When Meb Keflezighi stretched out his arms as he crossed the finish line to improbably win the 2014 Boston Marathon, on his left wrist was something that had taken the entire journey with him, from the two-a-day training sessions to the grueling climb over Heartbreak Hill: A Garmin Forerunner 620. He considers it one of his most important allies in his training. “Running without my watch would be like a student without their pencil,” he says.
Yet, you don’t have to be an elite runner to take advantage of this watch’s myriad features. Garmin’s top-of-the-line running offering is an upgrade in comfort and tech compared to previous models. It’s light, has a comfortable, flexible band, an easy-to-read display and has a very accurate GPS sensor.
Out on the road the watch measures your heart rate to help you determine effort, speed, distance, time and elevation. The touchscreen makes switching between different data fields on a run as easy as swiping your finger. So you can check your effort on a particular lap, or switch screens to see a snapshot of your entire run. It’s a vast improvement over the company’s previous attempt at a “touch-bezel,” which was to allow you to navigate the watch by moving your finger on the ring around the screen, but sweat could make that thing go haywire and useless—but, hey, who actually sweats when they run, right?
The watch veers into running nerd land too. It provides really helpful data on running mechanics; tracking cadence and ground contact time, so you know if you’re moving your legs quickly enough and also measures vertical oscillation, which is the amount you bounce up and down when you run. That may sound super wonky, but if you see that you’re bouncing too much, that means you’re wasting energy while you run, which could hurt you over the course of longer race. All this data gets uploaded to Garmin Connect, so you can track progress over time, set goals and share runs on social media.
The watch also offers some whizzbangery by saying it can determine your VO2 max, a measure of your fitness, but its best not to rely on that number too much, because not even the laboratory methods for measuring it are foolproof, let alone an algorithm on your watch that’s a guess at best.
Garmin, $449.99 with Heart-Rate Monitor, $339.99 without HRM