Garmin makes incredibleand . The problem is the brand makes dozens of them. Each one has been fine tuned to a specific kind of user. Garmin makes specialized watches for runners, divers, golfers, swimmers, triathletes and even pilots. Then, within each of those categories, you've got three or more options that have been even more fine-tuned to specific kinds of runners, divers, golfers, and so on.
Even if you've narrowed down your smartwatch hunt to Garmin Forerunner, the watchmaker's line of smartwatches made specifically for runners, it's still a pretty daunting task to figure out exactly which one is the best pick for you. To help you out, we created this comprehensive rundown of all the latest Garmin Forerunners so you can find the one most fine-tuned to your needs.
How to pick the right Garmin Forerunner for runners
The Garmin Forerunner is by far one of the most popular. But there are at least four different smartwatches in the series, ranging from simpler entry-level trackers to advanced triathlon-ready beasts.
To start, here's what every Forerunner has in common, regardless of which version you buy:
- Built-in GPS to track your runs
- Ability to connect to the Garmin Connect app
- Pace, distance and heart rate data
- Access to free adaptive training plans that are tailored to your current fitness level and your goals
That's already a pretty impressive baseline of features for runners of all skill levels and styles. So choosing a specific version really comes down to what kind of extra features you'd like and what your budget allows.
Best Garmin for beginners or budget-conscious runners: Forerunner 55
The Forerunner 55 is Garmin's entry-level running watch. It comes with daily workout suggestions and general fitness tracking features like cadence and breathing rate. Its goal is to help new runners build up their strength, speed and endurance while avoiding some of the most common beginner mistakes like overtraining, skipping recovery time or skipping cross-training.
It also adds a recovery advisor that estimates how much time you need to rest or stick to easy runs before you're ready for another big effort. And you get a race predictor that uses your current fitness level and training history to predict your finish time for a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon. Get the entry-level Garmin Forerunner for $200 on Amazon.
Top features of the Garmin Forerunner 55:
- It gives you custom pace recommendations based on course conditions and the number of miles you're running.
- Cadence alerts let you know when you're above or below your target so you can adjust.
- Comprehensive wellness tracking also keeps track of your stress, overall energy levels and respiration for more insights into your health.
Best Garmin for intermediate runners or trail runners: Forerunner 265
At the next level up, you have the Forerunner 265. This is a lightweight running watch that does everything Forerunner 55 does, with the addition of blood oxygen level tracking, body temperature tracking and automatic rep counting when strength training.
It also adds training load, a metric that compares your exercise volume this week to the optimal range based on your fitness and training history so you can see whether you should be picking up the pace or taking a rest day.
For trail runners, the Forerunner adds a variety of safety features like incident detection and assistance. It can automatically send your real-time location to your emergency contacts and let them see your entire planned route. You can also manually send an alert with this information from the watch if you feel unsafe.
The 4.6-star rated running watch is $440 on Amazon.
Top features of the Garmin Forerunner 265:
- Thanks to its multisport features, you can track cross training activities like HIIT workouts, yoga and pilates.
- On-screen muscle maps and workout animations guide you through strength workouts without needing to check your phone.
- Get even more running performance metrics like vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and running power.
- The race predictor is more advanced, adding the ability to incorporate the actual course and weather conditions on race day into estimates of your finish time.
Best Garmin for advanced runners: Forerunner 745
The most notable addition that the Forerunner 745 brings is the ability to create round-trip courses for your run. Just set the distance you want to run and Garmin will generate suggested routes that bring you right back to your starting point. You have to make them in the app, but you can follow them from your watch.
Built for beating your PRs, the Forerunner 745 also features on-wrist training effect feedback to show you how much aerobic or anaerobic benefit you're getting from your current workout.
You can use that feedback to better balance your training between strength and cardio conditioning and identify which kind of exercise you need more of to become a more well-rounded runner.
It should be noted that its race predictor can't use course and weather data like the Forerunner 265 or the Forerunner 965, so if you really want that feature, you'll need to pick one of those.
Get the advanced running watch while it's on sale at Amazon for just $371 (reduced from $400).
Top features of the Garmin Forerunner 745:
- A V02 max tracker uses your pace, heart rate and intensity of effort to estimate your cardio fitness. It adapts that metric based on the heat and altitude of where you're running, since your body has to work harder than normal to keep up the pace in high temperatures or high elevation.
- The watch features a ton of precision training and performance metrics to help you adjust your training to avoid overtraining and stagnation.
- When traveling, the watch helps find popular running paths near you.
Best Garmin for serious marathon or triathlon training: Forerunner 965
With the Foreunner 965, you get the most advanced running features Garmin has to offer, plus a significantly longer battery life. One of the most notable features is a continuously updated training readiness score based on your sleep quality, recovery status, training load and other data to help you decide when to run and how hard to push yourself.
You can create round-trip courses right from the Forerunner 965 instead of using the app on your phone as you would have to with the Forerunner 745.
The Forerunner 965 also gives you a real-time stamina score while you run, letting you know how much effort you're currently putting in and estimating how much stamina you have left before you reach exhaustion. That way, you can adjust your pace up or down as needed to make sure you perform your best without burning out before you reach the finish line.
Top features of the Garmin Forerunner 965:
- Create custom triathlon or multisport profiles so you can switch between activities during a single training session with a press of a button.
- Get custom training plans tailored to the exact race you're training for, and then let the watch automatically adapt that plan to your current fitness level and your target finish time.
- Advanced metrics like the endurance score and hill score help you predict how long or challenging of a race you're currently ready for.
- The ClimbPro feature gives you real-time data about the length and gradient of current and upcoming ascents along your route so you can adjust strategically rather than just attacking every hill.
Shop more top-rated fitness trackers on Amazon:
- Best fitness tracker for iPhone users: Apple Watch Series 9, $429
- Best fitness tracker for runners: Coros Pace 3, $229
- A fitness-first smartwatch with Google Wallet and Alexa: Fitbit Versa 4, $199