Running watches, especially GPS running watches, are no small investment. I found 8 budget running watches that include lots of great features without breaking the bank. My favorite is the Forerunner 55 because it has almost all the capabilities of a more expensive watch at a fraction of the cost–it has GPS tracking, bluetooth connectivity, training metrics, and adaptive training programs. Read on to find the best watch to fit your needs!
The sticker shock of GPS running watches is what keeps most people from buying them—finding it hard to justify so much on a watch that tells you how far you ran or how hard you worked. To help, I have rounded up the best budget running watches for your wallet and training!
GPS watches today offer much more than the simple stats of distance and pace. They come with advanced features such as incident detection, smart phone notifications, health status, fitness workout demos, and training guidance akin to a real-life coach.
And surprisingly, some of these watches have a price point of $200 or lower thanks to advancements in technology.
Most of GPS running watches below are under $200 or less, and offer features to take your running or fitness to the next level.
I created this list of best budget running watches by scouring features, specs, reviews and asking my Instagram followers for their favorite running watches and why. The below best GPS running watches were chosen based on their features, battery life, GPS accuracy, multi-sport options, and features.
Table of contents
When trying to decide which running watch on this listis best for you, consider the following:
- How will you use the watch? If you’re going after specific running goals, then watch models with biometric data, training plans, and coaching is the best option for you. If you want general fitness goals, then a fitness tracker may be a better fit. If you plan to do other activities than running, make sure your multi-sport watch includes your activities including being water-resistant for swimming.
- How often will you use your watch? If you plan to wear your watch every day and/or run most days, then you’ll want a watch that’s lightweight, comfortable, and has a long battery life.
- Where will you use your watch? If you run lots of trails or hike, then a watch with superior GPS, downloadable maps, and premier navigation are key.
What is better Garmin or Coros?
Five of the seven watches on this list are by Garmin or Coros, so I wanted to give a quick overview of these GPS watch brands. Both are quality GPS watches that offer premium GPS tracking, heart rate monitor, and advanced data and features. Below is what makes the two watch brands difference from on another.
Garmin: styled and designed for everyday wear with style options and lifestyle metrics like stress level, Garmin watches have four buttons on the side to toggle between screens, and updates to new watches initiated by the user. Garmin also offers safety features such as live tracking (with your phone nearby) and incident detection which Coros does not have.
Coros: designed for your training sessions, Coros has a digital dial, the best battery life available, and updates directly to your watch. It’s GPS is also accurate on the running track.
The Best Budget Running Watches Include:
- Garmin Forerunner 55
- Garmin Fenix 4
- Garmin Venu Sq
- Coros Pace 2
- Coros Apex 2
- Polar Unite
- AmazFit GTS
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Okay, now let’s get to the list!
8 Best Budget Running Watches
Garmin Forerunner 55 — $199.99
Best for Road Runners Wanting to Improve
The Garmin Forerunner 55 gives you so much bang for your buck including personalized coaching and race prediction in a multi-sport GPS watch. The biggest difference between this Forerunner model and the more advanced models are decreased accuracy, battery life, music storage option, and biometrics data.
Biggest pros: The race day strategy and cadence info give you a coach in your pocket.
Biggest cons: The performance data isn’t the most accurate, and not an equal replacement to an actual running coach. Also, if you prefer less feedback from your watch, this one isn’t for you. All the options can make it confusing to use, as well. This watch also does not have swim tracking.
Garmin Forerunner 55 Features:
- GPS: Track your time, distance, pace and speed during your run or walk with built-in GPS.
- Battery life: Up to 2 weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 20 hours in GPS mode.
- Tailored runs: Tailored training guidance with daily run recommendations of varying intensities based on your training history, fitness level and recovery time.
- Training programs: Adaptive training plans for your goal distance and times feature guidance from expert coaches and free training plans. Workouts sync right to your watch from the Garmin Connect™ app2.
- Race day strategy: To help you plan your race day strategy, this feature offers GPS-basedpace guidance for a selected course or distance in the Garmin Connect app. So you can tailor your efforts to what’s ahead.
- Estimated run finish times: This feature allows you to select a distance and then see a data screen that shows your estimated finish time.
Related: Safety Tips & Tech for Runners
Garmin Fenix 5 — $259
Best for Trail Runners Wanting Fast Times
If you love the Garmin Forerunner options but want more, then the Garmin Fenix 5 is your watch. It stickers at $499 but you can find it cheaper on other sites than Garmin. While I wanted to include running watches under $200 bucks for this list, the Garmin Fenix was the most popular watch among my Instagram followers, so I had to include it. This is due to it’s ease of use and the attractiveness of the Garmin Fenix series.
You can swap out bands for leather and change the watch face so that it looks like an everyday watch or smart watch. The Fenix is a GPS multisport watch like the Forerunner which offers advanced running and biometric data that the Forerunner doesn’t plus a more detailed navigational system and water-resistance.
Biggest pros: Interchangeable straps make this a go-anywhere watch plus the detailed stride data so you know how efficient your stride is. Also, this GPS is more accurate, especially if you run in heavily wooded areas often, making this a go-to for trail runners.
Biggest cons: Doesn’t provide as much race performance data options as Forerunner like race strategy. And it’s not as intuitive to use as other GPS watches.
Garmin Fenix 5 Features:
- Accurate Heart Rate Data: The Elevate™ wrist heart rate technology for offers advanced heart rate
Related: The Best Pocket Bras for Runners
Garmin Venu Sq GPS — $118
Best for Those With Overall Wellness Goals
Still not sold on the other two Garmins (and their pricetags), the Garmin Venu Sq GPS offers the basic GPS features in a beautiful design (the white and gold package is drool-worthy) and a colorful display.
The coolest feature about the Garmin Venu Sq is that it offers a workout trainer that guides you throughout workouts such as yoga or Pilates. This multi-sport watch is perfect for any runner who is looking to improve their overall wellness with features such as a sleep and hydration tracker, and breathwork coach. This watch stickers for $199 though (shockingly) you can find a cheaper watch through a quick online search.
Biggest pros: The most beautiful GPS watch in its design and screen, it also offers workout demos straight from your wrist.
Biggest cons: If you want the running data that breaks down each run and projects future performance, this isn’t the Garmin for you. The stats offered tie into overall health like sleep, recovery, and hydration.
Garmin Venu Sq GPS Watch Features:
- Wellness stats: On-the-wrist health and wellness monitoring doesn’t get more thorough than this.
- Bright color display and sleek design: This watch features a bright color display and optional always-on mode, so you can see everything with a quick glance.
- Sleek design: With a sleek design that’s suited for every outfit and every part of your day,
- Battery life: Up to 6 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 14 hours in GPS mode.
- Workout trainer: Let the watch plan workouts for you, including yoga, strength, cardio, even Pilates.
- Garmin pay: Touch-free ability to pay while on the go—no phone or wallet needed.
- Body battery & stress tracker mode: This feature tells you your body’s energy levels throughout the day so you can know the best times for activity and rest. It will also tell you if you’re having a calm, balanced, or stressful day. If also give you relax and breathing reminders throughout the day.
COROS APEX 2 — $349
Best for Outdoor Adventures & UltraRunners
The COROS APEX has it all, which is why it is the most expensive watch on this list (but you can find it cheaper on third-party sites). COROS has become a fan favorite GPS running watch brand, in large part because of its battery life.
When my husband was training for a 100 miler, we realized his Garmin wouldn’t last for his long runs. It was a predicament! The solution was a COROS which has a 100-hour battery life plus it offers breadcrumbs and downloadable routes so you don’t get lost on the run.
For the road runner, it has accurate splits on the track whereas Garmin always undershoots or overshoots. The coolest feature, in my opinion, is the customized workouts from pro athletes, from strength to swim—and everything in between.
Biggest pros: Ultra multi-sport option from trail running to speedsurfing; ultra-long battery life in GPS mode (30 days!), and reliable GPS. This watch also has a music storage option.
Biggest cons: The backlight isn’t very bright, the heart rate data can be inaccurate at times, and the GPS can lose signal (unlike with the COROS PACE 2 below).
COROS APEX 2 Features:
- Accurate splits: Offering “Track Run Mode”, COROS’ a proprietary algorithm, allows you to accurate measure your splits while on the track.
- Battery life: Astonishing 17 days regular use and 45 days in GPS mode. (The Pro model goes up to 75 hours in GPS mode!)
- Ultra accurate GPS: The “All Systems On” modelets the watch use any of the satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS)
- Never get lost: Thanks to track and navigation features, the COROS Apex watch allows you to upload and display routes on a grid as a breadcrumb trail with real-time alerts about elevation and direction so you don’t get lost.
- Sturdy & attractive design: The Apex is a durable and attractive design.
Related: How to Pace Yourself When Running
Coros Pace 2 — $199
Best for Triathletes
The COROS PACE 2 is like a down-scaled version of the APEX in a lot of ways. The COROS PACE is a stand-out for its ultra-lightweight design and navigational maps. Like other COROS, it has reliable GPS, an ultra-long battery life, and access to the COROS coaching team. It also offers a cool muscle heat map to show you what
muscles did the most work in your workout (though, I feel certain your body can tell you that, too).
The PACE 2 is a perfect training partner for triathletes, covering running, cycling, and indoor/outdoor swimming. (The PACE 3 has some more biometrics features for $30).
Biggest Pros: Longer battery life than the APEX in GPS mode, one of the most lightweight watches on the market, and many advanced features for the money.
Biggest Cons: Plastic construction makes it less durable. Also, this watch has fewer multi-sport options than others on this list and doesn’t have the same training analysis as the COROS Apex 2 like training status and load (see below).
COROS PACE 2 Features:
- Massive battery life: Battery life of 24 days in smartwatch mode or 38 hours of GPS operation.
- Light and simple design: Weighing under 30 grams, this is one of the lightest GPS running watches on the market. That’s thanks to a nylon band. The design as features a digital dial (like the APEX), making it intuitive to operate.
- Ultra accurate GPS: The “All Systems On” modelets the watch use any of the satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS).
- Maps & downloaded navigation options: The PACE 2 hastopographic and landscape maps perfect for hikers and trail runners with the option to preload maps off the COROS website.
- Accurate splits: The COROS PACE 2 also automatically detects that you are on a track to ensure GPS and data accuracy with the Track Mode.
Polar Unite — $139.00
Best for Those with Basic Fitness Goals
Just the facts, ma’am. (Anyone remember, Dragnet? I am dating myself). If you are looking on of the best cheap running watches that has the essential features of GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring, then the Polar Unite watch is your watch. What makes the Polar Unite special is its accurate heart rate data and focus. (It does come from the supreme heart rate data company, Polar, after all).
The Polar Unite gives you daily workout guidance, 24/7 heart rate and activity tracking, and automatic sleep and recovery applications. It’s simple and straightforward, telling you what you’ve done and whether it’s too much or too little. Polar Unite is like a pocket-sized personal trainer to help you with your fitness goals.
Compare this to the Fitbit Sense 2 or Polar Pacer which are about double the price but with advanced features such as an ultra-accurate heart rate sensor that can assess your heart rhythm for atrial fibrillation with the compatible ECG app and easily share results with your doctor and heart rate variability stats.
Biggest Pros: The motivation and inspiration and ease of use makes this watch a game-changer for those with general fitness goals. I also love the breakdown of what macros you burned in a given workout.
Biggest Cons: This watch requires your phone’s GPS to track your runs. It also doesn’t offering running specific stats, feedback, or coaching. Also has a short battery life of just 4 days.
Polar Unite Watch Features:
- Accurate heart rate data: Polar Precision Prime™ sensor fusion technology offers 24/7 heart rate tracking from the wrist combining optical heart rate measurement with other sensor technologies to rule out motion artifacts that produce unreliable readings.
- Personal trainer in your pocket: FitSpark® personalized training guide offers daily, on-demand workouts that are easy to do, and match your recovery, fitness level, and training history. It sends you new workout suggestions every day for cardio, strength, or mobility direct to your watch plus daily inspiration based on your personal metrics. Get real-time guidance and walk-throughs, tailored cardio, strength, and mobility workouts.
Related: Should You Ditch Your GPS Watch?
Amazfit GTS — $69
Best Budget GPS Watch for Those Wanting Simple Stats
It is crazy to me you can get a GPS watch for under $100, but this is no joke! The Amazfit GTS is a GPS watch that gives you the basic metrics you need to keep track of your training, for 12 different sports such as swimming, elliptical, treadmill running, and skiing. It is one of the best fitness trackers you can buy in a price range you can’t argue with.
Biggest Pros: One of the cheapest running watches you can buy.
Biggest Cons: This watch doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the other watch. If you want that analysis, this is not your watch. If you want a step-up from your Casio, this is it!
- Accurate heart rate: Amazfit GTS uses a next-generation PPG sensor for accurate heart rate monitoring.
- Sleep tracking: Analyze your sleep patterns. Measures total sleep, light sleep, deep sleep and awake times.
- Basic GPS monitoring: GPS + GLONASS will accurately track your routes
- Water resistant: ATM water-resistance to ensure a normal use up to 50 meters water pressure.
- Sleek, lightweight design: Slim metal body, durable design
- Battery life: 14 days battery life
Samsung Galaxy Watch — $119
Best for Those Wanting Use a Smart Watch for Fitness
If you’re wanting a smart watch to do it all but not for the price tag of an Apple Watch series, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is for you—with the series 4 coming in at under $120! This watch is very similar to an Apple Watch where it wears many hats but doesn’t offer the bells and whistles a GPS running watch can offer you like training plans, running breakdown, turn-by-turn navigation, reliable GPS, and training status.
Biggest Pros: This watch offers accurate heart rate data including an ECG, plus body composition breakdown, and all the perks of a smart watch at a low price.
Biggest Cons: The GPS isn’t very accurate or reliable. You also don’t get any of the advanced running data a standard GPS running watch would offer you.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Features
- Multi-sport options: options such as running, swimming, circuit training, basketball, or jumping rope, snowshoeing, alpine skiing, aqua aerobics, ballroom dancing, and even hang gliding.
- Step counter: Track your steps each day
You can’t go wrong with any of these options. Just depends on what you want! Hope this list is helpful to you, your goals, and your wallet!
If you want guidance with your running goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
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