The best cheap running watch 2021: budget GPS watches

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The best cheap running watch 2021: budget GPS watches

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 not fussed about a running watch in particular, why not take a look at the best cheap smartwatch list?

Polar M200

(Image credit: Polar)

1. Polar M200

A 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 designGPS 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)

2. Amazfit Bip

The Bip is all about battery 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 workFinicky 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

Amazfit GTS 2

(Image credit: Amazfit)

3. Amazfit GTS 2

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 GTSPAI 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.

Read our full Amazfit GTS 2 review

Polar M430

(Image credit: Polar)

4. Polar M430

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 leadSome 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 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

Garmin Forerunner 45

(Image credit: Garmin)

5. Garmin Forerunner 45

A surprisingly well-featured affordable running watch

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+Lightweight+Music controls

Reasons to avoid

Limited sport profilesPlastic-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)

6. 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 Charge 3, 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

Garmin Forerunner 35

7. Garmin Forerunner 35

Good range of features at entry-level price

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+Comfortable+Waterproof to 50m

Reasons to avoid

Bland 1.2-inch displayBlocky 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. It’s getting on in years, but it’s still a solid, practical choice if you’re in the market for a reliable, cheap running watch.

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.

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