The 5 Best Cheap GPS Running Watches Available for Under $100

Do You Need a GPS Running Watch?

Over the last few years, exercise and training has been revolutionised by GPS running watches. These devices are capable of calculating how far you have run, cycled, or swum, how fast you are travelling, and how many calories you have burned.

This allows athletes to optimise their workouts, enabling them to achieve the best possible benefits to their fitness and performance.

But how exactly do these devices work, and how can they help you to improve your athletic performance? And how can you decide which is the best cheap GPS Running Watch under $100?

What is a GPS Running Watch, and How Does it Work?

GPS, or Global Positioning System, uses a technology called triangulation to determine your exact location on earth. GPS signals are transmitted by a network of satellites, which circle the earth in precisely tracked orbits, and these are received by GPS devices, such as running watches, here on earth.

If your GPS running watch is able to receive signal from at least three of these satellites, it will be able to calculate your exact location, and will continue to do so throughout your training session.

Not only does this allow your GPS running watch to measure the distance you have travelled, but it is also able to track your speed. When you programme it with information about yourself, such as your height, weight, and age, this enables it to calculate how much energy you have expended in each training session.

What’s the difference between the GPS running watch, running tracker and smart watch?

If you are a first time buyer, you may be confused as to the difference between the various GPS devices available. Of these, there are three main types; the GPS Running watch, the Running Tracker, and the Smart Watch:

  • Running Tracker: Also known as Fitness or Activity Trackers, Running Trackers are wearable devices that can be worn as a watch, as a pendant around the neck, as an armband, or clipped onto your belt.

    These devices use motion detection and an accelerometer to measure your level of physical activity, and some can also detect changes in altitude via an altimeter.

    Running trackers measure distance by counting the number of steps you take, and most are smart enough to differentiate between motion caused by the movement of your feet and that caused by other forms of transportation, such as cars and trains. Modern running trackers are also able to calculate an approximation of the number of calories you burn, the duration of your workout, your heart rate, and even the quality of your sleep. 
  • Smart Watch: A smartwatch is essentially a wearable computer that fits conveniently on the wrist, with a touchscreen and a wide range of functions, thee devices are designed to give the wearer maximum connectivity whilst on the go.

    Among their many features (is/are) the ability to count steps with the use of a in built pedometer, and are also able to calculate your heart rate and the number of calories you burn during a run.

    Whilst this is a useful feature, the main focuses of the smartwatch are largely centered around the use of apps, and so they are not as accurate when it comes to measuring pace or distance. What’s more, they must be used in conjunction with a smartphone, and are far more costly than GPS watches and Running Trackers, making them a less suitable option for many people/ fitness enthusiasts.
  • GPS Running Watch: GPS running watches differ from activity trackers and smart watches in that they use triangulation technology to calculate your exact location throughout your run, making them far more accurate for measuring distance and speed.

    Because smart watches do not need to sync with any other device, they are capable of giving accurate readouts with regards to your pace during your workout,. This allows you to make adjustments during your workout, rather than retrospectively, enabling you to more effectively optimize your workout.

    The accuracy and convenience of GPS smart watches make them the ideal choice for serious athletes, as they provide the tools required to effectively optimising your training, even when in the middle of a workout.

Basic and Advanced Features of GPS Running Watches

Nowadays, there are many different GPS running watches to choose from, and these offer a range of different features. Whilst all GPS watches are able to track your location, different models will have a different number of functions, from basic through to advanced.

Basic: The basic features of GPS running watches include location, distance, and pace tracking which, when combined with personal information regarding your height, weight and age, can also calculate your calorie consumption. This allows you to accurately monitor your activity and fitness levels, and optimize your workout for maximum improvements to performance.

Advanced: More advanced models of GPS Running Watch have built in accelerometers are altimeters, which allows for more accurate data readings when running indoors, on rougher terrains, or in hilly areas. They may also include heart rate monitors, which can enable you to accurately determine your recovery time and oxygen consumption, for more detailed tracking of your fitness and performance levels.

+ What are metrics?

Metrics refer to the measurement of various biological processes that occur in your body when you exercise, and include:

  • Heart Rate
  • Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Maximum Oxygen Consumption
  • Post Workout Oxygen Consumption
  • Lactate Threshold (i.e the amount of uric acid that builds up in your blood when you exercise).

The Top 5 Cheap GPS Running Watches Under $100


Rainbow Light

Our Rating

Best buy for athletes aiming to monitor and improve their cardiovascular fitness.


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Optimum Nutrition 

Our Rating

Best buy for fitness fanatics who enjoy a wide range of physical activities.


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Garden of Life

Our Rating

Fantastic buy for athletes seeking a less chunky GPS running watch


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1. Optimum Nutrition Opti-Men/Opti-Women

  • GPS: Yes
  • Connectivity: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes

1. Garmin Vívoactive Black

The ultrathin Garmin Vivoactive Black has a wide range of features, with built in sport apps allowing for GPS tracking of running, biking, golfing, and swimming.

For true fitness enthusiasts, the functional flexibility of this GPS watch makes it a must have item, as you can use it to optimize your performance across a wide range of activities.

The Garmin Vivoactive Black is also customizable, with a variety of watch face designs, widgets, and apps available to choose from the Connect IQ store. This allows you to choose a style and set up that most suits your personal preferences and training needs.

Best Buy: for fitness fanatics who enjoy a wide range of physical activities.


  • The impressive battery life of the Garmin Vivoactive Black delivers up to 3 weeks of power when using activity tracking mode, or 10 hours when using GPS tracking.
  • The color touchscreen display is high resolution and sunlight readable, making it easy and convenient to use on the move.


  • The Garmin Vivoactive Black only comes in white and black, so it may not suit everyone’s style preferences.
  • Some consumers have found that the swimming tracker app available with the Garmin Vivoactive Black is not as accurate as in other GPS watches, so avid swimmers may want to consider a different model.

2. Rainbow Light Multivitamin

  • GPS: Yes
  • Connectivity: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes

2. TomTom Spark 3

Retailing at 10$, the TomTom Spark 3 is a touch more pricey than the other GPS running watches featured in this article, but with a comprehensive list of fitness features, is well worth the extra few dollars.

The Multisport Mode available with this model allows you to track your activity during a wide range of indoor and outdoor sports, whether you are running, swimming, cycling, or working out at the gym.

The TomTom Spark 3 is able to monitor your time, distance, speed, heart rate, and number of calories burned, helping you to easily achieve your fitness goals.

What’s more, the manufacturers are close to releasing a series of pre designed workouts that deliver step by step guidance to help you optimize your training, and fulfill your personal aims with ease.

Best Buy: for athletes aiming to monitor and improve their cardiovascular fitness.


  • The heart rate monitor of the TomTom Spark 3 does not require a chest strap, allowing you to easily and conveniently keep tabs on your heart rate throughout your workout.
  • The TomTom Spark 3 includes a handy Fitness Age Function that allows you to get a true measure of your current fitness level, and to identify how to improve your fitness quickly and efficiently.
  • This model has a music storage option with a 500 song capacity, and a long battery life.


  • The sound quality and Bluetooth connectivity of the TomTom Spark 3 is only average, and may be prone to malfunction.
  • Some consumers have noted that the TomTom Spark 3 is not particularly user friendly, which may not be convenient in the middle of a training session.

3. Garden of Life Vitamin Code

  • GPS: Yes
  • Connectivity: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes

3. Garmin Forerunner 25

For athletes seeking a less chunky GPS running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 25 is the perfect purchase, as the design of this model is more compact than others on the market.

Despite its smaller size, this GPS watch still packs a wide range of fitness features, and is able to track your movement, distance, and calorie consumption throughout the day.

It also has an inactivity indicator, which can motivate users to move if they have been sitting still for too long, making this an ideal choice for people wanting to improve their level of general physical fitness.

Best Buy: for athletes seeking a less chunky GPS running watch.


  • The Garmin Forerunner 25 has a long battery life, lasting up to 10 hours in training mode or 10 weeks in activity tracking mode.
  • The connectivity features of this watch allow users to instantly share their runs and progress with friends and family via social media.


  • The Forerunner 25 does not have a wrist-based heart rate monitor, and relies on a chest strap for this feature, which can be inconvenient to check in the middle of a training session.
  • This watch is unable to play music, so those who like to work out to a beat will need to bring a secondary device on which to play songs.

4. NATURELO Whole Food Multivita

  • GPS: Yes
  • Connectivity: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: No

4. Parnerme GPS Running Watch

This GPS running watch has built in technology to monitor the temperature, air pressure, and altitude of your external surroundings, allowing it to deliver readings that are accurately calculated considering the conditions of your surrounding environment.

The Parnerme GPS Running Watch also boasts impressive connectivity features, and is able to connect conveniently to IOS and Android devices using 4.0 Bluetooth. This allows you to receive email alerts and other messages whilst on the move, making this model perfect for those with busy lifestyles.

The comprehensive activity and GPS tracker monitored your pace, distance, route, heart rate, and calorie consumption throughout your workout, whether you are walking, running, biking, or hiking.

Best Buy: for athletes aiming to maintain connectivity with their professional and social life whilst on the move.


  • The Parnerme GPS Running Watch has a built in sleep monitor, allowing you to track your nighttime habits and optimize your sleeping patterns. This can be conducive to a more restful sleep, which in turn boosts your training performance the next day.
  • The wrist based heart monitor allows you to conveniently track your heart rate 24/7, allowing for more accurate and scientific fitness optimization.


  • This GPS watch is not waterproof, making it unsuitable for swimmers.
  • Some users have reported that the weather sensors of the Parnerme GPS Running Watch are not particularly accurate, and are not able to give a true reading of local weather conditions.

5. Universal Nutrition Animal Pak

  • GPS: Yes
  • Connectivity: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: No

5. Epson ProSense 17 GPS Running Watch

The Epson ProSense 17 GPS Running Watch is very user friendly, with an easy to use menu that comprises just five buttons. Many people find this preferable to touchscreen device, as these can be difficult to use when running.

It’s RouteSense GPS technology allows for accurate tracking of your distance and pace during a run, and it is also able to monitor your calorie consumption and sleep quality.

This enables users to effectively track and improve their activity levels and quality of rest, making for easy improvements to fitness and health.

Best Buy: for athletes seeking superior usability when tracking their distance, pace, and calorie consumption during a workout.


  • The Epson ProSense 17 GPS Running Watch has the best battery life of any on this list, and can last for up to 13 hours with the GPS switched on.
  • When paired with a Smartphone, this GPS running watch is able to receive email and message notifications whilst you are on the move, and is also able to connect to a music player.


  • Users have reported that the GPS system of this watch takes a long time to find your location, so you may spend up to five minutes waiting to begin your run.
  • The treadmill setting of the The Epson ProSense 17 GPS Running Watch is not as accurate as for outdoors runs, meaning it may be unsuitable for indoor workouts.

5 Things You Should Know Before Buying A GPS Watch

+ How reliable are GPS watches? How strong is a GPS signal?

GPS Technology has come a long way in recent years, transforming from a clunky technology that required bulky devices to use, into a far more accurate indication of location that can be worn conveniently on the wrist. However, this technology is not without its limitations, and is less accurate when running in more remote locations (for example, through a forest) than when used in urban areas.

Although the margin of error is still small (ranging from 1 to 6 percent depending on location), this can add up when used for runs exceeding 10 miles in distance. This variation in accuracy is usually down to signal strength, and how well your running watch is able to pick up signals from nearby satellites.

This means that the signal strength of GPS watches in more remote or rural locations will not be as good, and your watch will work less accurately in these kinds of location.

+ Does the GPS watch work for indoor running?

If you prefer to run indoors on a treadmill, this is something you will need to consider prior to purchasing a GPS running watch. In order to get an accurate measure of distance when running indoors, you will need to find a watch with a built in accelerometer.

For the best degree of accuracy, it is advisable to find a watch that allows you to use GPS for your outdoor runs, as this allows the device to calibrate this data with that of your indoor runs. This will enable you to get a better insight into your distance and pace when running on a treadmill, so you are better able to track and improve your fitness and performance.

+ Can you use GPS watch for biking and swimming?

Although many watches offer features for tracking your distance, pace, and calorie consumption when biking and swimming, many are more accurate for running.

Fortunately, there are many GPS watches on the market which are specifically designed for use with multiple sports. Although these are a little more expensive than more basic GPS Running Watches, they have many more features, and are able to deliver a far more accurate reading of data across a wider range of sports.

+ Do you want advice on recovery?

A good way to track improvements to your personal fitness levels is to monitor your recovery rates following a workout. This can give you an idea of your level of cardiovascular fitness, which is a good indication of how your running performance is changing over time.

If this is a feature you want in a GPS Running Watch, it is a good idea to find a model with an accurate heart rate monitor, as this can calculate not only your recovery time, but your oxygen consumption levels too.

+ Can’t you just use my phone?

If you own a smartphone, you can certainly use this as running tracker, as these devices are also equipped with GPS receivers. There are many available apps to for this function; however, these are usually far less accurate than GPS Running Watches. Furthermore, many people find it cumbersome and inconvenient to run with their phone, and these are less easy to use during a training section as they rely on touchscreen use.

Although Smartphones are useful for basic activity tracking, serious runners will more likely benefit from the accuracy and usability that GPS Running Watches are designed to deliver.

Bottom Line

When choosing a GPS Running Watch, there are many factors to consider. Of these, the most important is the accuracy with which the devices is able to track your location, speed and distance, and various models are more adept at this than others.

Their ability to deliver accurate data readings is influenced by what activity you intend to monitor (running, swimming, or cycling), where you plan to exercise (indoors or outdoors) and where you live (urban or rural areas).

However, with such a wide range of inexpensive models available to choose from, finding a cheap GPS Running Watch under $100 that suits your personal fitness goals should be easy.

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