Garmin vs Apple Watch: Which Is Best For Runners?

Garmin and Apple Watches are currently the most popular smartwatches in the world. But there are a few good reasons why we keep coming back to Garmin as our running watch of choice.

As a runner, a smartwatch can take your training to the next level. Being able to track your performance and engage with the online fitness community is hugely insightful, motivating, and keeps us committed. Garmin has embraced this with a series of smartwatches that are targeted at us: the running community.

It’s a winning formula.

The Apple Watch, by comparison, is a mainstream fitness tracker with better lifestyle analytics and a wider range of features. A very good watch, but a jack of all trades. Garmin devices are primarily GPS watches made for running. They typically have much longer battery life, more accurate GPS mapping and unrivalled navigation.

So, let’s talk Garmin vs Apple Watch for runners – which should you choose? And why?

In this guide, we compare Garmin and Apple watches by looking at their features, performance, design, functionality, user interface, and, for many, the deciding factor – the price.

Best Apple Watch For Performance Tracking
Best Garmin Watch For Long Distance Runners
Best Garmin Watch For Regular Runners
Description:

The latest advanced Apple Watch features powerful health innovations like sensors and apps to measure your blood oxygen, as well as great safety features for runners - like fall detection.

Description:

This long-running solar powered multisport GPS watch is built for distance runners who need excellent battery life and best-in-class navigation for trail running.


Description:

The Forerunner 245 Music is one of the most popular running watches in the world. It has storage for your favorite tunes and excellent data crunching for the everyday runner.

4.5
5.0
4.5
$358.78
$897.97
$289.00
Best Apple Watch For Performance Tracking
Description:

The latest advanced Apple Watch features powerful health innovations like sensors and apps to measure your blood oxygen, as well as great safety features for runners - like fall detection.

4.5
$358.78
Best Garmin Watch For Long Distance Runners
Description:

This long-running solar powered multisport GPS watch is built for distance runners who need excellent battery life and best-in-class navigation for trail running.


5.0
$897.97
Best Garmin Watch For Regular Runners
Description:

The Forerunner 245 Music is one of the most popular running watches in the world. It has storage for your favorite tunes and excellent data crunching for the everyday runner.

4.5
$289.00
02/21/2024 09:09 pm GMT

Garmin Vs Apple Watch For Runners

Garmin vs Apple Watch

Garmin watches are designed for the fitness crowd, whereas Apple Watches are smartwatches that have more lifestyle features. That being said, the top of the range Garmin and Apple Watches are neck-and-neck when it comes to value adding functionality: like fitness tracking, contactless payments and providing access to multimedia.

Both Garmin and Apple devices are great for running, but to choose which brand and model to go with, you need to consider what you want to get out of the watch. Are you wanting a fitness tracker, or do you need an accurate wrist-based GPS? What data are you interested in tracking – the basics or more advanced running metrics?

Are you more interested in your sleep cycles, or optimising your step cadence for that next 5K?

Let’s compare the Garmin watches and Apple Watch Series. Seeing the pros and cons of each will give you a great idea of which one is right for you. 

Accuracy Of GPS

Both Garmin and Apple use GPS navigation to help you plan your route. While Garmin uses Galileo, GLONASS, and GPS, Apple has recently added QZSS and BeiDou navigation services to its bouquet, increasing their navigational function and accuracy. 

Garmin has always been a frontrunner in the race for the best GPS functionality; Apple has certainly improved its navigational accuracy with the release of the Series 8 watch. The lower-range Apple watches, like the SE and Watch 3, still only use GPS, whereas Garmin uses GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo in all their products.

Verdict: Unless you spring the extra cash for an Apple Series 8 watch, Garmin is the winner in this category.

Heart Rate Monitor

Garmin and Apple both allow for effective heart rate monitoring that will track your heart rate while running or at rest during a run. While Garmin allows additional monitoring capabilities via a chest strap, Apple has included ECG monitoring on their latest watch, the Series 8. 

Verdict: Both Garmin and Apple smartwatches are great for tracking your heart rate, with Garmin edging slightly ahead in the game with their chest strap addition. Those able to spend a little more will enjoy ECG monitoring with the Series 8 watch. 

Navigation And Mapping 

Apple Watches are great for most outdoor activities thanks to their built-in GPS tracking. Still, Garmin provides even more accurate tracking thanks to the topographical maps, route navigation, and breadcrumb trail capabilities of the Garmin Fenix.

While both options are better than running with your phone, the Garmin Fenix is miles ahead with its excellent navigation functions and features. 

GPS Trails

Verdict: The higher-end Garmin Fenix is the ultimate navigation and mapping tool for runners who want the freedom to run where they want, while lower-end Garmin watches are pretty much on par with the features of the Apple Watch.

Running Metrics 

Tracking your metrics is one way to ensure that you are making the most of your run, and it can be used to measure your performance, fitness level, and even your stride length. 

Garmin detects your stride length, cadence, pace, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation while running, which can significantly improve your running performance. These features are standard on all Garmin products and great for those who take running seriously. 

Apple, however, only offers cadence, stride length, and pace monitoring, with additional metrics available via the paid-for Apple Fitness Plus App. 

Verdict: Both Apple and Garmin smartwatches offer incredible running metrics, but Garmin offers them for free, a big plus for those who don’t want to pay for additional apps and features. 

Battery Life

This is one category where Garmin wins, hands down. With even the entry-level Venu boasting a battery life of between 2 and 5 days with the GPS on, it is still miles ahead of the latest Apple Series 8, whose battery life is roughly 6 hours with GPS mode activated. 

Garmin is definitely the better choice for long-distance runners or those who spend their days out on trail runs, and it boasts a terrific battery life across its entire range. Their higher-end watches also come with solar charging capabilities, which is ideal for ultra runners.

Verdict: Garmin watches are vastly superior for battery life. If you are a runner who wants to get up and go without worrying about a limited battery, Garmin wins every time. This is particularly the case for ultra runners, or anybody participating in a multi-day event.

Supported Running Apps

Garmin and Apple both have app stores where runners can choose between and download thousands of apps that will help them improve their running performance. 

Apple uses the Apple App Store, while Garmin has its own dedicated app store – the Connect IQ store. While Apple users are spoilt for choice, Garmin allows syncing with popular running apps like Nike Run Club, RunKeeper, and Strava. 

Inside Garmin Connect

Verdict: We’ll crown this one a tie as both the Garmin and Apple range of smartwatches allow third-party apps to be downloaded and used on their devices.

See more: our pick of the best apps for Apple Watch!

Virtual Running Coach

Choose from one of three expert running coaches to help you build a personalized and adaptive training program when you choose Garmin. A useful feature that can help you set goals and improve your running performance, the Garmin Coach feature is free to use. 

Time predictor on the Garmin Fenix

Apple provides the same kind of service, but this is a paid-for feature that uses third-party applications downloaded from the Apple App Store. While some are free, others require a monthly subscription to use. 

There is no better virtual running coach than that of the performance tracker Whoop, but those provided by Garmin and Apple are more than sufficient for most runners.

Verdict: Garmin is the clear winner again, as their Garmin Coach feature is free and easy to use. While there might be better third-party apps, many are available as paid-for features for Apple Watch users.

Music Features

There’s nothing quite like listening to your favorite songs while running, right? The Garmin and Apple watches allow you to listen to music sans your phone as they connect to many music apps where you can make your running playlists. 

Apple watches allow you to download music onto your watch, while Garmin syncs with popular music apps via PC or smartphone.

The Garmin Forerunner (see our series comparison) and Fenix can connect to a range of music apps, allowing you to download playlists for your runs. You can also upload and store music from your PC or smartphone. 

Verdict: While both Garmin and Apple watches allow you to stream or store your favorite songs, Garmin is not as flexible and does not allow flexibility in terms of their syncing in their cheaper options. This makes Apple the winner in the music category. 

Design And Watch Display

There is no denying that Apple is known for its sleek, sexy-looking design across its entire product range, and the Apple Watch is no different. Whether you opt for the Watch 3 or the Series 8, quality and incredible display are just two features you can expect from Apple. The screens are larger, have touchscreen capability, and have a crystal-clear display.

Garmin products are by no means of lesser quality and are designed to be viewed outdoors. They do not offer touchscreen capability, and the screen is smaller, coming in at about 1.3 inches versus the 1.9-inch screen of the Apple Series 8. 

Garmin offers a wider range of smartwatch designs. All the models have round watch faces, except the Venu SQ. Some models, like the Forerunner, are designed to wear only while you run, whereas the Venu and Fenix have a sleeker design and are intended for all-day wear. 

Verdict: Apple wins the prize for having a large crystal-clear display that is easy to operate and view.

Garmin Watches For Running

Garmin has long been a top contender in the smartwatch industry and features several great products that can be used for just about any sport. Makers of navigation systems for ships and planes, Garmin knows a thing or two about the best GPS applications and tools, which is ideal for runners who want to map out their runs or come up with their own trails.

Best Garmin For Most Runners
For Additional Health Tracking
For Long Distance & Trail Runners
Description:

Entry level running watch with solid GPS and heart-rate monitor.

Description:

Mid-level watch that provides some welcome extra fitness and health tracking capabilities.

Description:

Advanced multisport GPS watch that does it all - superb detailed tracking and analysis of workouts.

4.5
4.0
5.0
$199.00
$399.99
$480.73
Best Garmin For Most Runners
Description:

Entry level running watch with solid GPS and heart-rate monitor.

4.5
$199.00
For Additional Health Tracking
Description:

Mid-level watch that provides some welcome extra fitness and health tracking capabilities.

4.0
$399.99
For Long Distance & Trail Runners
Description:

Advanced multisport GPS watch that does it all - superb detailed tracking and analysis of workouts.

5.0
$480.73
02/22/2024 12:03 am GMT
  • The Garmin Forerunner is an entry-level device with all the basic functionalities of a GPS running watch. It tracks your heart rate, steps, VO2 max, and sleep, and you can also receive notifications from your phone. This model is brilliant if you want a high-quality running watch that does not break the bank.
  • The Garmin Venu is a mid-range watch with a more stylish design and additional features. The Venu SQ has a square face, making it resemble an Apple Watch. In addition to GPS tracking and all the basic functionalities, you can track health metrics like hydration, stress, and menstrual cycle. It comes with guided runs with a Garmin virtual running coach. It has a heart rate monitor and a pulse oximeter. You can also make contactless payments with Garmin Pay and view your smartphone notifications.
  • The Garmin Fenix 6 is a high-end watch geared toward athletes that want to track every aspect of their running. It has a premium range of features and excellent GPS functionality. It can even detect whether you are running on a treadmill, road, or trail.
  • The Garmin Fenix 7 offers everything we saw with the 6 Series. Still, it improves the device’s heart rate tracking and makes a noticeable improvement to GPS tracking, which we found particularly useful on trail runs (one of the core appeals of this watch).

Apple Watch Series

Apple Watches are designed to be the best all-round smartwatch on the market, especially if you are already an iPhone user. They are not specifically made for sports or fitness tracking and have a wide variety of useful lifestyle features. Apple Fitness Plus is an app for Apple Watches that is designed for tracking fitness and offers guided workouts.

  • The Apple Watch 3 is the entry-level model and the first Apple Watch we found viable for running. It has a GPS, heart rate, step, and sleep tracker, and you can make contactless payments with Apple Pay. As well as viewing notifications from your smartphone, you can respond to them via text or voice. 
  • The Apple Watch SE is a mid-range model with all the features of the Apple Watch 3, plus a few more. With a larger face, and faster processor, this GPS watch performs well, and the display looks great. You can unlock it with your eyes, and it tracks your elevation in real time.    
  • The Apple Watch 7 is one of the latest and most durable Apple watches we have tested. It has all the features of the Apple Watch SE and a pulse oximeter and ECG sensor. These metrics give you deeper insight into your overall fitness. It’s packed full of fitness tracking features and advanced sleep monitoring.
  • The Apple Watch 8 has now arrived and this too is an excellent (if expensive) choice for runners. The main additional features are crash/fall detection and body temperature monitoring. In our opinion, it’s not a significant upgrade for runners over the excellent 7 series.

Apple Watch 8 Vs Garmin Fenix 7

Garmin vs Apple Watch for runners
Garmin vs Apple Watch for runners: Which is the better smartwatch?

Apple Watch 8 vs Garmin Fenix 7 – which should you choose?

Let’s look at how these two watches compare regarding the most popular features runners use. 

Garmin Fenix 7Apple Watch 8
GPS Tracking AccuracyExcellent – Highly accurateImproved accuracy over the Series 7. Now links to GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou satellites
Heart Rate MonitorWrist or chest-based sensors to accurately track heart rateWrist-based sensors. Series 8 includes ECG monitoring 
Other SensorsAltimeter, Barometer, Pulse Oximeter, CompassAltimeter, ECG, and Pulse Oximeter
Running MetricsPace, stride length, cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillationPace, stride length, cadence
NavigationGPS, Galileo, GLONASSGPS, Galileo, GLONASS, QZSS, BeiDou 
Virtual Running CoachFree – Garmin CoachPaid-for third-party application
Safety FeaturesEmergency alerts and accident detectionEmergency alerts and accident detection
Battery LifeUp to 1 week on GPS mode and offers solar charging capabilities18 to 36 hours
Display Size1.3 inch diameter1.9 inch diameter
Apple Watch vs Garmin Fenix – a comparison of features

Price Of Garmin And Apple Watches

The Series 8 is the most expensive of the Apple Watches, followed by the Apple Watch SE. The most affordable is the Series 3. You will get the basic Apple Watch experience with the Series 3, but if you need a more accurate heart rate monitor, an oximeter, and ECG, you have to go for the Series 7, 8, or SE. 

Apple Watches cost between $160 and $400 for the most basic models. Garmin running watches cost from $150 to $400 for the base models. More expensive versions with additional features are available.

The most affordable Garmin is the Venu SQ. They start at around $150. Next, the Forerunner 55 is about $200.

The Fenix series are the most expensive Garmin running watches. They range from $450 to over $600. 

The Fenix 7 was released with a starting price point of $699, making it one of the most expensive running watches on the market. You will find that the most expensive models are those that offer solar charging, an advanced method of battery management on the move that is particularly useful for distance runners!

What’s Better For Runners – Garmin Or Apple Watch?

Best smartwatch for running
Apple Watch vs Garmin for runners

Choosing a running watch is very much a personal choice influenced by the type of running you do, how serious you are about running and fitness, and of course, brand loyalty and price. 

If money was no object and you could choose any running watch on the market, which would you choose? 

Runners who already own Apple products like a smartwatch or notebook are more likely to choose an Apple Watch that will sync with their existing products rather than spend money on a completely different brand like Garmin, no matter how many functions it has or how incredible the features are.

Our Verdict: Garmin Still Leads The Way

But, for those who take their running seriously and want a smartwatch that will help them increase their running performance or fitness levels, there is simply no match for the Garmin range of products.

From the entry-level Venu to the latest Fenix 7, Garmin has consistently improved the design and features of their range of smartwatches with every generation they release to the public. 

The long battery life that Garmin watches offer makes them a much better option for long-distance runners. Even the top of the range Apple Watch cannot function long enough to track an ultra marathon. Additionally, the latest versions of the Garmin Fenix (and the Garmin Enduro) also offer solar charging, which is a real game changer for any runner looking to advance beyond marathon distance on the trails. It makes the Garmin device the watch of choice for the ultra-running crowd.

If you are new to running and are looking for a fitness tracker that can measure basic running metrics, the best value for money is the Garmin Venu or Forerunner 55. Garmin watches have better accuracy when it comes to GPS tracking and monitoring your heart rate.

When choosing between the Garmin Fenix 7 and Apple Watch 8, the Garmin is the better sports watch for running. The Apple Watch doesn’t have anywhere near as many fitness features, although it does include an ECG monitor for improved heart rate tracking. This is important for those serious about running and training as often as possible for that upcoming marathon or ultra event. 

If you are happy to pay more for incredible features that will help you up your running game, the brand-new Garmin Fenix 7 is the running watch for all runners – regardless of skill level or running experience, and has an easy-to-use interface. While it still has the same screen size as the Fenix 6 – 1.3 inches – the watch now features a crystal clear AMOLED display that allows easy viewing in all lighting conditions. 

Our verdict is in, and it’s clear that Garmin is still the best watch for those who want to track and improve their running performance. While the Apple Series 8 has some pretty nifty new features over the Series 7, it remains a premium lifestyle watch rather than a dedicated running watch.

Best Apple Watch For Performance Tracking
Best Garmin Watch For Long Distance Runners
Best Garmin Watch For Regular Runners
Description:

The latest advanced Apple Watch features powerful health innovations like sensors and apps to measure your blood oxygen, as well as great safety features for runners - like fall detection.

Description:

This long-running solar powered multisport GPS watch is built for distance runners who need excellent battery life and best-in-class navigation for trail running.


Description:

The Forerunner 245 Music is one of the most popular running watches in the world. It has storage for your favorite tunes and excellent data crunching for the everyday runner.

4.5
5.0
4.5
$358.78
$897.97
$289.00
Best Apple Watch For Performance Tracking
Description:

The latest advanced Apple Watch features powerful health innovations like sensors and apps to measure your blood oxygen, as well as great safety features for runners - like fall detection.

4.5
$358.78
Best Garmin Watch For Long Distance Runners
Description:

This long-running solar powered multisport GPS watch is built for distance runners who need excellent battery life and best-in-class navigation for trail running.


5.0
$897.97
Best Garmin Watch For Regular Runners
Description:

The Forerunner 245 Music is one of the most popular running watches in the world. It has storage for your favorite tunes and excellent data crunching for the everyday runner.

4.5
$289.00
02/21/2024 09:09 pm GMT
Author Profile

Alex Randall

Photo of author
Alex is the editor at Revel Sports. It was his idea to take our post-club-run chats and build a website out of them. He is responsible for dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when any of us have something to post. (Basically: it’s all his fault). A ferocious 5K powerhouse on his day, Alex is known for not understanding the meaning of the term ‘negative split‘.
Alex Randall

Revel SPorts Contributor

1 thought on “Garmin vs Apple Watch: Which Is Best For Runners?”

  1. Hi, great article, but the AW (at least since the 4( allow external HR chest strap to be linked too. I regularly use to with a Polar H10 chest strap for running. Can you correct that? 🙂 Just not to give misleading information! Thanks!

    Reply

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