Best Running Apps for Beginners
Stick with us while we give you the grand tour of best running apps for beginners and winners. Everyone is included in this guide because, let’s face it, the principles are the same when it comes to timing people accurately. You need decent quality kit that won’t let you down. Simple, really.
The good thing about mobile apps is they’re quick and easy to change/install, plus they have hundreds, if not thousands, of customer reviews, so you know what you are getting yourself into. Not that they’re expensive anyway, but we recommend trying the free version first and if you’re overjoyed with the product then upgrade to the paid version.
Each manufacturer that brings out a new piece of technology, regardless of what sport it is intended, will usually come with it’s own dedicated application. For example, if you buy a FitBit, then they will direct you to the relevant app store for your operating system, which is usually Apple or Android. Windows Phone and even Blackberry might be supported but the options will be fewer and far between.
For the sake of simplicity, though, we will be talking strictly about smartphones and smartwatches, and not dedicated one-off bits of kit. They’re obviously useful and we rate them highly, but they will most likely have one specific app that you can use, unless it’s extremely popular, unlike a smartphone which will have literally hundreds of different apps to choose from.
Quantity is both good and bad, because there will be plenty of choice, but also you need to be on the ball to make sure you are using the best application for your needs. Stick with us, though, and we will keep you on the right trail, or that’s the intention anyway…
What Features do You Need?
The vast array of sensors on your smartphone are like Christmas presents to an app developer. Each sensor is like a toy that can be used for delivering information to your wrist. Today’s smartphones have more of these toys than ever before. That’s clearly a good thing, though they do have the downside of potentially delivering too much information at the wrong time. So key to being a good running app isn’t necessarily having the most features, but the app that delivers things in the right order at the right time and also at the correct size so it’s readable, is obviously going to be voted as the best running app for beginners.
Everyone has different tastes, so you should be able to alter basic features like text/font size from the settings on your smartphone or watch globally, as well as adjusting settings on the app itself locally.
It’s also worth considering do you want a simple timer, a GPS location tracker, calorie counter or heart rate monitor? The apps shouldn’t vary much in price, because they’re just an app after all. What will set you back a few sheets of green paper is whether you want extra features to go alongside your phone. Do you need a heart rate monitor, which will usually require a chest band? GPS is taken care of on your phone – it’s just a case of turning it on.
Do I Need a Smartphone and a Smartwatch?
If you’ve already purchased your smartphone or smartwatch you needn’t worry because there is a great choice of running apps to choose from.
On the other hand, if you own a smartphone – like most people these days – and are thinking about getting a decent smartwatch for running, perhaps you might want to hang on and see if you stick to your running, because you don’t want to be stuck with an expensive wrist ornament.
Of course we want nothing more than you to stick to your running plan, but as we all know there are endless broken dreams of people that gave up on their hobby all too soon. Hopefully you won’t be one of them.
What we are saying is that a smartwatch is a specialized piece of kit and a smartwatch specifically for running is an even more specialized bit of kit. It isn’t like a normal watch that you set and forget. You will have to charge it regularly. Even good ones have only two days battery length, which isn’t much more than a similarly branded smartphone.
To answer the question: do you need both a watch and phone? Like we say, be patient and once you have fallen in love with running then treat yourself to the perfect running companion – a branded smartwatch.
Don’t be Left High and Dry in the Outback
The top-of-the-line watches from Apple and Android have features such as GPS and cellular data, so you don’t even need to take your phone with you. It’s possible to make phone calls directly from your wrist. Yeah, it won’t be as familiar or of the same quality that you’re used to when using your phone, even on loudspeaker, but if all you’re going to be doing is making an emergency call then that is all you need.
What you need to be patently aware of is how much you can rely on the battery? If you only run locally then it shouldn’t be a big deal, but if you run in the middle of nowhere then the last thing you need is a flat battery.
Imagine if you’ve left your phone in the car and injure yourself, you need to be able to get on the blower as quickly as possible. That is obviously an unlikely scenario, but the best Cub Scouts are ones that plan ahead rather than panic later. Not that we expect a beginner to be running through Death Valley, but hey you know how daft some people are!
Righto then, What Running Apps are Best for Beginners?
How long is a piece of Asics shoelace? Me neither. There are endless apps to choose from and deciding which one is perfect for your needs is a bit like choosing your favorite piece of cake for dinner. All we can do is point you in the right direction. Most of them are suitable for running and it’s really down to personal choice so without further kerfuffle, here is our list of Best Running Apps for Beginners…
Can I just point out that every YouTuber and his dog says ‘without further ado.’ Well they’re not bloody Shakespeare, are they, and neither am I so from hereon in, it’s without further kerfuffle. (Sounds way cooler anyway.)
In no particular order, The Best Running Apps are…
- Runkeeper (Android, iOS: Free)
- Strava Running and Cycling (Android, iOS: Free)
- RaceRunner (Android, iOS: Free)
- Run with Map My Run (Android, iOS: Free)
- Runtastic (Android, iOS: Free)
- iSmooth Run Pro ($4.99)
- Runner’s World My Run Plan (Android, iOS: $9.99 per month)
- Footpath Route Planner (iOS: $0.99)
- Running for Weight Loss (Android, iOS: Free)
- Sports Tracker (Android, iOS: Free)
- Endomondo (Android, iOS: Free)
- RunGo (Android, iOS: Free, with premium subscription)
- Nike+ Run Club (Android, iOS: Free)
- Pumatrac (Android, iOS: Free)
- Couch-to-5K (Android, iOS: $2.99)
- Spotify (Android, iOS: Free with premium subscription)
- Rock My Run (Android, iOS: Free)
- Road iD (Android, iOS: Free)
- Charity Miles (Android, iOS: Free)
- Zombies, Run! (Android, iOS: Free)
For the Paranoid or VCPs (Very Careful Person)
It’s always a good idea to check the small print from your app developer. We doubt that a world-famous brand like Nike, for instance, is going to do anything seriously dodgy with your data, but you never know. Some of the smaller players in the app world have been known to store data in ways that didn’t live up to the promise. In other words, high security didn’t meant any security.
However, there has been a lot of breaches in the news and things should be tightened up somewhat to previous years, but still make sure you do your due diligence. You should know by now that nobody loves you and your stuff like yourself.
Things to consider are:
- Where will my data be stored?
- In the cloud, which means on a server somewhere?
- On my own device? Safest option, but always sync your device so you don’t lose those precious training miles/times.
- GPS is great, but not if you want to stay anonymous. Make sure you are broadcasting privately or publicly, as preferred.
- Is my address being broadcast by the app? Burglars might be watching, etc.
Runkeeper is a constant favorite when it comes to running apps that most fitness people would gladly recommend. It’s not just popular for the sake of being famous, but it’s genuinely useful. It will track most fitness activities such as running, hiking and cycling, among other things. The app records essential metrics like time, distance, pace and calories burned.
You can even use your smartphone’s GPS sensor to track your runs or copy those of other runners, both friends and strangers. Previous running history is also logged so you can look back to see how you are progressing in comparison to your current data sets.
All things considered, Runkeeper is definitely one of the apps you should be considering.
Strava Running and Cycling
In an effort to spice things up, because let’s be honest – everyone knows how to make a decent sports logging app these days, Strava have spliced in some gaming-style features that enable you to compete against friends and fellow runners. It’s certainly different to the regular running recipe that we’ve grown accustomed to. Extra choice is always good, but you will have to decide if you want to stick with the more familiar format of other apps or this newer style.
These new features place you on leader-boards so you can have some bragging rights – or not – depending on how hard you have been training. At least it will give you an added incentive to work your way up the rankings if you have been previously slacking off a little.
As with most GPS or Glonass enabled apps, please bear in mind if you’re from the armed forces or other often sensitive areas of life, don’t give your position away to the enemy through a sports app. That won’t go down too well with your bosses and could potentially leave you in big trouble.
For the highly competitive athletes and runners among you, RaceRunner is the way to go. It has numerous sporting features that enable you to compete at various levels. There are offline modes that are a bit more relaxed and enable time-trial style runs that you can compete in without Internet connectivity. Then there are virtual races and custom races where you can invite friends. It seems that there is something for everyone.
Give it a go and let us know where you stand on the global leader-boards.
Run with Map My Run
Map My Fitness have come out with their own version of the run-tracking application and it’s called Run with Map My Run. You can remove ads with the premium subscription-based service. It takes advantage of your smartphones features, such as GPS, to enable the app to log your running coordinates and turn them into a map. The app displays your real-time statistics and then your end-of-run totals, in a similar way to most other apps really.
Voice coaching is also part of the premium service. Whether that is up your street or will seem downright weird is another matter entirely. The future is here, but perhaps too soon for some and that includes us.
You might be interested in the apps ability to sync with other running technology like Android Wear and nutrition tracking.
Runtastic uses your smartphone’s GPS sensor to plot your route and track metrics in real time. Then on top of that a personal exercise diary keeps your figures safe and for historical use. There is also a Google Earth-style view a dashboard that shows counters for social sharing and interactions, as well as detailed graphs of your productivity. Workout plans can also be stored on this neat little app.
Another highly-regarded running app that you will benefit from adding to your try-me-out list.
iSmooth Run Pro
iSmooth’s Run Pro Running App is a feature-packed collosus of the sports application world. You can use it on its own or mix it up with wearables in order to get a more enhanced picture of your training regime. The app switches between your smartphone’s onboard motion sensors and GPS to give the best possible user experience.
Runners can log such metrics as speed, time, distance as well as intervals and pace. An added bonus is the ability to export data in a variety of useful formats. It all depends on whether you like to keep things as simple as possible or you are enriched by complexity? Less is sometimes more, so they say, so choose wisely.
Runner’s World My Run Plan
Algorithms are everywhere these days and you have to be a brainy person to invent one. Whether that is a good thing and the algorithm on-board Runner’s World My Run Plan actually helps make you a better runner, or even have more fun in the process, is debatable. At the very least it is a huge part of the reason for the elevated price of this smartphone application.
The idea being that the app acts a bit like a real coach and looks at your data; it then gives you a new training regime to help improve you in areas that you were lagging behind in. That’s the idea, but only you can say whether it actually works or not.
If you pay for the year in advance, you do save quite a bit of money, however.
Footpath Route Planner
The premise of this application is ease of use. All you need to do is quickly scribble a route with the end of your finger. The app then intelligently designs a safe route that you are able to run/walk or jog along. Sounds like an extremely useful idea if you like changing your route regularly. It is nice to run on fresh courses, but if you change your tracks too much then how do you know if you are improving or not? You can check back your historical times by running the same course over and over again.
As for the app itself, it does seem like a genuinely innovative app and might be worth exploring the extra features that are unlocked with in-app purchases. Don’t know about you, but personally I prefer to know how much I’m paying. A set fee is peace of mind, whereas in-app purchases are more like putting money into a slot machine. Fine for one-off excursions, but not something to do regularly.
Running for Weight Loss
In an attempt to get you to sign up, Running for Weight Loss have a different strategy. They aim to be a three-pronged attack on your needs. From running coach, to diet guru and finally a training log to keep track of everything you have achieved. Loosing weight is naturally the salient point among all this, hence the apps name – Running for Weight Loss.
The application comes with voice coaching, running music and diet plans. There are benefits to be had by using the premium subscription service, which adds more features and removes the annoying ones such as paid advertisements.
My own personal favorite, that just edges out Nike+ Run Club. I’ve been using this one on my mountain bike and running for a very long time, when it was still called Nokia Sports Tracker. It’s great to log in after a long period of time and reminisce of the old routes that you have long since forgotten.
The app has all the standard features you expect, plus a few extra ones on top. The maps are nice to look at and the social element might not beat Facebook, but at least it gives you the option to comment if you had a couple of friends in a running group perhaps. The fact it’s not Facebook can be seen as a bonus, because you can keep your running private and only share it with friends. Let’s face it, if you value your security and privacy you needn’t put every route on social media, but on here with a few friends that might be much safer.
I think you might already know that I highly recommend this one.
If you can think of an exercise that can be tracked, chances are that Endomondo will be able to work alongside it. Your route can be tracked in real time on the map, as well as feedback from the audio coach. Again, audio coaches are great for some people and others will find them a bit strange. Choice is always a good thing, because you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.
There is the eve-more-common social features and the upgrade option if you wish to enhance your experience with less adverts. Paid also brings a more personalized experience with more detailed statistics.
If you are in an unfamiliar environment, then it goes without saying that you will feel less safe than when running in your own backyard. This is where RunGo comes in handy. It has routes that are meant to be safer to use, which are built on the back of the knowledge of local runners.
There’s also a paid version with enhanced running routes that have more detailed information. This premium content is sold under the moniker of ‘guided tours.’ The voice-over will tell you about any essential points of interest that otherwise you might have run past with your head in the ground.
Nike+ Run Club
Nike+Run Club is one of my own personal favorite running applications. The trouble is with applications, it’s a hard-choice to decide whether to stick with the old or go with the new. Reason being, you don’t want half of your runs and hundreds of miles of hard-fought progress stuck on an old application that you don’t log into. What a waste that would be, eh?
There comes a time, however, when you have to try new things. That was the crossroads that I got to when it was time to jump ship from Sports Tracker to Nike+ Running. In all honesty, I still love Sports Tracker, but the only reason I changed to Nike+ was it was easier to find in the App store. It really was that simple.
Do I regret it? No, because I still use Nike+ to this day.
The great thing about any application backed by a Billion-Dollar-Brand like Nike is that they are going to try and make it the best available, even if it is fee, because they will try and make money back on the trainer sales and not the software applications.
You can also sync your trainers with your app, which is very cool for checking your strides, pace and a host of other data. Designed for beginners and experts alike, this app is a great companion for keeping a record of your running. It has a whole host of features and also social integration for easy sharing and commenting.
Pumatrac is among the new generation of sporting apps that try to enhance your running prowess through new ideas. As well as the standard features that you will expect from any running app, Pumatrac gives you such information as what music do you run the quickest times to. It also keeps track of the weather, which makes for a pretty insightful app and it might be a case of knowing what information to weed out and what is actually useful.
Credit to Pumatrac for thinking outside the parameters of the old-school apps that just did the same thing over and over with nothing more than a new graphical interface.
With a noun like Couch in your title, it goes without saying that this application is designed with the beginner in mind. That’s not a bad thing, but bear this in mind if you are at an advanced level. The voice-over tips that might be encouraging to a newbie will swiftly make a seasoned vet want to throw their phone in front of an oncoming bin wagon.
The app does what it says on the tin, though, and gets you from wheezing to whizzing in its nine week training schedule. If you’re new to the game, then this is one to go on your shopping list.
Most smartphone aficionados will think of Spotify in musical terms rather than running. By using your smartphone’s sensors, Spotify can match your music to the tempo of your run. This might be awesome if you need some musical inspiration first thing on a morning, but it could be a nightmare if you’re running because you need to shake off your hangover from the part the night before.
Regardless, though, Spotify is a top-notch music player that has tattooed its name on the chest of the streaming world. If you are already a customer it might be worth giving it a try.
Rock My Run
Similar to Spotify, Rock My Run is coming at the runner from the music end of the sporting world and not from the data end. If you opt for the free version you can expect up to 45 minutes of curated playlists, with music catering for runners. Splash out on the paid version and the adverts disappear and you can then stay out running for up to four hours.
Running with your record-breaking track on blast could be the difference between coming second or beating your personal best time as well as grabbing the top spot on the podium. Try the free version first of all then upgrade if you see the benefit.
The whole point of this application is safety. It could be useful to anyone, but specifically people who have a history of poor health or alternatively they have just come out of hospital.
All your personal details are stored on the screen, with the option to display critical items like your blood group and allergies on the screen in case you collapsed and couldn’t talk to a healthcare worker.
Your route can also be pinged to family and friends. Though make sure you set these things up properly, because too many false alarms will make sure people get annoyed and then, when it’s a real event, people might ignore the phone. Your smartphone might have some of these features on as standard so you can use them with any app you choose, not necessarily when you are out running, but 24/7/365.
We think this is a more specialist application that could be a life-saver for some people out there, but it’s not for everyone.
Charity Miles is a great app if you wish to do something to benefit others as well as increase your own fitness. When you first fire the application up you need to choose from the list of charities and pick your favorite. Then when you go for a run, the app will workout how much credit you have earned. This will then go to the sponsors and they will pay out the appropriate amount against your run.
Definitely worth trying if running for a good cause is your type of thing.
The app’s features are similar to what you will get on any other smartphone running application, which means that all the bases will be covered and you shouldn’t have any holes in your data. Go ahead and give it a whirl.
This is probably the craziest running app we have ever come across, but what was ever sensible about Zombies? Nothing. The free version gives you weeks 1 – 4 and the paid version enables you to unlock new episodes. The app essentially injects a bit of fun into your running sessions. Not sure how that goes down with keeping accurate records. We can’t see Mo Farah using it in a hurry, but if all you want to do is lose a bit of weight and get a little fitter then give it a go.
Zombies, Run! integrates with all the streaming apps so in-between listening to your favorite music tracks you get scared to death by a zombie to keep you on your toes. Sounds like fun!
Definitely one to keep on our list of Best Running Apps.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Long-Distance Running
- Running Technology Wearables
- High-Visibility Running Apparel
- Buying Running Shoes
- Running to Lose Weight
What App Did You Like Best?
As always, we’d appreciate you sharing your knowledge with our readers, simply because a few words from another reader is as real as it gets. People like to hear their news direct from the horses mouth. Not that we’re suggesting you look like a horse, but hopefully you have started to run like one. If you aren’t just yet, then keep on reading this blog and you’ll soon be galloping around the woods like Red Rum on National Day.
Joking aside, happy time keeping with your new app downloads.