The best Garmin watch to buy for runners, cyclists, and outdoor athletes

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Garmin offers a wide range of activity trackers and smartwatches designed for a variety of users. Some models are well-suited to hardcore athletes and those who spend time outdoors while others offer unique training insights for runners. Choosing the best Garmin watch for you depends on where you fall within this spectrum.

Our top pick is the Garmin Epix Pro; although it’s expensive, its accurate GPS, extensive feature list, and multi-day battery life make it worth the investment. For casual athletes, we recommend the Forerunner 745. It offers actionable workout insights and unique training recommendations.

We narrowed our recommendations based on things like features, ease of use, fit and comfort, and battery life. While all Garmin watches offer accurate GPS and various health and fitness tracking features, some have certain tools and functions geared more toward specific athletes. The best way to shop for a Garmin is to consider how you plan on using it, the size of the watch you prefer, and the level of battery life you need.

Top picks for Garmin watches

Best overall: Garmin Epix Pro – See at Garmin
Garmin’s Epix Pro is the brand’s most versatile wearable; it tracks a variety of activities, has a week-plus battery life, and offers unique, in-depth fitness and health insights and analysis.

Best battery life: Garmin Fenix 7 Pro – See at Best Buy
The Fenix 7 Pro is Garmin’s battery life champ as it’s able to go a whopping 37 days on a single charge thanks to its solar charging capability. It’s also a highly capable health and fitness tracker.

Best smartwatch: Garmin Venu 3 – See at Amazon
The Venu 3 combines all of Garmin’s high-quality health and fitness tracking capabilities with a premium smartwatch experience that gives it just as much utility indoors as it does outdoors.

Best running watch: Garmin Forerunner 745 – See at Amazon
The Forerunner 745 makes developing, and sticking to, a fitness plan an easy experience as it does a lot of the legwork for recommending workouts, structuring rest and recovery, and providing motivation.

Best multi-sport watch: Garmin Forerunner 945 – See at Walmart
Garmin’s Forerunner 945 is a multi-sport athlete’s dream, offering a variety of feedback options designed to improve your training output, highly accurate GPS, and helpful recovery recommendations.

Best overall: Garmin Epix Pro

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Pros: Multi-day battery life, tracks a wide variety of activities, clear and easy-to-read AMOLED screen, comfortable watch band, deep offering of health features and insights, built-in flashlight, accurate GPS

Cons: Expensive

The line between the Garmin Epix Pro and the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro as the brand’s best watch is razor thin; both offer a similar feature set and function almost identically. But I give the edge to the Epix Pro because it feels just that much more like a premium wearable. With a bright, easy-to-read AMOLED screen and stainless steel bezel, it looks and feels high-end — and considering the fact it costs $900, that’s exactly how it should feel. 

Beyond its looks, the Epix Pro is a feature-heavy wearable with highly accurate GPS that does just about everything a high-priced activity tracker should. It’s capable of tracking an array of activities like running, cycling, and swimming, as well as more advanced things like hiking, climbing, and kayaking.  

And what’s most impressive about that diversity is that it’s able to offer unique insights into most of those activities. There’s an endurance score feature that compiled all my activity data to assess my overall endurance, a hill score function that analyzed my daily elevation gain, and a race predictor that gave what I found to be a highly accurate estimation of how fast I’d be able to complete a race like a 5K. 

The Epix Pro is also a useful training tool, and one of the best fitness trackers, even for folks who aren’t sure where to start or what to do. With its daily suggested workouts, users can not only see what’s planned for that day but what the rest of the week’s workouts look like as well. The watch would even adjust the overall training schedule based on how well I ran or cycled on any given day.

That kind of transparency was appreciated, too. I never felt as though I was just blindly being assigned a random running activity. Instead, it offers transparent insight into my progress via its training readiness score, its training status insights, and its performance metrics. These allowed me to view (directly on the watch) how much I’d trained that week and how effective (or not) it was. Even with as much experience working out as I have, this was still highly useful. 

Other features I made use of were the Epix Pro’s stress tracking tools, its outdoor maps functionality, the blood oxygen readings, and its sleep tracking and body battery insights, among many others. And this really only scratches the surface as I could go on and on listing each feature and how it positively impacted my day-to-day; the Epix Pro does so much. 

To top it off, it has a battery that lasts upward of five or six days (or more, depending on if I had the Always On display on or not), and it recharges back to 100% in a couple of hours. For a watch that’s designed to keep up with hardcore athletes, a long-lasting battery like this is a must — and it’s yet another thing Garmin aced when designing the Epix Pro. 

Best battery life: Garmin Fenix 7 Pro

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Pros: Up to 37 days of battery life, deep offering of trackable activities, built-in flashlight, solar charging capability, available in a variety of different sizes, insightful health tracking tools, accurate GPS

Cons: Expensive

While the Epix Pro gets the nod as “best overall,” the Fenix 7 Pro is a very close second, thanks in large part to its multi-week battery life. This makes the Fenix 7 Pro perfect for backpackers, marathon runners, or anyone who spends multiple hours and days active and outside.

What gives this watch such great battery capacity is its solar charging capability. By placing it in direct sunlight for up to three hours, the watch is able to squeeze out an extra 22 days while in smartwatch mode (with GPS turned off) and an extra 73 hours while in GPS mode. 

The fact the Fenix 7 Pro is capable of lasting over a month without a recharge is impressive. I never needed to put that time frame to the test, but I did take the watch on a few weekend camping trips and it was nice not having to worry about how I’d recharge it mid-weekend. 

During my normal day-to-day use, where I preferred using the Always-On display and would use the GPS often, I’d get at least six days of battery life, if not a few more. This firmly puts the Fenix 7 Pro at the head of the industry in terms of battery life. 

Beyond that, the Fenix 7 Pro is also an excellent health and fitness tracker. It’s able to track a wide range of activities spanning everything from running and walking to hiking, cycling, swimming, and snowboarding. It also has a deep offering of health-tracking tools like an in-depth sleep tracker, a training readiness function, a stress monitor, and blood oxygen tracking. 

This diverse feature set gives the Fenix 7 Pro similar utility to the Epix Pro. That is, it’s best used by those who can take advantage of a majority of what’s offered. And while there are a lot of features, it never felt overwhelming from a user standpoint. I could customize what apps and tools were the most easily accessible, and anything I didn’t use to just sit in the background, able to be accessed if or when I wanted (or never). 

What this illustrates is that the Fenix 7 Pro isn’t just for one specific kind of user but rather it’s multi-faceted enough to cater to active users and athletes of any skill level. Beginners can make use of the in-depth training data and recommended workouts to establish a new routine while advanced athletes can utilize the performance metrics and dynamic data to improve their overall fitness. 

One thing is certain with the Fenix 7 Pro, though: You’ll hardly need to charge it, no matter where you fall on the user spectrum.

Best smartwatch: Garmin Venu 3

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Pros: Allows you to make and receive calls right on the watch, unique and intuitive new interface, in-depth sleep tracking and coaching, advanced fitness tracking tools but in a user-friendly smartwatch package, available in two sizes

Cons: No LTE option

Although many of Garmin’s best wearables are advanced GPS watches packing a laundry list of health and fitness tracking tools, it also makes a quality smartwatch called the Venu. The Venu 3 is the next iteration of the line (we loved the Venu 2) and it strikes an excellent balance between being smart and sporty. 

In addition to receiving notifications for things like texts, emails, calls, and apps, the Venu 3’s biggest new smartwatch feature is its ability to make and receive phone calls. The watch needs to be tethered to a smartphone for this to work (there’s no LTE version available), but it’s still a convenient feature. This isn’t something I used all the time but it was nice to have access to if my phone was in another room. 

The Venu 3’s interface is also quite a bit different than what I’m used to with other Garmin wearables like the Epix, Fenix, or Forerunner series. The experience felt far more smartwatch-centric and less like a fitness tracker that gets phone notifications. This is due in large part to its bright, colorful AMOLED touchscreen display. Coupled with a fluid and intuitive interface, it sort of has a similar feel to using something like Android’s Wear OS or iPhone’s Watch OS. 

Because of that interface, it feels entirely different to use on a daily basis than the Epix Pro or Fenix 7 Pro. Those watches are geared toward active users and have basic smartwatch functionality, whereas the Venu 3 is a bonafide smartwatch, and did a good job of acting as an effective extension of my smartphone.

It does still offer a wide range of health and fitness tracking tools, like compatibility with a diverse range of activities, an in-depth sleep tracker and coach, a stress monitor, and adaptive training. These all function similarly to the Epix or Fenix, so rest assured the Venu 3 isn’t a watered-down activity tracker.

Best running watch: Garmin Forerunner 745

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Pros: Unique adaptive training recommendations, offers access to a variety of fitness data, allows for deep customization, accurate and quick GPS

Cons: Slightly cumbersome menu system

If you’re looking for a wearable that takes the guesswork out of creating and sticking to a running plan, the Forerunner 745 is what you seek — and it’s the best running watch in Garmin’s lineup. It doesn’t have every single bell and whistle like the Epix Pro but that’s a good thing; it offers just the right amount of workout options, training feedback, and recovery insight. 

Its training feedback and recommendation feature is the highlight of the 745, and it offers more than just basic workout suggestions and insight. Instead, it adapts to a user’s weekly training schedule while also factoring in their recovery rate. Based on how well they’ve rested each day, it recommends certain distances, pacing, and exertion. For instance, one day it may recommend a 30-minute run at a 10-minute pace but then recommend a sprint workout for later in the week. 

Depending on a user’s performance during each workout, the 745 can assess the training data to see how much of an impact is being made on their endurance and speed. It also provides training load feedback, recovery time recommendations, and status updates all based on that data. 

And while this may seem like a lot of data to digest at once, it’s presented in an easy-to-read manner that’s intuitive to navigate. Much of it is displayed post-workout, too, so you can always get an up-to-date look at your weekly progress.

The 745 is also an adequate health tracker, offering tools like in-depth sleep tracking and insight, menstrual cycle tracking, and blood oxygen monitoring. It has a variety of smartwatch features, as well, such as basic notifications for calls, texts, and apps, along with the ability to download and play music and contactless payment via Garmin Pay. 

Read our full review of the Garmin Forerunner 745

Best multi-sport watch: Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin

Pros: Deep offering of running insights and data, workout recommendations, helpful training and coaching suggestions, accurate GPS, useful rest and recovery insights

Cons: Race predictor can be very generous, not the best battery life for a Garmin

Although the Forerunner series has the word “run” in its name, they’re not all designed strictly for runners. Take the Forerunner 945, for example. While this watch does have a lot of the same running features as the 745 above, it also offers additional features designed for cycling, such as turn-by-turn navigation and full-color maps. 

These work in tandem with the watch’s ClimbPro tool to help improve the way someone like a triathlete or marathon runner trains. With ClimbPro, the 945 can assess how much total elevation a user might gain along their desired path. This can help inform certain outputs like pacing, timing, and speed. 

The 945 also offers a round-trip function that maps out a path capable of bringing a wearer back to their starting point. Say you want to ride five miles. The watch plots out a five-mile path with the ending of the route taking place at your starting spot. This feature is especially useful for areas you may not be familiar with. 

Beyond those tools, the 945 also offers a similar feature set to most of the other Garmins in this guide. There’s support for a wide range of trackable activities beyond just running and cycling, as well as a deep offering of health tools like sleep tracking, energy monitoring, rest and recovery recommendations, women’s health tracking, and a blood oxygen monitor. 

It provides basic smartwatch functionality as well, offering notifications for things like calls and texts, while also supporting contactless payment via Garmin Pay. There are also a few safety features such as incident detection that can automatically call an emergency contact in the event of some form of accident, as well as a feature called LiveTrack which transmits your location in real-time to anyone you add as a friend or family member.

The watch does have one drawback that may limit its overall appeal: it doesn’t have the best battery life. With GPS mode enabled, you can expect to get around 10 to 12 hours of battery, which pales in comparison to other watches in this guide. This should still be good enough for a marathon or short-distance triathlon, but anyone who competes in longer races should look at other options.

What to look for in a Garmin watch

When shopping for a Garmin watch, it’s important to keep in mind how you plan on using it. For instance, if you don’t need offline map support, a built-in flashlight, or tracking capability for every sport imaginable, then you likely don’t need to spend $900 on something like the Epix Pro. Instead, you can opt for a watch like the Forerunner 745 or even the Venu 3.

Knowing how you intend to use the watch is one of the best ways to determine which model fits your lifestyle. Here’s what else to consider before purchasing: 

Use case: Use case is vital as it’s one of the main factors that determines which model is best for you. Many Garmin watches offer similar sets of features but some are better suited for certain users. For instance, the Forerunner series is a great choice for runners and multi-sport athletes as it has plenty of running-specific features and training tools. Similarly, avid outdoors people may want to look at the Epix Pro or Fenix 7 Pro, two wearables that offer accurate GPS, offline map support, a rugged design, and multi-week battery life. 

Sizing: Many Garmin watches are available in a few different sizes with some lines, like the Venu, available in a small-specific model. These smaller models carry an “S” after the product name, so in the case of the Venu 3, the smaller version is titled the Venu 3S. Other watches, like the Epix Pro, are available in multiple sizing options. 

Battery life: The battery life native to Garmin watches varies, as some offer up to as many as several weeks of life (like the Epix Pro and Fenix 7 Pro) while others need to be recharged daily (like the Forerunner 945). If you travel often or aren’t always near a reliable power source, you’ll likely want to shop for a Garmin that offers multi-day battery life. Conversely, if you’re able to recharge the watch daily, one of the smaller battery life options may fit your lifestyle best.

How we test Garmin watches

Each Garmin featured in this guide went through a number of tests to determine how they performed across these four categories: Features, fit & comfort, ease of use, and value. Here’s how every category helped decide which watches made the cut:

Features: This is one of the most important testing categories as Garmin watches offer a lot of features, many of which are found on every wearable it sells. However, some of the higher-end models, like the Epix Pro and Fenix 7 Pro, have advanced feature lists that include certain tools designed for hardcore athletes or those who spend a lot of time outdoors. But just because one watch has more features doesn’t mean it’s better. For instance, someone looking for a running watch might not need advanced cross-country skiing metrics. 

Fit & comfort: For a watch intended to be worn by an active user, it has to be comfortable. Thankfully, every Garmin watch we tested for this guide aced this part of the test, either because it came with a comfortable band, allowed for an easy-to-dial-in fit, or was available in a sizing option that wasn’t too big or too small for our wrists. 

Ease of use: Any advanced fitness tracker, like most Garmins, is going to require some bit of a learning curve, especially for first-time users. Garmin’s interface isn’t exactly beginner-friendly but the learning curve isn’t super steep. Some interfaces offer a more intuitive experience, like the Venu 3, but every Garmin watch in this guide can easily be mastered after spending just a little bit of time with it. 

Value: Value is tough to nail down with fitness trackers, especially when comparing watches that vary so wildly in price like Garmin’s do. On one end of the spectrum is the $900 Epix Pro, a watch that carries a ton of value to hardcore athletes and those who spend a lot of time outside. Is $900 expensive? Absolutely, but if you use most of the features available, then it’s worth the investment. You may have to spend $900 but that watch will serve you for many years.

FAQs

Does a Garmin watch work with any smartphone? 

Yes, Garmin watches are compatible with smartphones running either iOS or Android. Plus, the experience is almost identical since both phone formats use the Garmin Connect app to interact with the watch. If there are any small differences, it’s due mainly to how an iOS or Android device functions, not because of an incompatibility with a Garmin watch. 

Do Garmin watches have accurate GPS? 

Yes, Garmin watches have incredibly accurate, and fast, GPS functionality. This is true up and down the Garmin lineup, too, regardless of a watch’s price tag. 

Are Garmin’s wearables considered smartwatches? 

Yes. Although Garmin’s watches tend to lean more toward being fitness and health trackers, they also offer basic smartwatch functionality. However, some models, like the Venu 3, are more full-featured smartwatches, offering on-watch phone call support and a more interactive touchscreen display.

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