VICE may receive a commission if you buy products through the links on our site. Read more here.

This Garmin Smartwatch Tracks Everything From My Naps to My Stride

The fitness stats and GPS rule, but the Forerunner 255s also streams music, monitors your stress levels, and even offers a virtual coach service.
Review: I Tried (and Loved) the Garmin Forerunner 255S Smartwatch
Composite by VICE Media 

I love running—I feel a great sense of accomplishment after hitting new paces, in particular. But I can’t experience that rush without help from a handy dandy smartwatch for tracking my heart rate, recording my routes, and compiling my data. For years, I was loyal to the Fitbit Inspire 2. That watch is great for beginners, but as I advanced in my running journey I needed a more technical watch with additional features. Last Christmas, my parents gifted me the Garmin Forerunner 255s Music smartwatch, and I haven’t taken it off since. 


If you’re unfamiliar with Garmin, the company got its start in 1989 making aircraft traffic technology. Long story short: It’s become one of the big dogs when it comes to fitness and other tech sectors, in part because of running influencers on TikTok. Oh, how times have changed. 

The Forerunner 255s Music is one of the brand’s most fully loaded models, designed especially for those who love listening to music while they exercise (or on their commute, or wherever). It’s also absolutely packed with wellness features, so it’s been a joy to explore this versatile device and see what it’s capable of (and how it can be life-improving). I’ll get into the details below. Here’s my honest review. 

$404.99 at Amazon
$399.99 at Garmin
$404.99 at Amazon
$399.99 at Garmin

Why Garmin smartwatches are so great

I’d heard great things about Garmin watches from the running community, which helped guide my decision to pursue this particular model. My colleagues were talking about the brand at work, too, and how its smartwatches are packed with a surprising number of technical fitness and wellness features. This past April, our writer Adam Rothbarth described his Garmin Venu 2 Plus watch as “a motivational but stern friend who’s always nudging you to stay disciplined but still laughing with you at the gym.” I was intrigued—and now, I completely agree. There are so many models to choose from, but apparently, everything happens for a reason, because the Garmin Forerunner 255s spoke to me, and I ultimately fell in love with it. 

The running tech behind it

This watch has so many features, so buckle up. To start, it has built-in GPS to track mileage for an accurate assessment of outdoor pace—an absolute must-have for runners. For track or treadmill running, you can set the watch to specifically record those kinds of workouts. Battery life can last up to 26 hours in GPS mode and 12 days in smartwatch mode. (I can attest to this—I feel like I only need to charge this godsend of a watch bi-weekly.) It also suggests daily workouts based on my previous runs, and a free virtual coach is integrated into the watch for 5K, 10K, and half-marathon training plans. (I’ve never used those because I like doing my own thing, but it’s still nice to know I have the option.) Running dynamics such as cadence and stride length can make all the difference in pace, so it’s super helpful that those running metrics are also measured and provided within the watch’s interface. 


The watch gives all kinds of impressive health stats, even while you’re in snooze land, including a morning report that includes sleep stats and a recovery and training outlook. It also has stress monitors, nap detection (it will recommend how long to take a nap for optimal results), and even women’s cycle tracking. 

Other features

I’m flaunting this watch as a runner’s watch (and the name “Forerunner” also suggests that’s the case), but it can also be utilized for other sports and activities, such as triathlons, swimming, biking, and hiking, with settings to track a variety of workouts. I personally never recorded myself doing these activities, because my heart belongs to running, but I appreciate the customizable quality of its fitness tech. The swimming setting, for instance, is so detail-oriented that it can even tell the difference between stroke types. It even offers yoga and Pilates workouts.

The Forerunner 255s Music edition can hold up to 500 songs downloaded from your computer with the included USB cable or can be streamed from Spotify or Amazon. Other noteworthy features include a sweat-resistant band, two sizes to choose from (difference in band watch face), as well as weather data, hydration detection, heart rate, step, and weekly mileage tracking. You can also receive smartphone notifications, send texts, and even complete contactless payments with just a tap.


First impressions 

The interface intimidated me at first, but now I don’t think twice about the controls—they’ve become fully intuitive. The watch is also a bit bulky if you’re not used to wearing a smartwatch, but I may just feel that way because I have petite wrists. But don’t let those (minor) downsides deter you. This smartwatch is a true delight. 

Upon unboxing, I felt like I had imposter syndrome. Was I someone who should be wearing a Garmin—a runner’s holy grail? That feeling quickly dispersed once I laid my eyes on it. It looked like a true top-of-the-line smartwatch for athletes, with its thick rubber band and bold screen. At first, I was a complete newb to the Garmin world, but I quickly got into the swing of the settings, and now I can gladly say I’m a pro. The button in the middle controls everything and will be your literal touchpoint for scrolling through the features. Once you select and set an activity, the button on the top right activates the recording process. The bottom left button allows you to go back, the top left turns the face light on and off, and the bottom shows key metrics such as heart rate, steps, and weekly mileage. Of course, the first thing I did was take this watch for a spin around the block with a quick jog, and it did not disappoint. Everything I needed was shown in real time: pace, mileage, and performance condition. 

Garmin 225s Forerunner watch

Photo by the author

First thing in the morning, I always receive an overview of my sleep, recovery, and heart rate variability, as well as a training outlook for the day. Within the first mile of every run, the watch shows me whether I’m pushing my fitness level forward or merely maintaining it. It can also detect when I’m stressed out, and when that’s the case, it sends relaxation reminders along with the choice to opt into a short breathing activity. These wellness features can be incredibly healthful for a holistic view of health beyond just running and exercise.

My experience 

I’ve been wearing the Garmin Forerunner 255s every day for more than a year without fail, and I’ve hit so many personal records wearing it that I now consider it my good luck charm. It’s gotten to the point where I feel naked without wearing it—we’re attached to the hip (or in this case, the wrist.) I swear by its accuracy for outdoor running—the pace has proven almost identical, within seconds, to my official race day times. The stats for treadmill running can be a bit questionable, but that’s a tricky subject since treadmills can be significantly off themselves. For instance, I ran a 10K last weekend on a treadmill; the treadmill claimed I was going at a pace of six minutes and 25 seconds per mile—which is unheard of for me—while the Garmin reported a much more believable nine minutes and 27 seconds per mile. Needless to say, I trust the watch over the treadmill.

Garmin’s Bluetooth-connected app makes analyzing the data super easy, which has been a lifesaver. It’s also been a  great conversation starter. I’ve had countless people ask me if I’m a runner just because I wear this watch—most recently, a waitress at a Mexican restaurant. 


Of course, the music feature is a big part of the appeal of this particular model. The music interface is simple to use and streams to my AirPods without any issues. However, I should note that playing music seems to drain battery life faster. I noticed the watch bonks out within about six hours if you keep Spotify going continuously, which isn’t necessarily terrible given I don’t go for runs or walks six hours at a time, and if you don’t mind more frequent charging sessions. 

It’s also important to note you can not text or talk through the watch itself; you can only view messages and social media notifications, and accept calls (you can talk through Bluetooth-connected earbuds). As for contactless payment, it needs to be set up through the Garmin Connect app, then you can just scan your watch to pay. There’s a catch though—your bank provider needs to be participating with Garmin. Mine is not (Capital One) so if this feature is a major incentive, check for compatibility first.   

Overall, I’m super impressed with this watch’s features and performance, and it’s become my 24/7 ride-or-die. Can one be in a relationship with their Garmin watch? I don’t see why not, although I hope my boyfriend doesn’t get jealous. 

TL;DR: The Garmin Forerunner 255s is for advanced runners who enjoy an impressive array of extra fitness and lifestyle features in a smartwatch. Those who are training for any competitive races or who get a thrill by racing against the clock will adore this watch, but so will any fitness-minded people who enjoy listening to music on the go and having an all-in-one wearable that works around the clock to provide helpful and interesting stats. It’s pretty tech-y, but it’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of the controls. I’m never taking it off! 

You can purchase the Forerunner 255s on Garmin’s website or through Amazon.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.