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The best cheap running watches 2020: run trackers to make you fitter on a budget

Best cheap running watch 2020

If you’re looking for the best cheap running watch on the market, it helps to pick a wearable that suits your exercise needs first and foremost. There’s no point splashing the cash on the best running watch money can buy if you don’t use half its features, so we’ve rounded up a road-worthy selection to fit all types of runners and every type of budget. 

With these affordable wrist-bound devices, you can set running goals, monitor your progress and analyze your data, such as average heart rate, sleep quality and GPS location. These types of features were previously only available on high-end watches, but they’ve now become commonplace on cheaper models making training like a pro easier than ever. 

We’ve limited our choices to running watches that cost around $150 / £150 / AU$225 or less at the time of writing. Prices can fluctuate up or down, though, so don’t be surprised if some of our selections are pricier at certain times of the year. Nevertheless, there's still great value to be had. If you're on the lookout for a real bargain, we're expecting to see some great deals on Black Friday 2020, when many retailers slash the price of running watches for a few days.

If you’ve got a bit more budget to spare, you might want to check out our guide to the best running watches or delve into our overall best smartwatch guide. And if you’re not fussed about a running watch in particular, why not take a look at the best cheap smartwatch list?

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

Fitbit Charge 4

(Image credit: Fitbit)

2. Fitbit Charge 4

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

GPS: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery: Up to seven days | Waterproof: Yes, to 50 meters

Built-in GPS
Heart rate zone tracking
No price increase from Charge 3
Monochrome display

The Fitbit Charge 4 might look very similar to its predecessor (listed a little further downb the page), but it's had some serious upgrades under the hood. 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

Polar M200

3. 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)

4. 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

5. 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 3 has now been superseded by the Charge 4 (listed above) but it's still an excellent running watch that's well worth considering if you're on a tight budget. It's seen some hefty price drops since the release of the Charge 4, making it excellent value.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is one of the easiest cheap running watches 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 a large, bright display, and although it might not be the slickest looking running watch, the Fitbit Charge 3 has a lot of the features you'll need to monitor your workouts for a very reasonable price.

Read our full Fitbit Charge 3 review

Polar M430

6. 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

7. 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.