The Garmin Forerunner 45 was a terrific running watch and our favourite budget option on the market at the time of its release. With the Garmin Forerunner 55, Garmin has built on everything that was great about its predecessor, with longer battery life and a selection of useful new features for runners, including daily suggested workouts, a recovery advisor and a track run mode.
However, the Forerunner 55 faces stiffer competition than its predecessor for the title of best budget running watch, with the impressive Coros Pace 2 available at the same price. So is it worth your money? Read on to find out.
Garmin Forerunner 55 review: What do you get for the money?
With a starting price of £180, the Forerunner 55 is Garmin’s latest entry-level running watch, although it’s worth highlighting that you can now pick up its predecessor, the Forerunner 45, for well under £150. Outside of Garmin’s own range of devices, its main competition comes from the Coros Pace 2 (£180) and the Polar Ignite 2 (£195).
Unlike the Forerunner 45, which also came in a smaller “S” variant, the Forerunner 55 only comes in the larger (albeit still very neat) 42mm size and has a 1.04in (26.3mm) 208 x 208 pixel screen. That’s a smaller and lower-resolution display than you’ll find on most other Garmins.
However, despite its entry-level position and diminutive stature, the 55 is packed full of impressive sports tracking and training analysis features, with several of those features trickling down from pricier models such as the Forerunner 245.
Indeed, it has all the vital sports tracking sensors you should ever need, including built-in GPS (plus GLONASS and Galileo), an accelerometer and Garmin’s Elevate heart-rate sensor. It also offers 20 hours of GPS battery life, and lasts up to 14 days in watch mode, both representing noticeable improvements on the Forerunner 45, which offered 13 hours of GPS and seven days in watch mode.
Weighing just 37g, it’s very comfortable to keep on your wrist 24/7, where it will track your everyday activity, stress levels and sleep, along with sports. The watch is waterproof to 50m and can track pool swims, but not open-water swimming. It can also connect to external sensors via both Bluetooth and ANT+.
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Garmin Forerunner 55 review: What’s new?
Two new features on the Forerunner 55 are not actually entirely new to the Forerunner 45 series. These are the race predictor, which gives you an estimated time for 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon races, and the recovery advisor, which tells you how long you need after each run to recover. Both appeared on the less-well-known Forerunner 45 Plus, which launched last year and was only available from Argos and Garmin directly.
The other new features on the Forerunner 55 have all been seen on other Garmins too, but never at this price point. Perhaps the star attraction is the suggested workouts you get each day. These are based on your recent training and will help ensure your runs are balanced between easy, tempo and interval sessions to help you improve.
Another new feature we’ve liked on other Garmins that has trickled down to the Forerunner 55 is PacePro, which is a smart pacing tool to help hit target times in races, especially on undulating courses.
Once you’ve set up a course in the Garmin Connect app, you can set your overall target time, then decide how you want to run the race – with a negative split (start slow and finish fast), a fast start, or even splits – as well as saying how hard you’d like to work on the uphills on your course. From this, your PacePro will give you a target time for each mile or kilometre split that you can follow to hit your overall target.
I’ve used PacePro on undulating half marathons and marathons and it helps you to judge your efforts on the uphills well, and even on a flat course can be a useful tool for running a negative split and avoid starting too fast and blowing up.
Garmin has also added its track run mode to the Forerunner 55. This provides more accurate distance tracking by using a clever algorithm to lock onto the track after a lap or two, which also means you get better pace information. It’s a useful mode and results in lovely GPS traces being sent to Strava, even if it’s not quite as reliable as using the white lines marking distance on the track itself.
Another new sports mode is pool swimming, an important addition that makes the Forerunner 55 far more rounded as a sports watch than its predecessor, though it still lacks a multisports mode and open-water swimming, which are both key for triathletes.
The Forerunner 55 also has access to the ConnectIQ app store, where you can add new watch faces and data fields (such as that for the Stryd footpod), as well as partner apps for some devices such as the Lumen metabolism tracker. The ConnectIQ app store is nowhere near as developed as what you get with a Wear OS smartwatch or Apple Watch, but there are some handy apps there and it will hopefully continue to grow.
Garmin Forerunner 55 review: What do we like?
The all-round experience you get with the Forerunner 55 is excellent, especially for runners. While it’s at the cheaper end of Garmin’s range, it has all the essentials that runners of all levels need, plus some handy bonuses such as those suggested workouts.
For new runners, the training guidance and recovery advice are very useful and can undoubtedly help you to improve as a runner, and learn about the different types of training it’s worth doing consistently. Garmin Coach’s structured training plans for 5K, 10K and half marathons (which you can sync to the watch from the Garmin Connect app) in particular are great for people training for those events for the first time, as well as for those aiming to hit a new PB.
The accuracy of the GPS and heart-rate tracking is also good. When it comes to GPS, the Forerunner 55 took a while to lock on the first time I used it, but it has been very swift since then, and the recorded distances have been broadly in line with other watches I use, and indeed my own expectations.
While optical heart-rate tracking from the wrist is never as reliable as using a chest strap, the Forerunner 55 performed very well in my testing, generally coming close to matching a chest strap’s readings beat for beat. There was one run where it went a bit skewiff, so if you plan on following the training and recovery advice closely in the long term, it’s worth buying a chest strap to pair with the watch, but for general, everyday heart-rate tracking, the Forerunner 55 is good enough.
The improved battery life is also very welcome. With the Forerunner 45, we found we had to charge it every four to five days when running outside almost every day. The Forerunner 55 got through a week consistently even when running 70-100km and doing some indoor workouts, and would last up to 10 days with lighter training.
While general activity tracking is not the focus of the Forerunner 55, it does it well, logging key stats such as steps and calories burned, monitoring your stress levels and rating your energy levels out of 100 with Garmin’s Body Battery feature. This information is presented well through engaging widgets on the watch and makes the Forerunner 55 more rounded than a simple sports watch.
Garmin Forerunner 55 review: How could it be better?
While the small size of the Forerunner 55 has its positives, in that it is so light and comfortable to wear, the smaller screen is not a plus, especially as it is fairly low resolution at 208 x 208 pixels. It’s not hard to read when on the run, but it falls short of the 240 x 240 display on most Garmins, let alone the bright, colourful screens that adorn most smart devices.
Garmin has opted not to include some fairly basic stuff on the watch too, such as a strength training mode. There is an HIIT mode and the trusty “other” option for your indoor workouts, but the full strength mode with rep tracking would have been a good addition.
There’s also no sleep tracking widget on the Forerunner 55, so you have to go into the Garmin Connect app to get the details on your night’s rest. Again, I see no reason for this not to be on the watch. Perhaps it will find its way onto the Forerunner 55 in a later update, but the fact that Garmin opted to add things like track mode and suggested workouts on a new model rather than updating the Forerunner 45 suggests it’s not likely.
Garmin Forerunner 55 review: Should I buy it?
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is a great running watch and a step up from what Garmin has offered at this price before, and that’s likely a response to the release of the excellent Coros Pace 2, which costs the same amount.
When it comes to features, the Pace 2 has the edge. It offers more battery life at 30 hours of GPS tracking, and a bigger, higher-resolution screen. There’s also a multisport mode for triathletes and the option to measure running power natively from the wrist, along with detailed training analysis via Coros’s excellent new EvoLab features.
The Forerunner 55 has some neat tricks the Pace 2 doesn’t, though, including those suggested workouts and its PacePro feature, so although more experienced runners and sporty types might prefer the Pace 2’s wider feature set, new runners are still probably better off with the Forerunner 55.
It also offers more general activity tracking including stress monitoring and Garmin’s Body Battery measurement, and the Forerunner 55 perhaps also has the edge in terms of the all-round user experience. Its five-button design, in particular, makes it easier to navigate the watch’s menus compared to the twirly knob on the Coros.
Outside of these two devices, you won’t find anything as good from other brands in terms of sports features at this price, though it’s well worth considering the older Forerunner 45 if the new features on the Forerunner 55 don’t excite you. It’s still a great running watch and can sometimes be found for close to £100 in sales.