Garmin Forerunner 55 Review: My Experience Using Garmin's Latest GPS Running Watch
Garmin's latest running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 55, comes packed with lots of new features. Many of which are only found on more expensive running watches. Until now.
In this detailed review, I look at all the new features and share my experience with its accuracy and performance.
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Who is the Garmin 55 for?
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is aimed at runners who require basic features like built-in gps tracking, distance and pace tracking, incident detection, training suggestions, recovery advisor, and heart rate tracking but don't need advanced features typically found in the more expensive Garmin 245, Garmin 745, Garmin 945 or Fenix models. Additionally, the Garmin 55 make a great fitness watch that comes with fitness tracking, sleep tracking, calorie tracking, respiration rate and stress tracking.
The Garmin 55 is the perfect running watch for most runners. Let's be real. Unless you are a data-nerd, or a triathlete who needs more swim and bike features, most features found in more expensive models are simply nice to have features, not something you need.
I own several GPS running watches like the Garmin 45, 245 and Fenix 5 and 6, but I rarely use features beyond basic distance GPS tracking, heart rate, and pace management. ALL of which are found in the Garmin 55 and Garmin 45.
In Case You Don't Have Time to Read the Whole Review...
As a running coach, I love Garmin's. The Garmin Forerunner 55 (and Forerunner 45 which I review here) are great running watches and I have zero, nada, zilch issues recommending either of them.
This particular watch is accurate, has amazing battery life, and comes packed with tons of features and improved heart rate sensor. Many features previously only found on the more expensive watches are now standard on the Garmin 55. The accuracy and speed of connection to GPS has really improved as well over previous versions.
I do want to call out the battery life. I fully charged my watch and two weeks later the battery percentage was only down to 38% without a single recharge! That is amazing for a running watch because that wasn't just passive, standby battery. During those two weeks I had eight, 45-60 minute runs and a total of 4 one hour HIIT workouts. And, I wore the watch on my wrist the entire two weeks. I have never had a Garmin battery last that long. A few came close.
My theory is that the increase in features and much improved battery life was due to the fact that the COROS Pace 2, the main competitor to the Garmin forerunner series, is a very strong alternative running watch to consider. I do not own a COROS, but have heard nothing but great things about them.
If you want to save a few bucks, look at the Garmin 45. It has less features but does have the basics (and a few advanced features as well, especially when paired with the Garmin Connect app.
The rest of the article will focus on the features of the Garmin Forerunner 55.
- Easy-to-use running watch monitors heart rate (this is not a medical device) at the wrist and uses GPS to track how far, how fast and where you’ve run
- Take the guesswork out of training with suggested workouts of varying intensities based on your training history, fitness level and recovery time
- Plan your race day strategy with the PacePro feature (not compatible with on-device courses), which offers GPS-based pace guidance for a selected course or distance
- Run your best with helpful training tools, including race time predictions and finish time estimates
- Track all the ways you move with built-in activity profiles for running, cycling, track run, virtual run, pool swim, Pilates, HIIT, breathwork and more
Last update on 2021-07-31 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
About My Review Process
Unlike 90+ % of other reviews out there who just curate data found on Garmin's website or Amazon. I actually purchase and use every item I review. I did not receive compensation or a loaner watch from Garmin.
All comments are my opinion and I purchased this watch with my own money directly from Garmin.
I do participate in Amazon's affiliate program and may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) should you follow through and purchase an item from Amazon, but links are provided as a convenience only and to help me recoup some of the operational costs of putting together this review. It has zero impact on what I say in my review as it only equates to enough to buy a cup of coffee.
New Features and Upgrades Compared to the Garmin 45
I own both watches and both are viable options when it comes to purchasing a running watch. The first thing I noticed when they were compared side by side to the Garmin 45 is the size. The Garmin 55 is identical in size to the Garmin 45. This is a Garmin 35.
Here are the new features that make the Garmin Forerunner 55 a nice upgrade over the Garmin 45 and great choice over more expensive running watches.
The watch band is made from a rubber silicone and comes in three different colors: black, white or aqua.
Another thing I noticed immediately was the difference in the watch bands between the Garmin 45 and Garmin 55. The Garmin 55 lies flat when on a table or flat surface, while the Garmin 45 has an annoying arch that prevents it from laying flat.
The watch band that came with the Garmin 45, caused my wrist to itch. This led me to purchasing a replacement watch band that was made from a different material than the plain rubber band.
From what I can tell, the Garmin 55, has the same rubber watch band material, but did not cause my wrists to itch at all. I have been able to wear the watch with no issues. Maybe it was a fluke, but several previous models like the Forerunner 220 and 225 did the same thing. It drove me crazy!
In any case, the flat layout makes it easier to store my watch that having it curl up and tip over like the previous model.
What's in the Box?
The Garmin 55 came with the following items in the box:
Key Features at a Glance
The Garmin 55 has all the major features a running watch needs. I'll cover the ones I feel are the most important, so if you want a complete list, you can read more over on Garmin's website.
Wrist-Based Heart Rate Monitoring
This model uses the latest Garmin heart rate monitoring sensors that are a great improvement over earlier wrist-based monitoring watches.
GPS Distance and Pace Tracking
Measuring the distance you run and tracking training paces are the bread and butter of this watch. It is very accurate and now comes with a track mode (more info later)
Pace Strategy Recommendations
PacePro helps you create a pacing strategy unique to you and your run. If you load a course into your watch via the Garmin Connect app, it will calculate a unique pacing strategy to help you pace your race based off the elevation and terrain and your unique fitness levels.
Additional Notable Features
1. HIIT and Swim workout modes
I workout twice a week at Shred415, which is a local group fitness center in my area that bases it's HIIT workouts and name around four, fifteen minute segments that alternate between treadmill (sprints, hills, etc.) and bodyweight/dumbell/band exercises.
So when Garmin added a HIIT option I was super-excited to see how this watch would do. The watch has several ways to set up/execute your HIIT workouts:
2. Track Mode
Track mode is a new feature that I am excited about. I coach middle and high school cross country athletes and I occasionally let them borrow my watch during longer track intervals. Historically, track intervals don't present the best GPS pace and distance data because a 400M track loop is just too tight to get consistent readings. It is close enough for training paces, but this new feature improves accuracy when doing track workouts.
I noticed improvements and I took some screenshots doing the same workout with the Garmin 45 that does NOT have track mode and the Garmin 55 that does. I will upload those soon.
3. Daily Suggestive Workouts
This new feature looks at your previous workouts and makes suggestions based on your paces, distances, heart rate, and recovery. I do not know if other data factors in, but I have observed that the suggestions are quite off at first, but do get better over time as the watch learns.
After syncing the watch with Garmin Connect (and before I ran a single run with it), it suggested a workout of 40 minutes at a 12:40/mile pace. I have no clue where that came from since there was zero data in my watch. My actual easy pace at the moment is around 11:10 per mile. I have a suspicion that it pulled data from Garmin Connect that my Garmin 45 synced in the past few days where I was using my watch for some easy run/walk or walking sessions. Or, it was totally random.
In the past week, the watch has made suggestions in the late 11's so I am hoping it gets smarter as time goes on. But since I occasionally walk my dog with my watch, I am going to bet it will skew my workout suggestions. Not a lot of confidence on this feature just yet.
Update 7-9-2021: The daily suggestive workouts have gotten much better. While I do not follow them (I write my own training plan), the workouts are mostly applicable and in the right range. I feel it just takes time for this watch to learn more about you based on your workout history, pace, and intensity.
PacePro is a new feature found previously on the Forerunner 245/245 Music, Forerunner 55, Forerunner 745, Forerunner 945 and the 945 LTE. Now it is available on the Garmin 55 as well.
PacePro helps you create a pacing strategy unique to you and your run. If you load a course into your watch via the Garmin Connect app, it will calculate a pace strategy to help you deal with factors like elevation along your route. If you have ever accidently burned your legs out on a hill because you ran it too fast, PacePro will help you solve it by adjusting your pace goals in advance. In other cases, it will help you increase pace when you have downhill elevations.
I have not directly used PacePro on this watch, but it is a pretty cool feature and one that was nice to see added to the Garmin 55.
5. Pace Accuracy Results
My pace accuracy tests had the Garmin 55, Garmin 45 and Fenix 5 mostly at the same pace. Wearing all three watches over a 3 mile test run, the Garmin 45 and Fenix 5 recorded my pace at 10:35 average, while the Garmin 55 showed a 10:37 average. For the four mile run, the Garmin 45 and Fenix 5 also recorded identical paces at a 10:40 average, while the Garmin 55 had a 10:41. Close enough for me, but I did notice that in both cases, the Garmin 55 was a second or two behind the others.
6. Distance Accuracy Results
My GPS distance tests had the Garmin 55 being just as accurate as my Garmin Fenix 5 and Garmin 45. Wearing all three watches over a couple 3 mile runs, one 4 mile run, one 5 mile run and one 10 mile run had all 3 watches within 0.10/mile of each other with the Garmin 45 and Garmin 55 having the exact distance. The Fenix 5 was off slightly on 2 of my 5 runs (the 5 mile and 10 mile run), while matching the other watches on the 3 and 4 mile runs, respectively. Close enough for me.
7. Heart Rate Accuracy Results
It is my understanding that the Garmin 45 and Garmin 55 both use the same wrist-based heart rate sensors, while the Fenix 5 uses a slightly older sensor. I have not been able to confirm this, so take this part of the review with a grain of salt. Maybe a Garmin expert can confirm or clarify this for me.
In my test runs, all 3 models showed a heart rate within 3-4 beats per minute on average. This is not a scientific comparison though as only one watch was in the optimal position directly on my wrist. The other two were on my wrist next to the Garmin 55. As I ran, I randomly looked at all three watches and mentally compared them.
If someone has a better idea on how to test this, I am all ears. I tried to get them as close together. I could have used a heart rate strap but decided not to since I did that in my Garmin 45 review and noticed very little difference, despite the tendency that chest heart rate straps are considered more accurate. That was the case a few years ago, but I personally have not observed that with my Garmin 45 and Garmin 245. I noticed just a couple of beats per minute difference which has ZERO impact on your training. Besides, if you aren't getting lab tested you are estimating your heart rate zones at best. For a 4 part series on heart rate training, click here.
Since the Garmin 45 and 55 are the closest in price range and features, I put them in the best position on my wrist. The Fenix surprisingly registered an accurate heart rate despite being mostly on my forearm. That actually surprised me.
Getting Started with Forerunner 55
Here is a video that helps you get started. Garmin support put it out to help new users set up their watch. If you have never used a Garmin running watch before, the video will be helpful. The setup process is not hard, but if you are not used to how Garmin navigates through the screens and the buttons on the watch, it can be a little frustrating at first. After a few minutes you will get the hang of it.
You can scroll up and down using the two buttons on the left-hand side. The bottom-right button takes you back to the previous menu. The top right button allows you to select the current option (like start and stop your workout) and the top left button controls the watch's backlight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Forerunner 55 have a touchscreen?
No. And in my opinion you do not want a running watch with a touchscreen. When I have used touchscreen watches in the past, sweaty fingers often caused a poor response with the touchscreen making it so you had to constantly dry your fingers to use the watch. Buttons are more efficient and less annoying.
Is the Forerunner 55 GPS accurate?
Yes. In every case that I have tested it, it was accurate. Garmin watches are known for their accuracy, even when signal is not great due to heavy tree cover or clouds. The watch will "estimate" pace and distance and then when it resumes a good connection it will adjust accordingly. It is constantly syncing. Be sure to read my distance and accuracy test results earlier in this review.