Garmin Forerunner 10 Review

garminWhen I first started running, I used an app on my IPhone to track my runs. First I used MapMyFitness, then RunKeeper, and finally Runtastic. There were pros and cons with each app, but for the most part I was pretty satisfied with using an app. As a novice runner, I didn’t care about recording my time down to the exact second, nor did I worry about knowing the exact distance of my runs. When I was running far more slowly, it didn’t seem like a big deal if I ran a 5K in 29:32 or 29:38. Losing a few seconds, even a minute, because of awkwardness in starting and stopping an app didn’tย  seem like much when dealing with rather slow times. The accuracy of the distance measured in the apps were sometimes suspect, but overall, they did the job reasonably well. For the level at which I was then running, the apps worked just fine.

Ben offered to let me use his beloved Garmin 405, which I did once and never again. It was heavy and awkward. I found it complicated to use and puzzling to figure out. I was not impressed, just like McKayla Maroney. I continued to use the apps happily. Gradually as I became faster, as I cared more about my time and pace, particularly since it mattered more for training. In the beginning, I needed to run more to get faster. Now I need to run faster and at particular paces and distances to train smartly to get faster. Whereas before the errors in recording from the apps didn’t bother me, I was finding with greater frequency and intensity that they started to matter. I wondered about getting a GPS watch, but nothing that out on market compelled me to want one. Everything I saw was either too complicated and had more features than what I wanted or needed or didn’t have the features I thought were crucial. Plus I didn’t find the watches aesthetically pleasing and far larger than what I wanted on my delicate wrist (I have tiny birdlike wrists).

I resigned myself for a life without a GPS watch until I read this review of the Garmin Forerunner 10 by the august DCRainmaker. Everything I read seemed to be exactly what I was looking for — small stripped down model of a GPS with the features I wanted and nothing else in a lovely shade of pink. The Garmin Forerunner 10 comes in other lovely colors, but pink is my favorite. I then became a woman obsessed. I must own that watch. I hounded Ben day and night about the Garmin FR 10 until one day in September, he presented me with an early birthday present. In a bag with other racing goodies, there lied a pink Garmin FR 10. He gave it to me early so that I would have it with me when I ran my HM PR in Wineglass.

Although I haven’t been using it much the last few weeks because my runs have been on the treadmill, I got a lot of use out of it since September. It’s one of my favorites pieces of running accessories. Even Ben’s surprised by how much I love it.

The Good

It’s a great GPS watch for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles. It has all of features that I was looking for in a watch and not much else. The features I wanted were that the GPS watch recorded: pace, total distance, total time, mile splits, mapped the route onto a map, and had a virtual pacer. Garmin FR 10 has all that, plus a few other things, such as the ability to set up run/walk intervals or use it to count laps on a track.

It’s very simple to set up. I barely looked at the directions to set up watch. I spent a few minutes pressing buttons to see what would happen. I found it to be quite intuitive to use. This was a huge PLUS with me because I’m not particularly technologically-savvy nor do I care to fiddle around with several buttons. I’m strictly a one-button press and go kinda gal. This watch is about as close to that as you can get, while still having several neat features.

It’s small and light. As I’ve said before, I have tiny wrists. I can wrap my thumb and pinky around my wrist and have the fingers overlap. Most normally-sized watches, even women’s watches, feel too big and bulky on me. The Garmin FR 10 is one of the smallest watches that Garmin offers. Its size makes it very comfortable on my wrist. I love the bright colors. Not only is it functional, it’s fun too. As someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, I love it.

I can download information about my runs to GarminConnect. Downloading is easy and fast. The site is functional and pretty easy to use. I love looking at the maps of my runs (I just wish they used Google maps instead of Bing). I can edit the entries to name the runs, so I use it to identify races and which type of training runs I did. Another fantastic feature that the Garmin FR 10 records is the temperature of the run. I doubt the watch itself record the temp, but rather pulls the info from a weather report somewhere based on the location of the run when you download to the site. I like to look at weather info and analyze to see how temp and humidity affected my running. If you live in CA where the weather is pretty much glorious all the time, this feature is probably less useful to you.

I really like how Garmin identifies any records that I may have set, such as fastest mile, longest distance ran, or fastest 5K, 10K, and other preset distances. At my fingertips I have access to my PRs (I know, I know, real runners memorize all of their PRs. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

The Garmin FR 10 can present info about pace, distance, total time, and calories on its screen. But the smaller screen on a FR 10 means that only two out of the four can be presented at any one time. You can configure the screen to demonstrate which two pieces of info you want on the first and second screen and toggle between the two screens while out running.ย  Personally the only two pieces of info I care about while running is pace and distance, so only having pace and distance made readily available on a single is a plus. I know there are other runners who also want to see total time in a single screen, but I don’t care about this. Having only the presentation of pace and distance is a plus for me because it means that no space is wasted on info that I don’t want.

The GPS accuracy is great. Ben and I have tested its accuracy several times during our runs. When we run in a straight line, our GPS watches come within .01 of each other, if not exactly the same number. There have been times, especially when we’re running in places with spotty GPS reception, that my watch is actually more accurate. It seems to be less bothered by poor reception than the 405.

The FR 10 can sync up with satellites as you run. So if a race started and the watch hasn’t found the satellites yet, you still run and have the watch record when it does eventually find the satellites. Ben find the 405 has a terrible time finding satellites unless he’s still. The FR 10 has no problem finding satellites as you’re moving.

For a stripped down version of a fancy GPS watch, the retail price of around $129 can seem like a bit much, especially since the low end versions tend to cost around $100. But I think it’s a fair price because you get a lot more than the other simple $100 watches that the FR 10 is competing against. You can also find the FR 10 a bit cheaper by finding deals, such as 10% off if you purchase it using DCRainmaker’s affiliate link (includes free shipping).

The Bad

I can’t think of much.The GPS instant pace stability is probability the biggest drawback for me. It displays instant pace. Theoretically this is the pace that you’re running at moment. I’m rather grateful that I got this watch AFTER I learned to how run by feel and effort. I think if I got this watch early in my running career when I had no clue what a particular pace should feel like, I would have developed a neurotic tic. Unlike DCRainmaker, I find that the instant pace stability a bit problematic. It can jump around a bit even when I’m running a constant pace. There have been times when my watch tells me I was running a 6:04 pace and then a couple seconds later I’m running a 9:18 pace with no visible change of pace from me. If I relied on my watch to pace myself every second, I wouldn’t be able to run. The instant pace is far less stable the more turns a route has. While I find the overall distance and mile pace to be very accurate, the instant pace is less so. I rely on running by feel and effort and I glance at my watch every once in a while. If my watch constantly shows a pace that is far slower or faster than I would like, then I adjust my pace. Otherwise I look at the pace for each mile split and lock in to that effort because I like to run even splits. Basically I look at pace on the FR 10 to confirm that I’m running at the targeted pace, rather than to set myself to that pace. Again, the only time I know the pace is completely correct is at the mile split. If the the instance pace in between the mile splits seems rather off and I feel I’m running at the same effort level, I ignore it and glance back down a few seconds later.

The other real negative that I can think of is more of an annoyance. After a run, the FR10 will present you with mile splits – sorta. As long as you complete a mile, the time presented with each lap (I set mine so that each lap is a mile, you can change this to km) is the same as your pace. If you run less than a mile, the time presented is simply how long it took you to run that segment. Because it’s less than a mile, it’s not your pace. To see the pace for the last segment, you need to go to GarminConnect.

Like all GPS watches, it takes a bit of time to sync up with the satellites, especially when you’re in a new location. But I don’t think the FR 10 takes any more time than any other GPS watch. We’ve noticed that the FR 10 syncs faster than the 405 when there’s poorer satellite reception and slower than the 405 when there’s exceptionally good satellite reception. To get around the wait for finding satellites, I sync my watch much earlier than I need it and then let it go to sleep. Then when I need to get my watch going for a race, it’s ready and syncs up instantaneously right when I need it, so I don’t need to worry about not having satellite reception after the race started.

GarminConnect could be better designed to be a bit less cumbersome to use. I would like to make edits and changes more simply and quickly, but since I don’t spend much leisure time there, this is not much of an issue to me.

I wish Garmin used Google maps, instead of Bing. I’m sure this is being driven by financial reasons.

The Ugly


The Verdict

I absolutely recommend this watch to runners who are looking for a no fuss, minimal GPS watch. If you want fancy features, such as hooking it up with a heart monitor, this isn’t the model for you.

Do you run with a GPS watch? If so, which one? If not, do you use an app or something else?

10 thoughts on “Garmin Forerunner 10 Review

  1. Great review of the Forerunner 10 — I’m thinking this might be my next running watch. I still use my Forerunner 305 (that thing is a beast and way more bulkier and awkward than the 405….yet I can’t part with it just yet). But it’s good to know the Forerunner 10 is an option for future use!

  2. Great review. I also bought a GPS watch recently, I think at some point when you become ‘serious’ about running (whatever that means to each person), you realize the investment is worth it.

    • Thanks. I love my Garmin and the fact that I don’t have to fiddle with my IPhone anymore. I once dropped my phone and badly cracked the screen. I think that was the beginning of my desire for a GPS watch.

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