forerunner 35 review

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review

forerunner 35 review

At a Glance: Quick Ratings

Heart Rate Functions


Fitness / Sport Features


Ease of Use


Battery Life


Where To Get It

A Deep Dive Into The Garmin Forerunner 35

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is the PERFECT sports watch for the vast majority of people who run for fitness, fun and competition.

If you are an elite runner looking to measure technical metrics please consider the Forerunner 235 or even the Forerunner 630.

As well as built-in GPS the Forerunner 35 features Garmin’s Elevate sensors acquiring heart rate directly from the wrist.

It’s also a 24/7 activity tracker / sleep monitor with smartphone notification alerts and connectivity to Garmin Connect iOS & Android App. This review of the Garmin Forerunner 35 has been written by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic

  • Who Is It For?

  • Video Review

  • Pros

  • Cons

In my opinion it’s a shame this Forerunner 35 model didn’t come out before the Forerunner 235.

I’m certain there’s a lot of 235 owners who’d rather have this cleaner, smarter and slightly less technical runners watch.

The 235 is undoubtedly one of the best GPS running watches, however, for the majority of recreational runners it is somewhat overly technical.

The Forerunner 35 provides wrist based heart rate monitoring combining all the best features of the Forerunner 25 and Vivosmart HR+.

A built-in GPS, off the wrist heart rate (Garmin Elevate) and a 24/7 activity tracker with sleep monitoring.

A watch for runners of all levels and abilities the Forerunner 35 offers all the expected features and functionality without going over the top. With the Forerunner 35 you’ll get autolaps, intervals, smartphone notifications, daily alarm, heart rate (5 x HR zones) and up to 13 hours of training time …

Which Forerunner is for you?
If the range of Garmin Forerunner watches is confusing you, pop over to my guide to the Garmin Forerunner for more information on all the different models with the newest models first.

The purpose of this guide is to ensure you get the latest and most appropriate Forerunner watch for your needs and budget.

Garmin Forerunner 35 Main Features and Functions

  1. NEW Feature – firmware V3.2 added VO2 Max testing (ony previously found on top of the range Garmin watches)
  2. Garmin Elevate – accurate wrist based heart rate (no chest strap required)
  3. 24/7 heart rate monitoring to show daily trends
  4. Built-in GPS providing accurate feedback on how far, how fast and where you have exercised
  5. Bluetooth Connectivity providing smartphone alerts and notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect and music controls
  6. Battery Life – expect over a week when used as a regular watch / activity tracker. In training mode (GPS & HRM turned on) the battery life is a commendable 13 hours. That’s 2 hours more than the FR235.
  7. Live Tracking (allowing friends and family to keep a track of you on long runs/rides)
  8. 24/7 activity tracking. The Forerunner 35 keeps track of  steps, calories and active time
  9. Movebar with “time to move” reminders
  10. Simple to use Interval Training tool. Warm up, Exercise phase, Recovery period, repeat x N then cool down. Each phase is set based on either time or distance
  11. Heart Rate Broadcast. The FR35 can transmit your heart rate to another ANT+ device, eg the Garmin Edge on your handlebars.
  12. The Forerunner 35 comes preloaded with sports profiles for outdoor running, indoor running, cycling and general cardio exercise.
  13. User configurable training views. You can set the training metrics that you want to see for the different sport profiles.
  14. Strava friendly. Connect the Garmin Connect web-service to your Strava for auto-upload of all your runs and rides to Strava.
  15. Watch the videos
  16. Forerunner 35 FAQ’s
  17. Photo Gallery – our own images
  18. Conclusions and Summaries

Which Garmin Forerunner is for YOU?

Are you confused by the number Garmin Forerunners available? Don’t worry, so were we. Not surprising with over 15 models in this popular GPS running watch.

To help us and you we published this summary review of ALL the Forerunners which lists the main differences between all the models from the original Forerunner 101 in 2003 to the very latest products.

Alternatives from Competitors
The closest alternatives to this Forerunner 35 are the TomTom Spark 3 and the Polar M200. Both include built-in GPS, wrist based heart rate and 24/7 activity tracking.

If you like to listen to music when you train, the TomTom features an internal memory with the capacity to store over 500 songs and connect to wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Plus, route explore, letting you follow the breadcrumb trail of a new route. The Polar M200 provides more Training Benefit feedback and gives Running Index score to help you progress.

For the more technical runner there is the brilliant Polar M430

TomTom Spark 3 Review – also called the Runner 3 with built-in music store for 500 songs !

Polar M200 Review – very similar to the FR35 with wrist based HR, internal GPS, designed specifically with runners in mind.

Polar M430 Review
– brilliant GPS running watch with wrist based HR – also support 100+ other sport profiles

Wearable Tech alternatives

If you’re in to your wearable technology then Android users may want to consider the Polar M600, powered by Android Wear or for users of iPhone the Apple Watch 2 Nike+.

Both these watches feature built-in GPS, are swim proof, have wrist based heart rate and can store music on their internal memory for playback via Bluetooth headphones.

Polar M600 Android Wear connected smartwatch, supports Strava application

Apple Watch Nike+ iPhone connected smartwatch comes with Nike+ Run Club pre-installed

>> Also, check out our review on outdoor adventure watches<<

Compare the Features of the Forerunner 25 /35 and 235

The table below shows the main differences between the Garmin Forerunner 25, 35 and 235. As you can see from this table the main difference, cosmetics aside, between the Forerunner 25 and 35 is the WRIST BASED heart rate found on the 35 compared to chest strap acquired HR of the Forerunner 25. the key differences between the Forerunner 35 and the 235, again, aesthetics aside, are 1) Colour Display [235], VO2 Max Estimate [235], Recovery Advisor [235], Race Finish Time Predictor [235], Real time Pace Alert [235] and support of the Garmin IQ app store [235]


GPS Speed, Distance, Altitude & Heart Rate

Uploading the training session to Garmin Connect via either the USB cable (Windows PC or Mac) or Bluetooth connection to smartphone gives access to invaluable training data. Everything from essential speed, distance and average heart rate to elevation gain and calories burnt.

The image below shows the route and training metrics from a 15 mile bike ride. The raw training data can be found here on my Garmin Connect page.


Garmin Forerunner 35 FAQs

We receive a number of repeat questions relating to the Garmin Forerunner 35. Some of the most popular enquiries have been answered below by CardioCritic below.

1. How Accurate is the Heart Rate?

The Forerunner 35 uses the Garmin’s Elevate wrist based heart rate technology. Expect 95%  to 98% accuracy for most training sessions.

2. How long does the battery life?

I used the Forerunner 35 for a whole week with 1 to 2 hours training per day. Garmin quote Forerunner 35 has a battery life of 13 hours in HR and GPS training mode. 

3. Does the Forerunner 35 have built-in GPS?

Yes. All the Garmin Forerunner watches have built-in GPS for accurate speed and distance tracking.

4. Does it Track Sleep?

Yes. The Forerunner 35 is a 24/7 activity tracker and sleep monitor. As well as tracking sleep quality and duration it also records heart rate snapshots throughout the day and night.

5. Is the Forerunner 35 water resistant / waterproof?

Yes. It is waterproof 50 meters (164 feet) and absolutely fine for swimming, but not scuba diving.

6. Does it have an independent stopwatch?

No. To time an event it is necessary to start an exercise session (use Cardio or Run Indoor, no GPS)

Garmin Forerunner 35 Colors and Variations

This brilliant, easy to use GPS running watch is available in 4 colours.

  • Black – Garmin Part Number: 010-01689-10
  • White – Garmin Part Number: 010-01689-13
  • Frost Blue (teal?) – Garmin Part Number: 010-01689-12
  • Limelight (green?) – Garmin Part Number: 010-01689-11

Wrist Based Heart Rate

The Garmin Forerunner 35 utilises Garmin’s ELEVATE system. Heart Rate is acquired from the wrist using these high powered LED sensors on the back of the watch.


Heart Rate Accuracy

During the review I compared the heart rate graphs acquired by the Forerunner 35 (from the wrist sensors) to a traditional chest strap senor.

In this test shown below the “control” unit was a Polar M450 GPS bike computer with a Polar H7 chest sensor.

The heart rate from the two units is almost identical. From multiple tests performed my conclusion was that the Forerunner 35 provides about 98% accuracy for approximately 99% of the time.

The only times we saw spikes or dropouts was during INTENSE interval sessions with very short (less than 30 seconds) 95% maxHR efforts. Most of the the time the FR35 was exemplary.


We have performed many similar accuracy tests on other wrist acquired heart rate watches.

The conclusion drawn is the same for those as this one … if your session relies on 99.99% accuracy, pair this watch with an ANT+ chest strap.

For all other times rely on the built-in wrist sensor for 98% accuracy. You have the best of both worlds. Convenience and 98% accuracy from the wrist sensor with the option of adding the chest strap for those sessions where HR data accuracy is absolutely CRITICAL.

That said, I was very happy relying on the Forerunner 35’s built-in HR sensor, even for interval training.


Review Photos

The following images were taken while making the video review of the Forerunner 35.

Home screen – Time of Day

The standard/default display is this DIGITAL version shown below. If you prefer you can switch it to an ANALOGUE display with regular hands and hours markers.

There is also the option to INVERT the display so the background becomes GREY and the digits BLACK, as shown in exercise mode images below.

However, this BLACK background is the clearest and easiest to see when indoors or outside. Navigating the Forerunner 35 is easy with proper buttons for > backlight (top left) – exercise mode (top right) – go back (bottom left) and scroll (bottom right) will take you to daily activity screen.


Top Alternatives

Next Model UP


If you are looking at the next model up then you are probably looking at shifting up from “recreational fun runner / running for health” to a “semi-competitive runner, looking forward to your next PB”. If so, then I’d recommend the Garmin Forerunner 235.

Please take a peek at the Forerunner 35 versus 235 comparison table below.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Review – VO2 Max, Recovery Advisor, Finish Time predictor & Garmin IQ App support (add widgets and apps)

Next Model DOWN


The next model down would be the Forerunner 25.

The 25 does NOT have the colour screen. More importantly, for those of a moderately technical training inclination, it does not have Pace Alerts, Interval Training or Training Effect.

Oddly though, the F25 DOES have Garmin’s Virtual Partner, allowing you to race against a previously completed route giving AHEAD or BEHIND feedback.

Activity Tracker View

Scrolling down from the Time of Day view you can access your daily activity tracker.

The display shows your progress towards your daily goal from the activity bar (here only just starting to show as it’s only achieve 3% of the daily steps target) and also as STEPS/TARGET i.e. 246 Steps Walked from the 7500 daily steps target.

The built-in accelerometer will also estimate the distance walked, in this image 0.1 Miles.

Daily Targets – Automatic or Manual

The daily step target is cleverly AUTO-SET by Garmin.

The more you do, the more it will try to get you to do the following days and weeks. If you do not achieve several consecutive targets the watch will LOWER your daily target to get you back on target.

It’s a good system and works well at keeping you motivated without setting excessively high targets. The same auto-target setting is recruited by the majority of Garmin’s activity trackers. NOTE.

If you prefer, you can MANUALLY set your daily step goal overriding Garmin’s suggestions.


The image below shows how simple it is to set up your activity goals in Garmin Connect. I have manually set a daily step goal of 7,500 with a weekly activity goal of 300 minutes. I would personally recommend taking advantage of the AUTOSET step goal as discussed in the paragraph above.


Music Control

When connected to a compatible smartphone (iOS / Android) you can remotely control the music on your phone. Us the watches music control screen to change tracks and adjust the volume.

I love this feature when working out on my turbo trainer or running outside with my phone in my jacket pocket.


Sports Profiles

The Forerunner 35 is pre-loaded with 5 x sports profiles as follows

  • Bike
  • Run Outdoor (GPS)
  • Run Indoor (using accelerometer instead of GPS)
  • Walk
  • Cardio

These different sports profiles have different training views. Garmin have pre-configured these training views with default display metrics, however, you can change them yourself and customise them to your own preference.


When you have uploaded your training session to Garmin Connect you can change the sport to something more representative if you want to.

This is handy if, like me, you might want to split Mountain Biking from Road Riding.


Training Views – Exercise Displays

The default is for TWO pages of training views per sport profile, however, this can be extended to 4 pages per sport. Each training page has 3 data metrics.

You can, if you wish, customise these displays to suit your own requirements and preferences.

Each training page can be configured for either 1, 2 or 3 lines of data per page.

This is great for people like me who struggle to see small displays. I have set my Forerunner 35 with a variety of 1,2 and 3 lines per page depending on the sport / metric.

For example, when running, I have one training page that SOLELY displays PACE (nice an big)


Setting Training Pages in Garmin Connect

The images below illustrate the process of setting activity profiles in the Forerunner 35 via the Garmin Connect website.

The 5 x profiles are – Indoor Run, Outdoor Run, Bike, Walk and Cardio. For each of these activity types the user can individually set pacing features eg. virtual partner (for paced runs), run / walk intervals and  free (no pacing alerts).

As well as these pacing functions the user has the option of alerts based on time, distance, calories and heart zone. This is also where you’d set AUTOLAP distance and AUTOPAUSE.


This is also where the training views are configured.

The available metrics for each of the three segments available across 4 x training pages can be seen in the pull down. Simply select the data to be displayed in segment 1,2 and 3 for each Page 1 to 4.

Each activity profile allows for training page customisation so you get to see what’s relevant for you. TIP > If you want just ONE metric per page set the remaining two options to “none”.


Bluetooth Connectivity

With your Forerunner 35 connected to your smartphone you have access to Garmin Connect for data upload and activity tracking diary.

If enabled, you can also receive summary smartphone notifications and alerts. Another useful feature of the Garmin Connect App is it’s automatic updating of your watch’s operating firmware.


Wired Data Upload

There are still many people who don’t want to have to connect their running watch to their smartphone.

The Forerunner 35 comes complete with it’s own USB cable for wired data upload via PC or Mac to Garmin’s Connect web-service. The USB cable also acts as a charging clip.


Garmin Forerunner 35 Review Summary

The Garmin Forerunner 235 has already been acknowledged as one of the finest GPS running watches of all time. What Garmin have done with the Forerunner 35 is create the ultimate GPS watch for the running masses.

It has everything it should have, nothing has been missed out with regard to functionality and features.

I have gladly awarded the Forerunner 35 a review rating of 4.5/5 stars due to it’s design simplicity and functional excellence.

The addition of the wrist based heart rate and a clear bright display give it the edge of competitive products like the Fitbit Surge.

Everything considered, the Forerunner 35 is practically the perfect watch for anyone who runs, whether for fun, fitness or competition.

NOTE > the Forerunner 235 (reviewed here) is the better watch for club level runners and those who would appreciate technical feedback like VO2 max …

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