When you think ‘running watch’, chances are the first brand that comes to mind is Garmin. Its line of wearables ranges from simple and affordable trackers to premium tech-laden smartwatches.
Here at Run Mummy Run, we’re most excited by the models and features designed to support active women. From smaller bezel options on some watches to in-built safety features and women’s health tracking, Garmin has made great strides when it comes to creating inclusive wearable tech to support your wellbeing. Oh, and do a fantastic job of tracking your runs of course!
We were given the chance to test the newest additions to the running-centric Forerunner® line of watches. Our two testers have been putting the premium running smartwatch, Forerunner® 955 Solar, and the accessible Forerunner® 255 Music, through their paces for the last few weeks. Here’s what they thought…
Garmin Forerunner® 955 Solar
At a glance info
RRP: £549.99 (£479.99 without Solar)
Colours: Black or Whitestone
Garmin shop link: https://www.garmin.com/en-GB/p/777730/pn/010-02638-20
Tested by: Julie Bassett
When it comes to watches, runners tend to fall into one of two camps. There are those who just want a simple GPS watch that they can start and stop, get accurate data on distance and pace, and not really need anything more than that. And then there are those who spend time post-run, sat in a sweaty heap on the sofa, analysing every stride of their run, pouring over the stats and updating their training log. I, quite happily, fit into the latter group.
And for a running (and everything else) stats lover, the new Forerunner® 955 Solar is absolutely packed with information. It takes a little time to get to grips with everything the watch can do, but it’s highly customisable, so after a few weeks of wearing and playing, it’s quite easy to drill down into the data you want to see.
First impressions of this watch are that it looks like the workhorse it is. If you’re looking for dainty or delicate, then this might not be the one for you. I’ve been using the Forerunner® 945 for a while, and as this new model is the same size, I’m quite accustomed to it. I have small wrists, but don’t find it overly bulky, though others might. I quite like a chunky running watch if I’m honest; as a trip-prone trail runner, I like something that feels robust. Your colour options are black or white… but it is compatible with the QuickFit® 22 watch bands, of which there are loads of colour options.
One thing that I love about this watch is that it has both a touchscreen and buttons. In the past I did have a fully touchscreen model, and it just wasn’t for me. I found the touchscreen hard to navigate mid-run or in bad weather conditions. The previous 945 model has just button control, so I’m used to that, but I actually really like the combined approach. It seems very intuitive and I naturally perform some functions on-screen and some via buttons. Having been using the previous model for a while, I found it quite an easy transition to this watch, though I’d definitely recommend some time spent in the owner’s manual, just to grasp the numerous features.
So, first things first, what about running? The GPS has been super fast to lock on with every run I’ve done, and the battery life is impressive. It claims to last 20 days in just smartwatch mode, but as I’ve taken it out for a run multiple times a week, I can’t say if that’s true or not. It seems realistic though, given that I have been charging it about once a week, and that’s with using all the features, tracking runs and other activities. It promises 42 hours in GPS mode and up to 49 hours when solar charging. I’ve never had a watch with solar charging before, so that was a novelty. You don’t need to do anything specific – the solar charging works when you expose the watch to the right conditions, ie 50,000 lux, for a period of time. If that means as much to you as it did me, then a quick Google tells me that 100,000 lux is a bright, sunny day and 50,000 is a sunny but slightly overcast day. Basically, if you’re doing a long run on a sunny day, you’ll eke a little longer out of the battery as long as you don’t cover your watch. As someone who likes to run ultramarathons, that is good news for me!
I am a huge fan of workouts on Garmin watches. I often use the built-in training programmes via the Garmin Connect app to reach certain goals. Since I got the 955, I’ve been following a 10K programme and it’s really got me focused. I love the fact that the day’s sessions are ready and waiting on my watch, and all I have to do is press start and follow the instructions. The layout on the 955 for workouts seems much neater than the 945, which makes them easier to follow. I did have to turn sounds off after the first session though, as I got annoyed with the constant beeping! I’ve switched to vibration only, so I still have feedback when I need to do something.
I’ve been really impressed with all the other data points that the watch can measure. I find things like the Body Battery and sleep monitoring really interesting, helping me identify the best times to train. New to me is the Training Readiness feature, which takes into account how recovered I am from my last session to determine how ready I am for the next one. I’ve seen a real improvement in my training by following its recommendations. Another new feature that I really like is the Morning Report – this gives you a snapshot each day of how you slept, how recovered you are and even things like the weather (it’s customisable too). I find that this sets my focus for the day.
I’ve been using this watch for a few weeks now and I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of what it can do. It’s by far the most comprehensive watch I’ve had the pleasure to run with. There is so much about it I love and use regularly. I run alone most of the time, and prefer the trails; I’m quite prone to finding a new footpath sign and following an urge to see where it goes. I use LiveTrack so someone knows where I am, and I couldn’t be without the mapping features that show me the way back… the colour maps on this watch are brilliant.
The fact is that this watch isn’t cheap. You’re buying a premium running watch here. If you’re not going to use the data and you don’t need an exceptionally long battery life, you might prefer the Forerunner® 255 (reviewed below) or something like the entry-level Forerunner® 55. But, if you’re looking for something to enhance your training, to track your wellbeing, to analyse your performance and to support you through longer runs, especially off road, then this could be your perfect running partner.
Garmin Forerunner® 255 Music
At a glance info
RRP: £349.99 (£299.99 without Music)
Colours: Black or Whitestone (41mm or 46mm, with music); Light Pink or Powder Grey (41mm, no music); Tidal Blue or Slate Grey (46mm, no music)
Tested by: Tracy Linger
Oh my goodness! What a watch!
When I was asked to review the Garmin Forerunner® 255 Music, I jumped at the chance. I thought my previous watch (Garmin Forerunner® 235) had all that I would ever want or need it to do, but the 255 has so much more to offer – I’m finding new features every day.
Also available in black, I opted for the white version. It goes well with all the other clothes I wear for work etc, so it looks good as an everyday watch as well as a sports watch. It’s also not too big, so it looks rather feminine (there are two case sizes available: Small 41mm or Standard 46mm). It has a long battery life, so it doesn’t need charging very often. According to the stats, the watch can last 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 30 hours in GPS mode. Obviously the more intensively you use it, and if you use the music function as you run, then it will run down quicker, but it’s still impressive.
As a sports tracker, there are so many options on the watch to choose from. There is, obviously, running (with a variety of options for treadmill or trail running), but there’s also swimming, open water swimming, triathlon, multisport, ski, MTB, snowboard, rowing, yoga… the list just keeps on going. And speaking of trackers, the safety features are really good too. I went for a run thinking that I could cope with the temperature. I couldn’t – fortunately I’d set the LiveTrack feature up so my husband could see where I was when I needed to be picked up. The Assistance and Incident Detection features are also great for peace of mind while running alone.
The Garmin Connect IQ app is handy for finding other apps and widgets that can be downloaded onto the watch. For example, I’m a keen ‘jeffer’ (What is Jeffing?) so I had great pleasure choosing an intervals app to suit me. I’ve also downloaded the Women’s Health app by Garmin, which enables me to track my cycle dates and tell me when my period is predicted to arrive, but also allows me to track symptoms etc (including menopause and perimenopause) by logging them via my watch.
The Garmin Connect app keeps a log of several factors during my day, such as the quality of sleep I had, my stress levels, my Body Battery, my training status and HRV status (and much more), and the usual heart rate, steps and calories. I found it really interesting how my watch knew how tired I was, and it then advised on whether I would need to rest before I did some exercise or if now would be a good time to run. It always got it right! All of these stats are also shown on the watch for ease of reference. The 255 also suggests a run of a certain length each time you use it (known as Suggested Workouts), which is handy if you’re not sure what to do each day. The Suggested Workouts on this has been enhanced so it will actually give you suggestions for the seven days ahead too.
My favourite feature of this watch has to be the fact that I can play music on it. I’ve linked it to my Amazon Music account, and then downloaded my ‘liked’ songs onto my watch. I’ve not had a watch with this function before so I was a little nervous whether I’d be able to do it, but it was really simple and the instructions were easy to follow. Paired with my Bluetooth headphones, I can now listen to all those songs (and keep adding more if I want to), controlling them with my watch, without having to use my phone. I still tend to take my phone out with me to enable the safety features just in case, but at least I can keep it securely in my belt and not have to get it out each time I want to control my music.
All in all, I highly recommend this watch. Just when you thought Garmin couldn’t get better – they go and do it again!
If you have any questions about either of these watches, leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.
*Garmin gifted these watches to our reviewers to enable them to test the features. While Garmin is a Family Partner of Run Mummy Run, these reviews were written independently and reflect the honest opinions of the reviewers.