Garmin Forerunner 55 review: a running watch for beginners that gets the basics right

The Forerunner 55 is the ideal first running watch for inexperienced athletes who want to get better at running

Garmin Forerunner 55 worn on the wrist
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

For beginner runners, I wouldn’t recommend any other watch than the Garmin Forerunner 55. It’s light, capable, has plenty of useful features, not to mention, it’s also pretty affordable.

Reasons to buy
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    Improved battery life (compared to Forerunner 45)

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    Added PacePro

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    Added swimming metrics

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    Built-in GPS

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    Garmin Coach ready

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Physical design is very similar to Forerunner 45

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    Screen resolution is low for a watch released in 2021

Garmin Forerunner 55 review TL;DR: the Garmin Forerunner 55 is the perfect wearable to guide you through the bumpy road that is the early days of running training. It certainly gets the basics right!

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is an entry-level running watch that sure doesn’t look as sleek as the Garmin Forerunner 945, nor does it have the battery power of the Garmin Enduro. It might not help you navigate the Great Outdoors as well as the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro does, and it probably won’t be the number one choice for triathletes either, like the Garmin Forerunner 745.

However, the vast majority of runners aren’t top athletes; they like to go for a jog before or after work. As such, they don’t require stuff like turbo trainer connectivity or screens with six data fields during workouts. They need an accurate running watch with solid battery life and a built-in GPS chip/heart rate sensor for a reasonable price. And guess what, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is a watch just like that.

Garmin Forerunner 55 review: Price and availability

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is available to buy now directly from Garmin US (opens in new tab),  Garmin UK (opens in new tab) and Garmin AUS (opens in new tab) for a recommended retail price of $199.99/£179.99/AU$329.

The Forerunner 55 is also available to buy at selected third-party retailers.

It's currently available in three colourways, White, Black and Aqua.

Garmin Forerunner 55 review: Features

Using a running watch for the first time can be a daunting experience. Most watches have plenty of features that can help runners get better at their craft, but if you're starting out, all those numbers won't make much sense.

Hence why it was so refreshing to use the Garmin Forerunner 55. I'm sure it was a conscious effort from Garmin to restrict the available features on the watch just so it can be marketed for beginner runners, but that's precisely what needs to be done to help people transition into using a watch after running just for fun.

Of course, the Garmin Forerunner offers many features for beginner and intermediate runners. It tracks activities all day (steps, heart rate etc.) and even provides daily workout suggestions, should you need a little inspiration. These personalised run workout suggestions are based on your training history, fitness level and recovery time, and you should definitely listen to them if you're new to running.

If you're planning on getting better at running – and that's not a far-fetched assumption, considering you're reading a running watch review – Garmin Coach might help you do that. The onboard adaptive running trainer can get you ready to run a 5k, 10k or half marathon in a set time. It's pretty cool to use, and it also takes the weight off your shoulders if you struggle to put a training plan together in preparation for a race.

Garmin Forerunner 55 placed on the ahndle of a kettlebell

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Forerunner 55 review: Ergonomics and user interface

Physically, the Forerunner 55 looks exactly how you'd imagine it, a smaller version of the Garmin Forerunner 245. The button layout is the same as on any other Forerunner, and as expected, the Forerunner 55 doesn't have a touchscreen either. Maybe something Garmin will roll out soon?

The screen resolution is not amazing but good enough for the price. It's a 1.04-inch, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display with 208 x 208 pixels resolution. To be honest, the screen is the weakest point of the Forerunner 55; it's not a terrible display, but in 2021, when fitness trackers and smartwatches have AMOLED screens and two-week battery life (looking at you, Huawei Watch GT 3), a MIP display won't impress anyone for sure.

At least the watch is lightweight. In fact, the Garmin Forerunner 55 weighs only 37 grams, making it one of the lightest watches on the market. The silicone strap is OK to adjust and comfortable enough to wear. Great for running; there is nothing worse than an ill-fitting running watch that's also heavy. 

As for battery life, the Garmin Forerunner will last up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode (GPS turned off) and 20 hours in GPS mode. As always, this means that the battery can track 20 hours' worth of GPS activities, not that if you turn the GPS on, the battery will die in less than a day.

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is water-rated to 5 ATMs and also added swimming metrics, so it's better suited for people who like to use a watch to track swims. It's not a dedicated triathlon watch, but it's good enough for beginner training.

Garmin Forerunner 55 review: Accuracy

Speaking of swimming metrics: considering the price, the Forerunner 55 is an exceptionally accurate wearable. It uses Garmin's gold-standard algorithm that performs exceptionally well when you're moving around fast (e.g. out on a run).

It's a wrist wearable, so don't expect it to be super accurate for strength training or HIIT; you're better off getting a Whoop 4.0 or a Polar Verity Sense for that. It also struggles when you aren't moving fast outdoors, such as walking and hiking. GPS and HR aren't way off in these instances either, but the Forerunner 55 is undoubtedly best used for running.

For running, the Forerunner 55 is near damn perfect. As well as Garmin Coach, the Forerunner 55 added PacePro, a feature that offers GPS-based pace guidance for a selected course or distance in the Garmin Connect app. Using PacePro, you can become your own running coach but it requires a bit of practice to master. This feature is aimed at intermediate runners who have a good sense of their running capability and would like to ensure they are ready for their next big race.

Adding PacePro to the Forerunner 55 was a stroke of genius from Garmin as I can imagine many people don't want to spend loads of money to get an actual coach but would like to get at running nevertheless. The Forerunner 55 can help you do that, as long as you put the work in yourself (i.e. set the course/desired pace up in Garmin Connect and follow through with the plan).

Garmin Forerunner 55 worn on the wrist

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Forerunner 55 review: verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is a significant update over the Forerunner 45, and it's also very cheap, at least by running watch standards. Its only flaw is the screen, but I would be lying if I expected a watch that doesn't cut at least a few corners at this price point.

Thankfully, the Forerunner 55 didn't cut too many corners, and for beginner runners, the shortcomings of this otherwise excellent will be hardly noticeable anyway. You can always get a Garmin Venu 2 or a Polar Vantage V2 if you need a better screen or more features.

That said, I doubt people will want to change watches once they warm to the Garmin Forerunner 55, something that will happen pretty soon after the watch was acquired. This is the Forerunner you need if you're on a tight budget!

Garmin Forerunner 55 review: Also consider

One of the reasons why I criticised the screen of the Forerunner 55 is the Coros Pace 2. It's an awesome running watch and the Coros ecosystem is getting bigger too, making it all the more appealing to runners. The Pace 2 can also measure running power on the wrist, unlike the Forerunner 55.

There is also the Garmin Forerunner 45 (opens in new tab). Sure, you miss out on PacePro and swim metrics but for running, it's still a more than viable option. Not to mention, both watches look almost exactly the same.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab).