I got these in September 2019. Those that know me know I am always looking for a bargain and I could not believe my luck with these.
Lots of my running friends were telling me how good these were, people that had previously done most of their running in Asics, Mizuno, On’s etc. I had only tried Nike shoes once before and I did not want to pay £130+ to find I did not like them.
I was browsing ebay one day and I found someone selling them for £30 (delivered), advertised as brand new with all sizes available and lots of colours. Why I ordered white I will never know….
The catches were, they did not come in a box and I had to order them from a ebay seller in China. So I ordered a pair, got a tracking number and followed them across the world to Doncaster, they arrived after about 10 days. I put them on and they were too small, I was gutted, I had not ordered UK size 10, I had ordered US size 10. So I sold these to Malc at running club for £30 and I ordered two more pairs of US size 11.
After a few days the two pairs arrived and I put one pair away and started running in the cheapest running shoe I had ever owned. Were they genuine Nike or a copy? Would they fall to bits? Would they injure me?
They are the best running shoes I have ever owned, I do not track the mileage I run in shoes, I just run in them until they wear out and the first pair is still feeling good to run in. The grip / rubber has warn out on the sole but until bits start falling off I will keep going, If I had to guess I would say I have done between 400 and 500 miles in them, and many races. They are good on road and off road.
The shoes seam to encourage you to run fast, so I would wear something else for recovery runs now like Mizuno or On’s. I am not sure if I would do a full marathon in them or if I would stick to Mizuno, I probably would give them a try though.
Unfortunately the seller is no longer on ebay, I would have got another 5 pairs if I could.
I am a total convert to Nike now after being a Mizuno runner for 16 years, I do still run in other shoe brands but if I want to feel like putting a great shoe on for a run, I pick these. I have not yet tried the 4% or newer carbon plate shoes.
I did recently pick up some Pegasus 36 shoes for £52 delivered, and these feel good. So a years worth of running shoes (three pairs) cost me around £112.
So I am in the rather unique place to have a pair of heavily warn shoes V brand new unworn shoes to compare.
Other bands do exist such as Suunto and Polar and they make some great looking watches, but I have only ever owned Garmin watches so I am only able to write about these. Once you have used a particular brand you get locked in to their ecosystem much like the Android and Apple ecosystem and it is difficult to change if you want to keep all your historical data and future data in one place. I will write about Garmin Connect another day.
As a minimum you need a sports watch to be able to tell you how far you have run, how fast you are currently running, time elapsed and average pace. Anything else is a bonus and even the most basic sports watches will tell you a lot more.
Sports watches have to be durable and able to take hot, cold, wet weather, you might even go swimming with it on if it is waterproof. If you are in to triathlon then get a tri watch. Ultra runners need a watch that offers great battery life and the option to recharge on the run as well as mapping ideally. Runners will not go wrong with the Forerunner watches, they are brilliant. The vivoactive watches probably offer the best value for multisport and general lifestyle.
My first Garmin watch was the Forerunner 205 which I purchased on 31 July 2007 for £105 from Amazon. At the time just about everyone had this or the 305 which was red, the 305 was slightly more advanced which allowed the user to connect a Heart Rate Monitor.
The watch was very bulky but you did not really notice it, it had very similar functionality to what we have in today’s watches but without the refinement and you would not wear it to the pub.
It had to be connected to a computer using a cradle and wire, this could be very hit and miss and the contacts required frequent cleaning to get rid of sweet and dirt. You connected it to transfer the data to the Garmin website, and you could sync the Garmin website to transfer the data to 3rd party websites such as Fetch Everyone which I still use today. This was the equivalent of Strava up until around 2013 when Strava realised they should support runners a bit more.
The 205 allowed runners to view up to 4 data screens, and as you can see, the data was easily readable, it auto lapped every mile and could be programmed to do interval training or to show a virtual runner. The GPS accuracy was as good as what we have today, possibly even better. Using the watch became second nature, you could use it without looking at it, you just remembered where the buttons were. I think Garmin have always been good at making products with easy usability. I used it for five years (in all weather) before I decided to upgrade, it was still working fine and I ended up giving it away to Carl Ryde.
My second Garmin watch was the 410 which I purchased on 16 May 2012 for £140 from Amazon. My previous watch was still working well but I wanted to try a watch that looked less bulky and it came with a heart rate monitor chest strap. The watch had 2 buttons and a touch screen, this compared with the 205 which I think had 7 buttons.
The technology was not quite ready for the reduction in size, the screen became less easy to read, cluttered, low resolution and could show less data. You could set the screen to scroll between screens but that was no good for me, I wanted to see the data I needed without waiting for it to scroll.
The 410 was wireless for the transfer of data, this used a protocol called ANT+, Bluetooth was not ready for Garmin watches. You had to plug in a USB stick that looked like a memory stick which was a bit hit and miss. I was wanting to be able to upload data without having to use computer and you could do this with a USB OTG cable, the ANT stick and an Andoid phone running some dodgy software. Not an easy solution but it worked sometimes.
To charge the watch Garmin developed a new cradle but again, this was not great and the contacts required regular cleaning.
The touch screen could be temperamental, and I remember when fell racing on a very wet night at Castleton the screen went mad.
I kept the watch until around March 2015, the watch was still going fine and it had got me through my first 3 marathons but I had seen a new watch that looked like a watch you could wear as a normal watch all the time so i decided to upgrade. We actually had 2, 405 watches (Rose also had one) and these were given away to Wayne Martison and Joe Wade and I am happy to see they are both still going strong.
I left the Forerunner series when I got my third Garmin watch, the Fenix 3 from Gooutdoors (the day it was released) for £400. The first 50 people to get this watch got a free backpack worth over £50 which is a great piece of kit. At first I thought the watch was amazing but not for long.
I had a nightmare with the watch, Garmin had moved to a MTK GPS chip from some other manufacturer. I am not sure if this was the cause of the errors I kept getting but the GPS tracks were not as accurate, in addition sometimes when I ran past mobile phone masts my Garmin would teleport me a few hundred meters away and then back, which had the result of crazy inaccurate data. I had expected better from a £400 investment.
I contacted Garmin and after a couple of emails they agreed to replace it. Brilliant service from Garmin but i was dismayed to see the new watch did exactly the same. I probably persevered with it for 6 months, waiting for software updates etc but they did not fix it. I reached out to Garmin again, and they agreed to replace it again. I was pleased to find my 3rd Fenix 3 worked well and did not give me GPS errors, finally I could enjoy the watch. I had been running with my 410 and Fenix 3 at the same time as I could rely on the data from the 410. I was very pleased that Garmin had replaced the watch, I can not fault their customer service.
The watch connected to by phone via bluetooth, and it connected to my home network. Brilliant. I could install different watch faces, different data screens and widgets to get weather forecast and control music on my phone. The watched tracked my activity levels, it had a step counter, it knew when I went up stairs, it tracked my sleep. I never took it off. The battery was incredible, I could get a week out of it at a time, the screen was good and colour.
No question, it is a big watch but it never bothered me when running. It does not have an optical HR sensor, the Fenix 3HR came later.
I was starting to do ultra races and I was able to produce my own GPX routes and get them on the screen for me to navigate.
Garmin had designed another cradle for the watch, mainly used for charging but also for data transfer to a PC. The designs were getting better and you could wear the cradle whilst running to charge the watch which I did.
I did feel the watch could have had a better processor in it, at times it was quite slow particularly when using it on long navigation races. With regards to Garmin putting out software updates, I still get them today, not bad for a 5 year old watch.
It died when I went open water swimming, it was ok in the water but when I got out the watch started randomly switching between screens and the buttons stopped working. I was gutted and took the watch to bits to try to see if I could dry it out. The buttons did not start working again unfortunately.
Fenix 5s plus
My fourth Garmin watch was the Fenix 5S plus from CeX for £299. I had been without a garmin for a couple of weeks and after a bit of research I decided to stick with the Fenix series. I had always wanted a watch that had internal memory for the storage of music. The watch was used but condition looked good.
It had the same button layout as the Fenix 3 and it was operated in a very similar method so I had no problem getting use to it. It has a more intuitive menu system, better screen and optical HR sensor.
I went for my first run with the watch and noticed one of the data screens showed a map, I was blown away, I have not loaded any maps on to the watch but as you can see below the detail of mapping is brilliant.
Unfortunately the battery is quite poor, I need to charge it every 2 or 3 days and if I use Bluetooth earphones with it the battery drains very quickly, not sure if I would get 3 hours out of a full charge. It may be that the watch needs a replacement battery and I will change it at some point if I can find a new one.
I am very pleased to see Garmin have adopted a standard charging cable for their watches now, hopefully they will stick with it, it seams to work well.
Garmin make amazing watches although I do think the high end prices are getting a bit silly. You do occasionally find amazing discounts so keep your eyes open.
Fenix 3 resurrection
After trying to fix the Fenix 3 many times over the last 6 months I did it! I had been taking it to bits and spraying the switches with contact cleaner. This would get them working again for a day or two before they packed in working again. As a last ditch attempt I just sprayed some standard WD 40 on the switches and 2 weeks later the watch seems to be working fine.
The family of Garmin watches
From left to right – Fenix 5S Plus, Forerunner 245 Music (daughters), Vivoactive 3 (Roses) and the Fenix 3.