Running Apps That Will Actually Help Your Training
Get workout tips, find new routes, or make the most of your rest days with these run apps
Whether you’re looking for a simple way to track your workouts, find new routes, or recover more efficiently, there’s a running app for you. We rounded up our favorites for every type of athlete, from the ultracompetitive to the total newbie.
Best Running Apps for: Training
MapMyRun (Free or $6 per month for MVP subscription)
MapMyRun is a simple run tracker and a great option for beginners. Just press start when you hit the road, and the app will record your route and pace and estimate how many calories you burned. You can create basic training plans to help you ease into running and join motivational in-app clubs and group challenges. The MVP subscription includes features like heart-rate analysis, live tracking, and the ability to export training files to other software like Training Peaks. The mapping system relies heavily on Google maps, so this is best for road runners.
Strava (Free or $6 per month for all three Summit Pack subscriptions)
Like MapMyRun, Strava makes recording runs, creating routes, and discovering new loops easy, but it really excels at post-run analysis. If you run in a popular location, you can see how you stack up against thousands of other users, as well as how your times compare to your previous runs. It’s a great way to tap into your competitive side without signing up for races. Beyond the free version, there are three subscriptions available called Summit Packs. Analysis, Safety, and Training include extras like heart-rate analysis, live tracking, and training plans. Compared with MapMyRun, Strava’s trail maps are superior, making it the app of choice for many off-road runners.
This super-simple free app allows you to create your own customized workout by setting times for high and low intervals plus the total number of sets, as well as alloting a warmup and cooldown. Once you start your programmed interval session, it vibrates and beeps your phone as you move through your customized workout, so you know exactly when to push it and when to back off without having to look at your screen. The program runs in the background, which means it won’t get in the way of music, podcasts, or mapping apps. Interval training isn’t just for elite athletes—if you’re new to running or recovering from an injury, use the app to do a run-walk session and keep track of your time jogging versus strolling.
This app was originally designed for mountain bikers, but it’s a helpful tool for runners looking for new trail systems. While apps like Strava have some good intel on trails, Trailforks goes in-depth on what to expect, including live user updates about conditions. Going way off the grid? You can download the area map so it’s available even when you’re out of service range.
Best Running Apps for: Recovery and Wellness
Sleep Cycle (Free or $29.99 per year for Premium subscription)
There is no cheaper recovery technique than getting enough sleep. Sleep Cycle monitors your patterns using your iPhone’s accelerometer to detect movement, which indicates restful versus restless sleep and crunches that data into a graph showing the quality of your z’s. (Don’t worry, your phone doesn’t have to be strapped to your chest. Placed on the corner of your mattress is fine.) Over time, you’ll be able to track how your daily activities—say, running at night or opting for a second beer—impact your sleep patterns. The alarm feature is designed to wake you up while you’re sleeping lightly within a preset time frame, so you’re ready to hit that early morning run feeling energized. Premium users have the ability to record more subjective data, like your mood in the morning and how you felt by the end of the day.
In recent years, heart-rate variability—the space between your heart beats—has become a popular and well-researched indicator of recovery among endurance athletes, and the HRV4training app is one of the easiest and most effective ways to track yours. The app records your HRV using your phone’s camera flash to take your pulse via fingertip (a method that was deemed accurate in a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance). It asks subjective questions about your fatigue levels and crunches the data to recommend whether you should push it or go easy that day.
Clue (Free or $0.99 per month for Premium subscription)
For some women, nothing derails a workout quite like a painful period. Others perform their best during menstruation. Regardless of how your cycle impacts your fitness, it’s nice to know what to expect and when to expect it, and period tracking has never been easier, thanks to apps like Clue. You can track symptoms and start to understand how your hormones impact your running, which is useful when you’re writing a training schedule.
MyFitnessPal (Free or $9.99 per month for Premium subscription)
MyFitnessPal is the natural choice for runners focusing on nutrition. The user-friendly app, which has thousands of foods in its database, makes it easy to record what you eat throughout the day. In the free version, you’ll get a rough caloric breakdown of how what you ate stacked up against your caloric burn for the day. Premium users get daily macronutrient breakdowns as well as the ability to export data and set custom goals. It’s a solid way to ensure that you’re getting enough post-workout protein and hydrating throughout the workday. Plus, it syncs up neatly with MapMyRun, since they’re both operated by UnderArmour.
Best Running Apps for: Motivation
Charity Miles (Free)
It sounds too good to be true, but you can earn money for charity simply by logging miles. When you create a profile, you’ll choose charities—like the World Wildlife Federation, the ASPCA, and the Wounded Warriors Project—you’d like to support. The app tracks your runs, and each mile earns money from Charity Miles’s corporate sponsorship pool. You won’t get a lot of run data, since the app doesn’t save workouts and relies on a pedometer-style tracking method, but you’ll feel extra good about logging miles.
Rock My Run (Free or $5 per month for Premium subscription)
The Rock My Run app senses your running cadence and creates a playlist with tempo-appropriate tunes, adjusting as you tick off miles. You can opt to sync your music to your pace or your heart rate. Slow down and the jams chill out. Speed up and the app kicks the perfect track to get you psyched. Premium subscribers can skip ads and have playlists longer than 45 minutes.