Cheap running watches: 8 of the best available in 2020

We’ve gathered together eight cheap running watches from popular brands including Garmin, Polar, and Fitbit. 

8 Cheap running watches

Investing in a running watch is one of the best things you can do to take your training to the next level. Measuring popular metrics such as pace per mile, calories burnt, and distance covered, you’re sure to fall in love with your new digital running partner.

If you’re new to running, it can be difficult to justify spending hundreds of pounds on a running watch, and that’s completely understandable. However, there are plenty of cheap running watches out there with more than enough functions and measurable metrics to get you started.

The remainder of this article will discuss some popular questions regarding running watches alongside eight of the best cheap running watches which are currently available in 2019.

Why should I invest in a GPS running watch?

Investing in a running watch is an investment in your running potential and fitness. A good GPS running watch is essentially a training partner, a smart one at that.

This ‘training partner’ so to say will measure your pace per mile, distance covered, and calories burnt at a bare minimum. Some GPS watches will also measure popular metrics such as heart rate, steps per minute, elevation, and also allow for custom workouts to be created and run on the watch itself.

Related: What are the 8 different types of running workouts? 

Do all running watches measure heart rate?

Unfortunately not. Many popular running watches can be paired with a chest heart rate monitor. However, these are often not included and must be purchased as an extra. Newer, more advanced running watches now contain heart rate monitors at the wrist – a popular choice for beginner runners. The majority of the watches included in this article will include wrist-based heart rate monitoring.

So, which is better a chest heart rate monitor or a wrist-based one? 

Generally speaking, chest heart rate monitors are more accurate. However, GPS running watches measuring heart rate at the wrist is much more convenient and still reliable enough to train via heart rate. These will also allow us to monitor our sleep quality based on our average and resting heart rate.

Related: The importance of sleep as a runner.

You’ve sold me! So, What are the best cheap running watches? 

Now that you’re on the right page, here’s eight affordable cheap running watches for beginners or those on a budget.

*This post contains links to amazon. As an amazon associate, we will earn a small percentage on qualifying purchases. Find out more here.

1. Garmin forerunner 30 GPS running watch

Garmin forerunner 30 - product recommendation

This simple to use running watch is perfect for beginners. Tracking popular metrics, including pace per mile, distance covered, cadence, and calories burnt. As well as this the Garmin forerunner 30 also contains an at-wrist heart rate monitor – super convenient and ideal for beginner runners.

The forerunner 30 also contains a VO2 max estimate suggesting recovery times, personal bests, and your overall potential with your training.

Key features:

  • At-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Measures pace per mile, distance covered, calories burnt, and cadence
  • VO2 max estimate
  • Recovery time estimate
  • Smart notifications

View on Amazon

2. Fitbit charge 3 

Fitbit charge 3 - product recommendation for a cheap running watch

Coming in five different colours, this cheap running watch has a battery life of up to seven hours, is water-resistant up to 50m (can be used in the shower), measures heart rate continuously, connects to a smartphone device with the Fitbit app, and even contains female health tracking compatibility.

This running watch will also measure sleep quality, provide bedtime reminders, take incoming calls, and increases motivation to workout and increase your steps per day.

Unfortunately, the Fitbit does not have an onboard GPS, leaving it to steps and predictions.

Key features: 

  • 50m water resistant
  • At-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Tracks sleep
  • Female health tracking compatibility
  • Smartphone notifications

View on Amazon

3. Polar M200 GPS (cheap running watch)

Example of a cheap running watch

Also utilising an optical heart rate monitor at the wrist, the Polar M200 tracks steps, activity, sleep quality, and calories burnt continuously throughout the day. The M200 also measures standard metrics, including pace per mile, distance covered, and even altitude through the use of GPS tracking.

With a choice of four different colours, there’s plenty to choose from, all at a super affordable price tag.

Key features:

  • At-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Measures pace per mile, distance covered, calories burnt, and cadence
  • Tracks sleep
  • Measures altitude
  • Choice of four different colours

View on Amazon

4. Polar M430 

running watch product recommendation

Being one of the most popular brands of running watch, the Polar M430 contains enhanced training features alongside standard training metrics. This includes the Polar fitness test with a personalised running programme.

Alongside it’s enhanced features, this watch also offers measured heart rate at the wrist, integrated GPS and GPS predictability for when the signal is weak, tracks sleep quality, and connects to the Polar app to review each and every run.

Key features:

  • Tailored running programme and Polar fitness test
  • Measures pace per mile, distance covered, calories burnt, and cadence
  • At-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Tracks sleep
  • Compatible with the Polar fitness app
  • GPS predictability

View on Amazon

 5. Garmin forerunner 35

Cheap running watch - Garmin forerunner 35 (product recommendation)

The forerunner 35 is basically an upgraded version of the forerunner 30, all for a slightly higher price tag. Including an optical heart rate sensor, smartphone notifications, all-day activity tracking, and music control, this cheap running watch is definitely a bargain for what is offered at hand.

The one thing you may want to consider before purchasing is the small screen block screen design. If you’re looking for something a bit bigger and easier to read you may want to look at the Polar M430.

Key features:

  • At-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Measures pace per mile, distance covered, calories burnt, and cadence
  • Tracks sleep
  • Smartphone notifications
  • All-day activity tracking
  • Music control
  • Lightweight design

View on Amazon

6. Garmin Vivoactive 3 

Garmin vivoactive 3 running watch - product recommendation

Despite the higher price tag, the Vivoactive 3 houses a beautiful high-resolution colour touchscreen design while providing many top of the line features.

These features include popular metrics such as pace per mile and distance covered alongside smart notifications, at-wrist heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and even the inclusion of various sporting apps to suit your sporting needs.

Key features:

  • High-resolution colour touchscreen design
  • At-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Measures pace per mile, distance covered, calories burnt, and cadence
  • VO2 max estimate
  • Smart notifications
  • Sleep tracking
  • Includes sports apps such as running, cycling, swimming, strength training, and yoga

View on Amazon

7. Garmin Vivosmart HR+ cheap running watch

Cheap running watch - Garmin vivosmart

With a different design to the usual Garmin watches, the Vivosmart HR+ offers a new twist on the traditional running watch. The Vivosmart utilises a smart design while being one of the more cheaper options – ideal for new runners.

Related: How to start running: 5 tips for beginners.

The Vivosmart also includes an optical sensor to track heart rate at the wrist, measures popular metrics such as pace per mile and distance covered, and also displays smart notifications. Further key features can be seen below.

Key features: 

  • 24/7 at-wrist heart rate monitoring
  • Measures pace per mile, distance covered, calories burnt, and cadence
  • Smart notifications
  • Create personalised goals
  • Monitor and track sleep

View on Amazon

8. Garmin forerunner 25 large GPS running watch 

Garmin forerunner 25 - cheapest running watch - product recommendation

The cheapest running watch we’ve suggested, the forerunner 25 is both affordable and easy to use. At such a low price, it’s surprising to see the inclusion of incoming call and text alerts, usually a premium feature with more expensive watches.

However, with it being so cheap, there are some key features missing. These include heart rate monitoring, personalised goals, sleep tracking, music control, and much more.

Nevertheless, if we were to choose a cheap running watch for beginners, this would definitely be our suggestion when on a budget.

Key features:

  • Large screen
  • Run/walk function to help beginner runners
  • Tracks time, distance, pace, and calories burnt
  • Incoming call and text alerts

View on Amazon

The bottom line 

There are a wide variety of cheap running watches which house premium features which you would usually expect for a much more expensive price.

If shopping on a budget, we recommend the Garmin Forerunner 25, otherwise, any of the other eight watches included in this article are all viable and excellent options for beginner, intermediate, or advanced runners.

GPS running watches FAQ

Is a GPS running watch necessary?

No, however, if you want to take your running to the next level a GPS running watch is certainly a piece of kit you should look to invest in!

Are GPS watches more accurate than iPhone or smartphone?

GPS watches are much more accurate than your standard smartphone GPS. If they weren’t they’d be little need for GPS watches in the first place!

Can you link a Garmin watch to Strava?

Yes. Garmin watches can be directly linked to Strava. Alternatively, you can also upload the file manually after downloading the activity on a computer. This is often useful if for some reason the syncing between Strava and your GPS watch is not working.

Are smartwatches worth the money?

If you’re looking to ramp up your fitness or hang with the elite runners then smartwatches are definitely worth it. You’ll benefit from a wide range of measurements and GPS data to take your fitness to the next level.

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