No matter what type of runner you are, there's a Garmin Forerunner model with your name on it. As you may know, Garmin supplies some of the best fitness smartwatches out there. Whether you're seeking a budget-friendly couch-to-5K option or you're currently gearing up for a triathlon or marathon, Garmin has a range of options for nearly any price point. We've rounded up the best Garmin Forerunner models to help you decide which one is the right fit for all of your running needs.
How to pick the best Garmin Forerunner model for you (or the runner in your life)
Your go-to Garmin
Garmin's latest mid-range Forerunner model strikes the best balance for serious runners who don't want to over-pay. It has all the core features you need — workout suggestions, health tracking with pulse ox, workout pacing and cadence — along with new features like multi-band GPS, NFC, and new data widgets. It doubles the battery life and enlarges the display compared to its predecessor, the Forerunner 245.
Add some tunes
The Garmin Forerunner 255 Music has the same size, weight, and features as the $50-cheaper 255, but adds the option to download 500 songs from Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music for offline listening — and comes in a stylish Whitestone finish. GPS with music only offers 7 hours (one more than the 245 Music), so if you want more songs and longer battery, you'll need to upgrade.
A slightly more petite option
The 1.3-inch Forerunner 255 is decently heavy at 1.7oz in exchange for a reliable battery. The 255S also has all the same bells and whistles as its larger counterpart but loses 2 days/4 hours to 12d/26h maximum battery life — still totally respectable in any running watch. Plenty of runners will accept a smaller display if it means their wrist feels less heavy during a race. Note: there's also a Forerunner 255S Music version.
Like the 255, the fully-revamped Forerunner 955 has serious upsides over the 945, starting with its 1.3-inch touchscreen. You get ultra-accurate multi-band GPS, heart-rate variability, real-time stamina, and suggestions based on upcoming races, plus 2,000 stored songs and a 42-hour max battery life. Compared to the 255, you get premium perks like full-color mapping, training readiness, ClimbPro, and Connect IQ available directly on the watch.
Boost your battery even further
Is it worth spending an extra $100 for a solar panel? It's complicated: you do get 20 days' battery life in smartwatch mode or 49 GPS hours, a 5d/7h increase over the standard 955. But you need to be someone that spends a lot of time outdoors in sunny conditions even beyond workouts, and the solar panel doesn't help as much if you use multi-band GPS or music storage.
All the stats
The Forerunner 945 LTE first shipped last summer and is anything but obsolete. It has many of the premium running features as the 955 like Performance Condition feature that analyzes your pace, heart rate, and heart-rate variability to let you know how you're performing. More importantly, it is the only Forerunner option with cellular connectivity. You can't do much with it except enable safety features and live tracking if you leave your phone at home, but in theory, it could save your life.
Still a strong selection
Compared to the newer 255, the Forerunner 245 misses out on a few new features and will require more frequent recharges. Still, this model has been one of our favorite running watches since its 2019 release. It's decently lighter than the 255 and worth buying at a discount. It also has core tools like Garmin Coach, VO2 Max, Training Effect/Load, and Body Battery that any runner will appreciate.
Casual runners who want to start tracking their runs and other workouts might prefer the Garmin Forerunner 55. It's quite an upgrade from the Forerunner 45 model and comes with extra perks while still being fairly priced. You get key features such as built-in GPS, activity/sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and advanced training metrics. It comes in a lightweight case and offers two weeks of battery life. Beginners will love this value!
Last-gen budget option
The Forerunner 55 is the superior option here, no doubt. The reason to choose the older Forerunner 45 simply comes down to cost and compromise. You don't get women's health tracking, you'll settle for just 7 days or 13 GPS hours of battery life, and you lose a couple of features like Pacepro and swimming modes. But otherwise, it's very similar to the 55 if you find it at a cheaper price.
GPS for cheap
Sometimes, you want the basics without having to break the bank. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is a perfect choice. You get nine days of juice with this model. It will be easy to keep track of your workouts with key features, including onboard GPS, heart-rate monitoring, and activity tracking. It may not have advanced metrics, but for the low price, you can't beat it. You'll also have smartphone notifications on your wrist when your phone is connected.
Being a triathlete takes commitment and discipline, so you'll need a running watch that can keep up. The Garmin Forerunner 745 can do it all. It offers one week of battery life with advanced running features that measure cadence, stride length, ground contact time, and more. The performance monitoring tools provide you with key data, including VO2 max, training load, training status, as well as aerobic and anaerobic training effects.
Tons of functionality
With a week of battery life, you can do a lot with the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music. This model is for versatile athletes who love running as well as other sports. It offers advanced running dynamics, including ground contact time balance, stride length, and vertical ratio. The other built-in activity profiles include cycling, swimming, strength training, and much more. Not to mention, you can store music on it for easy listening.
Which Garmin Forerunner model should you buy? How to choose
As you can see, there's no shortage of Garmin Forerunner models for you to pick from. The brand is responsible for some of the best Android smartwatches and wearables. The lineup only continues to grow and improve as the years go on, too. One of the best options is the Garmin Forerunner 255, which is geared toward passionate runners who want to take their tracking experience to the next level. As a running watch, it handily beats our former favorite, the Forerunner 245 Music, with modernized features and slightly improved specs. It delivers all of the features you need to track your progress and improve your performance.
Those who don't need the most advanced features might prefer something a bit more basic such as the Garmin Forerunner 55. It still has tons of perks, including activity/sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and onboard GPS. You also have plenty of great running features such as recovery time, daily suggested workouts, race predictor, and cadence alerts.
If you're still having trouble deciding, let's focus on the particular areas you should consider.
1. Consider the size
When you're a runner, the size of your smartwatch makes a huge difference in the wearable experience. You don't want a giant bulky device that's going to get in the way of your workouts. Fortunately, all of the Garmin Forerunner designs take this into careful consideration. There is a wide variety of sizes to choose from and some models even offer more than one size option.
The Forerunner 35, 45, 55, and 255S/ 255S Music all fall into the 36-39g weight class with a 1- or 1.1-inch display size. The 35 has a rectangular design while the rest have a standard circular design, but they all prioritize a lightweight fit while trading away pixels. Many people with smaller wrists will prefer this size, even if it means the display text isn't quite as readable.
If you appreciate a larger display and more durable design, the full-size Forerunner 255 and Forerunner 955 both have 1.3-inch displays and weigh 49g and 52g, respectively. Both are on the upper edge of what a fitness smartwatch typically weighs, but they give you the best visual experience. Or if you look at the last generation, both the Forerunner 745 and Forerunner 945 sit at 1.2-inches, though they're not actually that much lighter — another reason why we consider the newer-gen models the best Garmin Forerunner watches available.
2. Choose the right band
Another important element to consider is the watch band you'll use. Most of the time, the standard band that comes with your Garmin Forerunner will be sufficient for the time being. However, as you start using your wearable, you might find that your preferences change. Whether you want something fancier for those nights out or you find that you'd prefer a woven fabric over silicone, there are plenty of choices.
All Forerunner models are compatible either with Garmin's QuickFit band system or standard quick-release bands. We're constantly keeping tabs on all of the best options. Whether you're looking for Garmin Forerunner 245 bands, Forerunner 55 bands, or Forerunner 945 bands, you'll be pleased with how many options you have.
All of the larger models use industry-standard 22mm bands, while the 55 used 20mm. So if you want the newer 255 or 955, our picks for the older watches will still apply.
3. Think about the features
Make sure to consider what features matter most to you in a smartwatch. The company is known for offering a core set of features that keep you on track. You'll find smartwatches with GPS, heart-rate monitoring, and activity tracking, all available through Garmin Connect at no additional cost for the data.
If you're content with the basics and want to save some money, you might appreciate the simplicity of the Forerunner 35-55. You get health tracking, some essential running metrics, and some workout suggestions, but nothing too in-depth. They're best for people just starting out running and don't need to confuse themselves, or those who don't need a lot of data.
Those who want detailed tracking and extra features will want to consider some of the other options. You'll pay more for them, but if you're committed to tracking your progress and improving your performance, it will be money well spent.
The Forerunner 255 gives you almost all of the features you'd get from the 955, aside from mapping and real-time stamina. Serious runners who mostly run guided races or in their neighborhood probably don't need maps, but it is interesting to see in real-time how much energy Garmin estimates you have left, encouraging you to slow down if you're pushing too hard.
You can, of course, also downgrade slightly to an older model. We've broken down how the Forerunner 955 Solar compares to the 945 LTE if you're looking at a premium option. While we like the Forerunner 945 LTE, its usefulness over the newer model really only applies if you run without a phone in dangerous, isolated locations. If you want more LTE features than safety tools, you'll have to look at other smartwatches with LTE.
As for the Forerunner 255 vs. the 245, the 2022 Forerunner watch adds Garmin Pay, all-systems multi-band GPS — which tracks you across multiple satellite frequencies and across GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO all at once for hyper-accurate results — and heart rate variance for better stress and sleep tracking. We think it's worth it, but maybe not if you can score the 245 for a lot less.
4. Battery life concerns
You mostly don't have to be too concerned about battery life when choosing a Garmin Forerunner model. The 255, 955, 945, and 55 all consistently offer about two weeks of battery life, though the first two do much better for GPS battery life in particular. And, of course, the 955 is the only solar-powered Forerunner available.
On the lower end, the 245, 645 Music, and 745 all offer seven full days of battery life in smartwatch mode, while the older, budget-friendly Forerunner 35 will give you nine days of juice. Generally speaking, you can expect at least a week of battery life regardless of which model you pick.
If you're choosing a Music model, keep in mind that even the 955 Solar can only last 10.5 hours with GPS and music, while other models dip as low as 7 hours. And if you choose the 255S, you get just 12 days rather than 14, though that's still more than many of the older models.
Garmins for everyone
The good news is that there is a Garmin Forerunner model for just about everyone. No matter what your current skill level is, these wearables are some of the best Garmin smartwatches you can buy. With an extensive catalog of options, it's easy to find a watch that is designed for your lifestyle. Of course, you can also check out all of the other watches the company has to offer to confirm you're making the right choice for your needs.
But in the end, if you want the best Garmin Forerunner for most runners, that's the Garmin Forerunner 255 for features and specs or the 55 for budget quality.