Exercise is important, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of effort to head down to the gym or bust out the equipment from the back of the garage. Luckily there is some great exercise you can do without having to pay a monthly fee or pay for expensive equipment: running. The problem is that running out in the world is a little bit more difficult than running on a treadmill. You can't exactly look down and see how fast you're going, or how far you've gone.
Thankfully your smartphone has all the tools you need to keep track of your run and your overall progress. All you need is an app that can put everything together. If you're struggling to find the one that's right for you, take a look at what we consider to be the best running apps out there.
Image: Stuart Grout/Flickr
An iOS excclusive, Runmeter has a really nice, clean and user-friendly interface, strong feature set and works well. There are plenty of training plans to get you sorted for all sorts of different exercises, as well as the option to design some of your own.. What really sets it apart, though, is how Runmeter helps you understand all the statistics that are generated during your workout sessions. It turns everything into a myriad of graphs, charts, and colourful diagrams to ensure that you're not stucking wondering what the heck is going on once you're done. To top everything off there are a bunch of audio cues to keep you in the loop mid-workout, and the option to compete against your past self.
Free (With In-App Purchases) | Download Runmeter GPS Pedometer for iOS
walking and more
Most running apps are all about you and working on your performance, but CharityMiles is rather different. Rather than clocking all of the little details like steps, calories burned, or pacing, it solely focuses on how far you've run. Why? Because for every mile you run, walk, or cycle you're actually earning a small amount of money for charity. So it's like a fun run that you can do anytime you feel like it.
Runmeter GPS Pedometer
Another sports brand, another app. This time it’s Adidas. As with the others, it uses GPS and the accelerometer to track your movement, speed and range, while also giving you daily exercise plans. Quite a neat addition is the pretty substantial library of training plans. Whether you're focussing on a specific distance goal, looking to lose weight, or work on strength and flexibility, there's something to get you going.
One of the best designed apps on our list, thanks to the orange hue and contrasting colour choices. Strava is really focused on the social aspect of things, and much of the content you're delivered revolves around you competing with others and sharing your stats. All the usual additions are here, like keeping track of your stats, setting personal goals, joining challenges, as well as support for external heart rate monitors.
Free (With In-app Purchases) | Download Strava Running and Cycling for iOS | Download Strava Running and Cycling for Android
adidas train & Run
While some of the apps look to consider cyclists, Runtastic focuses solely on runners and joggers with its excellent GPS route tracker and personal training features. There’s a voice coach for a bit of extra mid-run motiviation, along with detailed maps so you don’t end up running in the middle of nowhere. What's also interesting is that everything can be set automatically pause when you stop your exercise, so it won't keep tracking you when you pop into the newsagent for a mid-run treat. On top of all that it has an integrated music player that lets you boot up a ‘power song’ when you begin to lag – giving you that extra kick to get over the finish line.
Strava Running and Cycling
Another favourite of the running community, Runkeeper has been going for nearly as long as Apple's App Store and throughout the years it has seen a tremendous number of features added in. The stats on your activities that it produces are detailed and you’re notified when you reach, or break, a goal. Heart rate monitors are supported, and it has a useful (or annoying) feature that sends you clever audio cues to pace yourself during a run. There are plenty of social features for those of you who enjoy sharing your running experiences and achievments with friends.
Google’s first attempt at a native Android fitness app is a sleak, quick and well animated download that tracks basic things like steps and calories, while giving you handy tips and setting personalised goals. It works across Android devices, including Android Wear smartwatches and is getting better all the time, thanks to constant updates by Google.
The hub for all your running data analysis, MapMyRun features support for 600 different types of workouts and uses GPS to accurately track the important data from your run. Everything from your pace, route, distance, distance and elevation are all monitored, while other devices like Jawbone’s Up and Misfit’s Shine can also feed information to the app. The app is free, though you can cough up £23 for a yearly MVP membership which ditches the ads and lets you access extra features, like audio coaching and personal training plans.
Everyone needs some extra fitness motivation from time to time, and what better way to get yourself going than using rewards as an incentive? Earthmiles is a rewards scheme for meeting certain fitness goals, and everytime you do so you'll earn yourself exclusive offers from companies that deal with health, fitness, wellness, sports, and so on. Some of the rewards net you free stuff, others are discounts on things you can buy. Earthmiles integrates with a lot of major fitness and running apps, so that means no hassle of having to switch to a new system.
Map My Run
While some of us are happy enough to just track steps and gander at our run stats, others prefer a more encouraging approach. That's where Pear Fitness comes in. It's packed full of audio workouts (some even from Olympic athletes and coaches), which gives you access to personalised regimes and real time verbal coaching. That’s basically someone shouting in your ear to pick up the pace, which we all need from time to time. It’ll also track your steps, calories burned and tally up your workouts like the best of them.
Jawbone makes some of the best fitness bands out, but this new app ditches the need for a dedicated wearable. Instead it uses the sensors in your phone to track movement. It also syncs up with Jawbone wearables just in case you want a more in depth look into how your runs and workouts are going. You've got all the regular features too, like calorie counting, diet tracking, targets, sleep tracking, and coaching features.
Easily one of the top dogs in the massively growing running app space and one of the most fully featured. Track any outdoor sport, from running and cycling, to just plain old walking. Endmondo keeps an eye on duration, distance and speed, as well as telling you how many calories you’ve worked off. It's not just about the app itself either, because Endomondo can sync up with a number of wearable fitness trackers and heart-rate monitors to give you a closer look at what's going on.
If you’re still looking for more, you can take out a yearly subscription to Endomondo Premium where you’ll get weather updates on your routes, heart rate zones, personalised workouts, no ads, and extra motivational features.
Up by Jawbone
Positioning itself as a unique fitness app, PUMATREC keeps track of the distance run, speed, calories burned and even weather to produce a score at the end of each run. Why a score? It condenses your run down into an easy to track/remember number that you can keep a note of and try to beat the next time around, a little bit like the scoring system on arcade games. PUMATRAC looks at everything from the weather you run in, music that keeps you going, and how much you share your successes in order to fine tune your in-app experience. Plus, if you're stuck for places to run it has a big list of the best places to go in your local area.
Price: Free | Download PUMATRAC for iOS
Famed for its running gear, it’s no surprise really that super-brand Nike also went into the app game. Nike+ Running uses GPS and the accelerometer to keep a track of your movements, putting you head-to-head with others. Power Song can give you a boost if your enthusiasm is falling – a feature we always like. On top of all that, it also comes with built-in guidance and training to help you meet all of your goals.
The best part, though? It's all 100% free. No subscription and no pesky in-app purchases.