January 10, 2021

7 Best Garmin Watches for Running

January 10, 2021

A good Garmin watch is an increasingly essential tool for Running — whether as a hobby, an exercise routine, or a sport. Running helps in strengthening our bones and muscles, keeping us fit and in good shape, and preventing heart diseases and other cardiovascular complications. However, like most physical activities and exercises, running has its goals, and it is necessary to monitor our progress relative to the goals that we have set for ourselves.

Fortunately, wearable fitness trackers and watches are available in the market. These gadgets help in monitoring and measuring our heart rate, the calories that have burnt, the distance and number of hours spent on running, and other measurable data. These can guide us in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, a good body shape, and for commutative runners, getting better at the sport. Garmin, in particular, has been a very well-known brand for wearable GPS-based fitness trackers with a wide array of functions suitable for every runner. Garmen’s range of fitness tracking watches is very extensive and the primary issue for many of us… Which Garmen watch is best for running?.

Today, we at The Spring Bar bring you the seven best Garmin watches for runners. We’ll be looking at its watch specifications, key features, battery life, and other functions that make them stand out from the rest of the pack. As we’re focusing on one brand, there can be some similar specs among these watches. In this case, we will assess their pros and cons for us to identify which of these suits the needs of the average runner, the enthusiast, the athlete, and everything in between.

1 Forerunner 745

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The Garmin Forerunner 745 is an expensive fitness watch capable of measuring extensive running data not usually covered by other Garmin watches. This includes a built-in PacePro™ Pacing Strategies which is very helpful in monitoring, calculating, and adjusting one’s pace while running on a certain track.

In addition, this Garmin watch has other great features such as the HRV Stress Test, VO2 Max, and the PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor. It is also capable of providing advanced metrics on your heart rate and sleep data, as well as extensive monitoring capabilities for other physical activities.

Sadly, the Forerunner 745 may not be suitable for those with a tighter budget, and those who prefer simplified data metrics, higher display resolution, and longer battery life. However, if you are not bothered by these setbacks, this watch may be for you. It almost has everything you want and need for a fitness watch. The Forerunner 745 is also suitable for more experienced runners and those who frequently join marathons, triathlons, and similar running events.

+PROS

  • Provides extensive running data
  • Extensively monitors heart rate
  • Capable of HRV Test
  • Tough and durable Gorilla Glass screen

-CONS

  • Expensive
  • Lower display resolution compared to more cheaper Garmin watches
  • Longer battery life
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Forerunner 745

Price: $499.99

Reference Number: 010-02445-00

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.7 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced Polymer

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX

Additional: 

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.7 mm

Display Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels

Weight: 47 g.

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 200 hours of activity data.

Battery Life: 7 days (Smartwatch Mode), 16 hours (GPS without music), 6 hours (GPS with music).

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Plays and Controls Watch Music

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Forerunner 745

Price: $499.99

Reference Number: 010-02445-00

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.7 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced Polymer

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX

Additional: 

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

2 Forerunner 245 Music

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Garmin’s Forerunner 245 has impressive features that are similar to the Forerunner 745. It also offers extensive running metrics (except for Lactate Threshold) and provides heart rate and sleep monitoring data. The watch also has a PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor that measures the oxygen levels in our blood. Being a fitness watch with music functions is also a big plus!

However, this watch does not have an HRV Stress Test, VO2 Max. which measures the maximum amount of oxygen used during intense physical activity, and respiration and hydration monitors. It is also worth mentioning that it does not offer tracking profiles for virtual and outdoor track runs. An obvious step-down from the Forerunner 745, but considering its affordable price, this watch is still worth considering for average runners and athletes alike.

+PROS

  • Affordable Price
  • Provides extensive running data

-CONS

  • No Hydration and Respiration Monitor
  • No HRV Test
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Forerunner 245 Music

Price: $296

Reference Number: 010-02120-20

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.2 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced Polymer

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional: 

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.2 mm

Display Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels

Weight: 38.5 g.

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 200 hours of activity data.

Battery Life: 7 days (Smartwatch Mode), 24 hours (GPS without music), 6 hours (GPS with music).

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Play and control watch music.

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Forerunner 245 Music

Price: $296

Reference Number: 010-02120-20

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.2 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced Polymer

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional: 

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

3 Vivoactive 4

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Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 is a casual and minimalist fitness smartwatch that offers satisfying tracking functions for active, sporty, and thrill-seeking individuals. Despite being a much cheaper smartwatch, this watch outperforms other watches with its higher display resolution of 260 x 260 pixels and its maximum memory capacity of 336 hours worth of activity data. 

Unlike other watches, this model does not provide advanced metrics such as running, sleeping, and heart rate. Nonetheless, this is still useful for people who prefer simplified tracking data on their running activities and other exercise routines. The watch does not also have an HRV Stress Test, but other essential features such as VO2 Max, PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor, Respiration and Hydration monitor, and a health check function intended for women.

For runners and other users who want an affordable fitness smartwatch with advanced functions, you may want to look for other Garmin watches, as this specific watch is perfect for those who prefer simplified metrics to their daily exercise routines and other activities.

+PROS

  • Affordable Price
  • High memory capacity for activity data
  • Higher display resolution

-CONS

  • Limited Running Data Monitoring
  • No HRV Stress Test
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: vívoactive® 4

Price: $230.06

Reference Number: 010-02174-11

Diameter: 33 mm

Thickness: 12.8 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional: 

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

260 x 260 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 33 mm

Thickness: 12.8 mm

Display Resolution: 260 x 260 pixels

Weight: 50.5 g.

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 336 hours of activity data.

Battery Life: 8 days (Smartwatch Mode), 18 hours (GPS without music), 6 hours (GPS with music).

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Plays and Controls Watch Music

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: vívoactive® 4

Price: $230.06

Reference Number: 010-02174-11

Diameter: 33 mm

Thickness: 12.8 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional: 

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

260 x 260 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

4 Fenix 6S Pro/Sapphire

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The Garmin Fenix 6S Pro and Sapphire watches boast its numerous features such as its extensive running data for nearly every running profile except for outside track run, its built-in HRV Stress Test, VO2 Max, PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor and more. In addition, these watches are also waterproof, and are good for swimming and snorkeling activities in shallow waters (around 100m). Lastly, these watches have a long battery life of up to 25 hours as a GPS-only watch, and up to nine hours as a smartwatch.

While most of the functions and features of the Fenix 6S Pro and Sapphire watches are similar to the Forerunner 745, the former is more expensive than the latter. Thus, for experienced runners who consider the price of the Fenix 6S Pro as way too much for your budget, they may consider the 745 instead. Other than the fact it has a lower water resistance rating, it will still provide the same extensive metrics for running and other physical activities and is the better option.

+PROS

  • Provides extensive running data
  • Much higher water resistance
  • Provides exclusive health tracking for women

-CONS

  • Expensive
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Fenix 6S Pro

Price: $549.99

Reference Number: 010-02159-13

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 13.8 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover

Water Resistance: 100 m. (10 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicon, Suede, or Nylon

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX or Sapphire Crystal

Additional:

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 13.8 mm

Display Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels

Weight: 44g. (with case only), 61g. (case with silicone band)

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 32 GB

Battery Life: 9 days (Smartwatch Mode), 25 hours (GPS without music), 6 hours (GPS with music).

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Plays and Controls Watch Music

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Fenix 6S Pro

Price: $549.99

Reference Number: 010-02159-13

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 13.8 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover

Water Resistance: 100 m. (10 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicon, Suede, or Nylon

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX or Sapphire Crystal

Additional:

Sunlight-Visible, Transflective Memory-in-Pixel Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

5 Instinct Tactical

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Among the seven featured Garmin watches in this article, the Instinct Tactical has a black-and-white screen different from the usual colored screens in fitness smartwatches. It’s also because of this that this watch model only has a 128 by 128-pixel display resolution. Aside from this, the Instinct Tactical watch does not have an HRV Stress Test nor a PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor. As a smartwatch, it does not connect to WiFi, does not play nor control music from the watch, and does not support Garmin’s ConnectIQ software.

However, don’t be easily fooled by this. For a watch that costs almost $200, you can still use the Instinct Tactical as a fitness tracker using its simplified running metrics, heart rate, hydration, and respiration monitor. It also has a Night Vision function that adjusts the light on the screen for people wearing Night Vision goggles.

This watch may not have advanced features, but this can be useful for beginner runners and enthusiasts who consider running as a hobby and exercise.

+PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Higher water resistance
  • Night vision function

-CONS

  • Monochrome / Black-and-white Screen on low resolution
  • No HRV Stress Test and PulseOx Blood
  • Oxygen Saturation Monitor
  • Can’t connect to WiFi
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Instinct Tactical

Price: $199.99

Reference Number: 010-02064-84

Diameter: 23 mm x 23 mm (custom two-window design)

Thickness: 15.3 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer

Water Resistance: 100 m. (10 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Chemically strengthened glass

 

Additional: 

Monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)

128 x 128 pixel Black and White Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 23 mm x 23 mm (custom two-window design)

Thickness: 15.3 mm

Display Resolution: 128 x 128 pixels

Weight: 52 g.

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 32 MB

Battery Life: 7 days (Smartwatch Mode), 16 hours (GPS without music)

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Does not play and control watch

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Instinct Tactical

Price: $199.99

Reference Number: 010-02064-84

Diameter: 23 mm x 23 mm (custom two-window design)

Thickness: 15.3 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer

Water Resistance: 100 m. (10 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Chemically strengthened glass

 

Additional: 

Monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)

128 x 128 pixel Black and White Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

6 Venu

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Here we have another casual-looking watch with Garmin Venu. Priced at less than $200, you are able to use this high-resolution watch in your running activities using its basic running trackers, as well as in monitoring your respiration and heart rate. It also has an all-day stress tracking function that can help monitor your stress levels throughout the day and night.

Sadly, this watch doesn’t have an HRV Stress Test and VO2 Max tracker. The AMOLED screen may have contributed to the Venu’s high display resolution. However, this type of screen can’t be easily seen under intense sunlight, unlike other watch screens that use sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP). 

Nonetheless, the Garmin Venu fitness watch is perfect for beginner runners and enthusiasts who prefer a minimalist fitness watch for their personal use.

+PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Higher water resistance
  • Night vision function

-CONS

  • Monochrome / Black-and-white Screen on low resolution
  • No HRV Stress Test and PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor
  • Can’t connect to WiFi
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Venu

Price: $246.95

Reference Number: 010-02173-19

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.4 mm 

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional:

AMOLED Display

390 x 390 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.4 mm

Display Resolution: 390 x 390 pixels

Weight: 46.3 g.

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 200 hours of activity data

Battery Life: 5 days (Smartwatch Mode), 20 hours (GPS without music), 6 hours (GPS with music)

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Plays and Controls Watch Music

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Venu

Price: $246.95

Reference Number: 010-02173-19

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 12.4 mm 

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with polymer rear cover

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional:

AMOLED Display

390 x 390 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

7 Forerunner 945

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One of Garmin’s watches under the Forerunner series, the Forerunner 945 has very similar functions and features to the Forerunner 745. Much like the 745, the 945 also has a tough Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 that provides extensive running and activity data, health trackers such as the HRV Stress Test, the PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation, and respiration and hydration monitors; and a specialized tracker for women’s health. This model definitely has a lot to offer!

For nearly the same features and functions, the 945 is $100 more expensive than the 745. However, this is not to say that the Forerunner 945 is not worth buying. Comparing the two watches, the 945 has a longer battery life than the 745. This means more time to use the watch for outdoor excursions and other activities.

+PROS

  • Tough Gorilla Glass screen
  • With HRV Stress Test
  • Provides extensive running and activity data

-CONS

  • Expensive for almost the same functions as the Forerunner 745
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Forerunner 945

Price: $599.99

Reference Number: 010-02063-00

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 13.7 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional:

Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch) 

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 13.7 mm

Display Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels

Weight: 50 g.

Additional Details:

Uses GPS/Glonass/Galileo Satellite Navigation

Memory Capacity: 200 hours of activity data.

Battery Life: 2 weeks (Smartwatch Mode), 10 hours (GPS without music), 36 hours (GPS with music).

Syncs with Smartphone through Garmin Connect.

Plays and Controls Watch Music

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model: Forerunner 945

Price: $599.99

Reference Number: 010-02063-00

Diameter: 30.4 mm

Thickness: 13.7 mm

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer

Water Resistance: 50 m. (5 ATM)

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Crystal: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Additional:

Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) Display

240 x 240 pixel Colored Display

Multiple Outdoor Modes

Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor

Compatible with Android and IOS.

What to look for when purchasing Garmin watches for runners?

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert runner, a Garmin fitness watch is very important. These watches are crafted to suit your needs while also helping you to aim for your goals like losing weight or winning a marathon. Here are some factors to consider when buying a Garmin watch:

  • Running Metrics – This is important in monitoring one’s progress as a runner. Through these metrics, the watch can provide you with detailed statistics on your running activities. However, not every model can support every running activity you can think of and can provide such metrics as cadence and stride length. Before you purchase a Garmin running watch, you may want to check its specifications and assess if that watch can support your running lifestyle. Through this, you can avoid wasting money on a fitness watch that does not provide data on an activity or function that it does not support.
  • Watch Features and Functions – Garmin’s watch models may have several similarities in their features, functions, and specifications, but not all of them are the same. Some watches support colored screens, but in the case of the Instinct Tactical, it’s just all monochrome. Some models may also differ in their appearance, glass screens, water-resistance ratings, and so much more. Some watches even have more features and functions than other models such as HRV Stress Test, Pulse Oximetry Monitor, and advanced metrics for running, sleeping, and heart rate. Thus, it is important to check the specifications of a Garmin watch before purchasing it.
  • Readability – The glass screen display of Garmin watches should also be checked. Not everyone has clear eyesight, and not all watches have the same display resolution. Some watches use a different screen display which can affect the clearness and readability of the screen even under direct sunlight. In this case, check for its display resolution and other related specifications for you to know if it suits your eye vision (if ever you have eyesight problems).
  • Battery Life – Much like smartphones, Garmin’s fitness watches have stored energy that can be consumed depending on how much you use its functions (GPS, GPS with Music, Smartwatch). Who wants a device that can shut down suddenly because of low power, right? That’s why picking the best Garmin watch includes knowing its battery life under various conditions.
  • Price – When we buy certain items, we go for the cheaper ones, which is understandable. However, as we look for its price, we should also assess the offers relative to its price. This should be the case with buying Garmin watches. Always assess the affordability of a certain gadget with its available specifications and functions.

What other tests and metrics are important to look for by runners?

Aside from the usual monitoring features for one’s daily activities, it is important to look for the following tests and metrics before purchasing a Garmin watch:

  • Heart-Rate Variability (HRV) Stress Test – This test provides an “indirect” measurement of our stress levels in response to the activities that we do. When a person is in an intense workout, it makes the heart beat faster which means there is more stress involved — thus, HRV increases. However, when someone is relaxing, it makes the heartbeat slower or at a normal rate which means less stress. Thus, HRV decreases.
  • VO2 Max – This pertains to the maximum oxygen that can be used during intense activities like training sessions and running courses. Used to measure the aerobic endurance of athletes before and during intense workouts, runners can benefit from having this feature as they can track their body’s capability to endure a certain activity.
  • PulseOx Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor – This measures the amount of blood present in one’s blood,and determines the distribution of oxygen throughout the body.
  • Sleep Monitoring Functions – It’s a must to have a fitness watch that tracks all your activities — including sleep. Metrics such as heart rate can provide the user with information on the quality of sleep throughout the night and the possible ways to get a good night’s sleep. Some Garmin watches have advanced sleep monitoring that provides sleep scores and insights on the quality of sleep you had.
  • Respiration and Hydration Monitor – Another must-have for runners, a respiration monitor tracks breathing prior, during, and after an activity, while a hydration monitor oversees your daily water intake.

What is the best Garmin watch for beginners and expert runners?

In our opinion, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the best fitness watch for people who want to start their fitness journey through running, and maybe through other activities and sports. This watch is not that expensive compared to other models. Despite not having an HRV Stress Test and Hydration and Respiration monitor, it still offers advanced running metrics and other activity monitors for users. Just by looking at its capability to track running activities, the Forerunner 245 can provide advanced metrics such as ground contact time, stride length, performance condition, and other aspects of one’s running track.

However, if you’re not that concerned with the budget, or are a competitive runner, you might want to choose the Forerunner 745 or the Forerunner 945. These watches provide advanced metrics and features that can help expert runners who are concerned with detailed data analytics about their running activities.