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Fitness trackers seem to have taken the exercise world by storm, offering up a convenient way to get moving, stay motivated, connect with others, and access training programs. For runners, especially those training for a particular race, running apps have become about as necessary as a solid pair of running shoes. The best running apps provide a slew of cool tools to help guide you through your next run or train for your next race. At the very least, they will track your distance, time, calorie burn, and pace, but most offer a heck of a lot more.
Whether you are gearing up for your next marathon, looking to run faster, or just want a solid workout, finding the best running app to meet your needs is important. But how do you know which one is for you? A simple Google search for running apps will pull up overwhelming results. So, don’t do that. Instead, sit back and read on as we’ve done all the work for you. In this roundup, we provide a comprehensive review of the best running apps for 2023 that meet a range of needs.
As a competitive triathlete who works alongside certified personal trainers and CrossFit coaches who have firsthand experience with some of the best personal training apps, we know what to look for in paid and free running apps.
8 Best Running Apps
- Best Overall App for Running: Strava
- Best Running App for Beginners: Couch to 5K
- Best Treadmill Running App: iFIT
- Best Running App with Classes: Peloton
- Best Running App for Apple Watch: Apple Fitness+
- Best App for Running Routes: MapMyRun
- Best Running App for Motivation: Runkeeper
- Best Running App for Training Plans: Nike Run Club
Best Overall App for Running: Strava
Good for: Multisport athletes who thrive on analyzing their fitness stats as well as for those who enjoy the motivation and friendly competition available through a virtual community
Best Overall App for Running
- Activity tracking app: track over 30 sports
- Turns phone into a running/cycling computer
- Free and subscription options
Pros & Cons
- Tracks variety of workouts
- Beacon live tracking available on free tier
- Provides lots of data
- Compatible with thousands of devices
- Many fan-favorite features behind paywall
- Some users wished the auto-pause feature was more sensitive
- Have to visit website on desktop to use some features like adding a new pair of shoes
Strava is one of the longest-standing fitness apps and arguably the most popular one on the market for serious runners. It looks a lot different from its earliest versions in 2009, now offering some standout features that have made it one of the largest social networks for athletes available. There is both a free and paid version of Strava, both of which offer solid features, so let’s explore the difference.
To access all the awesomeness Strava offers, you will want the subscription-based membership. While the free membership does allow you to post and analyze your workout stats, use the social wall, take part in group challenges, and utilize the safety feature, Beacon, those training for a hardcore race may want to opt for the paid subscription available for less than $8 a month. So what does that get you?
The paid version of Strava is a hub for thousands of routes and trails from around the world. It offers suggested routes for runs, rides, hikes, and more depending on your location. You can also use the map to create your own route, an especially helpful feature when traveling. One of the more well-liked features of Strava is its Segments, which are popular portions of the road with associated leaderboards. With this social sharing, users record activities on their Strava feed where friends can make comments and share their own activities. In addition, the social aspect encourages group challenges and clubs to interact with other athletes.
For my fellow statistic lovers, the advanced performance metrics on the paid subscription are really awesome. You can import in-depth fitness metrics from nearly any type of device and let Strava analyze it, compare it to past efforts, and maintain a training dashboard to track progress over time. I mean, if it isn’t recorded on Strava did it even happen? (If you know what I mean, you know what I mean).
The versatility of this app is remarkable. In addition to all the training features, there is location sharing from Garmin and Apple Watch devices, which gives your live location to three safety contacts. More recently, Strava added Personal Heatmaps, which are interactive visualizations of your runs. These are certainly not a necessity, but super fun to use.
The biggest controversy surrounding Strava is the lack of privacy. When using Strava, a lot of your personal information is made public including your geolocation. While there are some privacy settings, a lot is still accessible, so this is something to consider.
|Price||$5/month with annual membership, $8 when billed monthly|
|Compatible with||Apple or Android phones and smart watches, plus many other smart watches including Garmin, Fitbit, Polar, Suunto, TomTom, and Whoop|
|Metrics||Distance, pace, moving time, elevation gain, calories, heart rate, run splits (free version) plus advanced heart rate data and power (paid version)|
Best Running App for Beginners: Couch to 5K
Good for: Anyone new to running and looking for a gradual plan with coaching
Best Running App for Beginners
- Couch to 5K program to help beginner runners
- 30 min per day, 3 times per week for 9 weeks
- $4.99 one-time purchase
Pros & Cons
- Training program to start or re-start running
- Interactive motivating audio coach
- in-app music player
- Users complain distance tracking is inaccurate
- Similar apps available for free
- Doesn’t link with wearables
Designed by ACTIVE.com expert trainers, Couch to 5K is a running app and program specifically geared towards novice runners. It’s a gradual training plan that encourages three runs a week over nine weeks. It begins with a mix of running and walking, which builds up over the course of the nine weeks transitioning to less walking and more running. Users can set their own goals, take breaks when necessary, and choose their own coach.
What is a bit different about this app (and really neat if you ask me) is that not all the coaches are athletes. There are some celebrities thrown in there offering guidance throughout the run as well as tips for improvement. If you are someone who likes to listen to your favorite tunes while working out, this app has an in-app music player so you can listen to a playlist of your choice from your device.
Because this is geared for newbies, the fitness stats offered are more basic (distance and pace). You can still track your progress with total distance and average pace to monitor your progression over time. While the Couch to 5K app doesn’t host its own social network, you can share your progress and check in on others via their Facebook community.
Users really appreciate the ease-of-use of this app and its progressive plan. It enables people of any fitness level to get moving and stay motivated.
|Compatible with||iPhone iOS 11.0 and up, Android 8.0 and up|
|Safety features||None noted|
|Metrics||Pace and distance|
Best Treadmill Running App: iFIT
Good for: Anyone with a compatible NordicTrack, ProForm, or FreeMotion treadmill who enjoys interactive training and wants more variety in workout options
Best Treadmill Running App
- Over 16,000 live and on-demand classes
- More than 60 types of workouts
- Immersive experience
- Classes filmed worldwide
- Live races and events
- World-class trainers
- Syncs with Nordictrack and ProForm equipment
Pros & Cons
- At-home training
- World-class coaches
- Immersive training experience
- Vast library of workouts
- Record and track workout metrics
- Individual and family memberships available
- Free trial
- Pricey for some
- No true path for progression
The iFIT app is more than just a running app found on any old basic treadmill. It is an interactive, immersive training platform with thousands of live and on-demand classes led by world-class instructors. Classes take place all over the world and, and with the amazing graphics provided you can get your run in virtually anywhere you choose (thanks to the Google Maps integration).
What is particularly great about iFIT is that it is also a mobile and TV app so you can literally work out anywhere. Your paid membership allows you to log into as many iFIT treadmills and other cardio equipment that supports the app.
When using iFIT on a NordicTrack, ProForm, or FreeMotion treadmill that has an integrated touchscreen, you’ll likely find automatic trainer controls, which have real-time trainer adjustments and terrain-matching. This connected experience allows you to interact with the trainer to keep you motivated.
If fitness metrics are your jam, then you’re in luck. iFIT tracks your workouts and maintains a detailed history of advanced training stats. It charts your progress for any workout, which is a great way to ensure you’re making strides towards your fitness goals.
Classes include treadmill running, indoor cycling, rowing, elliptical, strength training, yoga, pilates, meditation, general cardio, as well as mindfulness classes on topics like cooking, and TED Talks related to health and wellbeing. There are live events, progressive series running plans for everything from a 5K to an ultramarathon, challenges, and more to keep you moving.
This is one of the more expensive fitness apps on the market and, if you’re also buying a new treadmill, the cost will add up fast. But given the variety and quality of features offered, it’s not unreasonable.
|Price||Yearly Family Plan for $396; monthly Family Plan for $39; or yearly Individual Plan for $180|
|Compatible with||Apple and Android systems|
|Safety features||None noted|
|Metrics||Distance, elevation, steps, workout, weight, time, heart rate (with the associated heart rate monitor), and overall FitScore|
Best Running App with Classes: Peloton
Good for: Anyone who appreciates the guidance of an expert trainer through live or on-demand classes and wants a community-feel
Best Running App With Classes
- World-class workout classes
- Variety of fitness routines
- On-bike and off-bike workouts
- Don't need a Peloton bike to sign up for the app
Pros & Cons
- World-class programming
- Not just bike workouts
- Can be used all over the world
- Keeps tracks of all training metrics
- Train from the comfort of your own home
- 30-day free trial
- Costs $39 per month
- Required to access Peloton Bike's features
Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island the past few years, you’ve heard of Peloton and its cult-like following. Although its reputation is often associated with the Peloton Bike, the Peloton app itself is a whole lot more, offering runners some attractive features. It is the mecca for just about any fitness class you could hope for. On it you will find thousands of live and on-demand classes, expert instructors, curated music, training programs, and personalized coaching.
The best part? You do not have to own a piece of Peloton equipment (or any equipment for that matter) to use the app. It has Android, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, LG, and Airplay functionality so you can stream the class of your choice on virtually any smart device. Training for a marathon? Simply choose a class or training program, stream it on your smart device, pop in your headphones, lace up your shoes, and get moving with the guidance of experts.
What runners will especially like is that Peloton’s app tracks your fitness stats and charts progress to keep you focused on your next health goal. For just $12.99 per month per user profile, you can access all that this app has to offer and become part of the ever-evolving Peloton community.
And, should you want more than just a running workout, you can choose from one of the 14 class types and filter by class length, instructor, music type, or intensity. Unfortunately, you cannot access live leaderboards unless you have an associated Peloton Bike or Peloton Tread—a feature that keeps many athletes motivated. This isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but worth noting.
|Compatible with||Android, Apple, Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, LG, and Airplay|
|Safety features||“Hide running route” privacy setting|
|Metrics||When GPS tracking is enabled, it detects distance, pace (current, average, best), and total elevation gain. Records heart rate and total calories for all classes (except calories for meditation). Cadence can be recorded when a cadence monitor is purchased.|
Best Running App for Apple Watch: Apple Fitness+
Good for: Anyone who has an Apple Watch and wants to track detailed running stats
Best Running App for Apple Watch
- Apple’s new fitness subscription service
- Available late fall 2023
- $9.99/month or $79.99/year
- Video and audio workouts
- Compatible with iPhone 8 or later or iPhone 6 paired with Apple Watch Series 3 or later
Pros & Cons
- 11 different types of workouts
- Free trial for Apple watch users
- Cheaper than other fitness memberships like Peloton and iFIT
- Not currently available
- No customer reviews on quality of workouts
- Less variety of classes than competitors
I think it’s fair to say that whatever Apple does, it generally does very well, and the Apple Fitness+ app is no exception. Apple watches overall are impressive, but for runners, the Apple Fitness+ app via your Apple Watch will take your workouts to the next level. Before we dive into the specifics of the running features, it would be remiss to not take a glimpse at what the app offers overall.
The Apple Fitness+ app offers 11 different types of training, meditations, and audio-guided workouts (walks and runs), all of which come with curated playlists. Fitness+ houses a huge library of 4K ultra HD fitness videos, and new workouts are added weekly with options for every fitness level. To keep you on track, you can view personalized metrics on screen.
There are plenty of treadmill-based workouts on this platform that can be streamed on your smart device and are led by highly skilled coaches. Ready to hit the road? Fitness+ offers audio-guided walks and runs. All you need is your Apple Watch and Bluetooth headphones to utilize the Time to Run on Fitness+. This relatively new feature tells stories through places you virtually visit (ie. London). Users report that these episodes, focused on popular running routes of some of the most known locations, keeps them motivated.
If you’re a “techie” or love metrics, you will appreciate the amount of detailed information the Fitness+ app provides on your Apple Watch. Data recorded includes vertical oscillation, running stride length, ground contact time, heart rate, heart rate zones, elevation, power, and progress towards your predetermined goal via the activity rings. Truthfully, unless you are really focused on improving your running form, some of this information won’t mean much. It can be a bit overwhelming.
|Price||$9.99/month, $79.99/year; 1 month free for new users; 3 months free with purchase of new Apple Watch|
|Compatible with||Apple Fitness+ requires iOS 14.3 or later, iPadOS 14.3 or later, watchOS 7.2 or later, and tvOS 14.3 or later|
|Safety features||Not specific to Fitness+, but Apple Watch has SOS features as well as fall and crash detection|
|Metrics||Vertical oscillation, running stride length, ground contact time, heart rate, heart rate zones, elevation, power, view your route (with Apple Watch Series 2 or later)|
Best App for Running Routes: MapMyRun
Good for: Runners who like to plan their outdoor routes for variety in their training
Best App for Running Routes
- Under Armour’s run tracking app
- Able to track 600+ activity types
- Available as free and subscription service
Pros & Cons
- Track over 600+ activities
- Route-planning feature
- Allows you to track different kinds of runs: cross-country, sprints, long runs, etc.
- Very customizable
- Many features limited to MVP premium version
- Users state MVP training plan can be glitchy
- Lots of menus and submenus within the app
MapMyRun is a fitness tracking app that uses the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track your runs. As the name suggests, the app allows users to create a map of a given route they’d like to run, send it to your phone, and run. It will calculate how long the run is so you can plan ahead—a feature that is especially awesome if you are in a new place and not sure where to run. You can also search and filter through thousands of routes that have been created by other users.
This app is part of the Under Armour Connected Fitness family of apps and is available for free to download. With this app you can record details of your run including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, and route traveled. The amount of data is rather impressive with charts and graphs to show your progress over time.
MayMyRun has an MVP, or premium version, membership as well. This unlocks even more features such as training plans, audio coaching, form coaching, weather, and live tracking that allows you to share your exact location and route with other MapMyRun members. Even more specific metrics are available on this version including custom splits and heart rate zones. Perhaps the most attractive feature for those who love mapping routes is that with the MVP version you unlock access to unlimited printable maps as well as advanced mapping tools.
There are some reviews who reported that the GPS accuracy is questionable. But the vast majority of users really enjoy the mapping capabilities offered through this app.
|Price||Free, or MVP version is $5.99/month, $29.99/year|
|Compatible with||Apple Watch/iOS, Android (GoogleFit and Android Wear). Partner apps include MyFitnessPal, S Health Integration, Importing TCX, GPX, HRM, and FIT files, Garmin Connect, Polar, and Suunto|
|Safety features||Live tracking (with MVP membership)|
|Metrics||Free version: Duration of run, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, route traveled. MVP: Custom splits and heart rate zones|
Best Running App for Motivation: Runkeeper
Good for: Anyone who needs that extra push to get moving
Best Running App for Motivation
- Asics’ app for tracking and improving your running
- Available as both Free Runkeeper and Premium Runkeeper Go
Pros & Cons
- Free and subscription plans available
- Audio cues available
- Goal-setting tools
- Both indoor and outdoor tracking
- Training plans only available with Runkeeper Go
- Android users experience glitches and crashing on longer runs
- Apple users struggling with pairing Apple Watch
Every runner has experienced a day (or days) when you just do not feel like running. These days happen to the best of us and sometimes we need that extra motivation to get moving.
The Runkeeper app from Asics is a fantastic training tool that provides that encouragement and more. It is also a solid choice for new runners or even those who think they hate running. There are lots of reviewers out there who stated that they thought they hated running until they found this app. It eases you in with easy-to-follow routines and motivation along the way.
So let’s dive in. First off, this app is free. There is a paid version, but the free one offers more than enough features for most runners. With Runkeeper you can set your own goals with the help of the training features and get tailor-made guidance on how to reach them. Audio cues along the way help monitor your pace and distance.
Does seeing your progress keep you pumped? Runkeeper’s running tracker provides insights on your progress to help keep you motivated. If you prefer to train with a tribe, Runkeeper also has a solid community that provides a lot of encouragement amongst its users. There are also a bunch of resources on Runkeeper’s website designed to keep you inspired and on track.
To upgrade, the paid app is less than $40 a year. With this, you are able to get customized running plans, live tracking, more detailed metrics, coaching, and real-time information to guide your training each day.
|Price||Free or $39.99|
|Compatible with||Apple and Android|
|Safety features||None noted|
|Metrics||Time, distance, pace, average pace, calories|
Best Running App for Training Plans: Nike Run Club
Good for: Anyone who likes to train with a crew and prefers the guidance and motivation that comes from experts
Best Running App for Training Plans
- Nike’s free run-tracking and training app
- Training plans: Getting Started, 5K, Half-Marathon
- Guided workouts
Pros & Cons
- Completely free app
- Training plans for Getting Started, 5K, and Half-Marathon
- Audio guided workouts
- Shoe tagging to track mileage on running shoes
- Limited training plans
- Apple users having trouble syncing runs started on their Apple Watch
- Users share the app is best for beginners
Bringing together expert coaches, a running community, and music, the Nike Run Club app snagged the top spot as the best running app for training plans. This free app promises to help you start running, get better at it, and enjoy it more. Featuring training plans that can be personalized with guided runs, you can get the coaching you need to tackle your next race. The running coach guidance along each run helps to keep you on track with all of your goals and motivated with in-run audio cheers from those you’ve connected with via the Nike Run Club community.
There seems to be a training plan for just about any race distance as well as a variety of run workouts (tempo, interval, endurance, speed). As part of the Nike Run Club, you can take part in running challenges shared through social media to get your sweat on with a crew that motivates.
Fitness metrics are tracked in detail. Running speed, distance, GPS route, elevation, heart rate, and mile splits are tracked and stored so you can monitor progress. If you are working with a coach, metrics will be used to guide your training. Nike Run Club works with Apple Health to sync workouts and record heart-rate data. Love to run to your favorite tunes? With this app, you can listen to your playlists from your Apple Music app.
Something to consider: Some users found this app to be a bit glitchy and the measurements to be off at times.
|Compatible with||Apple Health, iOS, Android|
|Safety features||None noted|
|Metrics||Running speed, distance, GPS route, elevation, heart rate, and mile splits|
Other Running Apps We Researched
We did some in-depth research on several more running apps that we liked, but they didn’t make our short list.
Stride: Join a Stride Run Coach at a Stride studio across the U.S. to plan and track your next running workout. While the app has positive reviews, you have to utilize it during a Stride class, which is limiting.
Zwift: Zwift is a really awesome app and just shy of making our list. In a nutshell, it’s a virtual, interactive training program that enables runners and cyclists to train and compete in an online, game-like world. This app is arguably the most used one for cyclists, not runners, which is why we left it off.
Charity Miles: If working out for a cause motivates you, then Charity Miles may be an app for you. This app uses the GPS from your smart device to track your exercise. Once you download the app, you choose a charity of your choice. The app donates money for miles biked, walked, and ran to that charity. It doesn’t have a ton of information on your workout metrics or guide you through any training, but it serves a very worthy, very different purpose.
How We Picked And Tested The Best Running Apps
Our team is no stranger to running apps, so we pooled together and talked about our favorites, judging them on the below criteria:
- Price: What is your budget? Are you looking for monthly subscriptions or free plans?
- Workouts offered: Do you plan on doing more than running? Would you like access to other types of workouts such as yoga or strength training?
- Community aspect: How important is it for you to feel part of a community of like-minded athletes? Do you prefer to workout solo? Or do you like sharing your stats and getting motivation from other runners?
- Compatibility: What device do you plan to use this app on? Probably the most important piece of information to know. Most of these apps are compatible with Android and iOS systems, but if you’re using a specific running watch like FitBit or Garmin, you may need to look more closely at compatibility.
- Metrics: Are you a statistics geek? Do you use your fitness metrics to drive your training? Or is it not that important to you? Some apps really dive into specifics whereas others are more basic.
- Music: Do you run with music? Do you want to sync your own music? Use Spotify? Or choose from a curated playlist? Not all apps are created equal when it comes to music.
- Safety features: It’s important to consider your safety and just how much personal data you want shared with others. Depending on your comfort level, choose the app that will protect you best.
- Social media integrations: Most apps have an associated social media presence for members/users to connect. Some are more active than others, so decide how important that piece is to you.
Benefits of Running Apps
Why should you use a running app? Whether you’re looking for coaching, some community, or more, there are several major benefits of utilizing one.
There’s something about seeing your progress and trying to continually get better, and that in and of itself is motivating. Whether hitting your next PR pushes you or crushing a leaderboard to see your name rise to the top, there is an app for you.
Inexpensive or Free
Even when an app comes with a cost, the chances are it is a lot cheaper than hiring a coach or personal trainer. However you slice it, the apps provide a lot of bang for your buck.
Sense of Community
Train with a tribe! Most apps have an associated online community or social network which is not only great for accountability, but it will motivate you and, just maybe, you’ll develop some real friendships and a sense of camaraderie.
Buying Guide: What to Look for in Running Apps
There are several factors to consider when deciding which of the most popular running apps to download. Consider the following:
Your bottom line for cost really drives what app you’ll ultimately choose. If you have to stick within a budget, then only consider the apps that are in that range.
Consider Your Needs
Why are you using the app? Your intended use will dictate what your must-have features are and, from there, you can narrow down your choices.
Some apps are more easily accessible and easy-to-use. This is largely dependent on what smart device you plan to use it with. When researching any app, be sure to check that it’s compatible with your device.
This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your intended use. If you’re looking for guided runs or training plans with coaches, then some apps get checked off your list right off the bat. Make a list of the features you need and want before beginning your search.
Some running apps are equipped with safety features such as being able to share your location with emergency services or friends or GPS tracking. These are good things to look for if you run alone or at night.
Some running apps unfortunately allow other people to see your running routes. You might be able to disable this feature but it might be best to look for a running app that doesn’t allow other users to access this information.
Running Apps vs Walking Apps
Generally speaking, both running apps and walking apps share the same or very similar features. They track fitness metrics like pace, distance, calories, and time. The biggest difference between the two lies in the workouts offered. Some are geared specifically towards running, whereas other apps house walking-specific workouts.
RELATED: 30 Minute Treadmill Workout
Best Apps for Runners FAQs
What’s the best runner app?
After researching a ton of apps out there, our team of experts found Strava to be the best overall runner app.
What apps do professional runners use?
This varies by the person and what personal devices they use. More often than not, it depends on how and why they are using the app. For coaching? Probably not. To accurately track running stats? Very likely.
What’s the best free running app?
Many apps are free, but with a subscription, they unlock more features. The best one for you depends on your goals, needs, and what motivates you to workout.
What is the best app for beginning runners?
Our team of experts found the Couch to 5K app to be the very best app for novice runners.
Is Strava better than Nike Run Club?
Both are really great choices. They differ a bit in what they offer and Strava did snag the spot as our top overall app. But, if you’re looking for more specific training programs, Nike Run Club may be for you.
Fitness trackers seem to have taken the exercise world by storm, offering up a convenient way to get moving, stay motivated, connect with others, and access training programs. For runners, especially those training for a particular race, running apps have become about as necessary as a solid pair of running shoes. The best running apps provide a slew of cool tools to help guide you through your next run or train for your next race. » Read more about: 8 Best Running Apps (2023): Hit the Road With These Options » Read more
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