Best Garmin Running Watch Reviews of 2020

Hands-down, Garmin makes the best watches for the serious runner like you. Their quality, advanced tracking and durability are unmatched. But they have over 30 different options to choose from, so which is best for you? After analyzing page after page of customer reviews, spec sheets and advice from top-level runners, we’ve done all the work for you. Without a doubt, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition is the best Garmin running watch. Its solar power and state-of-the-art features make this the Ferrari of all running watches.

Check out our review of the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition along with 11 other great options for Garmin running watches. You might even be surprised by some of their unique features you never knew you needed.

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IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition
  • Store over 1,000 songs
  • Up to 15 hrs of combined GPS and music playback time
  • Solar power for extra battery life
  • Tons of training features
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Garmin Venu
  • AMOLED display
  • Sleek design
  • GPS, Pulse Oxygen Sensor and Body Battery energy monitoring
  • Mid-Range Price
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Garmin Forerunner 45
  • Up to 13 hrs of battery life in GPS mode
  • Garmin Coach
  • Smart notifications and music playback control
  • Great features for the price
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The Best Garmin Running Watches of 2020

1. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition – The Absolute Best

If the price isn’t an option and you want to squeeze your watch for all it’s got, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition is for you. This running watch is truly amazing. It’s your running partner, coach, doctor and virtual assistant all in one. It’ll push you when you’re tired, praise you when you finish and help you be the best runner you can be.

Whether you’re running in Death Valley or the streets of Manhatten, the Fenix 6X Pro gives you advanced feedback on performance metrics like your VO2 max, running dynamics, and heart rate variability. And the PacePro technology offers grade-adjusted pace guidance during your runs to maximize your performance and provide accurate race time predictions.

The accurate onboard GPS works really well with the onboard map functions. Don’t worry about getting lost since you can take your maps with you, no phone required! This, of course, will help you when running in a new city, but with Garmin’s Trendline Popularity Routing you can also find the best trail routes and discover new ones you didn’t even know existed.

Like to listen to music while running? This running watch comes with 32GB of storage for over 1,000 songs. You can even download and play songs from Spotify and other music services without needing your phone.

One of the best features of the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition is its amazing battery life. You even get an extra boost from its solar power charging capabilities. Don’t worry about losing your maps or tracking with the 60-hour battery life while using GPS. Add music playback and you still get up to 15 hours of battery life.

As a high-performance runner, you deserve a high-performance running watch. The Fenix 6X PRO Solar Edition is your perfect companion.

Features: Plenty of onboard map features, solar-charging boost, 1,000+ songs and tons of training features

Pros

  • All the features you could ever dream of and more!
  • Good battery life
  • Body Battery Energy Monitor
  • Awesome options for onboard maps

Cons

  • More expensive than other options

2. Garmin Venu – Best Design

The Garmin Venu packs some nice sports tracking features in a really sleek design. Heads will turn thanks to the bright and beautiful AMOLED screen. This is definitely the best display of any Garmin running watch. Whether in the office or on the trail, the Venu will fit right in. But what kind of features does it have for you, the runner?

Don’t be fooled by the Venu’s pretty face. It has quite the range of sensors to track and map your runs, stress tracking, cadence tracking and VO2 max.  Combine these features with the Garmin Coach and you’ll be ready for your next 5K.

Just like the Fenix 6X PRO, you can download music to your phone.  It has storage for up to 500 songs so you’ll always have your favorite playlist at hand.

You won’t get the advanced map options as you’ll find on the Fenix 6X PRO or it’s more technical performance tracking, but you might want to choose the Garmen Venu if you’re looking for a running watch with a mid-range price, some performance tracking abilities and a sleek design you can wear anywhere.

Features: AMOLED display, stylish bezels, advanced running features

Pros

  • Track heart rate, Body Battery, stress and Pulse Oxygen levels
  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • Up to 500 songs of music storage
  • Mid-range Price

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than your average smartwatch, but it has a lot more specific features for runners.

3. Garmin Forerunner 45 – Best Value

Some of the other watches on our list are slightly less expensive, but we feel the Garmin Forerunner 45 is the best bang for your buck. You can tell Garmin designed this watch specifically for runners since it’s not filled with tons of extra multi-sport tracking features the average runner will never really use.  

Despite being so small, it still has a GPS sensor so you can get accurate tracking and feedback from your runs. The wrist heart rate sensor means you can keep a constant watch on your heart rate during exercise or rest and even get alerts if it stays elevated for too long.

One of the great things about the Forerunner 45 is that despite its price tag, you still get Garmin’s stress tracking and Body Battery energy monitoring as well the Garmin Coach to help with your training. 

Tired of having to fiddle with your phone during your runs? With the Forerunner 45’s smart notifications you won’t have to worry about missing that important email or text. You’ll just have to make sure you’re paired with a compatible smartphone (iPhone or Android). And with the music controls, it’s easy to skip to your favorite song for that extra boost of motivation.

Features: Wrist heart rate sensor, waterproof to 50 meters, reasonable price

Pros

  • Large screen
  • Wrist heart rate sensor
  • Good battery life (13 hours with GPS)
  • Great features for a cheap price

Cons

  • Limited multi-sport features, but it has plenty for running.
  • No onboard music – you’ll have to play it through your phone.

4. Garmin Forerunner 945 – Best for the Triathlete

The Forerunner 945 is engineered with triathletes in mind, so you can be sure it will have everything you need when training for your Ironman.  The multi-sport function allows you to record your runs, bike rides and swims in one file when training for triathlons. We know it’s not always ideal to train outside, so we put a post up on the Stay on Trails blog about this watch and the best running shoes for a treamill to get ready for a triathlons.

Just like the Fenix 6X Pro, it can store and play 1,000 of your favorite race-day songs and will last up to 10 hours when using the GPS with music, so you’re ready for your longest runs, swims or rides. The full color 1.2 inch screen is easy to read in the sunlight and protected by Gorilla Glass. Combined with the physical buttons on the outside, you’ll have no problem seeing and controlling it even with sweat dripping down your face.

Track more performance metrics than ever before! The Training Status, Training Effect and Training Load metrics help evaluate your workout performance. You’ll be able to see if you’ve been overtraining, the effect your workouts have had on your aerobic and anaerobic systems as well as optimize your training load to reach your goals.

Features: Onboard music and Spotify, advanced training metrics for running, biking and swimming

Pros

  • Advanced tracking of your running, biking and swimming
  • Good battery life
  • Large, full-color screen
  • Onboard Music and Spotify

Cons

  • More expensive than other options

5. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music – Plenty of Features Without the Bulk

Sometimes when so many features and sensors are packed in a tiny watch, it ends up being not so tiny anymore. The Forerunner 245 is different. Garmin managed to pack a lot of great run tracking features into this watch while keeping the bulk to a minimum. The Forerunner 245 weighs in at only 38.5g (compared to the Forerunner 945 at 50g). 

The optical heart rate monitor lets you track your VO2 max so you can train smarter. The built-in GPS and Garmin Coach track and guide you through your runs to get the most out of your training. Despite it having a mid-range price, you still get the Body Battery energy monitor, so you know the best time to exercise and the best time to rest.

Despite the lightweight design, it still sports some decent battery life at up to 24hrs while using the GPS and 7 days while just in smartwatch mode. Adding music playback cuts the battery life down to 6 hours, which will get you through a marathon and the victory ride home. 

With the Forerunner 245 Music, you can sync up to 500 songs from your Amazon Music and Spotify playlists to be able to listen to your tunes without needing a phone.

Features: Built-in GPS, lightweight design despite all the great features, phone-free music playback

Pros

  • Sleek and lightweight design
  • Offline playback with services like Spotify and Amazon Music
  • Body Battery Energy Monitor
  • Mid-range price

Cons

  • No multi-sport tracking for triathletes (If you’re just a runner, you won’t even notice.)

6. Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music – 4G LTE Connectivity

It’s really amazing that Garmin can pack this watch full of such great features and still keep the price so low. That’s especially amazing considering the Vivoactive 3 Music has 4G LTE connectivity on the Verizon network. 

You can finally forget your phone and not have to worry about it. Forget to download your Amazon Music playlist? No problem, just stream it. Need to respond to an important message? No worries, the phone-free messaging makes it easy.

The integrated GPS and Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate monitor will accurately track your runs and monitor your fitness. Although it may lack some of the more advanced tracking features of the more expensive models, the basic tracking features along with the 4G LTE connectivity make this a solid choice as an athlete-focused sports watch. You may also like our post on the best manual treadmill reviews.

Features: Built-in GPS, 4G LTE connectivity with Verizon, compatible with Spotify and other streaming services

Pros

  • Great features at an amazing price
  • Phone-free music and messaging
  • Up to 500 songs of music storage
  • 4G LTE Connectivity with Verizon

Cons

  • 4 hr battery life with GPS and music streaming over 4G is not optimum (It’s longer if you simply play downloaded music)

7. Garmin Forerunner 645 Music – Advanced Features, Mid-Range Price

he Forerunner 645 Music is similar to the 245, but with some added features like Garmen Pay and a barometric altimeter, which is great for the trail runners. The built-in GPS, durable construction and ability to create multiple training profiles complete this solid mid-range running watch. 

If you’re a true fitness geek you can even pair the Forerunner 645 with the Garmin Running Pod to track even more detailed metrics such as cadence, stride length and other biomechanical measurements. That way you can be at the top of your game on race day. 

If you’re motivated by your favorite playlist, the Forerunner 645’s music playback capabilities will keep the tunes coming. Store up to 500 songs to be able to play them even without your phone.

Features: Multiple activity profiles for different sports, bright display, store up to 500 songs

Pros

  • Tracks a lot of running metrics
  • Lightweight, sleek design
  • Can be paired with Garmin’s Running Pod for enhanced tracking
  • Storage for up to 500 songs from Spotify, Amazon or other streaming services

Cons

  • Only 5 hours of battery life with GPS and music playback (up to 14 hours with just GPS)

8. Garmin Vivoactive 4 – The Sport-Focused Smartwatch

The Vivoactive 4 is the slightly updated version of the Vivoactive 3. It lacks 4G LTE connectivity but has some updated features that make it Garmin’s sport-focused smartwatch.  

With a sleek design and Garmin Pay, it’s useful for everyday tasks like shopping or work at the office or when doing night running while using one of the best running lights for runners or at least reflective running gear vests. Then when it’s time to get your run in, the Vivoactive 4’s comprehensive sport tracking together with the Garmin Coach will make sure you get the best out of your runs.

With space for 500 songs and support for services like Spotify, you can rely on your favorite playlists for workout motivation, even if you’re not carrying your phone.

Features: Built-in GPS, 20 preloaded workout apps, store up to 500 songs

Pros

  • Garmin Pay
  • Available in two sizes
  • Good display
  • Download up to 500 songs and play phone-free

Cons

  • iOS users can see texts but not respond (Android users can respond to texts when paired with a smartphone)

9. Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Best Budget Triathalon Watch

Are you training for your first triathlon, but aren’t quite ready to shell out the big bucks for the advanced Forerunner 945? Its little brother, the Forerunner 735XT, might be your best bet. It’s a great running watch, and it’s even better if you want to use it to track multiple sports.

Although it has less battery life than the Forerunner 945 and lacks some of its navigation features, the 735XT can still hold its own. The VO2 estimates, race predictor and recovery advisor help you get the most out of your training. 

Need to switch quickly from one sport to another? It’s as easy as the push of a button. Just like that, the Forerunner is now tracking the details of your new activity profile. You see our other guide on more of the best watches for running other than Garmin brand.

Features: Multi-sport features, compatible with the Running Dynamics Pod, wrist heart rate monitor

Pros

  • Lightweight with a clear screen.
  • Very accurate GPS
  • Can be paired with Garmin’s Running Pod for enhanced tracking
  • Easily transition tracking from one sport to another

Cons

  • Limited color options

10. Garmin Forerunner 35 – Easiest to Use

Do you appreciate the simple things in life? Then you’ll love the Garmin Forerunner 35.  It’s a no-frills GPS running watch that easily tracks and coaches you through your runs.  

Despite its low price point, this running watch has Garmin’s Elevate technology which measures your heart rate at the wrist. No worrying about any extra accessories. The built-in GPS will track your runs then upload the info to Garmin Connect.  

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When you pair it with a compatible smartphone, you can get your notifications right on your wrist so you don’t have to fumble with your phone.

Features: Wrist heart rate monitoring, built-in GPS, automatically uploads runs to Garmin Connect

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use
  • GPS tracking uploaded to Garmin Connect
  • Up to 13 hrs battery life in GPS mode
  • Receive smartphone notifications

Cons

  • Limited advanced running features

11. Garmin Instinct – For the Rough Outdoorsman

Do you tend to be rough with things? Then you need the Garmin Instinct, their rugged outdoor running watch. Its military standard toughness is perfect for the rough trail run. The GPS tracking, wrist heart rate monitor and preloaded activity profiles track your fitness metrics wherever you are. 

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Count on the Instinct if you’re planning on a long trail running excursion. The UltraTrac mode will let you get up to 40hrs of battery life with GPS tracking. Use the TracBack feature to navigate your way back to your starting point and never get lost in the woods again.

Features: Wrist heart rate monitoring, built-in GPS, automatically updates to Garmin Connect

Pros

  • High-contrast display for easy viewing in sunlight
  • Super-durable
  • UltraTrac GPS for long battery life while tracking
  • Workout modes for everyday fitness

Cons

  • No built-in music (So you can listen to the sounds of the outdoors!)

12. Garmin Vivosport Smart Activity Tracker – The Minimalist Running Watch

If you want to just get your feet wet in the world of running watches, the Garmin Vivosport is one to consider. Garmin was able to fit more than just a wrist heart monitor in this little thing.  

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The Vivosport has built-in GPS that will track your runs, then automatically upload them to Garmin Connect so you can analyze your run. Even after your runs, it measures heart rate, estimates your VO2 max and tracks your HRV (heart rate variability) to keep track of your activity and stress levels.

Features: Get smartphone notifications, built-in GPS, automatically shares with Garmin Connect app

Pros

  • Good value for the price
  • GPS tracking shared with Garmin Connect
  • Up to 8 hrs battery life in GPS mode
  • Receive smartphone notifications

Cons

  • No advanced running features
  • Small display (That’s why it’s so thin)

What Is the Best Garmin Running Watch? – Final Thoughts

We know you’ll be the happiest with the Garmin Fenix 6X PRO Solar Edition. The advanced tracking, onboard maps and extended battery life put it at the top of our list. It really is the best of the best and that’s what you deserve.

So what are you waiting for? Stop trying to make your average smartwatch work for something it wasn’t designed to do. Get yourself a real running watch because you are a real runner!

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Austin Mills

Austin Mills in an outdoor enthusiast. He's been featured on some of the top outdoor & fitness blogs sharing his expertise in order to help others. In his free time, he likes spending time with his dogs enjoying the outdoors.

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