When it comes to smart watches and the best watches for runners, there's no shortage of choices. But while we love the most popular options, the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra and Samsung's Galaxy 5, one of the biggest selections in smart watches for sports enthusiast comes from Garmin.
(Some of) our favorite Garmin smart watches featured below
- The most powerful Garmin in 2023: Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar, $892 (reduced from $1000)
- Style won with reviewers: Garmin Vivoactive 4, $270 (reduced from $330)
- Great for sports and adventure: Garmin Instinct, $150 (reduced from $250)
What's so great about a Garmin smart watch?
Good question. Known for innovation and accuracy, Garmin is known for being at the forefront of technology. From solar powered smart watches to detailed fitness trackers, the American watch brand is known as much for style as product features.
What sets Garmin apart from other smart watch companies is its multi-sport tracking available on certain models and navigation features. This makes Garmin smart watches winners with runners, swimmers, adventurers and anyone wanting to up their fitness game with detailed feedback and metrics.
And while a smart watch won't get you to the gym (oh wouldn't that be nice), Garmin's analytics can help you understand how to optimize movement more. It might just be the motivation you need to push yourself to the next level.
Amazon reviewers were quite evangelical about Garmin smart watches, many of whom had upgraded to a Garmin after years using similar less expensive brands. Buyers enthusiastically touted Garmin's accuracy. Styling won big points with reviewers, some of whom called theirs "gorgeous" and "beautiful." Reviewers noted Garmin is "a tad expensive." Fair point, but more often than not reviewers felt their purchase was well worth the price -- especially when you can snag a great deal on Garmin at Amazon.
What do we like about Garmin? Thanks for asking. While we were first drawn to Garmin because of Amazon's killer discount, we dug into reviews and were struck by buyers' passion, even on the higher-priced models. Durability and accuracy rated big from buyers, which means the purchase will pay off over time.
Shop Amazon's best deals on Garmin smart watches
When choosing which Garmin smart watches to feature, we considered multiple factors.
- Price? Yeah. We work hard for our money and know you do, too. We loved the variety of deep Amazon discounts on Garmin, but considered much more than price when making our selections.
- Functionality. We thought long and hard about what each watch does. More importantly, do we need it? Smart watch bells and whistles are great if you'll actually use them. If not, you're paying extra for features that sound good at a dinner party but never actually get used.
- How does it look? Call us superficial, but if we're going to wear a tiny computer on our arm, we don't want it to look like a tiny computer on our arm.
- What did other people say? We don't mind standing out in a crowd and forming our own opinions, but we do consider buyer reviews from confirmed buyers. Glowing reviews en masse are as informative as critical reviews screaming "Buyer beware!"
Now, the fun part. Let's shop.
Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar: Save $100
It's impossible not to be impressed with the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar smart watch from Garmin. One of the top-of-the-line models, this is a long-running, multisport GPS tracker with a scratch-resistant Power Sapphire lens, which uses the sun to extend battery life.
Clever features like the built-in LED flashlight keep you illuminated after dark (dusk runners, hello!), while the 24/7 health and wellness tracker can also track sleep (and help you enhance it). GPS makes this watch incredibly accurate, a bonus for trail runners, adventurers, and anyone on the go. The 28-day battery life in smart watch mode was music to our ears.
We really like the look of the Fenix 7, which comes in nearly a dozen colors to suit every personality and taste.$892
Need more? If you like the idea of the ultimate adventurer's smart watch, but want to up your watch game slightly, we like Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition. The military-inspired designed with have you feeling like you're on a mission every time you step out, the navigation sensors and ski maps will keep you busy (and safe) all day.$1,599 at Amazon
Garmin Vivoactive 4: Save $60
When choosing a smart watch, we hate to let price dictate a purchase, but it's tough to deny the quality of Amazon's discount on the Garmin Vivoactive 4 GPS smartwatch. Keep track of everything from energy level, stress levels and sleep (sorry it can't find your keys, but they're probably still in the door, you're welcome), but it can track just about everything else.
Twenty preloaded indoor sports and GPS apps, including yoga, running, and swimming, can record all the ways you move, all day, all the time. Smart notifications keep you in touch with text messages and calendar reminders when paired with your mobile device.
We were impressed with the battery life, which can sustain one charge for up to 8 days in smartwatch mode, and up to 6 hours in GPS and music modes.
Available in two different sizes.$270 at Amazon
Runners, evaluate your current training methods to find if you need more or less on the road, all while listening to the best music via your watch. Training for a marathon, or just wanted to make your runs more efficient, this is the smart watch for you.$204 at Amazon
Garmin Instinct: Save $100
Boasting durability that can withstand life's adventures, the Garmin Instinct is shock and water resistant (up to 100 meters). Multiple navigation systems make for accurate tracking in rugged environments proving more accurate than GPS alone.
We like the track back feature for hiker, climbers, runners and adventurers to help navigate the back to your starting point. The battery life was a plus as well: 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 16 hours in GPS mode.
Train with preloaded activity profiles and monitor heartrate, activity and stress, to make this one of the most efficient smart watches, especially for the price!
Four color options available.$150 at Amazon
A hiker's necessity, Garmin's lightweight and compact satellite communicator allows you to navigate back to your starting point, share your location, and pairs with Garmin devices to receive messages and trigger an SOS. Some features require an active satellite subscription.$384 at Amazon
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro: Save $170
An older (shh, don't tell) cousin of the Fenix 7x, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro has a large 1.4 inch display (that's 36% larger than Fenix predecessors) and uses solar power to end battery life, which lasts up to 21 days in smartwatch mode and up to 165 hours in GPS mode.
Systems here, including sleep monitoring, pulse, and heart rate monitoring are advanced and can assist with altitude acclimation at high elevations (hikers, mountain climbers!)
Pre-loaded ski maps for more than 2,000 worldwide ski resorts make this the perfect accessory for the ski bunny in all of us.$420 at Amazon
Track tide changes and get anchor drag alerts with Garmin's marine GPS smart watch, the Garmin Quatix 7 Sapphire Edition. Called a "remarkable" wristwatch by one reviewer, sailors and fishermen and women, this is for you.$900 at Amazon
Shop more top-rated Garmin smart watches on Amazon
- Great for runners: Garmin Forerunner GPS running smartwatch, $204 (reduced from $350)
- Elevated style: Garmin Venu 2S smartwatch, $400
- Bright beautiful display: Garmin Epix Gen smartwatch, $900 (reduced from $1,000)
Best Garmin alternative: Apple Watch 8
Apple Watch Series 8 features advanced health sensors and apps, so you can take an ECG, measure heart rate and blood oxygen and track temperature changes for advanced insights into your menstrual cycle. And with crash detection, sleep stages tracking and advanced workout metrics, it helps you stay active, healthy, safe and connected.
The Apple Watch 8 is available in four colors. It pairs effortlessly with Apple iPhones, but note that the Apple Watch is largely incompatible with Android smartphones.$329 at Amazon
Apple Watch Ultra is also a top Garmin alternative
Key features of the Apple Watch Ultra:
- The most advanced Apple Watch, ever
- Designed for endurance athletes, outdoor adventurers and water sports enthusiasts
- Up to 36 hours of battery life
- Features a 49mm corrosion-resistant titanium case, Apple's largest
- Brightest always-on Retina display of any Apple Watch model
- Precision dual-frequency GPS for accuracy, distance, route and pace calculations
Android alternative, Galaxy Watch 5: Save $80
You need an Apple iPhone to get the most out of your Apple Watch. If you're an Android phone owner, consider going with the top-rated Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 instead. It's compatible with Android devices in a way that the Apple Watch 8 is not.
Key features of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5:
- Android compatible
- Comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes (larger is $30 extra)
- Auto workout tracking can identify running, swimming, rowing and more
- IP68 rated (water-resistant in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes)
- Measures blood oxygen saturation and monitors your heart (ECG functionality)
- Charge lasts for one to three days, depending on usage