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Which of These Best GPS Running Watches Is Your Next Running Partner?

We Compare the Forerunner® 55, 255/255S Music, and 955/955 Solar.

The best Garmin watch for running is the one that checks all the boxes on your wishlist. Health monitoring, training features, battery life, cost, versatility, and style are all factors to consider. More power, greater battery life, and more premium features usually add up to a bigger price tag. With Garmin watches, you can count on options at every price point, AND you can count on even the most basic Forerunner in the lineup having advanced features. Whether you're a beginner, a seasoned athlete, or somewhere in between—we're confident you'll find the best Garmin running watch and price point in this PlayBetter comparison guide.

You can also check out other Garmin watches that double as run trackers known for Garmin's proven health analytics features, accuracy of their GPS, and sleek designs, including the Garmin Venu lineup, the Garmin Fenix line, and even the Garmin Instinct Solar for trail and endurance runners who like to push it!

Short on Time? Jump to the Garmin Running Watch Comparison Table or the Table of Contents and choose a subject!

 

Watch a Garmin Forerunner 955 Review

Features in Common for the 2022 Forerunner GPS Running Watch Lineup

Color Display

Clearly see your stats on even the brightest days! All Forerunner running smartwatches come with gorgeous sunlight-readable color displays.

Built-In GPS

The best running watches all have access to at least on satellite built-in to track your location and stats. The Forerunner 255 and 955 have multi-band positioning (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo) to track in more challenging environments.

Wrist-Based Heart Rate

Get heart rate data along with alerts if your heart rate stays high while you’re at rest from the best Garmin watches. Even gauge how hard your heart is working during activities.

Running Performance Guidance and Metrics

Get workout recommendations and accurate feedback from features like Garmin Coach, Daily Suggested Workouts, PacePro™, Track Run, and more!

Smart Notifications

Stay on top of your day—before, during and after your run. Receive text, alerts, and emails with each of these Garmin watches. Control music and stay up on the weather.

Built-In Body Batter™ Energy Monitoring

Connect the dots between stress, recovery, sleep, and physical activity with built-in Body Battery. Keep track of how much you have left in the tank, so you know when you should rest and when you should go full force again.

The PlayBetter® Guide for the Best Garmin Running Watches
Table of Contents



Run with Confidence


The Forerunner 955/955 Solar Running & Triathlon Watch

The Forerunner 955 premium running watch is designed to help you chase down your most insane goals! And now the Forerunner 955 Solar lets you do that longer with solar-charging technology! We'd also call it the best training tool watch in the bunch!

Put your running shoes on, because the Forerunner 955 has a long list of features to run through and meet your specific needs as a competitive runner!

  • Garmin Coach for free adaptive training plans
  • Built-in sports apps, including cycling, pool swimming, track running, elliptical, stair-stepper and A LOT more!
  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • Multi-frequency: Great GPS plus GLONASS and Galileo to track in those challenging environments
  • Running Dynamics (with a compatible accessory) to measure crucial running metrics like cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, and more
  • VO2 MAX can tell you how you might expect to perform with heat or altitude factors
  • The Pulse Ox sensor can help gauge how your body is absorbing oxygen—even while you sleep
  • Performance Condition lets you analyze real-time pace, heart rate, and heart rate variability for in depth fitness analytics
  • Training Status lets you know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching
  • Aerobic and anaerobic training effect feedback
  • Training Load compares your most recent stats to your optimal and historical fitness stats
  • Daily Workout Suggestions guides you with daily run and ride recommendations based on your current training load
  • Recovery Time advises you on how long to rest be for your next big run, factoring in stress, sleep, and activity outside your workouts
  • Responsive touchscreen in addition to trusted button operation.
  • Daily training readiness score to know what kind of workout day it is.
  • Customized morning report gives you an outlook on your training, recovery, the weather, and more.
  • Race widget gives you personalized infromation you need while you train for your next race.
  • New HRV status offers a deeper understanding of your overall wellbeing during training.
  • Real-time stamina to track and manage your exertion.
  • Improved Garmin 955/955 Solar battery life:
    • Smartwatch Mode: Up to 15 days / Up to 20 days with appropriate solar
    • GPS Mode: Up to 42 hours / Up to 49 hours with appropriate solar
    • All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band with music: Up to 8.5 hours
    • All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music: Up to 20 hours/22 hours with solar
    • In Ultratrac Mode: Up to 80 hours / Up to 110 hours with approapriate solar
  • Get notifications from your smartphone, assistance, and incident detection features that send your location to your contacts.
  • Garmin's full suite of health monitoring features.

The Garmin Forerunner 255/255S GPS Running Watch

Of all the Garmin Forerunner watches, the 255/255S running watch gives you high-end features for a midrange price. Get to know yourself as a runner and go next level with this fitness watch. And go even further with your most motivating tunes if you choose the Forerunner 255 with or without Music.

This super smart sports watch for runners is stuffed with performance-enhancing features, including:

  • Garmin Forerunner 255/255S is now available in 2 sizes: 46 mm and 41 mm.
  • Morning report summarizes your sleep, HRV status and daily workout suggestion in one place as soon as you wake up
  • Get ready for your next race with training tips, personalized daily suggested workouts, and completion time predictions based on course details, weather, and performance
  • View your entire week of daily suggested workouts, which adapt after every run to match your performance and recovery.
  • HRV status tracks your heart rate variability while you sleep, giving you greater insight into your overall wellness, recovery and training performance.
  • Garmin Coach for free adaptive training plans.
  • Built-in sports apps (cycling, pool swimming, track running, elliptical, stair-stepper, etc.)
  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • Built-in multi-band GPS for accurate location, distance, pace, and intervals
  • Improved battery life of 12-14 days in watch mode; and up to 30 hours when using GPS tracking
  • Running Dynamics (with a compatible accessory) for crucial running metrics like cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance
  • VO2 MAX can tell you how you might expect to perform with heat or altitude factors
  • The Pulse Ox sensor can help gauge how your body is absorbing oxygen—even while you sleep
  • Training Status let you know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching
  • Aerobic and anaerobic training effect feedback
  • Training Load compares your most recent stats to your optimal and historical fitness stats
  • Recovery Time advises you on how long to rest be for your next big run, factoring in stress, sleep, and activity outside your workouts
  • Receive text messages and view social media updates, emails, and more from this best Garmin smartwatch
  • Get built-in assistance and incident detection and manually or automatically send a message with your real-time location to emergency contacts
  • With the Forerunner 255/255S Music, sync your playlists from select music streaming services right to your watch. Store up to 500 songs!

The Garmin Forerunner 55 Running Smartwatch

The Forerunner 55 is an easy-to-use running watch designed for every level of runner. At an ultra attractive price, it's loaded with tools that will help you achieve your fitness goals, take your training to the next level, and keep you in tune with your health and wellness.

  • Built-in tracking for how far, how fast, and where you run
  • Wrist-based heart rate provides data all day and night
  • All-day activity tracking counts steps, calories, sleep, and more
  • Daily Suggested Workouts take the guesswork out of training by offering personalized run workouts tailored to your training history, fitness level, and recovery time
  • Garmin Coach training plans offer on-screen guidance from expert coaches and free 5K, 10K, or half marathon training plans that adapt based on your goals
  • Safety features let you send a message with your location to family and friends
  • PacePro provides guidance to help you tailor your efforts to a selected course or distance
  • The finish time estimator lets you select a run distance and get an estimated finish time right on your wrist
  • Cadence alerts let you know when you’ve gone outside your target cadence range, helping to improve your running form
  • Built-in activity profiles, including track or virtual running, pool swimming, Pilates, HIIT, and more
  • Built-in recovery advisor lets you know how long to rest before your next big effort
  • Track stress and set relaxation reminders to do short breathing exercises
  • Use the Body Battery™ energy monitor to track energy levels to find the best times for activity and rest
  • Women can track their menstrual cycle or pregnancy and log symptoms, receive exercise and nutrition education, and more through the free app
  • Receive text messages and view social media updates, emails, and more
  • Get built-in assistance and incident detection and manually or automatically send a message with your real-time location to emergency contacts
  • Automatically upload activities to Garmin Connect (a free app and global community of Garmin users), and you can download custom watch faces, data fields, and apps from the Connect IQ™ Store.

The Best Running Watch — Forerunner 955/955 Solar

You run for the challenge and are constantly chasing a new personal best. With the new Garmin Forerunner 955 on your wrist, you'll see your performance and it will guide you to make strides toward improvement.

In a time when the price of everything is going up, Garmin has added a touchscreen, new multi-band GPS for even better GPS tracking, updated performance and recovery features, plus solar-charging—and you'll pay the same as the previous Forerunner 945 ($599.99). The Forerunner 955 non-solar option is $100 cheaper!

With traditional buttons and a new touch display, it has never been easier to tap into your training status and know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overworked.

The upgraded FR 955 offers a training readiness features, a race widget, a morning report, and heart rate variability (HRV) status for a picture of your overall health. (This device is intended to give an estimate of your activity and metrics).

With so many adaptive training features, you can see improvement and dial into what needs attention. Garmin Coach, built-in sports apps, Running Dynamics, Performance Condition, Training Status, VO2 Max, Daily Workout Suggestions, Recovery Time, Intensity Minutes—all of these are just some of the tools this premium triathlon watch offers to help you optimize your workouts and ultimately optimize your performance.

Finally, because you run when you want, where you want, the Forerunner 955/955 Solar offers superior navigation on your wrist and safety features in case of an accident. This includes full-color mapping, the ClimbPro ascent planner, turn-by-turn routing, and round-trip routing. And you'll have incident detection and assistance to manually or automatically send a message with your real-time location to emergency contacts.


The Best Running Watch for Beginners — The Forerunner 55

The Forerunner 55 GPS running watch is the next generation of the Forerunner 45/45S—but very different.

Three things combine to make the Forerunner 55 perhaps one of the best running watches you can get in 2021:

  • It's simple to use for people of all skill levels—but especially new runners
  • The Forerunner 55 is LOADED with advanced features that can benefit every runner
  • At just $199.99 on the PlayBetter.com Garmin Watch Collection—it's a steal!

New features in this lowest price point running watch in the Garmin Forerunner lineup include new running features such as PacePro, Daily Suggested Workouts, Track Mode, and Virtual Run Mode. Finish Time Estimator and Race Predictor offer new ways to time your runs. Recovery Time, the new women's health tracking widget, and Respiration Tracking help keep you tuned into your body. And customizable workouts and increased battery life let you workout when and how you prefer!


The Best Running Watch for Music — Forerunner 255 Music

The Forerunner 255/255S Music fitness watch hits the sweet spot between robust running features and keeping you in touch with your tunes.

With storage room for up to 500 songs, you should never run out of motivation on a run. Upload songs from Spotify and listen phone-free during your run. But if you want to bring your phone, you can stream music from and control playback right from you wrist. Also, the Forerunner 245 Music lets you skip, pause, and adjust the volume directly from thew watch.

But just because Garmin gave you beats on this GPS running watch, don't think it's not packed with tools for tuning into your running performance as well!

Runner-specific features of the Forerunner 255 Music include Running Dynamics, ground contact time and balance, stride, cadence (all with Garmin running pod accessory), Daily Suggested Workouts, several running profiles, Performance Condition, PacePro, and Race Predictor.

This running watch is also gifted with some pretty sweet navigation for runners, such as point-to-point navigation, real-time bread crumb trail, and TracBack®. So go ahead, get lost in your run and your music—you've got this with your Forerunner 255/255S Music!

Don't need the music? Get the Garmin Forerunner 255/255S standard model for $50 less!


The Best Running Watch for Women — Forerunner 55

What makes the best running watch for women? Honestly, it depends on the runner in the individual. Is she hardcore? Does she care about size, style, and color options? Does she want music? Is she a beginner? Or is she training for her next triathlon?

For this category, we picked the Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS running watch, because it's designed for all skill levels of runners, has a smaller display, and is the first smartwatch in the Forerunner lineup to include the new women's health widget for tracking your menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

For smaller wrists, the Forerunner 55 display has a smaller diameter display compared to the rest in the Forerunner lineup—1.04" vs 1.2". And even the most seasoned runners may want a watch that is simple to use. Get several running profiles (Running, Treadmill Running, Track Running, Indoor Track Running, Virtual Running), GPS-based distance, time, and pace, cadence, PacePro pacing strategies, run workouts, and race predictor.

While you can't store your favorite songs on your Forerunner 55, you can listen to music through your smartphone and control it from your watch.

For women who want more performance tools, more navigation for remote runs and races, and want to store their favorite playlists on their watch, we highly recommend the Forerunner 955 premium running watch.


The Best Running Watch for the Money — Forerunner 255

If you want robust features and an attractive watch for a price that is also attractive but not so robust, we like the Forerunner 255. For just $150 more than the Forerunner 55, you can get additional features like:

  • Sensors for Pulse Ox and compass
  • Text response/reject phone call from the wrist
  • Cardio and strength workouts
  • Additional heart rate data
  • Training Status, Training Load, and Training Effects
  • Custom alerts
  • Virtual Partner, Race Activity, and Course Guidance
  • Running Dynamics (with Garmin running pod accessory)
  • Advanced training tools
  • Point-to-point navigation, bread crumb trail, back to start, BacTrack, UltraTrac mode, distance to destination, GPS coordinates
  • More cycling features

If you're okay without as many Firstbeat analyzation metrics (9 compared to 18), additional sport modes and workouts (golfing, outdoor, advanced swimming and cycling) access to things like Strava Live Segments or Garmin Live Segments, a few more health monitoring features, and, of course, LTE connectivity—you'll pay $150+ less than the Forerunner 955/955 Solar if you opt for the Forerunner 255/255S.

The Forerunner 255 is a high-end watch for a midrange price, making it the best running watch for the money on our list!


The Best Triathlon Watch — The Forerunner 955/955 Solar

You need functionality, precision, and options in a triathlon watch, and the Forerunner 955/955 Solar has all this and more to help you analyze and optimize your performance. Here's why and how you're going to love this premium multisport watch as your new training partner:

  • It's lightweight, doesn't feel bulky
  • Made with premium, durable materials
  • Stream your music and podcast to your bluetooth headphones; store up to 1,000 songs
  • Stores up to 200 hours of activity data, allowing you to go back and analyze your past several workouts without needing an app
  • Sensors galore for heart rate, temperature, elevation, weather, compass, and more
  • Garmin Coach and built-in sports apps, running dynamics on your cadence, stride, contact time, balance, and more offers insight on your form so you can adjust and improve
  • The most Firstbeat metrics (18), which are advanced performance analytics for stress, recovery, and exercise
  • More navigation features like full color mapping, ClimbPro, Turn-By-Turn navigation, and roundtrip routing.
  • Sports modes and training for running, biking, swimming, and much more!

If you're ready to do it all, give it all, and take it all ... get the watch that has it all! The Forerunner 955/955 Solar!


BONUS! The Best Multisport Outdoor Watch for Running — The fēnix® 7

With all fēnix 7/7S/7X GPS smartwatches you can level-up with training features, such as GPS speed and distance, interval training, advanced workouts and downloadable training plans, heat and altitude acclimation, VO2 Max (run), Training Status (lets you see if you’re training effectively by tracking your training history and fitness level trend.), Training Load (your total training load for the last 7 days calculated from estimated EPOC), Training Effect (instantly measures the impact of training on aerobic and anaerobic fitness), finish time, a virtual partner, course guidance, Garmin and Strava live segments, and activity history on watch.

Additionally, the Garmin fēnix 7 series allows you to take your training to the next level with endurance and real-time stamina tracking, in addition to Training Status, advanced performance metrics and 30+ built-in sports apps. Plus, trusted button controls that work in any environment are matched with a highly responsive touchscreen interface for quick, convenient access to selections.

Visit our Garmin Smartwatches Product Specs page for all the details on the fēnix 7 series.


COMPARISON TABLE: GARMIN FORERUNNER 55, 255/255S MUSIC, & 955/955 SOLAR

Forerunner 55 Forerunner 255/255S Forerunner 955 Forerunner 955 Solar

Price

Sold out
Sold out
Sold out
Garmin Forerunner 945 Premium GPS Running Watch - Black Watch Only - Right Angle
Sold out

Colors

Black, White, Aqua

 255: Slate, Tidal Blue
255 Music: Black, Whitestone

255S: Powder Gray, Light Pink
255S Music: Black, Whitestone

Black, Whitestone

Black, Whitestone

Battery

Smartwatch Mode:
Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode:
Up to 20 hours

Smartwatch mode: Up to 12/14 days
GPS-only GNSS mode:
Up to 26/30 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode with music:
Up to 5.5/6.5 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode:
Up to 20/25 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band:
Up to 13/16 hours

Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days
GPS-only mode without music:
Up to 42 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band with music:
Up to 8.5 hours
All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music:
Up to 20 hours
Ultratrac mode:
Up to 80 hours

Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days/20 days with solar
GPS-only mode without music:
Up to 42 hours/49 hours with solar
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band with music:
Up to 8.5 hours
All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music:
Up to 20 hours/22 hours with solar
Ultratrac mode:
Up to 80 hours/110 hours with solar

Display

1.04" (26.3 mm) diameter
sunlight-visible, transflective
memory-in-pixel (MIP)

FR 255S: 1.1" (27.5mm) Diameter
FR 255: 1.3" (33 mm) diameter
sunlight-visible, transflective
memory-in-pixel (MIP)

1.3" (33 mm) diameter
sunlight-visible, transflective
memory-in-pixel (MIP)

1.3" (33 mm) diameter
sunlight-visible, transflective
memory-in-pixel (MIP)

Advanced
Features

  • New Women's
    Health Widget
  • 24/7 Respiration Rate
  • New Fitness Age Widget
  • Relaxation Reminders
  • Running dynamics & running power with compatible accessory
  • Grade adjusted pace
  • Performance condition
  • Trail run auto-climb
  • Course-and-weather-specific race predictor
  • Training status, training load, training load focus, training effect, primary benefit
  • Virtual Partner
  • Race an activity
  • Morning report
  • Race widget
  • HRV status
  • Rest timer
  • Training readiness
  • Morning report
  • HRV status
  • Built-in sports apps
  • Running dynamics & running power with compatible accessory
  • Realtime stamina
  • Trail run auto climb
  • ClimbPro
  • Veritical Speed
  • Total ascent/descent
  • Heat & altitude acclimation
  • Training status, training load, training load focus, training status
  • Rest timer (ultra run only)
  • PacePro™
  • Course-and-weather-specific Race Predictor
  • Performance Condition
  • Recovery Time
  • HR Broadcast
  • Finish time
  • Strava Live segments
  • Garmin Live segments
  • Rest timer
  • Training readiness
  • Morning report
  • HRV status
  • Built-in sports apps
  • Running dynamics & running power with compatible accessory
  • Realtime stamina
  • Trail run auto climb
  • ClimbPro
  • Veritical Speed
  • Total ascent/descent
  • Heat & altitude acclimation
  • Training status, training load, training load focus, training status
  • Rest timer (ultra run only)
  • PacePro™
  • Course-and-weather-specific Race Predictor
  • Performance Condition
  • Recovery Time
  • HR Broadcast
  • Finish time
  • Strava Live segments
  • Garmin Live segments

Shared
Features

  • Activity Tracking Features
  • Built-In GPS
  • Basic Gym Activity Profiles
  • Wrist-Based Heart Rate
  • Recovery Time
  • Customizable Data Pages
    and Activity Profiles
  • VO2 Max (Run)
  • Auto Prompts
  • Finish Time
  • Activity History on Watch
  • Running Profiles
  • GPS-Based Distance,
    Time, and Pace
  • Cadence
  • PacePro
  • Race Predictor
  • Run Workouts
  • Swimming and Cycling Profiles
  • LiveTrack
  • Incident Detection
  • Assistance
  • Activity Tracking Features
  • Built-In GPS
  • Basic Gym Activity Profiles
  • Wrist-Based Heart Rate
  • Recovery Time
  • Customizable Data Pages
    and Activity Profiles
  • VO2 Max (Run)
  • Auto Prompts
  • Finish Time
  • Activity History on Watch
  • Running Profiles
  • GPS-Based Distance,
    Time, and Pace
  • Cadence
  • PacePro
  • Race Predictor
  • Run Workouts
  • Swimming and Cycling Profiles
  • LiveTrack
  • Incident Detection
  • Assistance
  • Activity Tracking Features
  • Built-In GPS
  • Basic Gym Activity Profiles
  • Wrist-Based Heart Rate
  • Recovery Time
  • Customizable Data Pages
    and Activity Profiles
  • VO2 Max (Run)
  • Auto Prompts
  • Finish Time
  • Activity History on Watch
  • Running Profiles
  • GPS-Based Distance,
    Time, and Pace
  • Cadence
  • PacePro
  • Race Predictor
  • Run Workouts
  • Swimming and Cycling Profiles
  • LiveTrack
  • Incident Detection
  • Assistance
  • Activity Tracking Features
  • Built-In GPS
  • Basic Gym Activity Profiles
  • Wrist-Based Heart Rate
  • Recovery Time
  • Customizable Data Pages
    and Activity Profiles
  • VO2 Max (Run)
  • Auto Prompts
  • Finish Time
  • Activity History on Watch
  • Running Profiles
  • GPS-Based Distance,
    Time, and Pace
  • Cadence
  • PacePro
  • Race Predictor
  • Run Workouts
  • Swimming and Cycling Profiles
  • LiveTrack
  • Incident Detection
  • Assistance

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