The best cheap running watches offer sports tracking tools beyond the confines of a slimmer fitness tracker. While these simple devices track calories burned, steps taken, heart rate and sleep, the best cheap GPS watches offer a lot more for runners. You’re able to record your routes and look at stats such as the pace, cadence, power and timing of your runs.
In this way, even the best cheap fitness trackers will be hard-put to matching one of the watches below if you’re remotely serious about running. Whether you’re training for a marathon or you just enjoy a 5K parkrun on a saturday morning, this is a great place to start when it comes to learning more about your running, and how to improve, at an affordable price point.
The best Fitbit and best Garmin watches can fetch high prices, and while these cheap performance wearables might not be your best option for hardcore running training, in most cases they are more than capable of providing training guidance for beginner and intermediate runners. If you are after a cheap running watch, it’s also worth checking out the links above, and models from other brands such as the Amazfit Bip, Amazfit T-Rex 2 or Polar M200.
However, even these cheaper models pack on-board GPS, music control and advanced running metrics, making training more effortless than ever – whether you're just getting into running or aiming for a new personal best.
The best cheap running watches for 2023
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The Garmin Forerunner 55 takes TechRadar's award for the best cheap running watch thanks to its smart, beginner-friendly design and thoughtful training features.
The Forerunner 55 looks almost identical to its predecessor, the Forerunner 45, but that's no bad thing. Offering separate buttons for opening menus, navigating back, starting activities etc., means that there's no need for new runners to remember how to use multi-function controls, and the watch can be operated easily while wearing gloves.
The Forerunner 55 benefits from Garmin's signature GPS accuracy; in our tests, we were able to track our pre-measured route to within a couple of meters (a margin of error easily accounted for by running on footpaths rather than a track).
Heart rate monitoring is also excellent. Like all of the best Garmin watches, the Forerunner 55 also has a 'body battery' feature that helps you manage your daily rest and exertion. It's a shame that it's not possible to see your nightly sleep score on the watch; it tracks sleep stages, but the data is only accessible in the Garmin Connect app.
We were particularly impressed by how the Forerunner 55 helps new runners structure their training, offering workout suggestions based on their past activities and fitness level, so they don't run the same distance and intensity every time. The watch also suggests a rest period after each session, so new runners know how long to leave between workouts to avoid the risk of injury.
All in all, it's an excellent watch for new runners or anyone looking to make the step up from a Fitbit to something more specialized.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review
The Polar M200 is a super affordable option, especially when you consider everything that’s crammed into this cheap running watch. You get (take a deep breath) wrist-based heart rate tracking, built-in GPS, smartphone notifications, all-day activity tracking, personalized training programs via the app, varying color options, and battery life for a week of use with an hour's run per day.
The round face is designed to be attractive enough for daily wear, while the water-resistant build should mean you don’t need to take it off much. The Polar Flow app plays nice with other fitness services like Training Peaks and Strava, so you should be able to transition across painlessly – well, apart from the pain of a tough training session, of course.
Read our full Polar M200 review
Yes, the original Amazfit Bip is a very cheap running watch, but you get a lot of tech for your money. There’s GPS and an optical heart rate monitor, of course, making it a capable run-tracker, aided by an app that provides plenty of post-run stats. The newer Amazfit Bip U and Bip 3 models do not have GPS, while the Bip 3 Pro model does, so if you can't get hold of the original Bip and you're looking for the updated version, it's worth double-checking which model you're getting.
But the OG Amazfit Bip also has brilliant battery life in addition to GPS, so it can be your daily fitness companion for weeks on end without being put on charge. Add to that stylish, square watch face, and it’s easy to see why we’re such big fans. Just be aware that it’s not as good with notifications as some pricier smartwatches, and like many cheap running watches, it’s less impressive for other types of exercise.
Read our full Amazfit Bip review
Another excellent cheap running watch that offers very impressive specs for the price. Not only does the Amazfit GTS 2 feature onboard GPS for tracking your training sessions, the onboard music player means you can simply connect your headphones via Bluetooth and enjoy your favorite running playlist without your phone.
The striking always-on AMOLED display means your workout stats are always available at a glance, with good visibility even in bright daylight. Although its battery life isn't quite as impressive as the original GTS, it can still keep running for up to 20 days in basic mode or 25 hours with GPS enabled. That's not shabby at all, particularly at this price point.
Amazfit's app is pretty good as well, with clear maps of your routes and graphs of current and historic data to browse through. It's no Apple Watch, but you get an awful lot for your money.
Read our full Amazfit GTS 2 review
A significant upgrade on the best-selling M400, the Polar M430 adds improved heart-rate tracking, pinpoint accurate GPS and the addition of sleep tracking.
This cheap running watch delivers enough to cater for couch-to-5Kers and serious marathon runners alike. The M430 boasts all the usual run-tracking, but also offers additional features such as sleep tracking, a simple Fitness Test to chart your progress, and recommended recovery times. An update also added a find-your-way-home feature, giving you the freedom to run off the beaten track.
The design is a little retro, the screen is basic, and you won't get all of the elite features you get with the Polar V800 or a top-end Forerunner. Still, at this price, there’s more than enough to satisfy most runners.
Read our full Polar M430 review
How to choose the best cheap running watch for you
To determine which cheap running watch is right for you, first, you must consider what type of running training you need the watch for. For rigorous training, you need a watch with coaching features, such as the Garmin Forerunner 55, that's Garmin Coach-enabled.
A simple watch with an optical heart rate sensor and built-in GPS might do for light training. For jogging, you might not even need onboard GPS; as long as the running watch has a heart rate sensor and connected GPS – that uses the smartphone's GPS, as long as it's nearby –, that should do.
Battery life is also crucial, although even cheap running watches generally have decent battery lives nowadays. That's not to say you shouldn't check this detail before clicking on the 'checkout now' button.
Finally, always make sure the size of the cheap running watch is suitable for your wrist circumference. Even the best cheap running watch is not much use if it's too big and sits incorrectly on your wrist.
How we test the best cheap running watches
We test cheap running watches the same way we review expensive running watches – by wearing them for running. Running on treadmills just won't do!
We often test cheap wearables alongside more expensive models to compare both heart rate and GPS tracking accuracy.
Fit is also essential; where applicable, we'll always mention if the watch is suitable for people with smaller wrists.
We also explore all the features cheap running watches offer, including smart notifications and anything else that comes included in the package.