Whether you’re just getting into running with the Couch To 5K or training for a marathon, nothing beats the satisfaction of smashing your own PB and seeing your performance improve week and week.
And one of the best ways to keep track of your stats and monitor your progress is with a good running watch.
Whilst some models can be pricey, the good news is that a high-quality fitness watch doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
There are some cheap running watches out there that pack in a surprising number of features – and in this guide, I’ve listed my favorites, along with the reasons I recommend them.
First, though, let’s talk a look at the things to consider when looking for a running watch at an affordable price!
What to Think About When Choosing the Best Cheap Running Watch
When searching for cheap running watches, it can be tempting to settle for a model from a brand you may not be familiar with.
But this may be a false economy and watches from ‘bargain’ brands may be limited in what they can do, or simply not offer the degree of accuracy you need.
Instead, it’s often better to choose an older model from a well-established brand.
You may not have the benefit of up-to-the-minute features, but you can be confident that your watch will be of high quality and perform the basic functions well.
Do You Need GPS?
Also, consider whether or not you need GPS, as it’s this feature that’s responsible for the hefty price tag on some models.
If you really just want a stopwatch and the ability to record laps, then look for a chronograph watch (I’ve included a great one below).
But if you want reliable data on pace and distance – and don’t want to take your phone along on your run – then you’ll need a watch with GPS.
Fortunately, not all watches with GPS will break the bank and the models listed below all come in at under a couple of hundred dollars.
There’s nothing more frustrating when tracking your performance than having your watch die halfway through your run!
Ensure that the watch you choose has a battery powerful enough to last the distance.
Remember, too, that the battery life stated by the manufacturer often refers to its smartwatch life – once you start using GPS the figure drops considerably.
I’ve included both figures in this guide, making it easier to choose the best cheap running watch if you tend to cover longer distances.
Ease of Use
Even cheap running watches should be simple to use, with a clear display that’s easy to read in a variety of conditions.
Also, consider whether you prefer touchscreen controls or physical buttons.
Touchscreens are great but I personally find buttons easier to use when I’m running.
Finally, consider if you want your watch to offer extra features like heart rate tracking, multi-sport support, and more.
You’ll be surprised how many of the cheap running watches in this guide offer cool features like these, along with handy extras like sleep tracking and even watch face customization!
Ready to find the perfect watch for you? Here are our favorites:
- Best Chronograph Watch – Timex Ironman Classic
- Best Value for Money – Garmin Forerunner 35
- Best Battery Life – Amazfit Bip 3 Pro
- The Most Versatile Cheap Running Watch – Garmin Vivoactive 4
- Best Running Watch for Women – Fitbit Versa 3
- Best for Small Wrists – Amazfit GTS 2 Mini Smart Watch
- Best Cheap Running Watches Overall – Garmin Forerunner 55
The Best Cheap Running Watches
#1. Best Chronograph Watch – Timex Ironman Classic
GPS: No, Battery Life: 3-4 years+, Heart Rate Tracking: No, Waterproof: Water Resistant to 100m
|Simple and reliable||Slightly ‘plastic’ feel to case|
|Comfortable, adjustable strap||Only online instructions provided – no manual|
|Durable||Display is too small for some|
The most affordable watch on this list, this minimalist model from Timex offers the basics you need to track your runs, including a 100-hour chronograph with 30-lap memory and a 24-hour countdown timer.
It comes in a variety of colors – with both full and mid-size cases available – and has 3 customizable alarms, with daily, weekday, weekend, and weekly options.
I found it very easy to read – the white reflector display works great during the day and there’s an orange color Indiglo back-light for running at night – and its lightweight feel is comfortable on your wrist.
#2. Best Value for Money – Garmin Forerunner 35
GPS: Yes, Battery Life: 9 Days/13 Hours With GPS, Heart Rate Tracking: Yes, Waterproof: Yes, up to 50m
|All-day activity tracking||Not ideal for bigger wrists|
|Smart notifications||Strap could be more durable|
|Data uploads automatically to the Garmin Connect community|
Garmin has consistently been at the forefront of GPS technology and the brand’s Forerunner 35 has the quality feel you’d expect, accurately delivering data on your distance, speed, and location.
If you prefer to focus more on your run than become bogged down by an extensive range of features, you’ll be pleased to hear that this model keeps things simple and is super-easy to use!
It provides lots of useful post-run data, too, tracking your steps, calories, and intensity minutes, and reminding you if you need to move!
#3. Best Battery Life – Amazfit Bip 3 Pro
GPS: Yes, Battery Life: 14 days/14-20 hours With GPS, Heart Rate Tracking: Yes, Waterproof: Yes, up to 50m
|Stress, sleep, and blood oxygen tracking||Strap may cause irritation|
|Very accurate GPS||No support for pool swimming – only open water|
|Lots of personalization options||Companion app can be glitchy|
There have been a few iterations of the Bip, each of which has delivered an impressive number of features at an exceptionally low price!
The Bip 3 Pro has a great display – large, colorful, and easy to read – incredible battery life, and 60 sports modes, so you can also use it for cycling, strength training, swimming, and more!
With an Ingress Protection rating of IP68, it’s designed to keep out both dust and water, so it’s rugged enough for off-road running, too!
#4. The Most Versatile Cheap Running Watch – Garmin Vivoactive 4
GPS: Yes, Battery Life: 8 days/6 Hours With GPS, Heart Rate Tracking: Yes, Waterproof: Yes, up to 50m
|20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps||Priciest option on this list|
|Good safety features||Fairly limited battery life|
|Advanced sleep tracking|
One of the things many people like about the Vivoactive 4 compared to Garmin’s Forerunner watches is the touchscreen.
Admittedly, not everyone will find this a bonus – I don’t always find touchscreens easy to operate when running – particularly in poor weather.
But it’s certainly useful from a lifestyle perspective, making it easy to deal with smart notifications, control your music, and more.
Plus there are plenty of great fitness features to enjoy, including all-day health tracking, a pulse ox sensor, and body battery energy monitoring to help you decide the best times to train and rest.
#5. Best Running Watch for Women – Fitbit Versa 3
GPS: Yes, Battery Life: 6 days/12 Hours With GPS, Heart Rate Tracking: Yes, Waterproof: Yes, up to 50m
|Support for multiple sports||Support for some apps is geo-specific|
|Active Zone Minutes alerts at high intensities||Rubber strap is a little uncomfortable|
|Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in|
Unlike its predecessor, the Fitbit Versa 3 has GPS built-in, transforming it from a fitness tracker to one of my favorite cheap running watches!
The upgraded AMOLED screen is easy to read – the display remaining crisp no matter what angle you view it from. There’s the option to use the ‘always on’ feature, so you can just glance at the data as you run.
It also offers fast charging – just 12 minutes will give you an extra day of battery life – plus a 6-month Premium membership to the excellent Fitbit app is included with every purchase.
You can see more of the best sports watches for women here
#6. Best for Small Wrists – Amazfit GTS 2 Mini Smart Watch
GPS: Yes, Battery Life: 21 days/Around 7 Hours With GPS, Heart Rate Tracking: Yes, Waterproof: Yes, up to 50m
|Advanced tracking features, including blood oxygen, sleep, and stress monitoring||App is glitchy|
|Incoming call and message notifications||Strap feels uncomfortable when sweaty|
Another great offering from Amazfit, the GTS 2 Mini is so slim and lightweight that it would also make a good kids smartwatch with GPS for children over 12.
It has a very vibrant display – I used it in bright sunlight and could see it clearly – and offers over 68 sports modes for both indoor and outdoor use.
Like the Amazfit Bip, it provides heaps of customization options and you can choose from more than 80 watch faces, or even use your own photos.
You can see more kids GPS watches here
#7. Best Cheap Running Watches Overall – Garmin Forerunner 55
GPS: Yes, Battery Life: 14 days/20 Hours With GPS, Heart Rate Tracking: Yes, Waterproof: Yes, up to 50m
|Easy-to-use physical buttons||Low resolution screen|
|Support for multiple sports||No touchscreen|
|Advanced wellness features|
The Forerunner 55 isn’t just one of the best cheap running watches around – it also made it to our list of top Garmin watches overall, based on performance alone!
In addition to the basic tracking you need from a running watch, it also offers cool features like predicted race times, tools to improve your performance, and post-workout advice for effective recovery.
You also get personalized workout suggestions based on your current fitness levels and past performance, which I think are great for structuring your training if you’re new to running.
The Best Cheap Running Watches: Key Takeaways
As you can see, choosing an affordable running watch doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on features.
All the models listed here provide everything you need to track your runs effectively – and without breaking the bank!
I hope you’ve found this guide useful and that it’s helped you identify the perfect device to monitor your stats on your next run.