Garmin Forerunner GPS Watch Comparison Chart And Buyer's Guide

Garmin GPS Watch Buyer’s Guide
And Feature Comparison Charts

The Garmin Forerunner™ series is Garmin's primary GPS watch product line for runners and triathletes and is considered the standard that other running watch brands try to live up to.

GPS enabled running watches are more accurate and collect better metrics than phone apps which is why I personally recommend them to runners. 

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How to find the best running watch using this guide

One of the most common questions we get as running coaches is "Which running watch should I buy?".  The correct answer is, "it depends".

Choosing the right watch depends on what features you would like to have, how you plan to use the watch, and your budget.

Generally speaking, the average runner does not need a high priced, high end watch unless you really dig technology and love capturing and analyzing more advanced data.  Most entry level and moderate level watches will do everything the average runner will need, and do it well. 

The best way to use this comparison guide is to figure our your budget and then look for a watch in that specific range that has the features you need to have. If a watch in your budget range does not have the features you want, then you may need to look at a higher priced watch. 

How we compare running watches and conduct our reviews

Important: When we do 'feature comparisons', we do comparison of running watch features based on the information provided by the manufacturer, in this case Garmin. Feature comparisons are generally in a chart format. When we do a 'review' for a particular watch, we do it by sharing our experience through personal use by one of our certified running coaches.  

If we review a running watch, we paid for and purchased it out of our own pocket . In other words, we are sharing our personal experience with it and are not influenced by free products from the manufacturer. If you do not see a detailed review on a certain watch, it is because we have not personally purchased it. In that case, look at our feature comparisons gathered from the Garmin website and check out some of the third party customer reviews like those we link to below.

Finally, if you want to make best use of your investment, consider joining PaceBuilders™. PaceBuilders™ is our run coaching training program that gives you  unlimited access to all our training plans, guidance videos, runner-specific strength training routines, LIVE coaching Q&A calls with experienced, certified running coaches and access to a private community of your peers. We have coaching plans starting at just $24.95/month so consider joining PaceBuilders today!

Best Entry Level GPS Running Watches

There are two models in the Garmin Forerunner product line that best fit the category: beginner or entry level running watch. They are the Garmin Forerunner 25 and the slightly newer Garmin Forerunner 35. Both watches cover the basic features that most runners need and do it fairly well. 

Garmin Forerunner 25 (Large) - Black and Red
COMPACT - Forerunner 25 provides a larger display in a thinner watch with a 32% larger active display area than the Forerunner 15. Strap Material - Silicone
Garmin Forerunner 35; Easy-to-Use GPS Running Watch, Black
Built in GPS built in to acquire satellites quickly to track how far, how fast and where you run, even under tree cover. No phone required!;Water rating : 5 ATM

Last update on 2019-11-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Garmin Forerunner 25 vs. Garmin Forerunner 35

Here are the main differences between the Garmin 25 and Garmin 35:
  • The biggest difference between these two running watches in that the Garmin Forerunner 35 comes with built-in, wrist-based heart rate monitoring while the Garmin 25 requires the use of the optional heart rate strap accessory which you can purchase separately or as part of a bundle. If you are concerned about the accuracy of wrist-based heart rate watches, simply pick up a heart rate strap as an accessory.
  • When it comes to battery life, the Garmin 35 comes with a slight edge. According to Garmin, the Garmin 35 has an average battery life of 13 hours, compared to 8-10 with the Garmin 25.
  • The Garmin 35 can track Bike Speed but the Garmin 25 cannot.
Both watches share the following features:
  • Each of these watches will track your pace, distance, and record your lap and interval times. They each have auto-pause and auto-lap features built in and both watches can store up to 7 activities in their history.
  • Each watch also comes with a Garmin virtual pacer, which is a training tool to help you run at the pace you set, by allowing you to compete with the built in pacer feature.
  • Both watches have the ability to pair with your smartphone or computer allowing you the ability to auto-sync your data from your workout to Garmin Connect. Using Garmin Connect your data can be synced to Strava or other running apps. For those of you participating in our PaceBuilders Run Coaching program, your workouts will also be automatically synced to your PaceBuilder's training plans that we have created for you inside Final Surge. 
  • Both the Garmin 25 and 35 are waterproof and rated 5ATM which means it is suitable for rain, snow, showering, or swimming however neither watch can track swim workouts.
  • Both are LiveTrack enabled. LiveTrack allows friends and family to track you when you pair your watch to the Garmin Connect Mobile App on your phone.
  • Both watches have built in step counters, calorie tracking, sleep tracking  and smart phone notifications.
  •  Both watches come with rechargeable lithium batteries. Note: battery life is slightly different between the two watches(see table below).  


Best Mid Level Garmin GPS Running Watches

If you are looking for a great mid-range quality option, you can't go wrong with the Garmin 235 and 245 models. These running watches are the workhorse's when it comes to GPS watches. I personally own the Forerunner 235 and it has been a great watch. Watches in this price category level tend to have faster connection times to access the satellite and more advanced options and integrated training tools.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Black/Grey, One Size
HEART RATE MEASURED AT THE WRIST: Forerunner 235 with Elevate heart rate technology measures heart rate at the wrist 24/7, giving you the option to run without a strap. Its colorful gauge identifies your heart rate zone and beats per minute in real time.
Garmin Forerunner 245, GPS Running Smartwatch with Advanced Dynamics, Slate Gray
GPS running smartwatch with advanced training features
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, GPS Running Smartwatch with Music and Advanced Dynamics, Black
GPS running smartwatch with music advanced training features

Last update on 2019-11-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Premium or MultiSport/Triathlon GPS Running Watches

Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)
Premium GPS running/triathlon watch with wrist based heart rate;Strap material : silicone ; Smartphone compatibility : iPhone, Android, Windows; designed for sale and support in North America only
Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black
Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band
Premium multi sport GPS watch with Elevate wrist heart rate technology; Physical size : 47 x 47 x 15.5 millimeter
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, Premium Multisport GPS Watch, features Mapping, Music, Grade-Adjusted Pace Guidance and Pulse Ox Sensors, Black
Fit for performance with rugged, sophisticated design that features an always-on 1.3” (18% larger than previous fēnix models) sunlight-readable display with bezels in stainless steel, titanium or diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating

Last update on 2019-11-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API