The best Garmin watches in 2024, tested by the RW editors

We’ve clocked up thousands of kilometres on the best Garmin watches you can buy — here are our reviews.

Whether you’re training for your first 5k or a multi-stage ultramarathon, a Garmin watch is one of the best pieces of tech you can use to track your runs, gain feedback on key metrics, and even monitor things like stress and sleep.

The Swiss brand has been designing cutting-edge GPS navigation products since 1989, and now boasts some of the best GPS running watches on the market, as well as a host of other wearables including heart rate monitors.

For beginners, it offers some of the best cheap running watches going, including the likes of the Forerunner 55 and Forerunner 165 which allow you to view a whole range of metrics, including pace, elevation, cadence, stride length, heart rate, vertical oscillation and more, for under $480.

If you’re looking for something a little more hardcore, the Fenix, Instinct and Enduro ranges can give you guidance on your training, telling you when to ease up or work harder, as well as downloadable maps with turn-by-turn navigation if you’re planning on hitting the trails.

The best Garmin watches in 2024

To help you spend your money wisely, we’ve put together a guide to Garmin’s full range of running watches below. You can also shop our winning watches here, at a glance.

Best Garmin OverallGarmin Forerunner 265
Best AMOLED Screen on a budgetGarmin Forerunner 165
Best Entry Level GarminGarmin Forerunner 55
Best for Multisport Garmin Fenix 7 Solar
Best for Trail Runner’sGarmin Instinct 2 Solar

Which Garmin watch should I buy?

Garmin offers an overwhelming number of models, which can make it hard to settle on the right watch for your needs. Generally, they can be divided up into the following ranges:

  • Forerunner: Designed specifically for runners (rather than multisports), the Forerunner family ranges from the basic to the advanced. Historically, its ethos has been ‘running watch first, smartwatch second’.
  • Fenix: Geared towards recreational and elite athletes, as well as multisports.
  • Instinct: Built for adventurers, these watches are rugged in appearance and perfect for the trails.
  • Venu: Style and design meets health and wellness. Think of it as Garmin’s take on the Apple Watch. Unlike the Forerunner, this is more ‘smartwatch first, running watch second’.
  • Vivosmart: More in the fitness tracker realm, this range is designed for people who want to stay healthy and active and who probably aren’t running more than once or twice a week.

It’s worth considering what type of running you’ll be doing (e.g. on or off road – or a mixture of both) and how much feedback you’re after. If you’re someone who sticks mostly to roads, a Forerunner will probably fit the bill, with a few different models on offer depending on how nerdy you like to get about stats.

Spend a lot of time on the trails? The Instinct is designed for you. Or perhaps you’re training for a triathlon, in which case the Fenix can handle multisports like a pro.

How to choose a Garmin watch

Battery life: Garmin watches come with a wide range of battery lives, and the more you have to spend, the longer you can go between charges.

Ideally, you’ll want your watch to survive a week’s worth of training, but you’ll also want to consider the distances and races you’ll be doing – especially if it’s a longer distance like a marathon or an ultra-marathon…the last thing you want is your watch cutting out!

Activities/training features: The majority of Garmin watches will be able to track your distance, pace, calories and heart rate data. Higher-end models like the Forerunner 265 and Fenix 7 have more advanced training features such as training status, training readiness and performance condition, which can provide additional feedback to help you improve as a runner.

Smartwatch features: Most Garmin watches come with additional health tracking features including sleep and stress monitoring, but the more ‘smartwatch’ style ones, like the Venu 3, go seriously more in-depth.

Even the more basic models can let you see notifications for texts and calls, however you’ll usually have to pay for a more premium model if you want things like Garmin pay, weather alerts and phone-free music storage.

Style: Garmin’s line-up spans rugged, adventure-style watches to everyday, smarter-looking watches that wouldn’t look out of place in an office. Consider how often you’ll be wearing your watch (all day or just for workouts?) and where – the likes of the Venu might look sleek and stylish, but it’ll be prone to wear and tear if you’re more of a hardcore adventurer.

How we test

This guide builds on the knowledge of RW’s ecommerce editor Ali Ball, an experienced runner and longtime gear tester who has worked on some of the UK’s top tech brands, covering fitness wearables. It’s also had input from Kieran Alger, a freelance writer, editor and runner who has used hundreds of watches over the past decade, while completing more than 50 marathons and many ultras, as well as the wider RW team.

Best Garmin watches — tried and tested

double line break

1. BEST GARMIN OVERALL, Garmin Forerunner 265

Garmin Forerunner 265
Extensive training features
Decent battery life
On board music
No maps or smart assistant

The Forerunner 265 delivers pretty much everything you’d want in a running watch without the price tag of Garmin’s more premium brands. There’s a wide range of features, a decent battery life (up to 13 days in smartwatch mode), accurate tracking and customisable workouts.

When it comes to display, the 265 has had a serious revamp from its previous iteration, with a sharp, colourful AMOLED touchscreen display that’s easily bright enough to work for outdoor runs on sunny days. The display alone puts the Forerunner 265 on par with smartwatch competitors, rather than simply being a dedicated athletic watch.

It’s pretty hardcore when it comes to features, too. It’s got the usual GPS, sleep tracking and fitness modes, but there’s also training status, training readiness and performance condition, which makes this feel like a real athlete’s watch. If you want to switch it up with cross training, you can also choose from over 30 activity profiles, including triathlons, cycling, swimming and more. On board-music has been standardised too, unlike previous models offline music is now included.

So what’s missing? Well, it’s lacking maps and smart assistant, but that’s about it. And if you can live without these features (which most people can), it really is an excellent all-rounder.

Screen size32.5mm
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 13 days
Battery life (GPS)Up to 20 hours
Waterproof rating5ATM


2. BEST AMOLED SCREEN ON A BUDGET, Garmin Forerunner 165

Stunning bright display
Compact and comfortable
Good GPS and heart rate accuracy
Short battery life
Lacks some training insights

If you’ve lusted after the bright, crisp display on the Garmin Forerunner 265 but the price tag is over your budget, the Garmin Forerunner 165 is here for you.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 drops into Garmin’s line up in between the entry-level Forerunner 55 and the Forerunner 265 and it’s now the cheapest Garmin Forerunner with a bright smartwatch-style AMOLED touchscreen.

Behind the impressive, snappy, responsive display, the Forerunner 165 serves up a pretty comprehensive array of Garmin’s regular run-tracking tools, with plenty to cater for training and racing. In fact, it offers the majority of core features you’ll find on the Forerunner 265 – including Suggested Workouts, adaptive Garmin Coach training plans tied to a target race and all the usual race time predictions, race pace tools and fitness benchmarking like VO2 Max estimates.

There are a handful of key omissions, though. There’s no accuracy-boosting dual band GPS and triathlon sports mode is missing. You’ll also have to forego some of Garmin’s training insights: training status, training load and training readiness readouts are all left out.

Even with those features taken out, when it comes to run-tracking the Forerunner 165 is more than a serious rival for pricier watches on performance and accuracy.

In tests, the Forerunner 165 held its own in tests against the Forerunner 265, Forerunner 965 and the Enduro 2 – all of which offer the accuracy-boosting dual-frequency GPS. The optical heart rate performance was relatively reliable, too.

You will pay a price for that punchy screen. The battery comes in at 19-hours of GPS runtime – that’s shorter than the Forerunner 55 (20 hrs), Forerunner 265 (20 hrs) and the Forerunner 255 (26 hrs).

We got between 5-8 days general training usage, with around 5-6 hours GPS run time. Without music a 1:25 half-marathon burned 11%, while a 4-hour marathon burned 21%. The juice drains faster if you use the music on the Forerunner 165 Music. But there’s still enough to cover most single-session distances.

Garmin still leads the way with additional smarts like contactless payments, WiFi syncing and offline music. All welcome extras at this cheaper end of the running watch spectrum. And if you want a happily reliable, largely fully featured run tracker, in a compact, comfortable package, this is a good value option.

Battery life (GPS):Up to 19 hours
Battery life (Smartwatch mode):Up to 11 dayts
Display size:1.2″ / 30.4mm
Waterproof rating:5ATM

3. BEST ENTRY-LEVEL GARMIN, Garmin Forerunner 55

Includes Garmin Coach
Enough battery for a week of training
Lower quality screen than more premium models
No offline music or notifications
Lacking advanced training features (e.g. readiness)

If you’re new to running, there’s no point paying out for an entire suite of training features you’re not going to use. In this case, we’d recommend the Forerunner 55 as a great starting point. It comes with built-in (and accurate) GPS, optical heart rate monitoring, 20 hours’ GPS run time on a single charge and a general usage battery life that’ll get most runners through at least a week’s training.

There’s plenty of tools to cater for a wide range of running needs, with features geared towards the less experienced. This includes five running modes with track running and a virtual running mode for use with platforms like Zwift. There’s also Garmin Coach adaptive training plans, daily suggested workouts based on your recovery, handy pace guidance for a selected course, cadence alerts to help with improvements in form and recovery advisor for advice on managing your rest between training efforts.

Beyond the run, you also get fitness, stress and body battery energy level tracking.

Sure, the screen is a little more low-quality than watches further up the Forerunner food chain, and there’s no offline music, notifications or Garmin Pay. But for beginners, this is an affordable entry-level option.

Key specs

Screen size1.04″/26.3mm
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 2 weeks
Battery life (GPS)Up to 20 hours
Waterproof rating5ATM

4. BEST FOR MULTISPORTS, Garmin Fenix 7 Solar

Super impressive battery life
Multi band GPS for off-grid running
Premium price tag

The Fenix 7 is arguably one of the most comprehensive multisport watches on the market, featuring advanced training features and top-notch navigation tools. We particularly love the Real-Time Stamina tool, which allows you to monitor and track exertion levels during training runs, rides or races. It gives you a live estimate of how you’re exerting energy during an activity, so you can gauge whether to push harder or hold back.

There’s military-style multi-band GPS, designed to improve GPS accuracy in areas where regular signals can struggle. Though we didn’t find the all-systems multi-GNSS mode made that much difference.

For ultrarunners and adventure athletes, the Up Ahead feature provides exact locations of aid stations, too.

It’s also packed with all the features you’d expect from a smartwatch – including smart notifications delivered right on the wrist, contactless payment, wrist-based heart rate, sleep and stress tracking. This is a watch designed to be worn all day, every day.

You’ll get between 57-73 hours of standard GPS run time which extends up to an impressive 289 hours with the right power save modes on and good solar conditions. In our tests, an hour’s full GPS run burned just 2% and we’d used just 50% after 15 days wear with 10 hours of training. That’s not the best battery in the business, but it’s more than enough even for most multi-day ultras.

Key specs

Screen size1.3″/33mm
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 18 days
Battery life (GPS)Up to 57 hours
Waterproof rating10ATM

5. BEST FOR TRAIL RUNNERS, Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Impressive suit of training features
Great safety features, including incident detection
Lacks on screen maps

If you want a running watch that can handle more extreme excursions, the Garmin Instinct Solar 2 is worth considering. It’s waterproof to 100m, thermal and shock resistant and has a scratch-resistant display and polymer-toughened case. And the best bit? It’s much more affordable than other Garmin models with similar specs.

It boasts an impressive suit of run-specific tracking, training and recovery tools, including VO2 Max estimates, training status, training load, post-run training effect readings and recovery time recommendations. For health and wellness, there’s Body Battery, Sleep Score, Advanced Sleep Monitoring, Menstrual Cycle Tracking and Stress Tracking.

It ticks all the boxes for safety too, including incident detection and live location sharing, making it well-suited to off-road ultras, plus urban running.

It’s also the cheapest watch to feature Garmin’s breakthrough solar-charging skills which garners energy from the sun. If you wear it in direct sunlight for three hours a day (or in 50,000 lux of light) it essentially never needs charging. Our office-dwelling tester couldn’t quite hit that daily quota of sunlight, so it lasted for around two weeks – still pretty impressive compared with an Apple Watch that doesn’t always last a day.

The lack of maps is surprising on a watch like this but the navigation skills are still strong. You get turn-by-turn breadcrumb and back-to-start navigation, along with distance to destination and future elevation for routes you load onto the watch. That’s particularly useful for trail runs and races.

Key specs

Screen size0.9″ x 0.9″ (23 x 23 mm)
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 28 days/Unlimited with solar
Battery life (GPS)Up to 30 hours/48 hours with solar
Waterproof rating10ATM


Decent battery life
Sleek style, good for everyday wear
In-depth health and wellness features
Lacking some running-specific metrics
No on-watch maps

Looking for something that bridges the gap between a running watch and a smartwatch? Enter the Venu 3. We’re not saying the likes of the Fenix and Instinct can’t be worn all day, but the Venu looks a lot more at home whether you’re exercising or not, and it’s smart enough for most occasions.

GPS is quick to triangulate, battery life is decent (just over an hour of running knocked off around 5% battery), and there are pre-loaded workouts available. Alternatively, you can create your own in the Garmin Connect app, much like with the Apple Watch. You can also configure alerts for heart rate, pace, time, distance, cadence and calories.

There are a few features missing that we’ve come to expect from some of the more ‘running focused’ Garmin watches – the Venu 3 doesn’t have a training readiness score or training status score, and there aren’t really any training-specific features on the Venu watches – you don’t get daily suggested workouts which adapt after every run or ride, recovery recommendations based on your latest training, or race predictions.

But just because the Venu 3 lacks some running-specific measurements, doesn’t mean it’s not a great watch for runners. In fact, if you’re the type of runner who also likes going to a weekly yoga class, dipping your toe into Reformer Pilates and conquering a strength workout, then you’ll probably love how versatile, smart – and pretty – the Venu 3 is.

From the wellness side of things, it’s got all the usual features you’d expect: heart rate tracking, sleep tracking, stress tracking and more. In fact, sleep has had a real overhaul. Not only does the Venu 3 give you a sleep score, but it also offers personalised tips on how much sleep you need and how you can improve. Another major improvement from the Venu 2 is the body battery feature which provides more information so you can understand exactly how the body battery is affected by what you do during the day.

Screen size35.4 mm (1.4″) diameter
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 10 days
Battery life (GPS)26 hours
Waterproof rating5ATM


7. BEST FOR ATHLETES, Garmin epix Pro (Gen 2)

Optimised heart rate sensor
AMOLED touchscreen
Costly watch

If you’re used to a more mid-range Garmin on your wrist, the Garmin epix Pro will definitely feels like a step up in comparison. This is a running watch for front-of-the-pack runners – those who prefer more of a rugged build but don’t want to compromise on a super sharp display.

It’s got a crystal-clear AMOLED touchscreen display and a whole host of advanced training features on top of Garmin’s usual 24/7 health and wellness monitoring. There’s also a built-in LED flashlight for training in the dark, 30 new preloaded sport activities, and new training features including ‘hill score’ – which measures your capability for running uphill and assesses your progress based on your VO2 Max estimate – and ‘endurance score’, which looks at your ability to sustain prolonged efforts.

There’s no beating around the bush here – this is an expensive watch. But the epix Pro does feature a whole load of impressive features – including an optimised heart rate sensor and new weather map overlays. So if you’re currently thinking about upgrading from an older Forerunner (or, indeed Venu), this really is an excellent smartwatch.

Key specs

Screen size1.3″/33mm
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 16 days
Battery life (GPS)Up to 42 hours
Waterproof rating10ATM

8. BEST FOR HEALTH TRACKING, Garmin Vivosmart 5

Tracks runs, heart rate and stress
Battery lasts around a week
No on-board GPS

Of all the Garmin wearables, the Vivosmart 5 is as basic as it gets – but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. For around £130 (or just under £100 if it’s on sale), you get a solid fitness tracker that’s capable of tracking runs, heart rate and stress.

The most obvious drawback is the lack of on-board GPS – you’ll need to piggy back off the GPS on your phone to monitor your route and pace. That being said, we’ve found the watches’ heart-rate readings are just as accurate as the premium Enduro 2, and you still have access to guided workouts and adaptive training plans in the Garmin Connect app.

The Vivosmart 5’s battery life should last you around a week, and since there’s no GPS or all-singing all-dancing features to drain it, this should stay fairly consistent.

Overall, we’d place the Vivosmart 5 just below the Forerunner 55. Both are geared towards beginners, but choose the latter if you’re looking for on-board GPS and guidance on your training; choose the former if you’re looking for something slender and discreet to track a couple of runs, as well monitor your overall health and fitness.

Key specs

Screen size0.41″ x 0.73″/10.5mm x 18.5mm
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 7 days
Waterproof rating5ATM

9. DO-IT ALL GARMIN, Garmin Enduro 2

World-class battery life
More features than you could possibly need
Hefty investment

A world-class multisport watch, there’s not much the Enduro 2 can’t do. This hard-wearing hulk is built to handle off-road and ultrarunning adventures. In fact, it’s probably overkill for what most runners need, but if you can justify the hefty price tag, the battery life and features are pretty mind-blowing.

On paper it claims an unrivalled 80-hour GPS run time – extendable up to 300 hours in endurance mode. That’s boosted by solar-charging skills that harness the sun’s rays to power it up. In our tests, the watch lasted an astonishing 30 days on a single charge, with 30 hours of indoor and outdoor GPS-tracked workouts. An eight-hour ultra, using full GPS, burned just 10%. It’s not all battery, though…

The Enduro 2 offers Garmin’s complete suite of training tools and insights. That includes reliable heart rate and multi-band GPS (offering reliable tracking in remote areas) plus training effect, training load, recovery recommendations and training session suggestions.

Unlike the original Enduro, there’s topographic maps too, which make this newer version a better adventure watch. There’s also a new touchscreen and flashlight.

The main difference between the Enduro 2 and the Fenix 7 is battery life (the Enduro wins here), and while both are pretty rugged options, the Fenix 7 is a slightly more casual design.

Key specs

Screen size1.4″/35.56mm
Battery life (smartwatch mode)Up to 34 days/46 days with solar
Battery life (GPS)Up to 110 hours/150 hours with solar
Waterproof rating10ATM


Related Articles