If you’re looking to invest in one of the best Garmin watches, but you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars, we’re here to help. While a lot of the more premium watches in the Garmin range have fancy extras like Solar charging and touchscreens, if you’re just looking for a running watch that’ll help you keep on top of your training, show you your stats on your run and have the option to track a swim or your cycle commute, you probably don’t need to spend upwards of $300.
Below, we put two of Garmin’s most popular, and most affordable running watches side by side to help you work out which is best for you and your training needs. We’ll be comparing Garmin Forerunner 55 and the Garmin Forerunner 245 to see which running watch is best for you.
It's worth noting, the Garmin Forerunner 245 has now been replaced by the Garmin Forerunner 255, making it even more affordable. We'll be doing a Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 255 soon, but in the meantime, check out the Garmin Forerunner 245 vs Garmin Forerunner 255 face-off here.
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is Garmin’s entry-level running watch, which at the time of writing costs $169 on the Garmin website, and Amazon. By contrast, the Garmin Forerunner 245 costs $224 on Garmin and Amazon or $274 if you want the Music edition, which has the option to hold up to 500 songs on the watch, allowing you to leave your phone at home when you head out for a run. On Amazon, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is $259.
The Forerunner 55 was released in June 2021, whereas the Forerunner 245 was released in April 2019, so it is likely Garmin will be upgrading the older watch soon.
If money isn’t an object, go for the Forerunner 245, as, as you’ll see below, it has more features, and you’re likely to find it on offer right now ahead of the rumored release of the Forerunner 255. That said, $100 is a lot of money, and if you’re on a budget or just getting into running, you’re still getting a fantastic piece of kit with the Forerunner 55.
Winner: Garmin Forerunner 55
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Specs at a glance
|Header Cell - Column 0
|Garmin Forerunner 55
|Garmin Forerunner 245
|Battery life (smartwatch mode)
|Battery life (GPS mode)
|24 hours without music/ 6 hours with music
|Yes (on Forerunner 245 Music)
|Advanced performance metrics
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Design and display
On the wrist, both the Garmin Forerunner 55 and the Garmin Forerunner 245 look incredibly similar — they both have a 42mm case, a large, round screen, and five buttons, three on the left and two on the right, that allow you to navigate around the watch.
The display is slightly bigger on the Forerunner 245 at 30.4mm compared to the Forerunner 55’s 26.3mm, plus the Forerunner 245 has a slightly better resolution at 240 x 240 pixels, compared to the 203 x 203 pixels on the Forerunner 55.
Both screens are bright and easy to read, even in direct sunlight. They also both look nice on the wrist — during testing we found neither watch looked overly large on the wrist, and both are available in a few different colors. They also both come with a silicone sports strap, but are both compatible with Garmin’s quick release bands, so you can swap the strap for a metal or leather strap should you wish.
Winner: Garmin Forerunner 245 — while you probably wouldn’t notice the difference on the run, the Forerunner 245 has a larger screen, with a slightly higher resolution
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Battery life
Unlike your smartphone, or smartwatches like the Apple Watch 7, with both watches, you can easily go a good few days between charges. The Garmin Forerunner 55 has a slightly longer battery life than the Forerunner 245 in smartwatch mode, lasting two weeks, compared to the 245’s seven days. This is down to the higher resolution screen, and the fact that the Forerunner 55 is a newer watch.
In GPS mode, however, the Forerunner 245 can last up to 24 hours, whereas the Forerunner 55 can last up to 20. It is worth noting, however, that if you’re listening to music on the Forerunner 245 this number dwindles dramatically to just six hours.
Winner: Garmin Forerunner 55 — looking at the watches side by side, we’d say there’s really not all that much in it when you compare the time between charges. As we’ve mentioned, however, the Forerunner 245 is an older watch, and it’s likely the battery life would be improved when Garmin next updates the watch.
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Fitness tracking and features
Of course, the main purpose of any running watch is to track your stats on the run and give you live feedback to help make you a better runner. Both watches can track indoor and outdoor runs, indoor and outdoor bike rides, swimming, cardio, elliptical sessions, and yoga. They’ll both also track your daily steps, heart rate, stress, sleep, and menstrual tracking. They also both use the same Garmin Connect app, which is a valuable tool and helps make it easy to see all of your health data in simple graphs and graphics.
Both watches are able to tell you things like your VO2 max, your recommended recovery time after a run, and your body battery — a useful tool that looks at your activity levels, heart rate variability, and stress levels to help you see at a glance how prepared you are for a difficult workout. Both also have the PacePro feature, which stops you from starting a race too fast, and suggested workouts, as well as the LiveTrack and Incident Detection safety features.
You can also use the Garmin Coach tool on both watches, allowing you to download training plans onto the watch. There’s a number of different plans in the Garmin Connect app, ranging from a 5K, to a marathon.
So how are they different? The Forerunner 55 is often considered to be the ‘light’ version of the Forerunner 245, and this is mainly due to the fact that there aren’t as many advanced performance metrics on the watch. The Forerunner 245 has the ability to track more sports modes, including indoor rowing, outdoor track running and trail running (although it doesn’t have Pilates and HIIT modes, which are available on the Forerunner 55). You can also use Training Status, Training Load, and Training Effect metrics on the Forerunner 245, which help you see how your training is progressing over time — handy if you’re working towards a race or distance goal.
The Forerunner 245 also has mapping capabilities, which are especially handy for trail runners or hikers. Features such as breadcrumbing, which allow you to see at a glance where you are on a map, are useful if you’re regularly heading out to explore.
From a health perspective, the Forerunner 245 has the ability to track your Pulse Ox levels, or blood oxygen saturation. While this sounds awfully technical, it does help you get clearer sleep data and notice conditions like sleep apnea, that might affect your recovery.
Winner: Forerunner 245 — there’s no doubt about it, the Forerunner 245 is a better watch with more features. That said, if you’re a beginner, or you’re not really into trail running, we’d argue you’re unlikely to use the extra sports modes and training metrics, so save your money on the cheaper watch.
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Smartwatch features
Both watches have all the basic smartwatch features we’ve come to expect from our wearables including weather, the ability to read messages on the move, calendar reminders, and things like find my phone and find my watch.
From a smartwatch perspective, the main difference between the two watches is that, if you buy the Forerunner 245 music edition, you have the option to upload music to the watch, or listen from Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music, and leave your phone at home.
Verdict: Garmin Forerunner 55 — Again, we’d argue that there’s not enough of a difference between the watches to warrant the extra price tag, especially if you don’t buy the Music edition of the Forerunner 245. That said, if you’re striving for a PR or you hate running with your phone, the music option is handy, but for most, the features on the Forerunner 55 are enough.
Garmin Forerunner 55 vs Garmin Forerunner 245: Verdict
So, which running watch should you buy? The best running watch for you is the one that has the features you need to reach your goals. If you’re a beginner, the Forerunner 55 has everything you’d need and more. We’d also argue that even if you’re a more experienced runner on a budget, you’ll probably find all you need on the Forerunner 55.
That said, if you can afford it, the Forerunner 245 is a more advanced watch, with extra training metrics, trail running features and (if you buy the music version), the ability to store music on the watch and leave your phone at home when you run. Whether that’s worth the extra $100 or so is a personal decision, but as the watch has been around for a while, you’re likely to find on-sale or refurbished models for a cheaper price.
Either way, both watches are a brilliant investment and will make it easier to track your training.
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Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.