Much has changed technologically-speaking since RunningShoesGuru last compiled lists of the best running apps on the market—Android development has taken off, iOS has experienced major changes with new features and capabilities, and the usefulness of running apps themselves have improved by leaps and bounds. As it stands today, most apps are available on Android, iOS, and most can be found on Windows Phone as well. Given the parity of the app market these days, we’ve brought together the best of the current crop of running-related apps—some that provide a GPS analysis of each workout, others that get would-be runners into fighting shape for their first 5k, and others that could even prove useful if the zombie uprising ever takes foot.
1. Runkeeper (Free): Android/iOS
When it comes to GPS, timing, and activity recording apps, Runkeeper remains the undisputed champion for most gadget-savvy runners. A burgeoning app back in 2011, Runkeeper has gone through numerous versions and has refined itself into a sleek, intuitive program that allows runners to map routes in progress, track current and average paces, distance logged, and compare previous runs in an online repository, as well as a quick-view on the mobile device itself. Users can also log goals (whether they are distance, speed, total miles, or weight loss) and track them throughout their progress. And if tracking goals wasn’t enough, users can add their friends and family within the app’s ecosphere, placing added incentive (or pressure) to be at peak performance.
2. Endomondo (Free version, Paid version: $4.99): Android/iOS/Windows Phone
Endomondo remains a runner’s best friend, offering unparalleled exercise tracking, audio and visual updates during activities. What’s more, the app also offers the option to tag photos, videos, and other data on popular routes. When it comes to the social elements of exercise, Endomondo is a cut above the rest: users can keep tabs on their friends during activities, track overall progress, and measure up against personal bests on the Endomondo homepage and in the app itself. Additionally, Endomondo’s paid version offers audio coaching tools for runners looking to sharpen their workouts. It’s not all about competition, however, as the app also allows for pep talks to be sent to runners mid-activity, being read aloud by the app or stored as messages. Endomondo allows every run to be social, even during a solo workout.
3. Nike+ Running (Free): Android/iOS
Nike was one of the first pioneers in making running-related data and mobile coaching available to the masses. Guided on by piezoelectric shoe sensors before the widespread popularity of GPS-enabled mobile phones, the Nike+ system offered pedometer, distance, and speed information along with a catalogued record of previous runs. The mobile phone explosion led to the Nike+ Running app, which picks up where the older systems left off. Nike+ Running offers time, distance, and pace readouts during activities alongside a wealth of data and goal-setting capabilities on the app’s homepage. Not to be outdone by other upstart app developers, Nike+ offers robust social capabilities in the form of social data-sharing, real-time cheers whenever people post on events in progress, and the ability to track friends’ progress and activities. Choosing a “powersong” allows runners to gain the upper hand on difficult workouts, while goal-setting capabilities push athletes to new accomplishments, making Nike+ running a go-to app.
4. MapMyRun (Free): Android/iOS
Similar to Nike+, MapMyRun is a running data stalwart that has offered mapping and activity diary capabilities for runners, cyclists, and walkers for years. Its roots stem from post-workout tracking on the MapMyRun homepage, lending itself well to a popular and feature-rich app with five-star ratings on Google Play and the iTunes App Store. MapMyRun offers GPS tracking, timekeeping, activity diary functionality, and can track nutrition and weight, among other features. One of the app’s best features is based off its website functionality, allowing runners to check out local routes uploaded by others. Through this feature, runners can try new courses, plan activities in unfamiliar areas, or recreate runs on popular race courses without toeing the line on race day. Social aspects are not lost on MapMyRun, either, as the app has a robust social element including a leaderboard which demonstrates the best, fastest, strongest, and most dedicated among the user base.
5. Strava (Free): Android/iOS
Where most of the apps listed in this article are tied to specific devices, the genius of Strava is that it can be used with GPS watches, mobile devices, or on the Strava homepage to log new activities. In addition to the Android and iOS apps, Strava is also compatible with the Garmin Forerunner and Garmin Edge devices—one of the few app ecospheres which reaches beyond the mobile phone market. The app offers the usual slew of features, including route tracking, pace readouts, and an extensive log of previous activities for comparison and benchmarking. Purchase of Strava Premium unlocks additional features, such as goals, coaching, data download capabilities, and more detailed workout reporting. Featuring a sleek, minimalist design, Strava is a feature-rich option for runners and cyclists alike.
6. iSmoothRun (Free version, Paid version $4.99): iOS only
iSmoothRun may not have the name recognition of some other apps on our list, but what it may lack in ubiquity it more than makes up for in features. Allowing runners to post activities from the app to a warehouse of different tracking sites, athletes can track their activities on the page of their choice while using the iSmoothRun app independently. If that’s not enticing enough, the app allows for treadmill activity tracking alongside other customizable options. Cadence tracking, for one, allows runners to pay heed to their footfall patterns. But these bells and whistles do not detract from the creature comforts runners are used to in their apps, as iSmoothRun also offers standard GPS tracking, data analysis, and workout scheduling. At the moment, the app is iOS only, but the developer has indicated that an Android version is forthcoming.
7. Couch-to-5k (Free): Android/iOS
Everyone needs to start somewhere when they begin running, which is the inherent philosophy behind Couch-to-5k. The app is based off of the popular beginner’s program for running, getting people in 5k shape by gradually incorporating longer running lengths in between walking periods. Bringing these workouts to runners in a portable, user-friendly app, Couch-to-5k offers timed workouts and audiovisual coaching cues to help newbies get race-ready for their first 3.1. Not to be outdone, the app also features quirky training tools such as zombie training and a virtual dog which accompanies runners during their workouts.
8. Zombies, Run! ($3.99): Android/iOS
For those who need a little extra incentive (or, perhaps, a bit of a distraction) during their workouts, Zombies, Run! offers a running-fueled story of escape from a global zombie takeover. To advance in the story, participants have to run certain distances filled with perilous zombie attacks in the form of audiovisual cues from the app. Zombies, Run! is, at its core, interval training with the fear of impending doom interspersed with bursts of speed. Activities and miles account for supplies and rations in a virtual village, which expands as the runner successfully completes missions in the virtual world—and runs in the real world. Additionally, Zombies, Run! offers an immersive online community, allowing the narrative to stretch further by including information on friends and fellow survivors as they look to survive the zombie hordes at the gate.
9. Lose It! (Free): Android/iOS
Outside the realm of running-specific apps are the go-to picks when it comes to weight loss, weight maintenance, or ancillary concerns for athletes and newcomers to running alike. Lose It! provides unparalleled support when it comes to calorie tracking, weight maintenance, and overall health tracking. Users can track calories on the go, measure basics of health and weight, and received detailed analyses on the app’s homepage. Additionally, the homepage provides more specific feedback regarding food choices, daily weight assessment, weekly progress summaries, and a plethora of graphs designed to help users gain a better sense of their overall well-being.
10. Lookout (Free version, Paid version $2.99/month): Android/iOS
Though Lookout wasn’t made for the runner specifically, this security suite is a can’t-miss download for anyone with a smartphone and a sense of adventure. Lookout offers mobile security through GPS location, data security if stolen, and a lockdown mode if a device is lost or taken. One of its best features is the “signal flare” capability which allows the app to send out one last ping of the phone’s location before the battery dies. Any runner who has lost their phone while trail running, or during a long run far from home, having data on its last-known whereabouts can be the difference between device retrieval and finding a costly replacement. As any runner will tell you, it’s best to be prepared before you hit the trail—making Lookout an excellent download for any mobile user on the go.