Running watches at the cheaper end of the market come with plenty of functionality that may fit you needs.
The more expensive watches have more features and functionality and are (generally) more accurate. But if you want basic features it is possible to buy a running watch for less than $100
This guide will give you a good overview of the best running watches under $100.
This buyers guide is essentially a list of features that you can get on a running watch. It might help you decide which features you need and which you’d be happy no to have.
Distance and Time
Basic watches without GPS have a go at tracking distance by using other sensors. So you don’t need to have a GPS receiver built in to get a rough idea of how far you have run.
All the watches in this price range are capable of tracking time..
How much you pay will largely dictate what features you get. As you go further up the price range you should expect to get better accuracy. These devices are packed with electronic sensors that do all the tracking of various things.
The companies that make watches costing $500 and up save their better sensors for their high end watches. Not an unreasonable thing to do I guess. But if one watch is 10% less accurate than the next, does that really matter in the long run?
Ask anyone whos been wearing a running watch for a few years and battery life will be quite high on the list of priorities. I love my Garmin Forerunner 235, it wasn’t a cheap. But its got the point where I need to charge it between every run I do.
So seriously do the manufacturers take battery life on higher end watches. They include a low usage feature on the GPS to save the battery life.
You may not be running an ultra and you probably don’t want to take an external battery with you on a 10k training run. But battery life is one characteristic that should still be high on your list of requirements.
What does the watch sync with?
If its not on Strava it didn’t happen, or at least that’s how the saying goes. Don’t presume that every watch at this end of the market will sync with Strava. If that isn’t a priority for you your options are widened somewhat.
They all sync with an app on your phone. This is what you need to be able to track your runs, map your progress and plan for the future.
Heart rate is a key indicator of fitness over time. If you run the same route once or twice a week you get a pretty good idea of where your fitness is just by looking at your average heart rate. It maybe wont get lower and lower over time as you get fitter. There will be days when its above what you would expect for reasons you don’t understand.
There is endless discussion over the accuracy of optical sensors in running watches. I think it is true that they are not as accurate as a heart strap, but does that matter? If you’re a casual runner and you only give heart rate a passing glance. The optical sensors in these watches are more than adequate.
Oxygen Saturation Detection
Oxygen saturation detection measures the amount of oxygen being carried around in the blood. Its amazing to find this feature in a watch costing less than $100. It’s a point in time measurement and not something that will necessarily help you track and improve your running. It is a measurement used by medial professionals in relation to many things including the treatment of Covid-19. And that’s why I mention it here, be safe out there!
A running watch doesn’t need to have GPS but it’s a very nice thing to have. There’s great satisfaction to be had by looking at a little line overlayed on a map at the end of a run. Checking the time for each of those miles (or k’s) is a good way to spend some time and to get an idea of where your running is at.
I’m not saying you’ll regret getting a watch that does have a GPS sensor, but you might..
You’ve got a good idea of the features you want in a watch that will allow you to track your running and fitness. There are some non-running related things to consider.
You may not want a large slab of plastic on your wrist when you go for a run. There are some watches in this category that are slim, slender and sleek looking that will fit your needs.
Ease Of Use
It isn’t easy to make something technical easy to use. If you remember VCR’s from the 80’s you’ll know what I mean.
If you fall over and land on your wrist (not sure how that would happen but I’m sure It has), there may be an advantage to buying a watch at this end of the market. Should you fall over on your wrist and land hard. Your $50 running watch will likely be as damaged as a watch costing $500 and up would be.
Some of these watches are designed to be used when swimming and some are not. All are splash proof. Which one you get is down to your requirements.
Conclusion: Best Running Watches Under $100
Cheaper running watches can have all the sensors you consider important to you.
They are probably less accurate but consider heart rate. If your watch always measures your heart rate at 5 to 10% lower or higher that is actually is does that matter? Its always measuring you, so as long as its consistently 5 to 10% lower or higher you’ll still be able to track your progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
is the Garmin forerunner 25 waterproof?
Its water proof to 50m
Is the Garmin forerunner 35 waterproof?
Its water proof to 50m
how to turn on Garmin forerunner 45?
Press and hold the power button until you see the display turn on.