There is no shortage of running GPS watches on the market today – each one with a different capability and price point. And so it can be incredibly overwhelming to narrow down a watch from the long list available, especially if you’ve never tried any of them before.
I have been a faithful Garmin user since 2007 when my sisters gifted me my first Garmin as a going-away/Christmas present before my deployment (I have the best sisters!). I’ve used many of them – ranging from the Forerunner 10 to the Forerunner 910xt and wanted to share my thoughts on the Garmin Forerunners on the market today. (Keep in mind that there are a ton of other Garmin GPS watches – these are just the Forerunner models!)
All of the below watches offer these capabilities:
- GPS enabled
- Garmin Connect
The Forerunner 10 is an entry-level GPS watch that Garmin released two years ago. The Forerunner 10 is a “GPS running watch that tracks your distance, speed/pace and calories. It also identifies your personal records and motivation along the way.”
Pros: The Forerunner 10 is a relatively inexpensive GPS watch that gives you the basics (pace and distance) when it comes to running. It’s a great watch for someone who is just beginning to run and/or someone who doesn’t need a lot of data for their running. Despite having some of the higher-end models of the Forerunners, I still love using my Forerunner 10 (and 15) because 90% of the time, I am interested in distance, time, pace and mile splits – and that’s what this provides!
Cons: You can only view two data fields at a time and the battery life is pretty short (~5 hours when GPS is being used).
The Forerunner 15 offers everything the Forerunner 10 does with two additional features: heart rate compatibility and activity tracking.
Pros: For only $10 more than the Forerunner 10, it offers the ability to track your movement (steps) during the day. And for $40 more, you can add in the heart rate monitor ($169.99).
Cons: Battery life is still low – which means you need to remember to charge it on a regular basis (it lasts 5 weeks with it in activity/tracking mode and 8 hours when the GPS is enabled).
Forerunner 220 (retails for $249.99; $299.99 with heart rate monitor)
A big jump in cost but with that comes a whole host of added features.
- Color display
- You can set alerts for run/walk, pace or heart rate and it will alert you if you fall outside the designated range
- Ability to program workouts (so if you are doing a 6 x 800m workout with 2:00 recoveries, you can set it to track 800m then give you a 2:00 recovery then repeat).
- Automatically syncs to your smart phone (no need to connect via computer!)
- Customizable screen display (ability to view multiple data fields at once).
This seems to be the popular watch with a lot of running friends – it gives you more info than the 10/15, but not as much as the 620 and 920xt (see below).
Note: The 210 is the predecessor to the 220. It’s discontinued by Garmin, but there are still plenty of 210s being sold (some for ~$160), so that may be an option if you aren’t up to spending $250 on a watch. The 210 won’t have some of the features of the 220, but it is a great watch and a step up from the 10/15.
Forerunner 225 (retails for $299.99)
This watch was just released by Garmin. I hope to have a review up for mine in a few weeks!
This is Garmin’s first wrist-heart rate GPS watch. It measures your heart rate without the traditional heart rate monitor (instead, it picks up your heart rate via sensors on the watch). Kind of awesome, right?
It has ALL of the features of the 200 as well as:
- Activity tracking throughout day (steps, calories)
- Built-in accelerometer records distance indoors
Forerunner 620 (retails for $399.99; $449.99 with heart rate monitor)
The 620 is Garmin’s top of the line running watch. It has an incredible number of features that no other Garmin watch offers but keep in mind that you need the heart rate monitor for many of the features to be applicable. The 620 has all of the features of the 220 in addition to the following:
- Will calculate your VO2 max and recovery time (if you also use with heart rate monitor). For more information on these, click here.
- HRM-Run™ monitor adds data for cadence, ground contact time and vertical oscillation – which ultimately can help you correct your form
- Offers separate activity features for ride/race/run (the ride switches to speed instead of pace)
Note: The 610 is the predecessor to the 620. It’s discontinued by Garmin, but there are still plenty of 610s being sold (some for ~$170), so that may be an option if you aren’t up to spending $400+ on a watch. But the 610 won’t have some of the features of the 620 (VO2 max, recovery time, cadence, etc) but it does offer the touchscreen capability. I used the 610 for several years, so please let me know if you have any questions!
Forerunner 920xt (retails for $449.99; $499.99 with heart rate monitor)
The 920xt offers everything that the 620 offers plus it offers multi-sport options – it’s made for triathletes. The 920xt allows you to swim (pool or open water), ride and run – and then continues to track your daily activity through steps and calories burned.
I used (and still use!) the 910xt – the predecessor to this watch. It was the perfect watch for Ironman training two years ago and allowed me to seamlessly go from pool to the bike to the run. And it offers a multisport feature that includes transition time in your total time so there’s no fumbling with the watch on race day.
This is a perfect watch for triathletes but would be a waste of money if you are just looking for a running-specific GPS watch. If that is the case (and you are up to spending a few hundred dollars), the 220, 225 or 620 would be a better watch for you.
Note: The 910xt is the predecessor to the 920xt and is still being sold (for as low as $320) so that may be an option if you aren’t up to spending $450+ on a watch but want the multisport features. . Keep in mind that the 910xt won’t have some of the features of the 920xt (VO2 max, recovery time, cadence, tracking, etc) but it does offer the bike and swim functions. I used the 910xt for several years, so please let me know if you have any questions!
Edited to Add: Although not a Forerunner, the Garmin Vivoactive is a great option if you are looking for an activity tracker with GPS. It provides apps for running, cycling, swimming and golfing. Retails for $249.99; $299.99 with heart rate monitor.
Please let me know if you have used any of these watches and can offer a review that I can link to and/or you have general comments to add that could help other readers! Thank you!
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