The 8 Best Running Apps of 2023

Nike Run Club is the most effective running app

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Best Running Apps

Byrdie / Design by Amelia Manley

Running remains one of the most popular exercise practices and for good reason. Research indicates that it lengthens lifespan by an average of three years. It can also make those extra three years happier by decreasing anxiety and depression while also improving self-esteem. If you want to start or maintain a running routine, the best apps for running can improve your chances of success.

Depending on the app’s features, a good running app can do anything from tracking your running speed and distance to providing you with a training schedule. Whether you’re a marathoner training for their next race, or just trying to get off the couch every once in a while, there’s a running app for you that can be a game changer. Here are some of our top picks for best running apps.

Best Running Apps of 2023

Best Overall: Nike Run Club

NRC

NRC

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Experience level: All

Why We Chose It

Nike Run Club’s audio-guided runs combined with its plethora of tracking abilities and sharing features make it the perfect companion on your running journey. Plus, you can pair all of its features with your favorite playlist. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Audio-guided runs can be paired with playlists

  • Goal-setting feature available

  • Tracks important stats and GPS

Cons
  • Might be too in-depth for beginners

  • Only works with Apple Watch

Overview

Nike Run Club provides iOS users with every possible feature you could need to succeed in your running journey. Not only does it have guided runs, but it also has training plans for all fitness levels and goals. If you need accountability, you can invite your friends to join your leaderboard and compete to see who runs the most. You can also enter challenges provided by the app. Beginners can take advantage of the app’s “coaching & wellness” tab, featuring information about healthy eating to best recovery practices. The app allows you to track traditional statistics, such as distance and heart rate, as well as how well your shoes are holding up—if they are Nike brand. 

The app stands out in terms of its focus on mental health. In addition to the mental health information provided by the “coaching & wellness” section, it also offers guided runs for different moods thanks to its partnership with the Headspace app. Nike Run Club allows you to achieve your running goals while maintaining a connection to your community and your emotions along the way. 

Although beginners may find the sheer volume of features on the app intimidating at first, the app’s intuitive interface makes it accessible for everyone, even if you bought your first pair of sneakers only yesterday.

Best for Beginners: 5K Runner

5K Runner Logo

5K Runner

Key Specs

  • Price: Lifetime access for $29.99 upfront; $14.99 per 3 months with free trial
  • Free trial: 7 days
  • Experience level: Beginner

Why We Chose It

Despite its overly lengthy name, 5K Runner offers new runners a straightforward plan for success. The tailored training program paired with basic stat tracking and unlockable badges is certain to keep even the most inexperienced runner motivated. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Tailored training plan available

  • Audio guides can be connected with Apple Music

  • Simple user interface

Cons
  • No room for advancement past the 5K race

  • No social features

Overview

5K Runner has one goal: to get you to run a 5K. The app, available on both Android and Apple devices, offers nothing besides the basic features. This is ideal for beginners who may feel overwhelmed by too many features or simply not know how to use them. 

There’s a page allowing you to see stats such as how far and fast you’ve run, as well as your calorie burn. There’s also the WeRun Challenge which you can join if you want to participate in a yearly run with fellow app users. The “Train Smart” page provides basic information about how to train correctly but mainly asks you to download other apps to track information like your food intake. 

When you open the app, you are immediately asked to fill out a simple questionnaire about your gender, height, weight, running experience, preferred running schedule, and whether you do any other cardio exercise. After either starting your free trial or paying the 29.99-lifetime access fee, you are presented with your running plan, starting on Day 1. 

When you actually start a run, a voice guides you through the entire process. You can pair it with music and read an inspirational quote beforehand, but there’s nothing fancy about the interface. This makes the app perfect for beginners who want to start their journey with as little frivolity as possible.

Best Budget: Map My Run

Map My Run by Under Armour

Map My Run by Under Armour

Key Specs

  • Price: Free; $29.99 per year or $5.99 per month for premium features 
  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Experience level: All

Why We Chose It

Map My Run’s comprehensive features mirror those of more expensive apps or those that require expensive Apple Watches without as hefty of a price tag. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Training programs for all levels and goals available

  • Built-in social features

  • No specific equipment required

Cons
  • No built-in music feature

  • GPS unreliable

Overview

Map My Run is the complete, budget-friendly running app package. You get an app that tracks your heart rate, distance, and pace on each run, all for free. The app uses the phone’s built-in motion sensor to gather data so you don’t need to pair it with a smartwatch or fitness tracker, but you can if you want more accurate results. If you want the app’s more advanced features, such as training programs and audio-guided runs, you will have to pay either $29.99 per year or $5.99 per month after a two-week free trial. The app is also available on both Android and iOS devices. 

Several social features are also included in the paid version. You can create posts about your runs as you would on any other social media app and see those your friends create, or scroll through other users’ content to gain inspiration. You can also complete challenges with your friends or track your run live so your friends can follow along. 

Despite a few flaws with its GPS system and its lack of music connectivity, Map My Run gives you a great bang for your buck.

Best Audio: Aaptiv

Aaptiv logo

Aaptiv

Key Specs

  • Price: $14.99 per month or $99.99 per year
  • Free trial: 7 days
  • Experience level: Beginner to intermediate

Why We Chose It

Aaptiv has over 25 audio workout programs that include head-bopping music to help motivate you to achieve your running goals.  

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Cross training available

  • Both indoor and outdoor runs available

  • Pregnancy training program available

Cons
  • Minimal tracking options

  • Minimal advanced workouts available

Overview

Aaptiv may not be a running app per se, but the app’s flexible audio workout plans will empower any runner to build strength and flexibility while also improving their running times. Among the many training programs available on the app are 25 programs dedicated to helping you run faster, including those to prep you for a marathon or allow you to run one mile. The audio track’s tone is that of an enthusiastic cycling instructor and set to bopping music, which is sure to keep you motivated. The tracks also differ if you are running on a treadmill or outside, so you won’t ever feel lost during your workout. Furthermore, the additional fitness programs can help those wanting to improve their general health while also preparing for a race or getting into running. 

The app’s major downside is that it only tracks days active, the total number of workouts, minutes worked out, calories burned, and miles run per week. So, it may not be suitable for advanced runners wanting to shave a few minutes off their 10K. 

Available on both iOS and Android devices, there’s no reason not to give this app a try if you’re looking for an audio platform to help you reach your fitness goals.

Best for Outdoor Running: Relive

Relive Logo

Relive

Key Specs

  • Price: $6.99 per month or $38.99 per year
  • Free trial: 30 days 
  • Experience level: Intermediate to advanced

Why We Chose It

Relive turns tracking outdoor activities into an adventure in and of itself through its interactive route tracker and photo capturing features. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Works for a range of activities

  • Create videos of your adventures for your friends

  • Mapping and trail guidance available

Cons
  • Not for beginners

  • No training programs available

Overview

Relive is, at its core, a storytelling app for both Android and iOS users. As you embark on your outdoor adventures, you can record them via the app’s GPS tracker as well as by taking videos and photos. The app will then combine what you’ve captured with a 3D topographic map of your route to create a single video that you can share with your friends via the app. Additionally, the app offers challenges to complete, such as spending seven hours in a given week outside or spending 50 hours total outdoors. Combined with the app’s inherently social nature, these features encourage users to go outside and explore their world.

Not only do these features work for outdoor runners, but the app enables you to choose from a range of activities including water-based adventures such as wakeboarding, winter sports like skiing, and even adaptive activities like wheelchair cycling. This flexibility means that as you expand your outdoor running to include other activities, Relive can keep up. 

Although Relive won’t help you train for your next big race since it doesn’t track any fitness markers, its motivating features can help get you outside all year round.

Best for Variety: Peloton

Peloton
Courtesy of Peloton

Key Specs

  • Price: $12.99 per month
  • Free trial: 2 months
  • Experience level: All

Why We Chose It

Although Peloton is known for its expensive indoor cycling equipment, its app provides users with workouts (including treadmill runs) that don’t require you to own Peloton equipment. The variety of workouts enables runners to expand their workout routines without paying for multiple programs. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • User interface provides workout guidance

  • Breadth of workout types available

  • World-class instructors

Cons
  • Treadmill required for all running classes

  • Cannot choose your music

  • Expensive with equipment

Overview

Peloton’s workout library is ideal for those with access to a range of gym equipment and want to explore treadmill running programs as well. Aside from run training classes, it presents you with workout content ranging from boxing classes to meditation programs. Each workout is led by a world-class trainer and includes a user interface with important stats—such as the incline on the treadmill—so that you never feel lost. Although most of the workouts require some form of equipment, none of it has to be the Peloton brand, so you can take your phone to the gym and build your ideal fitness routine. 

Peloton’s running offerings may be minimal, but it gives those looking to add cardio to their indoor workout routine a clear path forward. Plus, the strength and flexibility workouts improve any runner’s overall fitness. 

With an app that works on a range of devices (even smart TVs) and a two-month free trial, there’s no reason not to give Peloton a shot.

Best Training Programs: Running by Daily Burn

Daily Burn

Daily Burn

Key Specs

  • Price: Annual subscription for $39.99, or $4.99 per month
  • Free trial: 30-day
  • Experience level: All

Why We Chose It

Daily Burn’s running app excels at providing users with tailored training plans that match both their fitness levels and running goals. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Training plans for every level

  • Includes a library of workouts

  • Indoor and outdoor workouts available

Cons
  • No free option

  • Minimal social features

Overview

While the original Daily Burn is known for its daily fitness workouts, its iOS running app provides users with training plans that meet their needs while not necessarily being daily.

Once you sign up, you can tell the app what your goals are: to run a 5K, get faster, or even get started. It will then ask you how many days you are committed to running and build you a training schedule. As you progress, it tracks your calories, distance, and pace. If you want an additional challenge (or vary between indoor and outdoor runs), an entire library of guided runs is available. 

The app’s major downside is that its only two social features are a small social media platform for its users and the ability to post to Facebook.

Best for Athletes: Adidas Running: Track Cardio

 Adidas Running: Track Cardio logo

 Adidas Running: Track Cardio

Key Specs

  • Price: Free or $9.99 per month/$49.99 per year for premium
  • Free trial: No
  • Experience level: All

Why We Chose It

Adidas Running: Track Cardio is a no-frills app aimed at motivating athletes to reach their fitness goals by working in tandem with the Adidas Training by Runtastic app.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Facebook and contact connectivity

  • Accompanies a strength training app

  • Virtual races available

Cons
  • Individually, the apps are ordinary

  • Training plans cannot be modified

Overview

Adidas Running: Track Cardio is half of Adidas running app duo called Runtastic. While the other app, Adidas Training by Runtastic, offers workouts that will tone your body so that you are physically prepared for any run, the Track Cardio app enables you to track your actual running routine.

Alone, the Track Cardio app mirrors many of the features offered by other apps on this list. It tracks your distance and pace as well as calories burned. It does come with the additional benefit of being able to join virtual races with users around the country, such as trying to do your best 10K in 2023. However, paired with the Training app, the combination exceeds what any single app can do. This is especially true since a premium membership to one app automatically gives you a premium membership for the other, so you automatically get the full benefits of both apps. 

Athletes who want a well-rounded fitness experience know that you need both cardiovascular and strength training in order to succeed, even when it comes to long-distance running. Fortunately, Adidas provides its users (both Android and iOS) with access to workouts that accomplish this balance.

Final Verdict

Nike Run Club won best overall because it helps runners build not only physical endurance and speed but mental strength and resilience. Its emphasis on mental health while providing training plans and tracking capabilities makes it stand out among its competitors. Combined with its social features, Nike Run Club empowers beginners and distance athletes alike to reach their highest potential. 

However, if your main goal is to spend more time outside and connect with your friends, you might like Relive's passionate community. If you’re just looking to get off the couch for the first time in a while, 5K Runner: Couch to 5K is there for you.

Guide to Choosing the Best Running App

What Are Running Apps?

Running apps use data gathered by your smartphone and/or fitness tracker to measure your running speed, distance, and potentially other biometric markers. Running apps can also offer training programs and guided runs in order to help those looking to improve their performance. The goal of any good running app, however, should be to help you create and maintain a consistent running practice.

How to Compare Running Apps

When deciding which running app to download, consider the following factors:

  • Price: While some apps can cost as much as $15 per month, others are free with a plethora of features. Others require an expensive fitness tracker. Ask yourself what you can afford and which features would benefit you the most. 
  • Membership plans: Different apps offer different levels of membership. Some have a free option while others have multiple payment plans. 
  • Experience level: Most apps cater to a range of skill levels. But be aware that some may not have workouts with the difficulty level you need, or have too many features for a beginner to navigate. 
  • Data tracked: Apps can track a variety of statistics using your phone and/or a fitness tracker. Some only track speed and distance, while others can provide more specialized information such as how your shoes are doing. 
  • Music access: Most people like to listen to their own playlist while running, but only some apps allow this, or only allow it with specific music apps.
  • Social and/or accountability features: Running is more enjoyable with a community supporting you. See if the app allows you to connect with other runners using the app and/or with your friends.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Start Running As a Beginner?

First, check with your doctor to make sure running is safe for you. If you get the okay, purchase a solid pair of running shoes, and start small. According to ACSM-certified exercise physiologist Karissa Bollinger, starting out with shorter, more frequent runs is often better than running long distances on fewer days. The key is to be kind to yourself while being consistent.

How Does Running Compare to Other Workouts, Such as Walking or Cycling?

While it may be cheaper than cycling, running is a high-impact exercise that can put more pressure on your joints. This is why cross-training is non-negotiable for Bollinger’s clients. 

“Cross-training with other cardio-based workouts like swimming or cycling will help maintain cardiovascular fitness without the impact on the body,” explains Bollinger. “Strength training will build strength around the joints so that they are better able to withstand the impact of running, and recovery such as mobility training, myofascial release tactics (foam rolling, massage therapy, etc.), and prioritizing a good night's sleep will help the taxed muscles recover from all of the hard work.”

What Are Good Foods to Eat Before Running?

While runners need a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fat, and proteins overall, it is ideal to avoid foods that are harder to digest, such as vegetables high in fiber, before a run since your body will need an ongoing source of energy. Complex carbohydrates do the job well. Try whole wheat bread or pasta with just a hint of fat or protein to keep you going, but not slow you down. 

How Do You Build Stamina for Running?

Improving stamina for running involves more than only running longer and longer distances. Adding interval training, mixing up your workouts, and even improving your mental health with meditation can all increase physical stamina. Bollinger suggests intermixing short fast runs, longer slower runs, and boringly easy recovery runs in order to adapt your body to running. The goal is to do it slowly in a way that is sustainable for your body and lifestyle. 

Methodology

After examining 20 options, we created our best running app list by weighing features that would be most important to users such as price, data collection, and training programs. The goal was to find apps that would not only improve users' physical fitness but also make the running process more enjoyable and accessible. 

Edited by Ally Hirschlag
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Science Direct. “Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity."

  2. HRCAK. “The Positive Effects of Running on Mental Health.”

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