Skip to main content

The best cheap running watches 2021: budget GPS watches

Woman resting after a run, checking her running watch
A great running watch doesn't have to cost the Earth (Image credit: Inside Creative House / Shutterstock)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

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.

Garmin Forerunner 55

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is our pick for the best cheap running watch of 2021 (Image credit: Garmin)

1. Garmin Forerunner 55

Thoughtfully designed for beginners, the best cheap running watch

Specifications
GPS: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
Battery: Up to two weeks
Waterproof: Yes, to 50 meters
Reasons to buy
+Suggested workouts give structure+Recovery time suggestions+Well designed controls
Reasons to avoid
-No on-watch sleep widget

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.

Polar M200

The Polar M200 gives you a whole lot of fitness features for your money (Image credit: Polar)

2. Polar M200

A cheap running watch that tracks almost everything

Specifications
GPS: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery: One week
Waterproof: Yes, to 30 meters
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Good app
Reasons to avoid
-Plain design-GPS can be slow to lock on

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.

Amazfit Bip

The Amazfit Bip is a super cheap GPS smartwatch that serves runners particularly well (Image credit: Amazfit)

2. Amazfit Bip

The Bip is all about battery life and value

Specifications
GPS: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery: Up to 15 days
Waterproof: IP68-rated
Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+Excellent companion app
Reasons to avoid
-Auto-pause feature doesn’t work-Finicky UI

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.

Amazfit GTS 2

The Amazfit GTS 2 is a particularly good choice if you're looking for a cheap GPS running watch with music streaming (Image credit: Amazfit)

3. Amazfit GTS 2

A cheap running watch that's slim, attractive and easy to use

Specifications
GPS: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery: Up to 20 days
Waterproof: Yes to 50 meters
Reasons to buy
+Vivid AMOLED display+On-board music player
Reasons to avoid
-Shorter battery life than GTS-PAI score not helpful

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.

Polar M430

The Polar M430 has all the essential tools a runner needs, including a very useful feature for finding your way back home on an out-and-back run (Image credit: Polar)

4. Polar M430

A cheap running watch that's simple, smart and effective

Specifications
GPS: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery: Eight hours with GPS
Waterproof: Yes, to 30 meters
Reasons to buy
+Great for goal-based runners+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Annoying charging lead-Some smartphone syncing issues

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.

Fitbit Charge 4

The Fitbit Charge 4 was one of the first Fitbits to feature on-board GPS, making it a viable option as a cheap running watch (Image credit: Fitbit)

5. Fitbit Charge 4

An affordable but feature-packed watch with on-board GPS

Specifications
GPS: Yes
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery: Up to seven days
Waterproof: Yes, to 50 meters
Reasons to buy
+Built-in GPS+Heart rate zone tracking+No price increase from Charge 3
Reasons to avoid
-Monochrome display

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.

Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis is the fitness and wellbeing editor at TechRadar. She's been a technology journalist for 11 years, and cut her teeth on magazines including PC Plus and PC Format before joining TechRadar. She's a trained run leader, and enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the pavement. If you have a story about fitness trackers, treadmills, running shoes, e-bikes, or any other fitness tech, drop her a line.