What Garmin Forerunner to Buy 2019

What Garmin Forerunner to Buy 2019

January 1, 2019 Off By Clark

As a Garmin Forerunner user for many years, I review the currently available Garmin Forerunner GPS running watches.


Are you:

  • Looking to buy your first GPS running watch?
  • Undecided on which Garmin Forerunners to buy?
  • Unclear what the differences are between each model of GPS running watch?

If so, then please read below. I’ll answer those questions below by reviewing what Garmin Forerunners are available and creating my best-buys in three categories:

  • The Best Budget: The Garmin Forerunner 25
  • Best All-Rounder: The Garmin Forerunner 235
  • The Best Multi-Sport: The Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Once you have decided on your new watch, or if you already have one, please visit my post about the 1 Important Purchase to Protect Your Running Watch.

Why Garmin?

There are many companies who make GPS running watches; Fitbit, Polar, Apple and many more. Most of these companies produce watches that have similar functionality. For me, many of these brands added running, cycling and swimming functionality to their ranges after creating their watches.

Personally, I always prefer to get a brand who specialise in that niche. This should result in a quality product that is based on their experience in that niche.

Garmin have been creating watches for athletes for many years. As a result at every release they have improved the product to what we have today.

Why not just use an app on my phone?

Initially, many people used the Garmin Connect platform to review their training sessions. However, many people share their activities on platforms like Final Surge and Strava. As Garmin is so popular, the API between Garmin and any new platform is usually there at the start.

Before I had a running watch, I used the Nike+ app on my phone. This worked well to start with. However, if I wanted to load my activities to another platform, I would have to do it manually.

Another downside of using your phone to track your activity will mean that you need to take your phone with you. This has a few drawbacks:

  • You’ll want to refer to your app whilst running, so might wear an arm strap. Advertising an expensive piece of technology on your arm, which lights up in the dark, might not be a good idea.
  • If you are doing a long race, your phone’s battery might not last the distance.

Best Budget Garmin Forerunner

If you are looking for a GPS running watch without too many features for a reasonable price, then the Garmin Forerunner 25 is for you.

It will track distance, pace, steps and connects to Garmin’s smart phone app to upload and share you runs with anyone. This covers your basic needs as a runner.

It will also connect to their smart phone app to show smart phone notifications.

Whilst it doesn’t have an in-built heart rate sensor, like the more expensive models, it will connect to a heart rate strap to track your heart rate.

I personally find that wrist-based heart rate is not as accurate as a heart rate strap. As a result, an in-built heart rate sensor is not something I would prioritise.

You can view more details of the Garmin Forerunner 25 here.

Best All-Rounder Garmin Forerunner

Garmin’s midrange offering, the Garmin Forerunner 235, is packed with a number of features that should be enough for the majority of runners.

In addition to the features of the Forerunner 25 listed above, it adds:

  • Customisable watch faces on a coloured LCD screen
  • Options for difference data screens during activities
  • Load training plans to your watch to get the watch to guide you through a session
  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • Ability to track when you are on a treadmill with the in-built accelerometer

You can view more details of the Garmin Forerunner 235 here.

Best Multi-Sport Garmin Forerunner

For those people who do more than just running, cycling and/or swimming, then the Garmin Forerunner 735XT is for you.

Similar to the Garmin Forerunner 235, this watch enables you to track swimming and cycling either indoors or outdoors on both types of activities.

The following features that are added to the 735XT above the 235 are:

  • Estimation of VO2Max and Lactate Threshold. These two performance metrics are helpful to train effectively. Whilst not as accurate as a lab test, I have found that they close enough to help without a costly lab test.
  • Live tracking to share your location in real-time. This is useful if you are doing longer races like a marathon and your cheer squad need to know when to get ready to cheer. However, this feature does use a large amount of mobile data.

You can view more details about the Garmin Forerunner 735XT here.

Other Reviews

Garmin Forerunner 30

A good entry level running watch and looks slightly nicer than the 25. However, I returned mine as the strap broke and you couldn’t buy replacement straps.

Full details about the Garmin Forerunner 30 is here.

Verdict: Buy over the Forerunner 25 if you prefer the styling of the Forerunner 30.

Garmin Forerunner 35

A confusing number incremental system suggests that this should be an increment on the Forerunner 30. However, this isn’t the case. I would suggest that if you are considering the 35, the 30 is better for you and cheaper.

Verdict: Avoid this model and buy the Forerunner 30.

Garmin Forerunner 645

Garmin Forerunner 6xx series have historically been the most feature rich running watch. The 645 follows this approach. Whilst I have had the 620 previously, I believe the 645 Music is too expensive for what features it contains. Only buy this if you don’t want the hassle of carrying a phone to play your tunes. If that is not a priority then look at the 235.

Full details of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is here.

Verdict: Only buy if you don’t want to carry your phone with you to listen to music during activites.


Do you agree with my reviews? What is your favourite running watch and why?