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Best cheap running watch 2020: run trackers to make you fitter on a budget

Best cheap running watch 2020

There was a time when running watches were pricey propositions, and while that remains true at the top end, advances in tech mean running watches are smaller, more advanced and - crucially - more affordable than ever before.

Setting running goals and monitoring your progress has never been easier thanks to data analysis offered by even the most basic and cheap running watches. With metrics like heart rate and GPS location, anyone can train like a pro.

Even on smaller budgets, there are plenty of running watches to choose from, including offerings for beginners just starting out, regulars looking to push themselves, and athletes aiming to smash their running bests, with the following the best of the affordable bunch.

We've limited our selections to watches that cost around $150 / £150 or less at the time of writing. Prices do occasionally go up as well as down, so it's possible that some of our inclusions will be slightly pricier at some points, but they remain at the affordable end of the scale.

If your budget stretches a little further you might also want to check out our guide to the best running watches or our overall best smartwatch guide. And if you're not set on a running watch per se, why not take a look at the best cheap smartwatch ranking?

Garmin Forerunner 45

(Image credit: Garmin)

1. Garmin Forerunner 45

A surprisingly well-featured affordable running watch

GPS: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: 13 hours with GPS | Waterproof: Yes, to 50 meters

Lightweight
Music controls
Limited sport profiles
Plastic-heavy build

Garmin makes a number of the best running watches you can buy, and while some of them - like the Garmin Forerunner 945 – are very expensive, others are fairly affordable, while still being all that many runners will need.

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is a prime example of that. It’s a lightweight device, so you can put it on and forget about it, and it has music controls, so you don’t need to dig out your phone to change tracks mid-run.

And thanks to having GPS, GLONASS and Galileo it should be able to accurately track you wherever you are. There’s a heart rate monitor too, plus sleep tracking, stress tracking, VO2 max, and even a Body Battery feature, which estimates your energy levels.

The Forerunner 45 is a bit more limited for sports beyond running, and there’s no real swim tracking, but if running is your priority, and you’re either on a budget or just don’t need all the tech offered by a top-end model, then this is a superb option.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Polar M200

2. Polar M200

A watch that tracks almost everything

GPS: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: One week | Waterproof: Yes, to 30 meters

Good value
Good app
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 running watch.

You get - 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 - and breathe.

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, so you should be able to transition across painlessly – well, apart from the pain of running, of course.

Read our full Polar M200 review

Amazfit Bip

(Image credit: Amazfit)

3. Amazfit Bip

The Bip is all about battery and value

GPS: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: Up to 45 days | Waterproof: IP68-rated

Stylish design
Excellent companion app
Auto-pause feature doesn’t work
Finicky UI

Yes, the Amazfit Bip is very cheap, but you actually get quite a lot of watch 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

Fitbit Charge 3

4. Fitbit Charge 3

Slim, attractive and easy to use

GPS: No | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: 4 days | Waterproof: Yes, to 50 meters

Big screen
Waterproof design
Monochrome display
No onboard GPS

The Fitbit Charge line of products have been popular ever since the original generation back in 2014, and now the latest generation is the Fitbit Charge 3. It's a touch more expensive than the Charge 2, but it can do more.

New upgrades for the Charge 3 include a waterproof design so you can take this in a pool with you. But you're here for a running watch, so how does this perform out there when you're jogging?

It may not be the cheapest device on this list, but it's one of the easiest to use, and while you'll have to take your phone out to be able to track your location on a run, you'll get the benefits of onboard music storage and quick exercises directly from your wrist.

All of your key stats appear on the larger display that Fitbit has included on this generation, and the design is far nicer than it has been on other products in the past. This isn't the most high-end running device on this list, but the Fitbit Charge 3 offers a lot of what you may be looking for.

Read our full Fitbit Charge 3 review

Polar M430

5. Polar M430

Simple, smart and effective

GPS: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: 8 hours with GPS | Waterproof: Yes, to 30 meters

Great for goal-based runners
Good battery life
Annoying charging lead
Some smartphone syncing issues

A significant upgrade on the best-selling M400, the newer Polar M430 adds improved heart-rate tracking, pin-point accurate GPS and the addition of sleep tracking. 

This affordable 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

Garmin Forerunner 35

6. Garmin Forerunner 35

Good range of features at entry-level price

GPS: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: 13 hours with GPS | Waterproof: Yes, to 50 meters

Comfortable
Waterproof to 50m
Bland 1.2-inch display
Blocky design

The affordable Garmin Forerunner 35 packs in plenty of the high-end features you’d find on Garmin’s elite running watches but at a more wallet-friendly price.  

In addition to a large array of running metrics, the GPS-based wearable includes an optical heart-rate monitor, smart notifications (calls and messages), and activity tracking, meaning you’ll get a full picture of your daily motion, not just running.

It may lack some of the advance running dynamics tools you get on watches like the Garmin Forerunner 635 (stride length, for example), and seasoned runners may need a more powerful HR sensor, but it’s perfect for new runners or those dipping their toes into the world of wearable tech.