A smartphone's built-in sensors make it a great platform for a variety of running apps that can track your speed, distance traveled and calories burned while even mapping your route. (Check to make sure where that data's stored if you're concerned about privacy, though.) Things get even better when you pair that app with a run tracker or smartwatch.
Whether it's high-end workout app with dedicated training plans or something with fun, gamified tools, you can hit the trail and work on your fitness goals with the best running apps for Android and iOS devices — especially if one of your goals for the new year is to get up and move. And if you've picked up a new smartwatch or phone, a running app is a great way to help keep your New Year's resolution about exercise.
Strava Running and Cycling (Android, iOS: Free)
In addition to being a top-notch running tracker, Strava Running and Cycling (Android, iOS) adds some pretty neat competitive and gamified features to the usual run-tracking recipe. The app records your running speed, distance traveled, time and course taken for both useful metrics and tracking, but combines all that with leaderboards, achievements and challenges as you race against your friends. Strava supports a variety of running trackers in addition to Android Wear and Apple Watch. (Just make sure you opt out of the location tracking features if you happen to be around restricted areas.)
Adidas Running (Android, iOS: Free)
Adidas Running (Android, iOS), formerly Runtastic, is an all-in-one run-tracking app that maps your exercise and keeps tabs on a variety of running metrics. It will measure your times, speed and distance while also providing customized voice coaching and cheers to help motivate your progress. A configurable dashboard lets you track only the info that’s important to you. Community features, challenges and goals can provide extra running motivation. Adidas Running is free, but a premium subscription also includes training plans, route planning, interval training and more.
Runkeeper (Android, iOS: Free)
A perennial favorite among runners, Runkeeper (Android, iOS) uses your phone's GPS to track your running, cycling, hiking and other distance activities. The app records your pace, distance, total exercise time, calories burned and other useful metrics, and also comes with a variety of training plans, complete with reminders and gamified challenges. Users can go freeform or download and follow popular running routes. You can measure your progress and workout history, as well as sync with numerous other apps and services and receive detailed reports of your tracked activity. The app also works with a variety of smartwatches and fitness devices such as the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices.
Pacer (Android, iOS: Free)
Pacer (Android, iOS) is an all-in-one pedometer and fitness tracker that takes advantage of your phone's built-in sensors to track your steps, walking and running times, and route in a low-fuss interface designed to just work in the background. Users can track their activity history and trends, view their routes, create custom fitness goals, and participate in challenges and motivational groups to add a social aspect to exercise. The app also plays well with other fitness hubs like Apple Health, MyFitnessPal, and Fitbit, allowing you to sync your data from Pacer to other fitness apps. All of this comes in a free package, though premium subscribers get additional features like guided workouts and weight loss plans.
Run with Map My Run (Android, iOS: Free)
Run with Map My Run (Android, iOS) is Map My Fitness's own take on the run-tracking app, taking advantage of your phone's GPS and other sensors to track and map your running course, time, speed and total distance traveled. The app displays both your real-time stats and your end-of-run totals. Useful extras include support for a variety of fitness trackers and heart rate sensors, Android Wear support and nutrition tracking. A premium subscription provides voice coaching and location sharing and removes ads.
iSmoothRun Pro (iOS: $4.99)
iSmoothRun Pro is an extremely feature-packed running tracker app that works fantastically well on its own, or in combination with a variety of wearable devices and fitness apps and services. iSmoothRun Pro uses GPS and the iPhone's motion sensors, effortlessly switching between the two as needed, while tracking your run time, cadence and more. Users can log and display a variety of running metrics, such as speed, distance, time and intervals. You can export data to a variety of formats and fitness services.
Footpath Route Planner (iOS: $0.99)
Footpath Route Planner turns planning your next running route into simplicity in itself. Users simply trace a rough outline of their intended jogging route, walking path, or hiking trail, and the app will intelligently snap the route to match nearby trails, paths and roads. You can also press and hold on the map to calculate routes between points, and you can look up details like elevation to gauge difficulty. An in-app purchase unlocks additional features such as unlimited saved routes, cross-device syncing, premium topographic map sources and route exporting to GPX or KML files.
Peloton Digital (iOS, Android: $12.99/month)
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a pricey Peloton bike (let alone $4,000 on a Peloton Tread) to take advantage of Peloton’s workout classes. Peloton Digital (Android, iOS) is free to download, and if you sign up for Peloton’s monthly subscription ($12.99), you can use the app to guide you on outdoor runs and indoor treadmill runs. Peloton Digital’s running instructors not only coach you through your miles, but also offer the perfect playlists for pushing you forward. The iOS app is more fully-featured than the Android version, with the ability to pre-load On Demand classes and subscribe to training programs. But if you’re looking for motivation to run, Peloton Digital is the app to beat.
Weight Loss Running (Android, iOS: Free)
Rather than just focus on tracking your runs, Weight Loss Running (Android, iOS) aims to be the whole package, serving as a running coach, diet aid and fitness log for runners. The app is highlighted by programs designed with weight loss in mind. Users can choose from a number of training plans, such as running for weight loss, or 5k and 10k run training. The app also comes with audio coaching, running music, diet plans, run tracking features and more. A premium subscription removes advertising while adding more coaching options, training plans and music mixes.
Sports Tracker (Android, iOS: Free)
Once a Nokia exclusive, Sports Tracker (Android, iOS) now brings one of the first mobile sports trackers to other platforms. The app uses GPS to track your progress when running, cycling, or skiing, providing you with a map track of your exercise route, as well as average speed, estimated calories burned, heart rate (with a heart rate monitor) and other exercise metrics. You can record a workout diary and track your progress, set weekly fitness goals, and participate in optional social features. Those include sharing your exercise progress and route, following and commenting on other users and participating in weekly leaderboards.
Endomondo (Android, iOS: Free)
Endomondo (Android, iOS) is a fitness app that allows you to record and track progress with just about any distance-based sporting activity, such as running and cycling. Edmondo Sports Tracker tracks duration, distance, and calories burned; it also displays your route on a map. Schedule exercises and goals, complete with feedback, from an audio coach. An added social dimension allows you to post workouts, compare progress and send and receive peptalks. Users can keep a training log and analyze their progress at the end of the day. A premium subscription includes personalized running plans, more detailed stats, and an ad-free experience.
RunGo (Android, iOS: Free, with premium subscription)
Running is a great way to get a bit of exercise, but unless you're a native who knows the lay of the land, it can be tough finding a good and safe jogging route in an unfamiliar city or as you travel abroad. Enter RunGo (Android, iOS) a run tracker and navigation aid, that allows users to discover new jogging routes, complete with voice navigation to help guide them through unfamiliar locales. Users can download routes for offline use, start routes halfway or create their own within the app. Coolest of all, premium subscribers can access "guided tours" — verified routes created by local runners through safe and scenic areas, with the app announcing points of interest and other information.
Nike Run Club (Android, iOS: Free)
Nike may have ditched the FuelBand, but the company still makes a mean run tracker with the Nike Run Club (Android, iOS), which now comes baked in with the new Nike+ edition of the Apple Watch. Designed for beginners and veteran runners alike, the app is an all-around run tracker, music player and social networking tool for runners. The app measures a variety of metrics such as your pace, distance run and mile splits; it also includes a variety of coaching plans that adapt to your fitness goals and progress. Once you're done with your run, you can share your details complete with photos, stats and stickers, and compare your progress with other runners. In addition to the built-in music player, the app also allows you to listen to audio cheers sent by friends, as well as encouragement from Nike's pro athletes.
Pumatrac (Android, iOS: Free)
Pumatrac (Android, iOS) throws in some cute extras along with the standard bevy of run tracking tools. First, the basics: Pumatrac records the distance you've run, maps your run track, records calories burned, etc. But Pumatrac also records a whole slew of other things, such as weather, time of day, month and more. Then it boils it all down into a run score to describe the quality of your run, which you can view over time and compare with other runners. Additionally, Pumatrac generates other personalized insights based on your running behavior, noting whether you run further when listening to rock or metal, Fridays, Mondays, weekends and more.
Couch-to-5K (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Active.com's Couch-to-5K (Android, iOS) is designed to gently ease couch potatoes and casual runners and joggers into running 5K courses over time. Users are provided a training course of 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week over nine weeks, to build up a runner's stamina from wheezing wreck to race-winner. Users can choose from four virtual coaches, complete with accompanying audio cues to help motivate them on the run, with automatic or manual logging for easily keeping track of your progress.
Spotify (Android, iOS: Free, with premium subscription)
Spotify (Android, iOS) isn't the first app that comes to mind when you're looking for a running companion, but the music app's Running features can give your morning run an extra bang. The app uses your phone sensors to pick up on your running tempo, finding music to match and help you keep pace, ranging from your favorite tracks to brand new music written with runners in mind. All of this comes with Spotify's excellent core streaming music features. If you're looking for music for your next run, you might not need to look that far.
Weav Run (iOS: Free, $0.99/month)
Nothing inspires more running than a playlist packed with performance-boosting beats. Weav Run (iOS) tracks your steps in real-time, and then uses technology to speed up or slow down tracks to match the beat to your steps-per-minute. Don’t worry — the songs don‘t sound distorted. You can also choose the playlist’s BPM ahead of time, so you can run to keep up with the tempo instead of the songs adjusting to your stride. Every song loaded up in Weav Run falls between 100 and 240 BPM to help increase your speed. You can use Weav Run simultaneously with your run-tracking app of choice (including many of the other apps featured here such as MapMyRun, Nike+ Run Club, RunKeeper, Runtastic and Strava), letting you log your miles as you take advantage of Weav Run’s playlists.
Road ID (Android, iOS: Free)
Road ID (Android, iOS) is a nice safety tool that runners can use to help let their friends and family know that they're safe while out jogging and exercising. The app creates an "electronic breadcrumb" trail for friends and family to follow along via a map link sent through email or SMS. Your designated followers also get an ETA and planned route, with the app sending out a "stationary alert" if you stop moving for more than 5 minutes and don't cancel. In addition, the app can also set up an In Case of Emergency card with your emergency contacts, as well as health information like blood type and allergies that you can use as a lockscreen wallpaper.
Charity Miles (Android, iOS: Free)
Charity Miles (Android, iOS) is a no-frills run-tracking app that encourages you to run for a good cause. Start the app up, choose from a list of charitable organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Autism Speaks, or the ASPCA, and then go for a run, take a hike or walk your dog. At the end of it, Charity Miles logs your total distance traveled, which is converted into a charitable donation by one of Charity Miles' corporate sponsors. With this app, you're not just sweating it out for personal fitness, you're also doing your own small bit to making the world a better place.
Zombies, Run! (Android, iOS: Free, with premium subscription)
If your philosophy has always been to never run unless something is chasing you, here's the motivational app for you. Zombies, Run! (Android, iOS) puts you in the shoes of Runner Five, racing to save your life and the people of Abel Township. Zombies, Run! gamifies your running with radio play-style missions delivering an ever-unfolding storyline to enjoy as you run. The app integrates with your favorite music players and streaming apps such as Spotify and Pandora, with Zombies, Run! introducing radio outbursts and story messages in between songs. The app has gone free-to-use, with new users receiving episodes 1 to 4, and the ability to unlock new episodes once a week (or with a subscription). The app has also expanded its stories, with runs set on a sci-fi Venus colony, virtual races, and an interval training module.
Our Top Picks for Running Gear
New to running? Then check out How To Use Tech to Run Your First 5K. And if you’re in the market for a new running watch, whether you’re a newbie or a pro, here’s our list of favorite GPS Running Watches.