Garmin Forerunner 15 Review | Best Cheap GPS Running Watch and Activity Tracker 2014

garmin forerunner 15 review

Reviewed by:
On September 23, 2014
Last modified:June 23, 2016


Now it’s easier than ever to run to your own beat. Forerunner 15 is the GPS running watch that captures essential statistics like time, distance, pace and heart rate. It also has activity tracking features to count your steps and the calories you burn all day. When your run is done you can save it and share it at the free online community, Garmin Connect.

Garmin Forerunner 15 Running Watch Review

Welcome to my independent Garmin Forerunner 15 review. The best cheap GPS running watch of 2014. Forerunner 15 is an upgrade to the Forerunner 10 which was released in 2012. Forerunner 15 is an awesome entry level running watch as it combines essential stats including time, distance, pace and heart rate monitoring with daily activity tracking. It’s very similar to the Garmin Vivofit fitness band range in this sense.

Affordable and Budget-friendly Running Watch

Forerunner 15 is an affordable GPS running watch, ideal for beginners and runners who only want and need essential data from their training. I’ve seen advanced marathoners using FR10 and FR15 to only track their pace, distance and time. As the battery life is so good, they will easily last on a marathon run.


  • Accurate GPS running watch with activity tracking
  • Tracks distance, pace, heart rate and calories
  • Compatible with foot pod for recording distance indoors
  • Identifies personal records
  • Activity tracking counts steps and calories and reminds you when it’s time to move
  • Water proof to 5 ATM (50 meters)
  • Compatible with foot pod for running indoors
  • Up to 8 hours of battery life with GPS on or 5 weeks in watch/activity tracking mode


  • No Bluetooth or wireless uploads to Garmin Connect
  • No smartphone notifications/alerts
review of the garmin forerunner 15 colors for men and women

Range of colors and sizes available.

Garmin do have other budget watches available, including the Forerunner 25 (read review here) which has bluetooth for wireless syncing. Also included in the latest Forerunner range are watches with wrist-based heart rate and advanced running dynamics. The 630 is particularly impressive as it tracks body movement (vertical oscillation) cadence (steps per minute) and more.

However if you only need the essentials and want to save money, please continue reading my FR15 review! Alternatively check current prices here (Amazon have the best deals).

Garmin Forerunner 15 Watch Design Review

There’s no escaping that the FR15 looks and feels like an entry-level sport watch. It’s fairly chunky and it certainly won’t be winning any Red Dot product design awards. That said, Forerunner 15 does what it says on the tin and it does it well.

The display measures 55×32 pixels and clearly displays data at a glance. Additional data screens include: Virtual Pacer, Pace alerts, Run/walk, Auto Pause and Auto Lap. There’s no Auto Scroll on this watch (unlike the newer Forerunner 25) which scrolls automatically through screens when you hold it up towards your face.

Forerunner 15 is one of my personal favourite watches due to the normal, replaceable strap. Many modern activity trackers are designed with bespoke bands and can’t be replaced. You can buy a variety of new straps which gives you the option of mix and match. The strap also securely holds the watch on your wrist, so there’s no chance of loosing it on your run!

There are 4 physical buttons on the side of the watch to help you navigate the device and start your run. It’s very simple to use, even if you’re bit of technophobe! The key button is the big blue one with a runner icon (top right), simply press this to get a GPS fix and press again to start your run. The button below is for navigating through the screens. Top left button is the power on and backlight, perfect for night time running.

Running Features

What’s really great about the Forerunner 15 is that it’s so easy to use. It takes few seconds to acquire a GPS/satellite fix, once connected simply press start and run. When running you have to press the arrow button to toggle through the data screens. Unfortunately FR15 doesn’t have Auto Scroll you have to physically press the button to navigate through the data as you run. The watch displays running time, distance, pace and calories. At the end of your run there a 3 options – resume, save or discard. Forerunner 15 saves a maximum of 7 activities to the watch before you have to delete some.

Beginner runners will find the run/walk feature extremely useful. You can set different intervals for how long you would like to walk for and then run. This allows for recovery periods between runs and helps you build up to running all the time during a workout. Forerunner 15 simply sounds an alert when the interval time is up and you need to start running again.

Virtual Pacer allows you to set a target pace for your runs. If you are slower or faster than your target pace, FR15 will sound an alert so you can slow down or speed up. Auto Pause is also handy if you are aiming for a personal best. For city runners pausing at traffic lights for example, the watch will pause your workout and automatically resume again when you start running. Auto Lap beeps when you reach a new mile or KM and will also display average pace over that distance.

Daily Activity Tracking

Forerunner counts your steps, calories and distance throughout the day. The inactivity indicator motivates you to move when you’ve been sitting too long. It also includes a daily step goal that adjusts depending on your step count the previous day.

Garmin Forerunner 15 Activity Tracker Alternatives

If basic activity tracking is what you are after, and you’re not all that fussed over GPS, then there are other options available. The Garmin Vivofit and Vivosmart activity trackers offer the same daily tracking features, including steps, distance, calories, and sleep monitoring. The 2016 Vivosmart HR+ can also be used for running as it has GPS. Another fantastic feature is the wrist-based heart rate (no chest strap required).

Charging and Uploading to Garmin Connect

One flaw with the Forerunner 15 is the lack of Bluetooth. Unlike the Forerunner 25 automatic syncing to the free Garmin Connect fitness app isn’t possible. There’s also no smartphone notifications (when paired with a smartphone the watch will display texts, call and social media alerts). Instead syncing has to be done via the computer USB charging clip which comes with the watch. You will need to install Garmin Express (PC & Mac) to sync you running data. This desktop app also supplies your watch with software updates, which Garmin are very good at.

Different Watch Colors and Sizes for Men and Women

The Forerunner 15 is available in a range of bright colors and sizes, making it ideal for both men and women. Large comes in Black/Blue and Red/Black, small is available in Black/Green, Teal/White and Violet/White. There’s also a weight variation between the 2 sizes (large 43g / small 36g). FR15 will go well with the usually running kit of bright and luminous colors. However if you’re looking for a running watch to go with your office suit it’s not ideal. Garmin Fenix 3 would be better, although far more costly!

Garmin Forerunner 15 Review Summary

Forerunner 15 is an accurate running watch, and comes with the GPS technology Garmin is famous for. In my opinion it is one of the best cheap watches of 2014. If you’re just a casual runner or weekend park runner, FR15 is ideal. I don’t think it’s a watch you would wear all the time or with your business attire but as affordable watches go, it’s at the top of the list.

Although Forerunner 15 does not have Bluetooth for wireless uploads or smartphone notifications, it’s not a deal breaker. Just remember to charge regularly via the USB clip. I would recommend having the charging cable by your computer, as a reminder to connect and upload your runs. You will also receive software updates via Garmin Express in this way.

Garmin Forerunner 15 cheap GPS running watch for beginners

Where Can I Buy Forerunner 15?

As this watch is now a couple of years old there are some great deals and discounts to be had. I would recommend checking Amazon for the latest money saving offers. They list the entire Garmin Forerunner range so you can also compare features and prices.

Compatible Forerunner 15 Garmin Accessories:

Forerunner 15 comes with the standard Garmin heart rate monitor but for longer runs and training you may prefer the premium soft fabric strap version. This chest strap is more comfortable and you’ll receive accurate data on heart rate and heart rate zones. For running indoors or when you’re out of GPS range, you can buy a Garmin Footpod. It’s small enough to attach to your shoelaces and is always ready for use. The Footpod also captures cadence (steps per minute). You should be aiming for a ‘sweet spot’ of 182 steps per minute.


Garmin Forerunner 15 Accessories: Foot Pod / Premium Soft Strap Heart Rate Monitor / Replaceable Watch Straps

The views expressed here are my own, I am not affiliated with Garmin in anyway. I enjoy writing about their products for the benefit of others and in return make a small commission from any Amazon sales on this review website. If you have any feedback, please use the contact form provided.

Now it’s easier than ever to run to your own beat. Forerunner 15 is the GPS running watch that captures essential statistics like time, distance, pace and heart rate. It also has activity tracking features to count your steps and the calories you burn all day. When your run is done you can save it and share it at the free online community, Garmin Connect.

About the Author

Si Dawson
Marathon runner and fitness trainer (and part time blogger). Simon Dawson uses Garmin Forerunner running watches to keep in shape, he enjoys blogging and sharing his views.