Choosing the best running app is still one of the easiest and cheapest ways to help you get fit and in better shape. While dedicated running watches are still the best for hardcore runners, smartwatches with built-in run tracking, like the Moto 360 Sport, Sony SmartWatch 3 and of course the Apple Watch mean that running apps are making a bit of a comeback.
There’s never been so much choice when picking a running app,
with most big-name brands from Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and Puma all sporting their own apps. There’s some pretty stiff competition from the likes of Runkeeper,
Runtastic, Strava and the ever-present Endomondo as well.
Whether you’re training for an ultra marathon or just like going for a jog around the park, there’s a running app that’ll turn your phone or
smartwatch into a fully-fledged fitness tracker. They can give you feedback and encouragement, map your run using your phone’s GPS and provide stats like distance travelled and calories burned.
We’ve rounded up the best, including those that give you
training regimes, ones that analyse your stride, and ones that are brimming with running tips. The only thing they can’t do is put in the hard work for you.
The common preserve of cyclists, Strava is pretty hot on running as well and a favourite in the Wareable office. Using your phone to track your via GPS, it will record all of your vital jogging stats including pace, distance and time.
However, as well as launching an Apple Watch app, the company has also joined forces with Fitbit, so workouts you do with a Fitbit Charge HR, Fitbit Surge and the Fitbit Blaze will appear in your history of logged workouts. Plus, if you do work out with Strava, those workouts will count towards your daily Fitbit goals.
The list of compatible wearables also includes the Sony SmartWatch 3, Garmin Vivoactive HR, Pebble Time, Moov Now and Microsoft Band 2. Polar recently announced that you can integrate data from watches like the Polar M400 into the Strava service as well.
Going premium will give you additional features like custom heart rate zones, workout/race analysis and customised training plans.
One of the most open and user friendly sports apps on the market, RunKeeper (now owned by Asics) tracks a host of sports outside of jogging. It’s well laid out and easy to use, and has excellent apps for most wearable devices, and is the only member of the mainstream apps to work with the Sony SmartWatch 3 for phone-free tracking.
Latest additions include integrated Spotify support, Runkeeper DJ to build custom playlists and a native Apple Watch app where you can view heart rate and use Force Touch to pause your running session. There’s now the option to create running groups to set challenges up against group members and view their progress to see how you measure up.
You can pair a range of heart rate sensors, from Mio bands, the Basis Peak, Garmin’s running watches along with traditional chest straps. Just make sure they support Bluetooth Low Energy and ANT+.
Like Polar Flow, Polar Beat requires investing in one of its own heart rate monitor chest straps to get the best out of it. If you’ve already got one though, you can get more from your heart rate based running training as well as track runs using your phone’s GPS.
Along with a sleek, new UI there’s a new Fitness Test to help determine users’ aerobic fitness and a new Running Index that aims to offer insights into running performance.
Other features include a Benefit Target option to set targets, guidance to achieve goals and an Energy Pointer that shows fat-burning in real time.
If you’re a Polar Flow user, data from Beat can be synced across letting you add training data to your activity and sleep tracking data too.
This app isn’t concerned with tracking your distance, it’s designed to help you run in time with the beat, helping you to economically burn your energy and train at maximum efficiency.
The idea is a simple one; you select a genre of music you fancy listening to and, using your iPhone or Android smartphone’s sensors, you’ll get a track or playlist that matches your cadence. The idea is you stay in time with the beat and train at your desired pace.
It’s a shame you can’t pick your own tunes but in our testing we’ve found it really does give you a boost on shorter runs – we’d recommend using it for anything less than 5 miles.
As an alternative, you should also consider RockMyRun (iOS and Android), which uses its MyBeat tech to match music with your heart rate and pace. PaceDJ (iOS and Android) also uses your own music to match your run tempo.
Top running apps for Apple Watch
So good that it’s featured on Apple’s Watch minisite, Nike’s effort not only provides detailed maps and metrics, it lets you add tracks from iTunes right into the app’s playlist.
Sure, it’s simple and we’ve experienced a few bugs with it – but Apple’s built in running companion does the basics well and is likely to improve in the future.
Like Nike+, Runtastic comes with a music control option and also includes detailed stats on distance, speed, time, elevation, pacing, weather conditions, post-run moods and mile splits.
Snapped up by Under Armour for a cool $2bn, Endomondo is now stablemates with MyFitnessPal, which means it’s now integrated with the Under Armour Record app. That also means it’s compatible with the new Under Armour Band and HealthBox platform.
It’s pretty big on wearables already though and boasts Pebble, Android Wear and Apple Watch integration, so you can get live data from your workout on the wrist – provided you take your smartphone out with you.
For every mile or kilometer you run, your smartwatch will vibrate,
keeping you informed and motivated. Plus it can show distance, heart rate, and workout duration, so you don’t have to whip out your phone every time you want an update on your progress. Endomondo also syncs with Fitbit, too.
For those with Garmin wearables like the Vivosmart HR+, the Forerunner 630 and the Forerunner 235, Garmin Connect is the obvious choice. But even if you haven’t taken the plunge with one of its devices, the app is still superb.
It’s free to sign up, and ignoring all the Garmin specific tracking stuff, there’s tools for building running routes, creating training plans for a host of different events, create a training calendar and even track your weight and goals – all without setting foot out of the door.
If you’re dead set against getting a Garmin running watch then you can use iSmoothRun to track your workouts and then have that data pushed up to Garmin Connect.
You can have a read of our Garmin Connect review to see exactly what we make of it.
Top running apps for Android Wear
RunKeeper was updated to include GPS support for Android Wear devices. It integrates with Google Fit and allows you to sync data with the likes of MyFitnessPal, GymPact, Zombies Run, and Gym Hero.
Ghostracer connects to Strava and lets you run against pre-determined segments in real time. It’s one of the first Android Wear apps that we’ve seen that makes use of the new always-on feature, meaning the app will fade to black, saving you battery in the process.
The Android Wear mode stores all the metrics from your exercise sessions directly on the watch, and presents them in detail on the full smartphone app once the pair are reunited.
Endomondo isn’t the only one to play nice with your smart
wristwear – Runtastic syncs with most smartwatches including the Apple Watch, Android Wear watches and its very own Runtastic Moment to give you info like workout duration, distance covered, and calories burned, all right on your wrist, which is perfect for at-a-glance viewing while you’re on the go.
You can map your workouts, plot them on graphs, select them by type (heart rate, pace, or calorie goal), and even have a voice coach give you feedback.
With the premium version you’ll get additional fitness reports and a 3-day weather forecast so you’ll know whether to get the gloves out.
Ghostracer connects to Strava, and is a run and cycling tracker that lets you run against pre-determined segments in real time. The app not only displays stats such as distance, pace and time, but also brings in data from Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitors.
It’s also one of the first Android Wear apps that we’ve seen that makes use of the new always-on feature, meaning the app will fade to black during long sessions, thus saving your battery.
With MyTracks set to go offline this year, it’s one of the best dedicated Android Wear running apps on the Google Play Store.
Nike+ Run Club
Nike’s running app has been renamed and in the process adds a host of new features to help keep you motivated to sling on your trainers. You now get coaching that adapts based on miles clocked in and a new leaderboard feature to compete against other Nike+ runners.
That’s along with tracking the basics like distance, routes and pace, there’s training programs, the ability to share runs, set up Nike+ Challenges against friends and add photos during your most scenic routes.
There’s a dedicated Apple Watch app and it’s compatible with devices like the Wahoo Tickr X and the TomTom Spark sports watch.
And let’s not forget about picking out a power song when you need some help breaking through that wall.
Couch to 5K
If you’re looking to get started with running, this is the app for you. Our very own Sophie even used it to kick off her 5k objectives.
There are lots of versions of the Couch to 5km programmes for iOS and for Android but this is the one we’d recommend. It provides pre-planned schedules with all of the walks, walk/runs and runs you need to do to turn yourself into a 5km runner.