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Best cheap running watches 2022 from Garmin, Polar, and Amazfit

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Best cheap running watch: Pictured here, three running watches on red background
(Image credit: Future)

The best cheap running watches offer advanced sports tracking tools, practicality or comfort at an affordable price point. These cheap wearables might not always be able to pick a fight with their pricey counterparts, but in most cases, they are more than capable of providing training guidance for beginner and intermediate runners.

In fact, some of the best running watches are also listed in this guide, such as the Garmin Forerunner 55, the top entry in this cheap running watch guide. 

Are cheap running watches better than cheap fitness trackers? Yes, these running wearables do a lot more, including tracking your location using GPS, helping you monitor your progress, and analyzing factors like your heart rate and 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 more effortless than ever – whether you're just getting into running or aiming for a new personal best.

The best cheap running watches to buy in 2022

Garmin Forerunner 55 detail shot

(Image credit: Future)
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 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, and in our tests 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, and 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 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 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

Polar M200 worn on the wrist

(Image credit: Future)
A cheap running watch that tracks almost everything

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value for money wearable
+
Good app

Reasons to avoid

-
Plain/dated 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.

Read our full Polar M200 review

Amazfit Bip with black band

(Image credit: Future)
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 optical 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, 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

Amazfit GTS 2 worn on the wrist

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

4. 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 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

Polar M430 held in hand outdoors

(Image credit: Future)
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, 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 important; 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 have to offer, including smart notifications and anything else that comes included in the package.

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)