These days, having the right running app is nearly as important as having the right shoes. Running apps do more than just track your route—you can use them to provide motivation, monitor your pace, play music, and even guide you through warm-ups and cool-downs. A great running app is like having a personal running coach accessible 24/7.
What’s more, a study out of the Netherlands showed that running apps can help you when you’re prepping for a running event. The study concluded that when runners used an app, they felt better about themselves, felt more energetic, and even felt more motivated to eat healthier.
Many of the most popular running apps pair with your fitness tracker or running watch to track your progress and keep tabs on your heart rate. But if you’re brand-new to running, don’t let the lack of a fitness device hold you back. There are plenty of running apps for beginners that work great with just your smartphone.
Best Running Apps for Beginner Joggers
If you’re brand new to running, you’re probably looking for a little guidance. How much should you run each day without overdoing it? How hard should you be working out? And how can you stay motivated?
Luckily, there are plenty of running apps that can help you start off on the right foot (both literally and figuratively). Here’s a run-down of the best beginner-friendly running apps you can download today:
1. Couch to 5K Gets You Ready for a 5K in 9 Weeks
Couch to 5K was made especially for folks who’ve never run before—or who haven’t laced up their running shoes in years. Its goal is to turn total beginners into 5K runners in only nine weeks. The program doesn’t require a grueling workout every day; all you need to commit to is three 30-minute sessions per week.
With Couch to 5K, you’ll start out mostly walking, with some brief bursts of jogging. Then as you progress, you’ll be running more and walking less until you’re ready to tackle a 5K (3.1 mile) race.
Also, you’ll get to choose from four different virtual motivation coaches, each with their own personal style. For example, “Runicorn” is a party-animal unicorn who adds humor to the workout. Meanwhile, “Sergeant Block” is a stern disciplinarian perfect for new runners who need to be whipped into shape.
The app also features free GPS support so you can map routes and track data on your distance and pace to see your progress. In addition, the running app offers support through the huge Active.com online running community.
Since 1996, millions of beginner runners have used the Couch to 5K program to get off the sofa and into their sneakers. Now, thanks running apps like this, it’s easier than ever to get started.
2. Nike Run Club Can Challenge You for Free
If you’re brand new to running and are looking for a free app to get your feet wet Nike Run Club might help encourage you to keep at it. This no-cost running app allows you to access guided runs with narration provided by upbeat motivational coaches.
You can also use the in-app music player or listen to words of encouragement from Nike pro athletes and your own friends alike.
The Nike Run Club app works with watches such as an Apple Watch or TomTom Runner to map your running routes while tracking your pace, heart rate, and speed. Or, simply use the app with your smartphone and partner it with a heart rate monitor to keep tabs on your health metrics.
The Nike Run Club also lets you connect with other runners and friends through fun Community Challenges. You can even set up your own Community Challenge to encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to reach a common goal.
Best Running Apps for Seasoned Pros
If you’ve been running for a while and don’t need a lot of hand-holding, there are plenty of apps that can help you maximize your workouts without feeling too easy. These running apps can do more than just track your runs; they can help you connect and compete with other users, provide comprehensive training plans, and integrate with wearables.
1. Strava Connects You With Athletes Around the World
The Strava app has become a go-to app for runners, as well as for avid hikers and bicyclists. As a result, the app boasts a huge community of athletes who compete against each other on a leaderboard and initiate group challenges. This built-in social network lets Strava users cheer each other on, win awards, and share photos from their runs.
However, if you’re not that competitive, you can still use the Strava running app to privately follow a training plan. And besides to tracking your route, the app provides analytics on your performance, including a breakdown of your speeds and weekly distances.
The app also has a special safety feature called Strava Beacon that allows your friends or family to track where you are in real-time. But if you’re concerned about privacy, it’s possible to turn all location tracking off in the app, too.
Although Strava offers a free version, to unlock most of the app’s features you’ll need to subscribe to Strava Premium, which offers both monthly and yearly subscriptions. Strava is available through the App Store and Google Play.
2. Runna Can Help Shave Time Off Your Next Race
The Runna app was specifically built for athletes training for races. It offers personalized training plans based on your goals, level, recent race times, and running schedule.
These plans are designed to help you improve your race time and will tell you at what pace to run and for how long in order to build up strength and speed. You can use the app to train for everything from a 5K to a marathon.
Like many of the running apps on this list, Runna features its own private running community. Runners can use the app’s social media platform to discuss goals and races, as well as share their successes and photos. The app also provides users with general advice from Olympic athletes and renowned physiotherapists.
3. Garmin Connect Helps You Make the Most of Your Garmin Device
That said, Garmin Connect is more than just another GPS running tracker. You can use the app to build complex training plans and routes, race other runners, and set up a calendar with your running schedule. You can also use the app’s in-depth health features to monitor your sleep, track your calories burned, and monitor your heart rate all day long.
Another great feature of Garmin Connect is that you can use it to build a complete running session, including warm-up, cool-down, and recovery periods. And all serious athletes know that those are just as important as the run.
Best Strength Training Apps for Runners
Running is a high-impact workout that can be hard on your body. But the following running apps are designed to help runners keep their bodies healthy and ready for running.
1. 10w2s Helps You Prepare & Recover
10w2s (10 Weeks to Stronger Running) is an app designed by a physiotherapist to help your body prepare and recover from a running workout. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced, the app offers a workout plan appropriate for your fitness level. Enter information about your skill level and health, and choose from a selection of 10 to 30-minute workouts that fit your profile.
2. Recover Athletics Helps You Avoid Injuries
Powered by Strava, Recover Athletics is an app designed by runners, for runners. It creates pre- and post-run workouts designed to keep your body in ideal shape. The app also allows you to track your aches and pains and provides suggestions for how to address them so they don’t become injuries. It’s all about “prehab,” rather than rehab.
If you’re already a Strava Premium subscriber you already have unlimited access to this important app. Currently, this running app is available only as a Strava add-on service. You can download it from the App Store (for iOS users) or Google Play (if you have an Android).
Best Running Apps for Fun
There are also some running apps that may not offer all of the comprehensive metric tracking features of the apps mentioned above. Instead, they’re just plain fun. And sometimes when you need help sticking with a running regimen, “gamifying” your run can make all the difference.
1. ZRX: Zombies, Run! Can Make Running Fun
If you’ve ever used a made-up disaster scenario to pick up the pace, ZRX: Zombies, Run! is the running app for you. This app virtually turns your run into a horror movie in which you must outrun zombies, collect supplies, and reach the safe house (your endpoint).
To use the app, choose from a list of missions varying in distance and speed. Start running and the app will narrate the story and provide a thrilling soundtrack. But if you slow down, the zombies will start screaming at you.
In addition to Zombies, Run! the app now also features some challenges based on the Marvel Universe.
2. PaceDJ Gets You in the Groove
If you’re getting tired of listening to the same old music while you run, the PaceDJ app is a unique change. The app plays music that speeds up or slows down the beats per minute (BPMs) to match your running pace. Luckily, the app’s proprietary technology keeps the music from sounding distorted.
Additionally, you can pair the PaceDJ app with your Apple Music Library to use your favorite songs. It’s a great way to keep pace and stay motivated.
You can try a basic version for free and then upgrade to the Premium tier for interval training and workout tracking. However, PaceDJ is currently only available for Apple iOS devices through the App Store.
There Are Running Apps for Every Type of Runner
No matter whether you’re just getting started or have been running marathons for years, there’s a running app that’s right for you. From providing runners with comprehensive training plans to cheering on your successes, these running apps can help you get the most out of your workouts. So strap on your running watch and lace up your shoes—it’s time to run.