
  • Can detect your performance condition by comparing your real-time fitness during activity with your average fitness level.
  • Gives you many of the best features at the lowest price point.
  • Calculates/estimates aerobic training effect.

Cons

  • Tracking heart rate whilst swimming requires a Tri-HRM or Swim-HRM (heart rate monitor).
  • May require a heart rate monitor for a more accurate VO₂ max estimate (for running).
  • All the data may be overwhelming and complicated to interpret and use at first.
  • Does not calculate anaerobic training effect (unlike the more expensive Garmin Forerunner 935).
  • To play music you must have your phone with you (watch does not store music).

Personally, I use a Garmin Forerunner 735XT and I think it is absolutely brilliant and fulfils pretty much all my needs.

#5 – The Daily Mover – Garmin vívosport

For the active health conscious person that likes to go for a run, cycle, walk or maybe do some strength training, this is the watch for you as it helps to measure various health markers. It features:

  • Sleep monitoring
  • GPS that lasts up to 8 hours in GPS smart mode and 7 days general use
  • Smartphone connectivity
  • Accelerometer
  • Step counter
  • Touchscreen display

It comes with many of the basic features found on Garmin watches. Here are the pros and cons of the watch which I feel may make the difference between buying and not buying.

 

Pros

  • Has basic cycling and fitness features.
  • Very simple to use and minimalist design.
  • Calculates fitness age (using Garmin app).
  • Estimates VO₂ max.
  • Tracks calories burned, all day stress and intensity minutes.
  • Fairly cheap at £150 (hopefully lower).

Cons

  • Very simple features (although you may prefer this).
  • Very small screen.
  • No complicated running metrics are tracked.
  • Only records 7 activities or 14 days of activity data before data needs to be transferred to store more activities.
  • Short battery life.

I can be pretty sure that out of these 5 watches, at least one will suit you very well. The data they provide can prove very valuable in helping to improve your running, fitness and help you to pay attention to your health with the sleep and heart rate data provided.

If you’re considering buying a heart rate monitor, I’d suggest buying it with the watch as it’s cheaper and provides you with the following data:

  • Vertical oscillation (how much you bounce when running)
  • Stride length
  • Ground contact time
  • Balance (between left and right foot)
  • Lactate threshold
  • VO₂ max (provides a better estimate/measurement)

Personally, I’ve found this information a heart rate monitor provides to be very useful and interesting to read into.


I hope this article was helpful! Feel free to check out the watches linked down below and let me know what you think!