Tech Review: Analyzing Garmin’s New Forerunner 255 and Forerunner 955

Looking to level up your training, improve your race times, or simply get a deeper understanding of how running can impact your overall health? Then a wearable device might be for you!

There are seemingly hundreds of GPS running watches to consider, but both the Garmin Forerunner 255 and Garmin Forerunner 955 represent important advancements in both features and function that should put them at the top of any endurance athlete’s wishlist. In this article, we’re going to explore each of these GPS watches in more detail to help you make an informed decision about which new Garmin watch is right for you.

Meet the Garmin Forerunner Series

White Garmin GPS watch with a morning report on the watch face

The Garmin 255 and 955 are both part of the “Forerunner” series, which is Garmin’s line of GPS watches specifically designed for runners and triathletes. They are also new launches for 2022, replacing the Forerunner 245 and 945, respectively, with some impressive updates that include everything from battery life to screen clarity.

On the surface, the 255 and the 955 are quite comparable, both laden with a range of features and improvements over the previous models that will satisfy even the most data-crazy athletes; but as the price difference suggests, the Garmin Forerunner 955 comes loaded with additional sports features that might make it a more appealing choice depending on your needs. Let’s take a look at the key upgrades, specs, and differences of the new Forerunner watches.

1. Size, Weight, and Comfort FTW

One of the more controversial aspects of Garmin watches in the past has been their size, with some models weighing up to 79g - a potentially uncomfortable weight for anyone who plans to wear their watch 24/7 or who is smaller in stature. But the Forerunner 955 comes in at an easy-breezy 52g and the Forerunner 255 weighs just 49g. The Garmin 255 also comes in an alternate version (255S) that is 4 mm smaller in diameter, making it ideal for folks with smaller wrists.

Despite the lighter package, the screen size for both watches is nearly identical to previous models. Runners with vision challenges may enjoy the display of the Forerunner 955, which comes equipped with a superior scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coating, also found on many smartphones and tablets. Both models feature a 22 mm watch band and are extremely durable and comfy, making them fairly comparable in this category.

2. Improvements Galore in the New Garmin Forerunner Series

A feature many runners have avoided in the past, but actually makes for a nice addition to the new Forerunner 955, is touchscreen capability. Some readers may be considering ‘upgrading’ your Running Smartwatch from something like an Apple Watch, which can be nearly impossible to navigate with sweaty fingers in the summer or cold hands in the winter. But the difference with the Garmin Forerunner 955 is choice. It comes with a default “locked” touchscreen setting during activity but allows for touchscreen use to navigate across its many features during the day. The Forerunner 255 does not have a touchscreen, making navigability perhaps slightly less intuitive for those not used to Garmin’s user interface, though most users become accustomed to navigating their Forerunner using the standard 5-button setup very quickly.

Battery life has been improved from previous iterations, providing roughly 15 days in smartwatch mode (both) and 30 (Forerunner 255) to 42 (Forerunner 955) hours in GPS mode. The 955 also comes in a “Solar” model for a slightly increased price, which allows for passive charging when exposed to direct sunlight. If you’re an ultra-runner and/or someone living in a year-round sunny climate, you may want to consider this; but for most of us, the standard model will be just fine.

Those who are already using Garmin GPS watches may have a love-hate relationship with the “Training Status” feature. Nothing is worse than coming back from a 35 km run through the heat only to learn that you’re “overreaching!” Supposedly, Garmin has improved its algorithm and made its Training Status feature more accurate in both the Forerunner 255 and 955, but it remains to be seen if this improvement is “productive.”

For those who don’t mind wearing a larger sports watch to bed, both watches offer an impressively accurate glimpse at your training readiness based on sleep quality, Heart Rate Variability (HRV Status), and current training load. As with every feature, it should be considered in parallel with the “feel test,” but many users report that generally, their watch does confirm the days when they feel overtrained or poorly rested. This can have an impact on deciding how to approach your training and may even provide a competitive advantage in the long run. We were also impressed with the improvements made to the Sleep Tracking functions of both watches, which were admittedly quite poor in the previous models.

A quick list of additional new functions includes:

  • Improved training assistance programming
  • Improved Garmin map data
  • New “Training Readiness” feature
  • New "Morning Report" feature
  • More accurate location tracking
  • More accurate biometrics tracking

3. The Community Weighs in on Their Favourite Features

There are a few special features that might sway your purchasing decision in a particular direction, so let’s take a look at two of these from our community of testers:

If you’re a golfer, the Garmin Forerunner 955 essentially serves as a caddy on your wrist. One could say it even puts the “Fore!” in “Forerunner” (we’re so sorry). With 42,000 preloaded golf course maps available, you can track the yardages of your shots, hazards, layups, and keep score (at your own risk) all conveniently in real-time. A cool feature is the Automatic Shot Detection, which allows you to review your round in the golf app and eventually starts to suggest what club you should use based on your recorded yardages. The Forerunner 255 does not have any golf features.

Big things come in small(ish) packages, as the Forerunner 955 comes with a solid 32 GB of storage, allowing users to store trail maps, Strava live segments, Garmin maps, and up to 2,000 songs! The Forerunner 255 allows for routes to be stored, but you’ll need the slightly higher-priced music version to be able to bring music with you while leaving your phone at home. Both the Garmin 255 Music and Garmin 955 allow for connection to Spotify, but only the 955 allows for turn-by-turn navigation, which is another seriously cool and helpful feature depending on the type and duration of running you’re doing.

Which Garmin Watch is Right for Me?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post, so how can you pick the right Garmin watch to buy? If you need help making a definitive decision, this is how we would split the two options:

If you’re someone who likes to run unique routes on long runs, or perhaps you travel for work and do a lot of your running in unfamiliar places, the navigation features of the Forerunner 955 give it a major edge. The golf features are also a really nice perk in the summer months, and the improved screen clarity of the 955 is noticeable over the Forerunner 255, so for anyone with vision issues, this could be the clincher.

The Forerunner 255 is, of course, also a completely adequate and exciting GPS watch for runners of all levels and abilities. Though we’re inclined to splurge for the Music model (buh-bye bulky phone on race day), the 255 is sleek, smart, and more affordably priced than the Forerunner 955. If you’re looking for the absolute best bang for your sports-watch buck, the Forerunner 255 Music is your answer.

In all honesty and fairness, any athlete will be more than impressed with either of these models. There are indeed hundreds of features to explore (and eventually forget about), and both the Garmin Forerunner 255 and Garmin Forerunner 955 should be considered top players in the world of GPS wearables. They bring myriad capabilities that will help track your progress, improve your confidence as an endurance athlete, and certainly elevate your training and overall health.

If you would like a demo or have more questions about these two new Garmin watches, or any GPS watch for that matter, don’t hesitate to visit us at our King Street West or Toronto Midtown BlackToe Running locations!