So you’re getting more into running, and you’re thinking about purchasing a GPS running watch. With so many choices, you may be overwhelmed. So let’s compare two great options from the Garmin Forerunner line – the Garmin 255 vs 955.
Both watches are from Garmin’s most recent set of releases in 2022. The Forerunner 255 is a mid-tier watch, while the 955 is the top-end watch in the Forerunner line. There are a lot of similarities between the two devices, but there are a few key differences that set them apart.
So which one is right for you? Let me run down the differences, and you can decide for yourself.
Price Differences Between the Garmin Forerunner 255 and 955
One obvious – and important – difference is the price. The Forerunner 955 has some unique features that the 255 lacks, so the real question is – do these features and upgrades justify the higher price?
So it helps to start by understanding the difference between the two watches in terms of price point.
The Garmin Forerunner 255 comes in a few different configurations. You can get the regular size (255) or the small size (255s). You can also get it with or without music capabilities. The music enabled 255 retails for $399.99, while the non-music version retails for $349.99.
This is a little higher than its predecessor, the Garmin 245, retailed for. If you’re looking for something a little cheaper, you may want to compare the Garmin 245 vs 255.
The Garmin Forerunner 955 also comes in two configurations – the regular version and the solar version. The regular version retails for $499.99 and the solar version retails for $599.99.
The price point for the base model is a little lower than its predecessor – the Garmin 945. This leaves the 255 and the 955 relatively close in price. There’s only a $100 difference between the music version of the 255 and the base version of the 955. And if you’re already in for around $400, an extra $100 isn’t that much.
So what does the Garmin Forerunner 955 bring to the table, and is it worth the extra $100?
Enhanced Features on the Garmin Forerunner 955
There are a handful of minor software differences and additional features that the Forerunner 955 has. Some of these aren’t really worth pointing out, like additional activity profiles.
But there are four major features that are worth highlighting. For some people, these will definitely justify the additional cost.
These four features include improved maps and navigation features, a training readiness metric, live Strava segments and the suite of Garmin Golf features.
Improved Maps and Navigation Features
For me, the most significant difference is in the maps and navigation features.
The Garmin 255 uses the same breadcrumb navigation that the Garmin 245 uses. It’s useful, and it’s better than nothing.
But the Garmin Forerunner 955 offers a full featured map. You can see streets and trails marked on the map, as well as points of interest.
If you’re using a planned route, then you can get turn by turn directions. And even if you didn’t plan a route ahead of time, you can use the round trip course creator to plan out a route of whatever distance you like.
When I’m traveling and exploring new cities, this would be very helpful. I usually study the map ahead of time and head out to explore. Eventually, the breadcrumb navigation on my Forerunner 245 gets me back home. But I’ve made wrong turns before, and I’d love to be able to see an actual map while I’m running in unfamiliar places.
Training Readiness and Improved Performance Metrics
Another feature that the Garmin 955 offers is training readiness.
This is a new metric designed to let you know whether or not you’re recovered and ready for a hard workout. It does this by combining a number of other metrics that are already available on the Forerunner 255 and other watches, so it’s nothing earth shattering. But it’s nice to see everything in one screen and have one summarized score.
Training readiness is based on sleep data, recovery time, heart rate variability, stress, and acute training load. If any of these metrics are out of wack, you may want to put off your workout until the following day.
The 955 also incorporates data on heat and altitude acclimation. It tracks your training in these conditions and uses this information to improve its algorithms for other performance metrics, like VO2 max.
Another related feature is real time stamina. This metric aims to track how much you have “left in the tank” before and during an activity. I’m a little skeptical about how accurate this metric would be, and I’d probably find the Training Readiness one more useful. But it’s a nifty feature and it might be worth playing around with.
Live Strava Segments
This one is only going to matter to you if you’re into Strava – but if you are, it’s a big one.
Basically, you can select Strava segments and send them to your watch. Then, while you’re running your watch will let you know when a segment is beginning, guide you through the segment, and compare your performance live against a target.
This could help you hit a personal best – or it could help you topple the local king of the hill. I imagine this is less widely useful than it would have been a few years ago – before Strava hid most of the segment features behind a paywall. But if you are a subscriber, then this adds some great functionality.
Garmin Golf Features
One of the other really unique features and improvements on the Garmin 955 is the availability of Garmin Golf.
I don’t play golf, so this doesn’t appeal to me. But if you do golf, then this is a great suite of features to carry around on your watch.
You can load data for the course you are playing and see things like distance to the hole. You can get Garmin devices specifically for golfing, but the 955 combines those features with your running watch.
If you’re a runner and a golfer, then I think this definitely justifies the higher price of the 955.
Physical and Hardware Differences in Garmin 255 vs 955
There are also some physical and hardware differences that become apparent when you compare the Garmin 955 vs 255.
The Garmin 955 uses a different kind of Gorilla Glass. The Gorilla Glass DX on the 955 is supposed to reduce glare and scratches compared to the Gorilla Glass 3 on the Forerunner 255. There’s nothing wrong with the glass on the 255 per se – but the 955 is “better.”
The Forerunner 955 is also slightly larger. It has a 46.5mm diameter. This is a bit bigger than the 45.6mm diameter of the regular 255 – and considerably larger than the 255s. If you have a small wrist or you’re worried about size, this may actually be a downside for you. But either way, it’s something to be aware of. The Forerunner 955 also uses a different kind of watch band – the Quick Fit band.
Battery life is slightly improved on the 955. It’s not a huge difference, but the 955 is rated to last a little bit longer – whether you’re looking at smartwatch mode or GPS mode. This is also the key difference in the 955 Solar. It’s rated for 20 days in smartwatch mode, compared to 15 days without solar. Frankly, I don’t see how this justifies an extra $100 – unless you just want to splurge on the solar version for the novelty of it.
Finally, the Garmin 955 has a ton more memory onboard. It features 32gb of memory, compared to the 4gb of memory on the 255. Some of this is probably necessary for the additional features – like full featured maps and Garmin Golf. But it also translates into more storage space for music. You can store 2,000 songs on the 955 compared to 500 songs on the 255.
I don’t personally use the music feature, so that doesn’t matter to me. But if you’re a heavy user of the music capabilities that might be a big selling point for you.
Similarities Between the Garmin Forerunner 955 and 255
Before we wrap up, it’s worth pointing out that there are substantial similarities between the two watches.
Both watches are high quality, fully featured GPS running watches. They each have the option for multi-band GPS to get more accurate data. They’ll do a great job of tracking your steps, your runs, and your sleep.
Aside from training readiness and real time stamina, they offer the same performance metrics – like VO2 max, performance condition, body battery, and heart rate variability.
Both watches feature multi-sport activities. The older Garmin 245 did not have multi-sport activities, so if you’re familiar with the previous versions of the Garmin Forerunner you may not realize that both the 255 and the 955 are good for triathletes.
Finally, they both have music capabilities, they both have altimeters to track altitude, and they both hook up to external sensors like an ANT+ heart rate monitor.
So Should You Choose the Garmin Forerunner 255 or 955?
So we’re done comparing the Garmin Forerunner 255 vs 955. Which one should you choose?
Ultimately, that’s going to be up to you.
For me, the biggest selling point on the Garmin 955 is the maps and navigation features. I’ve been considering upgrading from my Forerunner 245 for this very reason. But if you don’t explore new running routes often, this may not matter to you.
Training readiness and real time stamina seem like novelties to an extent. By themselves, I don’t know that they justify a $100 increase. But maybe you think otherwise. Combined with the physical differences and upgrades, they make the watch “better” – and if you want the latest and greatest technology you might as well get the better watch.
And Garmin Golf will be a huge selling point for some – but completely irrelevant for others. If you’re a golfer, definitely go with the Forerunner 955.
Once you’ve come to a decision, head over to Amazon to check out the latest price on the Garmin Forerunner 255 and the Garmin Forerunner 955. Depending on the size, version, and color that you want, there are slightly different discounts and prices.
And if you’re wondering if there’s a different Garmin out there that’s right for you, check out this guide to picking the right Garmin Forerunner. It may be that you can save some money with a previous generation Forerunner, or you might not need all the features on the higher end watches.