Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

I’ve been running with my Garmin Forerunner 235 for almost 4 months now, so I think it’s finally time to give this (awesome) sucker a full review.

Many of you have asked (via Instagram) what I think about the Garmin Forerunner 235, and my general response has been that I LOVE it! But many of you have also asked me to do a full, in-depth review, so … here it is!

Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

In my opinion, this watch is simple to use but it has many, many different features. Honestly, I don’t use them all, so I am going to focus mainly on the features that I do use, but I’ll also include a full overview of all of the capabilities.

What Does the Garmin 335 Do?

  • Tells time and date (duh)
  • Tracks your daily step count and distance, as well as your sleep
  • Auto step goal (learns your average activity level and assigns your daily step goal)
  • “Move” reminder (notifies you after a period of inactivity; just walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)
  • Monitors your heart rate (HR) via sensors on the back side of the watch face (anytime you’re wearing it, whether during a workout or just throughout your normal daily activities)
  • Tracks distance, pace, HR and time for outdoor running workouts, when prompted
  • Tracks distance, pace, HR and time for indoor/treadmill running workouts, when prompted (no foot pod needed)
  • Tracks, duration and HR for “other activities” (i.e., any type of non-running workout you want to record), when prompted
  • Offers audio prompts and live tracking during workouts
  • Stores your data
  • Connects to your phone via Bluetooth and the Garmin Connect app
  • Smart notifications: Via Bluetooth connection, displays incoming calls and text messages on watch face (can be disabled)
  • Ability to download data fields, unique watch faces, widgets and applications from “Connect IQ™”
  • Vibration alerts and music control
  • V02 max estimator
  • Recovery adviser
  • Race predictor
  • Records personal records
  • Auto pause (watch will pause workout based on your speed, i.e., if you’re stopped)
  • Ability to create custom workout
  • Pace alert (e.g., triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace)
  • Interval workouts
  • HR-based calorie burn calculator
  • Aerobic Training Effect (measures how activity affects your fitness)

Garmin Forerunner 235 Review
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OK, so as you can see, the Garmin Forerunner 235 has many, many functions and capabilities. I bought this watch for a few main reasons: I needed a new GPS watch to track my running workouts, I wanted something that could track my HR without a strap or any additional accessories, and I wanted a fitness tracker to keep tabs on my daily step count. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is all of those things in one, so for me, this model was a no-brainer.

Garmin Forerunner 235

I wear it every day to see and keep track of my step count, and also so that it will remind me to move after I’ve been sitting at my desk for a prolonged period of time (I try my best to get up when it buzzes, but I’m not always perfect at it).

Other than that, I use it to record my running workouts for distance, duration and when needed (e.g., for interval or tempo workouts) pace. Sometimes I use the “other activities” function to track my non-running workouts (like during Orange Theory or when I do yoga), but it’s not entirely necessary for me as my training is mainly focused on running right now.

I also use the smart notifications feature so that I can see my text messages on the watch face (they stay on the screen for a few moments after the message is received and if you’re in the middle of the workout, it shows you who texted you, but not the text of the message), and also to receive calls (you can use the buttons to answer or decline the call, but you need your phone to actually talk to the person calling), in other words you can’t reply to messages or talk on the phone through your watch. Sometimes I find this feature distracting, but most times it’s convenient to simply glance and check if it’s something important or answer an important call quickly (and then run up find your phone) if your phone isn’t right nearby.

Garmin Forerunner235

Garmin Forerunner 235 Review: Key Features

GPS: Great— Aside from during the NYC Marathon when the distance function got thrown off towards the end of the race for some reason, the GPS function has been spot on and I feel confident that the distance-tracker is very accurate.

The GPS also connects fairly quickly. I have found that when I’m in the suburbs, it connects quicker than if I’m in the city. In the city it never takes more than one or two minutes though, which is actually a long time when you’re trying to get right out the door for a run, but … sometimes I start running and start recording my workouts before I get the “GPS ready” notification and it seems to still accurately track my distance before that anyway, and I eventually get the notification while I’m running … So I may be doing it totally wrong and should probably have more patience and wait, but I guess if it’s been working for me, it’s not a huge deal. (If anyone has feedback on this, though, let me know!)

Battery Life: Excellent — I’ve had a few different running/fitness watches and I’ve never had one with this great of a battery life. I’m truly impressed with how long it lasts, especially given the fact that I wear it all day, every day. I run about three to four days per week (currently ranging from about 3-7 miles per run) and as I just mentioned, I wear the watch continually through every day, and I’d say on average I only need to charge it every 3 or 4 days. That’s a huge step up from watches I’ve had that I’ve needed to charge after every run or daily.

Garmin Forerunner235
This is what the face looks like when you start recording a running workout: distance, time and pace.

Ease of Use: Great — It took a little bit of getting used to with reading the quick start guide, but overall, the usability of the Forerunner 235 is very intuitive.

There are 5 buttons total: the backlight button (to illuminate the screen), the power/activity button, the “return” button (to bring you back to a previous screen), and an up arrow and a down arrow.

If you want to start recording a workout, you press the “activity” button and then from their it’s pretty straightforward. Just scroll to the type of activity you want (outdoor run, indoor run or other) and then you press the “activity” button again. One more press and then your workout will begin recording (displaying a big green “play” icon) to let you know it started.

You can also press the “activity” button to pause your workout temporarily, which will display a red “stop” icon and then fade to a screen with the option to resume or end and save the workout.

The arrow buttons allow you to easily scroll through the different options in any menu.

In summary, it’s easy to get a workout started, it’s easy to pause the watch during a workout and it’s also easy to change between screens during a workout, which, personally, I find to be the most important functions. As mentioned above, this watch does a lot of things so when you’re not working out and scrolling through the different menus to find a setting you want to change or a past workout, it does take a little bit of searching, but overall I think it’s organized well and have been able to find everything I’ve ever needed to find in any of the different menu functions.

In other words if you’re just chilling out and want to look at your stats, data from a pervious workout or change some settings, all of the functions are relatively easy to navigate as well.

Garmin Forerunner235

Overall: This watch does A LOT more than I need it to, but I don’t feel like it wasn’t worth it for me because the core functions that I bought it for (running workout tracker, step tracker and HR monitoring) work really well.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a “bells and whistles,” techie kind of runner that needs all the latest features and more. But whether you’re like me, or you like fitness gadgets that can go above and beyond, I think either way you’ll like the Garmin Forerunner 235 because it works well all-around.

Is it Worth it to Upgrade to the Garmin Forerunner 235?

I did not have a different Garmin watch before the Forerunner 235, so I can’t compare it to other Garmin models. I will say, though, this is by far the best running watch I’ve had to date. The Polar RC3 GPS worked really well, but it required a strap for HR monitoring, so the Forerunner 235 beats it for its all-in-one functionality. Same goes for the Polar FT4, which is the first fitness watch I ever used. In my opinion, that one is very outdated at this point.

The next watch I used after my Polar RC3 GPS was the Timex Ironman ONE GPS+. When I first got that watch I was really excited about it because the whole idea of it is that it works as a watch, music player and phone all in one. The idea of being able to go out for a run and have all those functions without having to carry my phone was definitely enticing.

But unfortunately, while it did its part in terms of tracking my runs, the other functions (texting, music playing, etc.), while certainly cool and useful, just did not keep me hooked. For whatever reason, I ended up letting them fall by the wayside and only used the GPS function of the watch to record my running workouts. I think this ultimately came down to the fact that I still needed to take my phone with me when I ran if I wanted to snap pictures. So since I had it with me I left the watch to tracking my run and it was just easier to keep my music and texting to my phone. (Blogger problems, am I right?)

Since the Garmin Forerunner 235 seems to work better, even though it doesn’t have such advanced capabilities as the Timex Ironman watch, it definitely wins in my opinion and I would even consider it an “upgrade.”

Oh and one more thing: the Ironman watchface was REALLY big. The Forerunner 235’s is a better size — just big enough so you can easily see what’s on the screen, but not so big that it takes over your whole wrist.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Apps

Admittedly, I wasn’t aware that there were different apps available for the Garmin  Forerunner 235, so I haven’t utilized this aspect of the watch. But a reader asked about this, so I looked into it and it’s true that some apps are available for this watch. I was specifically asked about apps for swimming, and it does look like there are a few available. I haven’t tried any, though, so I can’t speak to them personally.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a “bells and whistles” techie sort of runner, so if I’m being totally honest, add-on apps don’t really interest me, especially since the Forerunner 235 already does everything I need it to and more. It is nice to know that there is the option for add-ons, though.


Phew! Who knew you could say so much about a watch?! I think I covered everything, but if you have a question or want to know something more specific, let me know in the comments! I hope this is helpful for all y’all who asked me to review the Forerunner 235 and anyone considering it as their next running watch!