The best cheap running watch is one that doesn't compromise on sports tracking tools, practicality or comfort. That's why we've put the most affordable running watches to the test in real-world conditions to help you pick the right one.
While there are lots of cheap fitness trackers around, these running watches do a lot more, including tracking your location using GPS, helping you monitor your progress, and analyzing factors like your heart rate, sleep quality. These types of features were previously only available on high-end watches, but they’ve now become commonplace on cheaper models making training easier than ever – whether you're just getting into running, or aiming for a new personal best.
We’ve limited our choices to running watches that cost around $150 / £170 / AU$230 or less at the time of writing. Prices can fluctuate though, and older models often get a significant discount when a newer version is released, so check back regularly.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 takes TechRadar's award for the best cheap running watch of 2021 thanks to its smart, beginner-friendly design and thoughtful training features. The Forerunner 55 looks almost identical to its predecessor, the Forerunner 55, 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, and in our tests was 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, and like all modern Garmin watches, the Forerunner 55 also has a 'body battery' feature that helps you manage your daily rest and exertion. It's just a shame that it's not possible to see your nightly sleep score on the watch; it does track sleep stages, but the data is only accessible in the Garmin Connect app.
We were particularly impressed by the way the Forerunner 55 helps new runners structure their training, offering workout suggestions based on their past activities and fitness level so they don't end up running 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 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 Amazfit Bip is a very cheap running watch, but you get a lot of tech for your money. There’s the near-obligatory GPS and heart rate monitor of course, making it a capable run-tracker, aided by an app that provides plenty of post-run stats.
But the Amazfit Bip also has brilliant battery life, so it can be your daily fitness companion for weeks on end without being put on charge.
Add to that stylish, Apple Watch-like looks, 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 the Amazfit GTS 2 offers very impressive specs for the price. Not only does it feature on-board GPS for tracking your training sessions, the on-board 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, pin-point 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
The Fitbit Charge 4 might look very similar to the Fitbit Charge 3, but it's had some serious upgrades under the hood that make it an excellent cheap running watch. The most important of these is the addition of on-board GPS, so you can track outdoor cardio sessions without carrying a bulky phone. Once you're done, a full report on your workout will be available in the Fitbit app, which can also upload it to Strava automatically.
The Charge 4 offers all-day heart rate tracking, and will track how much time you spend in each heart rate zone during workouts to help you achieve the World Health Organization's recommended weekly activity targets.
If you enjoy running for fun and fitness, but don't need the torrent of data provided by a high-end Garmin or Polar device, the Charge 4 is a great affordable option.
- Read our full Fitbit Charge 4 review
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