Running apps are applications designed for smartphones to keep track of your running metrics. They give you the accountability and motivation you need to run and reach your fitness goals.
Our expert fitness team has put together a list of the top running apps below available for iOS and Android.
This GPS tracking app tracks and analyzes all of your activity including your distance, duration, average pace, and current heart rate. When you turn on the beacon feature, you can share your location with anyone to make sure someone always knows where you are.
Compete with fellow Strava athletes and individuals with the Strava segment which shows you popular routes and times to beat. For these reasons, we have ranked this running app #1.
2. Adidas Running
Adidas Running allows you to join challenges to make sure you push yourself during your run. A global community allows you to share your success with other runners.
You can map your mileage, distance, time, and speed.
If you lack motivation, this is the running app for you. With this app, you’ll be able to follow along with audio cues, participate in virtual challenges, and join running groups.
It comes with GPS to track your runs and allows you to see the distance you covered and how many calories you burned.
This beginner-friendly app is tailored for first-time runners and alternates between walking and running. As its name suggests, this app is designed to get you off the couch and into running your first 5k in just 8 weeks.
You’ll stay motivated with its zen power playlist that has music curated from elite DJs.
This running app breaks down your performance with easy-to-read charts and graphs. Whatever your goal is, it’s training plan and audio coaching features puts together a plan for you.
It stores your favorite routes and helps you find new ones, so you never go on a dull run again.
Created by runners, iSmooth takes advantage of unique features on your iPhone including tracking your shoe mileage, creating customized workouts, and allowing you to race against yourself.
It’s installed with a cadence tracker and a built-in metronome.
7. Zombies, Run!
To make your workouts more fun and engaging, this app is a game that makes you speed up if you’re getting chased by zombies in this virtual zombie chase app. You can collect supplies to level up and protect yourself from the virtual zombies.
This is the biggest smartphone fitness game on the market with over 1 million players.
This user-friendly running app is simple to use. It comes with powerful, personalized fitness plans and lets you join global fitness challenges with other Pacers worldwide.
It syncs with Apple Health, so you can view and track your steps with an Apple Watch.
9. Charity Miles
Make an impact and get fit at the same time with this charity running app. You can select from a variety of world-class charities to support and help the health, children, animal, environment, education, and veteran groups.
Every mile you jog helps earn money for a chosen charity.
10. Nike+ Run Club
This running app has a coach and allows your friends to join along for the ride. The guided runs on this app sharpen your mindset, so you know you can run the distance or speed you’re aiming for.
You can tag your shoes and keep track of the distance you’ve run with each pair of running shoes you own.
How We Ranked
When ranking the top 10 running apps, we factored in multiple things. At the very least, your running app needs to be capable of keeping track of your data so you can track your progress. You’ll want your running app to keep track of distance, duration, average pace, and current heart rate which strongly conveys why Strava is ranked #1.
Accountability is important to stick to a running plan which is why these running apps have features to keep you accountable. Many like Nike+ Run Club come with a coach to provide you with guidance and support through your entire running journey. Having a community to engage with is also important for accountability. Adidas Running was one of the top-ranked because it comes with a global community that will be sure to keep you on track.
Having other features such as tracking the distance you’ve run with a pair of running shoes also made certain running apps rank on our list. Charity Miles allows you to donate to a charity to not only make an impact on your fitness level but also to make an impact on the world. Each mile you log is donated to a charity of your choice.
Not everyone is going to start in elite shape which is why beginner-friendly apps made our ranking. Couch25K is designed to get you off the couch and to completing your first 5k within 8 weeks.
Other miscellaneous and cool features such as a virtual zombie game is why we ranked other running apps like Zombies, Run! To stay on a running plan, motivation is important, and when you have a zombie chasing you (even if it’s virtual), you’re more likely to pick up your pace.
Running apps improve your memory. In a study of 86 women aged 70-80 years with mild cognitive impairment, it was concluded that aerobic training significantly increases the hippocampal in older women.
The participants were assigned to a 6-month two times a week program randomly into either an aerobic training or resistance training group. Participants performed a 3T MRI scan to determine hippocampal volume and found that the aerobic training group had a much bigger effect on increasing it then the resistance training group (1).
The hippocampus is the part of your brain that is associated with memory. As the study shows, both resistance training and aerobic training are good for your brain health, but aerobic training is more effective for improving your memory.
Running apps improve your brain health. Having better brain health means you’ll improve your ability to remember, learn, and concentrate.
A 2017 meta-analysis of healthy adults displayed that a greater duration of exercise was associated with an increased BDNF (2). BDNF is a brain-derived neurotrophic factor which is essential for learning and memory.
Moreover, Mayo Clinic published a study that looked at the role cardio had to play on gray matter volume in the temporal, frontal, and cerebellar regions of the brain. 2,103 adults between the ages of 21-84 were observed on a bicycle ergometer to measure their peak oxygen uptake, oxygen uptake at the anaerobic threshold, and maximum power output.
Cardiorespiratory fitness was positively associated with gray matter volume, total brain volume, and specific gray matter and white matter clusters in the brain suggesting that cardio improves brain health (3).
Running apps get rid of distractions. Staying focused during a run can be tough. You have outside distractions, may not know what route to take, or you may not even know what pace to go at. Running apps will guide you through every step of your running endeavor.
Many running apps tell you the best route to take, the pace to go at, and let you focus in on a coach every step of the way.
Running apps are good for your heart. Coming at no surprise, a multitude of studies have proven running to reduce cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in Americans, and running is one of the best ways to prevent this morbid disease.
The Journal of The American College of Cardiology proves running reduces the risk of cardiovascular mortality. They examined the effects of running on 55,137 adults 18-100 years of age. With a mean follow up of 15 years, the runners had approximately 30% and 45% lower cardiovascular mortality risks.
With that being said, even if you don’t have time for a 30-minute run, getting outside and moving like your body is designed to do for just 5 minutes will drastically reduce your mortality risks from heart disease.
Running apps corrects your form and reduces your chance of injury. If you aren’t using the right form, it’s easy to injure yourself. You can pull a muscle, injure your lower back, cause shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or knee injuries.
Besides preventing injury, the correct form also increases your running time. With many running apps having top coaches available to you, you’ll be guided through your run from start to finish ensuring you never have bad form.
On top of correcting your form, adding strength training to your running routine will prevent your chances of injuring yourself during a run.
Running apps improve your immunity. Your immune system is responsible for keeping your body healthy and preventing illness. In 2019, The Journal of Sport Science and Health investigated four areas of exercise immunology: acute and chronic effects of exercise on the immune system, clinical benefits of the exercise–immune relationship, nutritional influences on the immune response to exercise, and the exercise effect on immunosenescence.
The evidence gathered suggests that the immune system is very responsive to exercise, and acute exercise improves defense activity and metabolic health of the immune system (6).
Furthermore, Muscle and Exercise Physiology covered the effects of exercise on the function of the immune system. The research concluded that moderate exercise reduces the risk of infectious diseases (7).
Running apps are good for beginners. In particular, the Couch25K is a running app built for beginners that gets sedentary individuals to run their first 5k in as little as 8 weeks. It may be intimidating to start a running program with no prior experience. Not only that, but you’ll have a higher chance of injuring yourself and losing motivation to continue running if you don’t start on the right foot.
The proper running app will protect your body and curate a running program for you to stick with your health and fitness goals for the long haul.
Running apps keep you accountable and motivated. Accountability and motivation are vital for any workout program to remain consistent. Most people give up on their goals shortly after starting. A running app will hold you accountable and make sure you reach your fitness goals. Running apps bring you a variety of tools to keep you consistent and motivated such as a coach, community, and tracking your progress.
Running apps help you lose weight. Studies support that running is beneficial for weight loss. Weight loss simply comes down to burning more calories than you’re taking in. If you’re exercising a lot, but you’re still consuming more calories than you’re burning through exercise, running may still help you lose weight.
It’s well-known that you can’t out-train a bad diet, however, this journal shows clear evidence that with enough energy expenditure you can still lose weight (8).
Besides, this 2018 study scrutinized the effects physical activity had on weight loss and maintenance (9). Generally, it’s much easier to lose weight when you implement calorie restriction as well, so although it’s important to exercise to burn calories, you want to put your body in a caloric deficit as well for maximal weight loss.
Running apps make you happier. A multitude of studies support the belief exercise increases your mood. This study examined rats who were physically active compared to those who artificially receive their “runners high.” The rats that obtain their runners high unnaturally were perceived as much lazier than the rats who got their runners high the natural way from moving. The active rats had 400 percent more reward receptors than the sedentary rats (10).
Runners’ high is a feeling of euphoria from the release of endorphins runner’s experience after a strenuous run. Endorphins are a group of hormones secreted by the brain that are responsible for making you feel good.
Running apps track your progress. The integrated technology running apps are installed with track all of your data including calories, heart rate, and distance ran.
Tracking your stats is imperative for making progress towards your fitness goals. When you have all the data stored and saved on your smartphone, it’s easier for you to know where you can improve, and how far you are from reaching your goals.
Running apps strengthens your knees, bones, and joints. Running is a high impact movement, and as a result, strengthens muscles, bones, and joints, especially in the lower body since it requires the legs to move the most. The stronger your muscles, joints, and bones are, the less likely they are to get injured.
Active marathon runners showed a low prevalence in knee and hip arthritis in this 2018 analysis (11). Also, a study exhibited that the knees of novice runners improve after 6 months of finishing marathon training (12).
Furthermore, running is displayed to substantially decrease the risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement (13).
Running apps improve your running time. Running without keeping track of anything will give you random results. You must keep track of your progress to steadily improve. With the tracking features of running apps, you’ll consistently improve your time.
Having a coach that some of these running apps enable you to do will also increase your running speed faster than training without any guidance. The running community many running apps provide you will also allow you a little friendly competition with other runners, and competition pushes you to perform better.
Running apps improves your sleep. The Journal of Adolescent Health exhibited in 2017 that daily morning runs for 3 weeks improves sleep. 51 adolescents were randomly assigned to either a control or running group.
The running group ran for 30 minutes each morning for 3 weeks and showed a significant improvement in sleep quality (14). Also, other studies established exercise improves sleep quality and state that sleep is essential for optimal health (15).
Another article was published showing that aerobic activity decreases insomnia. The article claimed that people who engage in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise may see an improved quality of sleep (16).
Researchers examined 23 studies evaluating sleep after people engaged in exercise in the evening compared to those who did not and predicted that evening exercise not only doesn’t affect your ability to fall asleep, but it improves your sleep quality (17).
That being said, it doesn’t matter what time of day you run, your sleep will improve after running. Running is also a physical activity, and the more physical activity you do the more tired your body will be, therefore, helping you fall asleep faster.
Running apps increase your lifespan. Research is showing that running can increase your lifespan by reducing your risk of premature mortality by 25-40%. Runners live on average 3 years longer than non-runners (18).
The American Journal of Epidemiology recorded a random sample of 17,589 people between the ages of 20-98 years from 1976 to 2003. They discovered that after the 35-year maximum follow-up, only 122 deaths were examined in runners, but a staggering 10,158 deaths among nonrunners (19).
Running apps reduces your risk of cancer. Cancer is a disease that is caused by the cells abnormally dividing uncontrollably destroying body tissue. Running will help keep your cells dividing at a normal rate.
26 different types of cancers were investigated on 1.44 million patients and 13 of the 26 showed leisure physical activity were associated with lower risks of 13 out of the 26 cancers investigated concluding that physical activity is a key component to the prevention of cancer (20).
Additionally, this 2017 comprehensive review established that exercise is important for managing and controlling cancer (21).
Running apps improve your mental health and reduce depression. Observational studies report that exercise is an effective method for improving depressive symptoms in patients with depressive symptoms and demonstrate active people are less likely to be depressed (22).
A review in The American Psychological Association summarized that there is substantial evidence supporting that exercise is an effective modality for treating mental disorders, especially depression (23).
Further, 23 randomized control trials and 977 participants underwent an experiment examining the efficacy of physical exercise as treatment for unipolar depression. This meta-analysis concluded that physical exercise is an effective intervention for depression (24).
Running apps reduces your risk for diabetes. Diabetes is the result of too much sugar in the blood (glucose). Two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is hereditary, and we don’t have much control over being diagnosed with it. However, type II diabetes is most commonly caused by the lack of exercise.
In 2016, the American Diabetes Association investigated studies displaying exercise improved blood glucose control in type 2 diabetes (25).
Running apps improve your self-esteem. In addition to preventing diabetes, this study demonstrated aerobic activity develops your self-esteem (26). Self-esteem is important for any workout program and succeeding in life. High self-esteem makes it more likely that you’ll reach your goals and aspirations.
Running apps lowers your blood pressure. An adequate blood pressure prevents your chances of a heart attack and developing other cardiovascular diseases.
A meta-analysis of 391 randomized controlled trials shows that exercise is an effective mechanism for lowering systolic blood pressure (27).
Blood pressure contains both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure is the bigger number and refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. The diastolic blood pressure is bottom number and refers to the pressure in your arteries when the heart rests between beats.
A journal in 2019 indicated that 3 months of lifestyle changes including exercise reduces systolic blood pressure 5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure 3 mmHg in older individuals (28).
Typically, normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If your systolic blood pressure is greater than 140, and your diastolic blood pressure is greater than 90 mmHg, that’s a sign of hypertension. Hypertension is high blood pressure that can lead to a heart attack and other heart diseases.
Running apps may lower libido. Exercise can improve your libido, however, long-endurance training has been shown to decrease your libido (29).
Running apps can pull a muscle. Running too often or for too long can result in a pulled muscle. You must take days off to recover or decrease your running volume to prevent your muscles from getting pulled.
Also, doing a light warm-up will increase the body temperature of your muscles and vastly reduce your chances of pulling a muscle. Start your run light, and then you can pick up your pace once your body is warmed.
Running apps might be bad for your knees. Running relies on the functionality of your knees to move from one stride to the next. Running isn’t inherently bad for your knees, and in fact, is good for your knees. However, overusing your knee joint or hyperextending it may result in a knee injury.
Running apps can be expensive. The app itself isn’t expensive and many are free, however, if you want access to more features than the free membership gives you then you’ll have to pay extra. Also, if you don’t have access to a smartphone, you’ll need to buy one which can be pricey, and you need access to Bluetooth, WiFi, and internet connection which can accrue another costly expense.
Running apps could cause excessive sun exposure. Getting adequate sunlight is healthy for you because it provides you with vitamin D which improves your immune system among a host of other benefits. However, too much sun exposure is bad for your skin and can cause skin cancers, such as melanoma.
Apply plenty of sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
Running apps require storage space. To download your running app, you need to make sure you have enough storage space on your phone. This will limit the amount of space you have left for other applications.
Running apps can be used every day. Just be sure your phone is completely charged and you have a good internet or Wifi connection.
Also, if you’re running a lot, take days off to let your body recover. Combining running with other forms of exercise is best. This will make you a more well-rounded and fit individual. Cross-training, performing a variety of different physical activities, will prevent injury as well.
What are the best running apps for beginners? The best running apps for beginners is the Couch25K. This app is for beginners and is supposed to get you up and running your first 5k in just 8 weeks.
Another running app we recommend for beginners is the Zombies, Run! That’s because Zombies, Run! is a game and allows you some room to walk but will make you speed up if you’re getting chased by a virtual zombie. If you’re new to running, it may be hard to find the motivation to get started. A game will make your running routine fun and engaging.
What’s the best running apps for android? Running apps are available for both iOS and Android. Runkeeper is the most popular one for Android users.
Strava and MapMyRun are also excellent running apps for Android. Strava allows you to compete with other Strava individuals and athletes with it’s Strava segments feature that shows you popular routes and times to beat.
MapMyRun makes your runs less boring and mixes your routes up by storing your favorite routes and helping you find new ones.
Are there free running apps? Yes, many running apps allow you to use them for free. However, for premium features, you’ll need to pay.
Some premium features running apps include are training plans, training videos, and goal setting.
Pacer comes with an Apple Health feature making it very convenient for your Apple Watch.
What are the best running apps for weight loss? For weight loss, you’ll want a running app that tracks your calories, gives you a customized running plan and has a coach, so your runs are more efficient.
What’s the Runeeper running apps? The Runkeeper running app is one of the running apps that made the top 3 of our running app list. It keeps you motivated and allows you to participate in virtual challenges.
Zombies, Run! virtual zombie feature makes you speed up your run to prevent the zombie from catching you. Couch25K is a running app for beginners, so it has an interval mixed of walking and running.
What are strava running apps? Strava running app is our top-ranked running app. The Strava running app comes with everything you’ll need for running. It has a GPS tracker and tracks your distance, duration, average pace, and current heart rate. It’s beacon feature also makes sure somebody knows where you are at all times, so you never get lost.
How do you breathe when using running apps to run? When running, avoid shallow breaths and focus on breathing from your belly and through your nose and mouth.
Before using running apps, what should you eat? Eating something small will give you enough energy to complete your run. Avoid overeating though which could lead you to vomit or impede your workout performance. Having some carbohydrates such as fruit would be good to eat before you run since carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for runners.
What foods should you avoid before running with running apps? Avoid legumes, sugar, fatty food, and lactose before you run. These can lead to stomach problems and hurt your performance.
Instead, you’ll want to opt for complex carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread or brown rice. Because carbohydrates are your main source of energy especially for endurance athletes. And complex carbohydrates give you less energy than simple carbohydrates.
Are eggs good before using running apps? Eggs are a source of protein, and protein isn’t good to consume before running. That’s because protein takes longer to digest, so you’ll want to have food high in carbohydrates.
Whole grain, fruits, and sweet potatoes are all excellent carb sources to consume before you run. Just make sure you don’t consume too heavy of a meal right before your run.
Where do you put your phone when using running apps to run? You’ll need to get a runner’s belt to attach your phone to when going on a run. Make sure it fits comfortably and doesn’t affect your running form or distract you.
How far should I run as a beginner with running apps? As a beginner, you’ll want to start with walking and gradually increase to running. The Couch25K is a good running app for beginners because it starts you off with walking and gradually increases you to running.
If you’re a beginner, you must not start off running at too high of an intensity because it will only increase your chances of injury.
How long will it take to run a 5k with running apps? That depends on your fitness level and how good of a runner you are, but a good 5k running time is anything under 25 minutes.
Do running apps keep track of my running pace? Many running apps like iSmooth keep track of your cadence. This is the total number of steps you take per minute.
Can my iPhone track my run on running apps? Yes, most running apps are compatible with iPhones to keep track of your run.
Running apps keep track of running data such as running routes, calories burned, heart rate, and distance. They also keep you motivated and accountable with virtual coaches and a community of other runners.
To use your running app, have strong WiFi, internet connection, and a fully charged smartphone.
For Fitbug’s #1 recommended running apps, click here.