Are you looking for a quality running watch, but don’t want to spend a lot of money? Here are three great options that will cost you less than $100. These watches are perfectly suitable for beginners who want to start tracking their runs and to take account of basic health metrics such as heart rate, distance, and pace.
Best Running Watches Under $100
Garmin Forerunner 25:
Most of you would be surprised to find the FR25 here. There are better-looking, better-capable watches by Amazfit under $100 that feature running profiles, and then there are scores of running watches offered by duplicitous sellers online, but FR25 still deserves a place here.
FR25 has a square design with considerable bulk but a lightweight casing. It is available in two sizes, in different color options but the same 0.55-inch thickness. The silicone straps that comes with the watch is easily replaceable (quick release mechanism)
Its 128 x 128-pixel screen is black and white, and backlight to view the metrics in a watch. By looks, it evokes the memory of good old digital watches.
Though it doesn’t support swim tracking, the watch is rated for 5 ATM water resistance. You can shower or swim with this on your wrist.
Is Garmin Forerunner 25 a good running watch?
FR 25 is now a 7-year-old wearable but is still relevant as a no-frills running watch. It lacks the bells and whistles of modern Garmin Watches like music storage (or even control), third-party apps or watches faces, and contactless payment support.
But that doesn’t disqualify it as a good match for novice runners. Let’s look at the features we would get.
- A move bar that works like a sedentary reminder on modern watches. You can clear the move bar after about 250 steps.
- Daily activity tracking includes steps count, miles walked/run, and calories burned.
- GPS connectivity: the signals that lock well within a minute.
- Goal Customization (you can set specific distance, time, or a number of calories-burned to achieve in a day)
- Virtual Pacer, and Couch to 5K ( encourages you to run within a preset time and target framework)
- An intuitive interface, even 5 years old can operate FR45
What you will be missing?
- No advanced metrics like VO2 max, Running dynamics. You get only time, distance, and pace.
- Lacks built-in heart rate and sleep tracking. However, you can connect an external heart rate monitor.
- The limited resolution of the screen can afford to display only two metrics at a time. Forerunner 35 can show all three essentials (time, distance, pace) in one glance.
On top of that, the watch is officially discontinued. So you would get only renewed units on eCommerce stores.
Lastly, FR25 lasts for two weeks on a single charge and about 8 hours with GPS running in the background.
If you can’t live with a boxier watch that does nothing but track running, we would seriously encourage you to go for Forerunner 35, and if you can afford extra, the Forerunner 245 Music.
- Intuitive Interface
- Support External Sensor
- GPS on-board
- Lacks heart rate tracking
- Boxier design
- lacks smart features
Amazfit GTS 2 Mini: Best Small Running Watch
Amazfit GTS 2 Mini is an affordable watch that fits many roles. Sports tracking is second only to the health tracking on the watch, and it offers plenty of smarts like a crisp AMOLED display, week-long battery performance, and attractive watch faces. Given the tons of features inside, this one is quite a steal at under $100.
The whole GTS series by Huami apes the iconic Apple Watch design. A square casing with a crisp display, and a responsive touchscreen. There is a crown-like button on the side, but it is limited to only one function.
Made out of plastic, the watch weighs only 19.5g and so would be invisible on your wrist. The 20mm silicone strap is pretty comfortable but perforated straps are more suitable for running (you will have to buy them separately).
The water resistance stands at 5 ATM or roughly 50m underwater. One major drawback is the lack of raised bezel around the screen which makes the watch prone to scratches and damage.
Is Amazfit GTS 2 Mini good for runners?
GTS 2 Mini comes packed with 70+ sports modes (Jack of all trades master of none).
It is not a dedicated running watch like Garmin Forerunner 35. The GPS and Step tracking accuracy is not top of the line but is acceptable for casual runners.
We won’t recommend this watch to serious athletes as the running data is confined to basic metrics like pace, speed, and duration.
There are plenty of running modes that include:
- Outdoor Running
- Trail Running
All these modes are backed by GPS-based position tracking which locks pretty fast but it is slightly off. The metrics this watch covers include:
- Avg Speed
- Stride Frequency
- Calories burned
- Heart Rate
- Total Climb
Before running, you can set a target for the pace, calories burned, distance and duration. The auto pause feature stops the timer when you take a break during a run or walk.
Also, there are customizable workout screens that allow you to change the default metrics for the more desirable ones as you go out for a run.
It supports third-party apps like Strava. You can sync your running data directly to the Strava account on the smartphone but it needs to be connected to the ZEPP app first. Like Garmin Forerunner 35, you can only control music on the smartphone.
Apart from sports tracking, the watch has all the important health metrics that include stress, sleep, and blood oxygen tracking. In fact, GTS 2 Mini is more of a health watch than a sports tracking device as the health data is more comprehensive and advanced.
The GTS Mini has a 220mAh battery, and it can go for up to 5 days on intensive usage of the watch. GPS-based workouts that include running can take a major hit on the battery performance, and continuous tracking can reduce it to 10-12 hours.
- Built-in GPS
- Crisp AMOLED display
- Long Battery Life
- Advanced Health Tracking
- Limited running data
Garmin Forerunner 35: Best running watch under 50
The Forerunner 35 is Garmin’s entry-level running watch, and also the cheapest Garmin watch. Unlike the Apple Watch, this Garmin offers connectivity for both IOS and Android.
The price cut down comes with a bare-bone MIP display in minimum resolution (but it is clearly visible in the direct sunlight). There is no touchscreen, but 4 buttons on the sides which matter most as runners usually have sweaty hands or gloves on, the touchscreen navigation won’t work in either case.
At 37.5g it is pretty lightweight so you won’t feel it on your wrist while running. However, the comfort is mainly decided by the strap. Forerunner 35 comes with a 22.5mm Silicone strap which if you won’t find it comfortable enough can be exchanged. (Comfortability would be the least of your worries)
Rated 5 ATM for water resistance, this can be submerged in water up to a depth of 50m/164ft. With FR35 on your wrist, you can take shower, run in the rain, and even swim in the pool.
Is Forerunner 35 good for running?
As mentioned earlier, this watch is made for beginners on a budget.
It also offers GPS connectivity and essential running tracking that include distance, pace, speed, cadence, route, and heart rate. GPS locking is pretty slow as it takes about 30 seconds longer than other Garmin Watches.
You will get access to the following modes:
- OutdoorRunning (customizable intervals & virtual pacer)
- Indoor Running
The specific running features include Alerts, Running modes, Custimiable Data Feilds, and Auto Pause.
While you are running, features like Auto Lap, Virtual Pacer, and Vibration alerts come in handy. The Auto Lap feature informs you after you pass each set interval, whereas Virtual Pacer keeps you motivated by comparing your real-time running stats with the pre-set goals.
After each exercise, you can take a look at your VO2 max (the higher it is the better), and the heart rate graph right on the watch.
Surprisingly, the watch also covers basic sleep tracking (deep and light sleep), but the data isn’t as advanced or accurate as we found on the Garmin Forerunner 945.
If you are unsatisfied with the accuracy of the optical heart rate sensor, there is always an alternative in external monitors. You can connect chest straps and armbands with FR 35 via ANT+ or Bluetooth.
One of our major complaints is the lack of onboard music storage. For that, you’ll need to look at the more expensive Forerunner 245 Music.
Unlike Premium Garmin Watches, you can’t download third-party apps and data fields as FR35 doesn’t have support for the Garmin ConnectIQ store.
It can last up to 13 hours in training mode with GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring running in the background. Whereas, the battery lasts about 9 days with regular use.
- Solid Battery Performance
- Synchronization with Third-party Sensors
- Dedicated running watch
- Lacks on-board Music Storage
The Forerunner 35 from Garmin is a great watch for runners who are just starting out and are on a budget. It has all the essential tracking features along with some advanced ones like Virtual Pacer, Auto Lap, and sleep tracking.
What it lacks is support for third-party apps, data fields, and onboard music storage. If you can live without those, then the Forerunner 35 is a great watch for you.