Photo: Wayhome Studio

The Best Apps for Runners

Want to boost speed and improve form? There’s an app for that.

Whether you’re looking to track your distance over a week, nail down your best pace, find new routes, or be coached through your headphones, there’s an app to suit your running needs. And if you want an app that makes it seem like zombies will attack you if you don’t run faster and farther, well, there’s one for that, too.

The following apps are divided by category. Define your needs to help pick from the more popular options below. Are you hoping to make treadmill workouts more fun? Mapping new trail routes (and help from getting lost)? Or, just aiming to complete your first 10K? Whatever the task, consider each of these apps’ abilities to improve your running performance in their own way.

Coaching Apps

Training Peaks

Create goals, view workouts and fitness summaries, plus track your progress with help from the app that’s compatible with platforms like Apple watch, GarminSuunto, Polar, Fitbit, Zwift, and others. The premium edition lets you connect with your specific coach, buy training plans, and more.

Map My Run

Owned by Under Armour (and synced with Under Armour smart shoes), this app offers real-time audio coaching, plus real-time viewing of pace, distance, and time. It links to fitness trackers and heart rate monitors. Users can input food consumption and track distance logged on running shoes (to know when to replace them).

Couch to 5K

This coached Run/Walk method guides beginners through eight weeks from couch to 5K with training schedules comprised of 20- to 30-minute runs three times per week. Your choice of four virtual coaches instruct you when to walk, and when to run.

None to Run

This app offers a somewhat individualized approach for beginners who can choose from three workouts of 30 minutes or less per week with the end-goal of running 25 minutes straight. The app focuses on running time instead of distance or pace to encourage progress beyond end-goal. Includes strength and mobility workouts.

Tracking Apps

Pacer

This app tracks calories, active time, distance, and steps, plus offers fitness plans (more “Lose Weight,” “Get Toned,” or “Get Active,” than running-specific). It includes video workouts, challenges, and connection to the community of other Pacer app runners.

Runkeeper

Runkeeper tracks pace, distance, calories burned, time, and allows you to discover new routes, set goals and track progress, offers in-app challenges, and connects to others in the Runkeeper community.

Pumatrac

This app provides all the basic tracking metrics plus weather, time of day, or day of the month to help home in on days/times you perform well.

Adidas running app by Runtastic

Linking to Google Earth, this app provides route-mapping and offers training schedules, and syncs with Spotify and Pandora to stream music.

Pacer Pedometer

The unique pedometer-reading technology tracks steps without having to hold your phone in hand. (Keep it in a pocket, waist belt, or armband.) Joining Pacer Premium grants access to guided workouts for strength training, walking and stretching. Works with Fitbit and Myfitnesspal.

Photo: Jacob Lund

Gamified Running Apps

Zombies, Run! Uh-oh … there’s a zombie apocalypse and you have to escape. Run and win supplies for survival. Run too slow and get attacked. Not ideal for the anxiety ridden, but fun for everyone else.

Zwift

This app allows you to power an avatar of yourself across virtual courses as you run. It works with a footpod, connected shoe, or treadmill sensor. You can run outdoors with the Zwift app by using the Zwift Run Pod and the Milestone App.

Charity Miles

OK, maybe this one isn’t “gamified,” per se, but it is uniquely motivating. Choose a charity before every run and companies like Timex will donate a set amount to that charity per mile you run.

Community

Strava

This online community, online mapping, and workout recording service has surged in popularity, especially for virtual competitions. It tracks pace, distance, time, plus elevation gain and loss. Runners compete for accolades like King or Queen of the Mountain (KOM, QOM) on routes and segments. It allows you to see how you measure up on leaderboards and earn badges. Also useful for route-finding.

Nike Run Club

Paired with a Nike foot pod, or when carrying your phone, this app tracks pace, distance, calories burned and time and creates gamification of personal goals. It has a strong social element where you can challenge friends. It allows users to receive audio coaching, and upload a power song to play when you need it.

Garmin Connect

Paired with a Garmin device, this app tracks and presents run analytics. It also works with Apple Health, MyFitnessPal, and Strava. Connects to other users for competition and community. Earn badges and more.

Map Apps for Trail Runners

AllTrails

Curated trail maps and routes with crowd-sourced reviews and photos. Particularly helpful features include “dog-friendly” trails. Track your runs with GPS to help map your route, and connect to a community of other AllTrails users.

Trail Run Project

GPS route information is created by local experts with elevation profiles, interactive features, photos, and more. It offers the ability to download routes pre-run for offline accessibility.

With more running apps developed by the day, if you don’t find the ideal service here, don’t fret—there’s likely one being released right now.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.