so what? Garmin Forerunner 255 Review, Running 🏃 at its Best, Triathlon-capable

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Garmin Forerunner 255, now buys coffee, a review of sorts

The Garmin Forerunner 255 is definitely the best running watch.

With many new capabilities, the FR255 represents better value-for-money than the older Forerunner 245, it freezes the price of £300/$350 for the base model but you will need an extra $50 for the music versions.

And maybe you didn’t know this…

The Garmin Forerunner 255 is now a great entry-level triathlon watch – the 245 was NOT a proper triathlon watch but the 255 is.

Most featured running watch: Half-decent triathlon watch: Adequate smartwatch
74%

Garmin Forerunner 255 Review - Summary

The Garmin Forerunner 255 does everything that 99.9% of runners will either need or want a running watch to do. It will do a LOT more besides and that is where the problem starts.

Garmin Forerunner 255

This Forerunner ticks every important box for training or racing and will show every bit of run data from any sensor you want, be that as a pretty graphic or a simple number. You get ‘go faster’ alerts if you drop behind race pace or why not instead chill out as you run to your favourite music? If you carry your phone with you there are excellent personal safety features too.

When you’ve finished running, the workout summaries on the watch are nicely presented and there’s more detail to browse on the ever-improving Connect app which is now good. If you want even more running-based information then Strava is a few taps away.

Should you decide to follow a digital plan or make your own structured plan, that’s covered. Will adaptive, automated training suggestions boost your confidence and assure you that you are training the right way? That’s covered too…just in case.

So. That’s what a running watch should do and that’s what the FR255 does well. Very well, in fact. But are those running-focussed features worth the $400 price tag? A: Probably not. The Coros Pace 2 or Polar Pacer do a similar job for half the price…albeit not quite as well.

So Garmin needs to justify a $100-$200 price premium to make the watch worth $400 to you and it does that by adding unnecessary running features. It half-heartedly transforms itself into a smartwatch that can do clever things like monitoring your sleep, paying for coffee, tracking menstrual cycles and showing notifications from your phone. That’s all great stuff but now we are getting into the realms where you need to wear this watch actively throughout the day and night in order to get value from its smart features – it’s the same realm where an Apple Watch will do a better job.

Garmin’s excellent physiological features further compound that dilemma. Sure, they give you mind-blowingly insightful feedback to classify your toils and tribulations, they show how you cope over weeks of training and when you wake up they show you whether or not you are ready to train. But are you really committed to getting that extra information and taking running more seriously? Well, if you are you will need to wear this watch to bed and you may need more accurate heart rate readings than you get from the optical wrist sensor. You see, Garmin’s clever algorithms need accurate lifestyle data.

Is running your lifestyle? It might be…or not. If it’s not then you won’t use half of what the Forerunner 255 is capable of.

The Garmin Forerunner 255 is the most featured running watch, a half-decent triathlon watch and an adequate smartwatch.

 

 

Pros

  • A near-complete, state-of-the-art running offering
  • Sensible size options for all wrist sizes
  • Proper triathlon support
  • Good personal safety features
  • Fantastic, race-day focussed features
  • Superb screen customisation options
  • Connects to all running sensors
  • An awesome training support ecosystem
  • An open sports data platform to link your data to/from anywhere

Cons

  • The clever physiology features require accurate and complete data
  • Plastic aesthetics – would you wear one to work or to bed?
  • The new running power feature is half-baked
  • Why hasn’t it got the stamina feature?
  • Just make music standard, please.

Buy Garmin Epix 2 from this Review

What’s New?

The 255 has new hardware in new sizes with a good amount of new features. That’s three times the goodness-of-NEW added to every feature from the older Forerunner 245 and there was a boatload of features already there before. With a frozen price, the new FR255 is significantly better value-for-money than the earlier version and offers more running features for your money than offered by any competitor.

Here are some more details behind the newness

 

Race-Day Features

Garmin makes some big sport-related changes here and finally understands what to do with your race dates. It uses that future date to correctly periodise its training recommendations rather than simply maintaining your fitness level, as was previously the case. Once your race date is imminent, Garmin gives race-day specific information like weather, predicted time and even course intelligence.

Health & Wellness Features

Garmin has tweaked some wellness features and added sleep score, sleep insights, respiration rate plus SpO2 acclimation when awake. The fitness age feature also finds its way to the watch.

Headline health & wellness features are then bundled together and presented as a daily health snapshot that takes seconds to glance at.

 

Behind the scenes, some of the new health & wellness measurements feed into the sports physiology algorithms and scoring.

Physiology Features

The sporting physiology features have been expanded and revamped to include my favourites from Garmin’s top-end watches – you now get lactate threshold detection, trail run VO2max, a benefit-based classification of completed exercises, improved acute training load, training status, training effect and feedback on how optimal your intensity levels are across your more recent exercises. What more could you want? More daily suggested workouts? Yes, that as well – 7 days’ worth of workouts.

Wholly new features find their way to the 255 from today’s top-end Forerunner 955 but sadly not the useful Stamina metric. Thus you get a measurement of morning readiness-to-train based on several factors but mainly overnight HRV plus you can now see trended HRV which indicates how well your body is coping with the strain of training. Garmin follows the same principle as Whoop here and, for the first time, seems to be doing readiness correctly.

It’s really quite clever stuff and appears highly advanced. But remember it’s only as good as the accuracy of your training zones and raw heart rate/power data. And if you compound that with readiness-to-train metrics that seem to rely on a multitude of factors then you have to wonder about the science that supports it.

Sports Profiles

The headline triathlon sports profile lets you switch from one sport to the next with a single button press to deal with transitions. But also added are Ultra-running, SUP, skiing, HIIT, Yoga, Pilates and some other sports profiles compared to when the 245 was first released.

Some profiles allow workout animations and other sports profiles give muscle heatmaps to represent the muscle groups that a particular exercise type uses.

Training Features

There are some minor changes to how intervals are handled with the addition of open repeats and the automatic detection of efforts.

If you have an RD-POD or Garmin HRM-TRI/RUN/PRO strap then you can use Garmin’s new running power metrics. Running power is like effort and perhaps is more useful than pace or heart rate to moderate your runs on undulating terrain. It’s even possible to build power-based plans, however, Garmin needs to do some more work to catch up with Stryd‘s more complete running power platform.

Smart Features

You get NFC (contactless payments) support on all models providing your bank is accepted by Garmin. ie just not Visa/Mastercard…your actual bank. I use Starling in the UK.

Garmin now makes it easier to manage the watch settings via your smartphone’s Connect app and in reverse, you can also add apps to the watch via the watch’s Connect IQ store.

Sensor Support

Many sensors are now supported, perhaps most importantly for cycling are power meters & cycling trainers, but running gets a look-in with the new native Running Power which requires an external device.

Garmin adds an internal barometer to the 255 which boosts elevation accuracy, enables flights of stairs to be recorded and provides some of the info that the running power algorithms need. Also added internally are Garmin’s 4th generation optical HR sensor, thermometer, gyroscope and the latest Airoha GPS sensor (GNSS chip), the latter has a market-leading level of accuracy due in part to its support for more than two satellite constellations and two broadcast frequencies.

There is WiFi support on the 255/255s Music models, it’s mostly for downloading music but a bonus allows it to upload workouts.

Physical Size & Format Changes

The 245 came in one size that was between Garmin’s usual small- and medium-sized models. The new 255 models now revert to relatively standard Garmin/industry sizes. Each size watch is available with a Music option and the larger model is heavier, has a larger usable screen area and an impressively long battery life – 30 hours of GPS-time…wow! Check out the details.

Specifications Forerunner 245 Forerunner 255s Forerunner 255
Quick Release bands yes (20 mm, Industry standard) yes (18 mm, Industry standard) yes (22 mm, Industry standard)
Physical Size 42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2 (mm) 41 x 41 x 12.4 (mm) 45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9 (mm)
Display Size 1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter 1.1″ (27.5mm) Diameter 1.3″ (33 mm) diameter
Display Resolution 240 x 240 pixels 218 x 218 pixels 260 x 260 pixels
Weight 38.5 g 39 g 49 g
Battery Life Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days Smartwatch mode: Up to 12 days Smartwatch mode: Up to 14 days
GPS mode: Up to 24 hours GPS-only GNSS mode: Up to 26 hours GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 30 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 20 hours All-Systems GNSS mode: Up to 25 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band: Up to 13 hours All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band: Up to 16 hours

 

What you Still Get

garmin forerunner 255 review

You get a full calendar of workouts right up to race day shown a week in advance with the ability to set your long run day. There’s onboard guidance for every step of every workout which you can see on the watch or hear through earbuds. If Garmin’s free 5K, 10K and Half-marathon plans aren’t for you, you can use external plans, create your own plans, follow daily suggested workouts or…just go for a run.

garmin forerunner 255 review

 

There is limitless customisation of what metrics you use to guide your efforts, the latest being a collection based on running power. If you want to follow a course then PacePro adjusts pacing to account for elevation changes and if you plan on a hard workout today then the Recovery Time metric might advise you to wait a while if you are still adapting to earlier workouts.

Sleep monitoring, sleep stages and sleep scoring have received a bit of tender loving care and Garmin has great support for Women’s health, tracking pregnancy and menstrual cycles

Price & Availability

Initial availability on day 1 is limited. But the 255 will be one of Garmin’s biggest-selling watches and stocks will become widely available once Garmin handles its post-Covid supply chain issues.

These links are updated periodically and all point to a store, or choice of stores, in your country.

Buy Garmin Epix 2 from this Review

Opinion

It was a foregone conclusion that the best running watch would get better.

However, there are significantly more meaningful additions to the FR255 than I’d anticipated and the accompanying price freeze is always welcome. With hindsight and the onset of trickier economic times, the price freeze makes sense as does the transformation of the Forerunner 255 into a proper, entry-level triathlon watch, after all that’s precisely what Polar recently did with their new Pace Pro.

The Covid years really were the boom times for running technology and I suspect that mid- to lower-range competitors will struggle in increasingly competitive markets. Garmin dominates the premium end of sports technology and probably didn’t have to freeze prices. The fact that they did represents caution and a desire to tighten the competitive screw on the smaller players.

Garmin’s true problem with watches like the Forerunner 255 is that people who can afford them aren’t necessarily looking for athletic-grade watches. Many potential buyers will be perfectly happy with great quality, sports tracker which they can get easily enough from Apple, Whoop, Google Pixel/Fitbit and Samsung. These buyers represent by far the majority of Garmin’s consumers of their Forerunner range and I suspect that most of them might be happier with smart productivity tools that augment their smartphones – whereas lactate thresholds, adaptive training plans, triathlons and running power are features that inhabit a different athletic world to theirs.

Conversely, why would more serious runners fork out $350 on a running watch that they know will not make them any faster? A glorified wristwatch, their current GPS sports watch or a much cheaper Coros Pace 2 is all they need.

Anyway, the opinion I’m skirting around giving here is that watches like the Forerunner 255 represent an athletic lifestyle choice for some people. Others might simply want the reassurance that their purchase will do everything they might need it for once they start running more frequently

At the end of the day, the Forerunner 255 really is an awesome running watch but it’s perhaps one that many people just won’t get the benefits from as they simply won’t use it all day alongside their smartphone and won’t wear it at night to gather data for important wellness indicators.

If you buy into a more sport-focussed lifestyle and want to make a statement of intent then get an FR255. If you want the best running watch, you know what to do.

Buy Garmin Epix 2 from this Review

 

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tnmrc

Hello, thanks for the great review. Does it have a “resume later” option?

Brian Reiter

The entire Forerunner, fenix, and epix range is not differentiated on price. Garmin is differentiated on brand/lifestyle and features.

The Coros Pace 2 comparison is perhaps the Honda Civic with crank windows and no AC. It gets you there reliably but without bells and whistles.

Whoop I think is the most under pressure by the June 1 updates. Garmin is now selling a range of devices to own that have Whoop-like HRV metrics. If you are considering value, why is it better value to pay a subscription that costs $30/mo forever for just the fitness metrics component vs a one-time $350 or $400 for a stuffed-with-features watch that should last 3-4 years or more?

I think you are right they the Apple Watch is the default purchase for the average iPhone owner.

Brian Reiter

No.I never owned a Civic. I was going to call the Coros Pace 2 a Yugo but edited myself as I thought it was too dated of a reference. To be fair I was also thinking of a 1985 Civic.

Garmin doesn’t have to to convert Whoop subscribers to be f255 purchasers instead. Rather some set of people never subscribe to Whoop and enter or stay in the Garmin ecosystem. This may not be a huge upgrade from a f245 but it is a huge upgrade from an f230/235. Or a f735XT or a f920XT. (One of my training buddies only upgraded from a 920XT to a fenix 6 last December and I still saw those red and blue square monsters on the trails in Cape Town in January 2022.)

I don’t see how there is a space in their lineup for the 6xx or 7xx anymore, though. What does a f745 have to justify a $500 price point.

(Real-time update, f745 is now discounted to $350 on garmin.com. That still seems like too much. Maybe they are just selling through existing stock at the f255m price?)

Brian Reiter

Also what are you comparing it to for accuracy? The Whoop sensor is not famously accurate. (Nor is Oura.)

Both of them are fine for sleeping, sitting around, and walking thought to collect your all-day background metrics.

It seems like Garmin is mixing together old and simplistic Firstbeat metrics with new HRV metrics that aren’t going to agree with each other. I think DCR had a situation where the HRV metrics were all green but a training status of “Unproductive” because the Firstbeat “VO2Max”. So yes, it’s a problem that the metrics don’t / can’t agree. I think they are going for baffling people with a huge dashboard of graphics. How else do you explain Running Dynamics (which have no useful purpose)?

usr

Wouldn’t “all green” and “unproductive” be in perfect agreement when you are plateauing? At some point maintaining fitness is the best you could hope for..

Brian Reiter

No. That would be Maintaining or Productive. (If it worked.)

https://support.garmin.com/en-US/?faq=VxKazDQ2mkAmDoQbJriEBA

“Unproductive: your training load is at a good level, but your fitness is decreasing.”

I removed the card for Training Status from GCM and the widget and turned on “pause training status” feature long ago because those messages are nonsense. The feature just does not work and in particular punishes zone 2 and recovery runs. It punishes brick training and cross training. It rewards threshold and tempo running. It implicitly encourages you go medium-hard to hard every day and disregard your training plan. IMO, it’s a motivation feature for beginners and that is all.

Stephen

Wonder why Live Segments was omitted?

Agnes

I’m wondering which can be a better choice for road/trail run+some hikes and bike (including MTB), Forerunner 255 or Instinct 2….

Instinct will get the new Training Load and HRV metrics (according to DC Rainmaker), so maybe the race day widget and the race-oriented training suggestions would be the biggest difference…(and NFC but depends on your bank if it is any usable)
Yet, I’m not convinced, if anyone would base their training just on the watch’s suggestions…

tfk, the5krunner

I think if you are following a plan – be that from Garmin or someone else – then you just trust the plan.
the daily workout suggestions are more for when you are not following a plan and are just looking for a few days’ worth of sensible workouts to do.
i take your point that relying on the machinations of a watch’s calculation under the screen has an air of untrustworthiness about it. it’s a similar thing with AI plans…you just have to trust them. but then with a paper plan you just have to trust that as well, but at least you can see it all in front of you.

Agnes

I agree, at the end of the day, you just have to trust your plan. I was much more wondering which watch is a better value for the money…The Forerunner 255 has some stuff in plus (tied to race day widget and adaptive training plan for your custom event), yet the Instinct has more sport profile, battery life and maybe more durable…
Pricewise they are very similar but Instinct 2 (base) you can find on Amazon under 300 euro, solar around 380 euros…

tfk, the5krunner

the instinct is better value for money
i don’t, especially like the looks
remember what i say in the review above, to get value/usage from much of the smart and physiology stuff you need to wear it 24×7. a bulky watch or what you consider to be an aesthetically unappealing watch just isn’t going to be worn 24×7.
my modus operandi in recent years has been the apple watch for non-sport and then a forerunner as a sports logger (plus numerous other watches in various places)

webvan

Interesting watch and I’d favor of it over the 955 that’s way too thick !
Not sure about the new metrics though…might as well stick with “body battery” !

PS – Is it me or have others lost the formatting on this site since around June 1st ?

tfk, the5krunner

it should be just you but tell me more
i have changed the site so it is AMP-only. i did that on about 1st june
that specifically means that the formatting should be better!!! some particular pages won’t be AMP-compatible (I cant change that)
and i have changed the smartphone page to a simple list of post but that only works on safari mobile and not firefox mobile

as you can guess – nothing is easy when it comes to formatting.

webvan

Dispaly is ok on my Android phone (although it takes a long time to load) but on my W10 PC it takes ages to load and it’s just text basically, zero pictures, formatting, etc…
Same problem with FFox, Chrome and Edge 🙁

tfk, the5krunner

ok that can happen when i try to optimise the CSS and JS settings. HOwever i use a win10 PC and it displays here fine.
you have probably got an old copy in your cache?

try F5 or ctrl-shift-R to empty your local cache

Dennis

To be honest, I find your conclusion a bit difficult to place.. Correct me if I am wrong but you are saying that experienced runners can better buy a basic Pace pro because they may not need these features. And beginners can better buy an Apple Watch because they may not need these features.

But yet you praise those features (and I agree).

tfk, the5krunner

Cheptegie used a fr55 in a recent world record. I somewhat doubt that a better 255 or 955 would have made him faster
https://the5krunner.com/2020/08/29/joshua-cheptegai-gutted-about-his-strava-gps-track-5000m-world-record/

Alex

I am sorry, but what kind of argument is that? You are basically saying that advanced functions are useless because they won’t make a good athlete any faster. if that is your standard, then a stop watch and a heart rate sensor would be the perfect equipment and we don’t need anything a modern sports watch has to offer.

I would prefer that you rate the quality and the features of a sport watch in a review, not base your rating on personal suggestions what people need or don’t need.

tfk, the5krunner

advanced functions/features are not useless but their use is not generally to make you faster. For example, they may aid enjoyment or might be time-saving (adaptive training could make you faster)

yes a hr sensor and stopwatch would be good equipment(as would a power meter and GPS sensor), you get faster from combinations of durations and intensities (and form)

your preferences are noted. I love to hear opinions and I want to hear and make alternate ones. the more we hear the more informed we will all get.

technology IS often hyped to the realms of silliness. Sometimes we need to take a step back.

Brian Reiter

I see no reason that a Garmin brand or any other contemporary oHR would not be just as good as Whoop when worn higher up on the arm. People don’t usually do that though when an accessory HRM is much more convenient.

tfk, the5krunner

yes people have to make an informed decision on what level of accuracy they want
1) many people cant wear chest straps
2) very, very few people make informed decisions with sports tech

Brian Reiter

I would rather expect Apple to increase the number of SKUs as they approach market saturation. I think they currently have 3 levels x 2 sizes x 3 materials x 3 or 4 color finishes. And a huge number of bands. The thing that makes Apple Watch consumer-friendly is that WatchOS is the same version across all SKUs and is only limited by hardware.

Garmin send to have too many models that confusingly overlap and they don’t seem to have a coherent story about why old models remain for sale. Like the f745 is sold alongside the f255 at the same price (but the 255 is superior). And Garmin seems to withhold features from old models just to sell new ones. The most blatant thing example
I can think of is the worldwide (open source) maps are free downloads on the fenix 7 generation but still require payment or contortions to install 3rd party maps on all older models.

Sezer

Why no Climb Pro feature in 255? weird 🙁

2freeze

I think ClimbPro requires topo maps on the device as this is the base for effort prediction.

Sezer

745 doesn’t have topo maps but it has Climb Pro.

tfk, the5krunner

it would then work off elevation profile in loaded courses

2freeze

So I’ve been waiting for the FR955 to upgrade from my 245 to get new hardware with better HR, SPO2 and software features. Despite being just a runner (mostly trial), so not needing all the triathlon goodies, thought “let’s go for the best available”. But now, once both, 955 and 255 are on the market I am not so sure anymore if I really want the “best” one. Few things might be missed in the “smaller” watch, but not much. For my old eyes, maps on the watch is basically a joke and I am ALWAYS running with my phone as my running in the forest nearby often crosses path with a wild boar or moose. Nothing ever happened, but you know… Solar is obsolete for most of the year, at least where I live. Stamina – not sure what it does. ClimbPro is map based (I guess) so not possible to have it on the 255. Also people complain, that 955 looks quite chunky. For my oversized wrist it should not be a problem, but I agree with many comments about proportions not being right. From visual perspective, 955 is a downgrade compared to 945. One thing I don’t… Read more »

tfk, the5krunner

255 sounds great for you
yes the sp02 is err not medical grade.

David

Hi, I wonder if you might be able to shed some light on differences/similarities between this and the coros apex pro. Due to discounts, they’re the same price.
As I see it,
The 255: racepro, adaptive training/race widget thingy and connectiq
The apex pro: maps, battery and premium materials.

I’m a 50ish leisure runner who is getting back into ultras, and who hikes for a week of so at a time in the pyrenees. I’ve worn the polar 430 since release. I like the look of the pacer pro, but since this is likely to be my last running watch, I thought that I’d get an upgrade. Any feedback would be welcome, thamks