HomeArticlesThe best apps for every type of runner from weekend warriors to ultra runners

The best apps for every type of runner from weekend warriors to ultra runners

The best running apps can help you stay motivated (virtual running buddy, anyone?), improve performance, and achieve your wildest running goals. But with all of the options out there, finding the right one can be almost as tough as a training run.

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
10 mins
We researched the best apps for every type of runner. Whether you’re breaking in your very first pair of running shoes or a veteran ultra-marathoner, this list has something for everyone.

C25K® (Couch to 5K)

Conquering the 5K is a rite of passage for many new runners, and C25K® offers an easy and approachable program to help new runners do just that. The app offers a full 8-week training plan that utilizes run-walk interval training to gradually acclimate new runners to distance running. With just three sessions per week lasting 30-40 minutes, the workouts are quick, effective, and attainable for anyone wanting to build up a running base. 

Best for

First-time runners who want to get into the routine of running or conquer their first 5K

Pros

  • Straightforward, easy to use, and affordable
  • Users know just what to expect with the structured training plan and guided runs 
  • Runners can track their distance, pace, and maps with their in-app GPS or by syncing with Fitbit, Apple, and Samsung smartwatches   
  • Forums offer built-in community and support for new runners
  • Runners that conquer their first 5K can continue to grow their running goals with Zen Lab’s 10K, 13.1, and 26.2 training programs 

Con

The plan includes three workouts a week for eight weeks which might not be enough for someone who wants to be more active or progress quicker.

Price

Free or $4.99/month for the Zen Unlimited Pass which offers advanced features including curated playlists, Apple Watch integration, calorie and distance insights, as well as full access to their three other running programs: 10K, 13.1, and 26.2.  

Nike+ Run Club

Nike+ Run Club is a favorite among both beginners and seasoned runners alike. With the ability to track pace, distance, elevation, and splits, it’s a solid all-around with a slew of other fun features, including guided speed and endurance workouts from top Nike coaches and athletes, paired playlists, and in-run cheers from friends for added motivation. Run Club also offers built-in photo sharing complete with stats and stickers for a fun social component.

Best for

All runners, from beginners to veterans

Pros

  • Completely free
  • The minimalist design makes it easy to see your stats on the run
  • Community-building cheers, challenges, and leaderboards can be fun and motivating, particularly if you’re competitive
  • Users can track the mileage on all their running shoes, not just Nikes
  • Tough Day Easy Runs keep you going no matter what life throws your way
  • The app offers guided treadmill runs for days you can’t get outside
  • Training plans available for 5K, 10K, half, and full marathons

Con

While it can be a good option for new runners, there are no specific walk-run interval workouts for true beginners who might want to, well, walk before they run (and there’s no shame in that). 

Price

Free

Peloton

Another solid GPS run tracker with metric tracking, coaching, and curated playlists, the Peloton app is a new favorite on the running scene. The best part is, you don’t have to own a Peloton Bike or Tread to get a great workout. All runners can up their performance with coached runs, challenges, cross-training, and Peloton’s motivating music and instructors. 

Best for

Runners of all levels looking to have fun, push running performance, and cross-train

Pros

  • Tempo, interval, HIIT, hills, and endurance runs for treadmill and outdoor runners, plus running skills classes to optimize running form and cadence
  • Members have access to thousands of workouts including live and on-demand strength, Bootcamp, cycling, yoga, HIIT, stretching, and meditation classes
  • Workouts last 5-60 minutes so you can get something in even when you’re pushed for time
  • Membership is included for Peloton Bike or Tread users

Con

More expensive than other workout apps.

Price

Free for Peloton Bike and Tread owners or $12.99/month after a free 30-day trial
Source: Runkeeper

ASICS Runkeeper

A longtime favorite among runners, Runkeeper puts a lot of emphasis on helping runners set and meet their fitness goals, whether it’s to train for a race, lose weight, or reach a new personal record. With built-in GPS, Runkeeper can record a variety of activities including running, walking, biking and hiking, and also integrates with popular trackers like Garmin, Fitbit, and Apple Watch. Users can also get personalized plans based on their goals, schedule, and running ability and access more in-depth stats and insights with Runkeeper’s premium membership.  

Best for

Goal-oriented runners of all levels 

Pros

  • In-app goal setting and tracking for added accountability and motivation
  • Users can customize the stats they want to hear during workouts, including pace, distance, and time
  • Syncs with Apple Music and Spotify 
  • Built-in community and motivation with challenges, exercise rewards, and virtual running groups

Price

Free or $9.99/month ($39.99/year) for Runkeeper Go, a premium membership that offers tailored training plans, detailed progress insights, and live tracking features.
Source: Strava

Strava

Sometimes referred to as the “social network for athletes”, Strava is a sophisticated activity tracker that allows runners to incorporate (friendly) competition into every workout with challenges, clubs, leaderboards, and social sharing. Offering one of the largest trail networks, it’s easy to change up your running routine, discover new routes, and even compare your performance with other Strava users (...and who doesn’t love data?). Strava integrates with pretty much everyone out there — Garmin, Fitbit, Polar, and Apple to name a few — and tracks a whole range of sports besides running including cycling, swimming, hiking, Crossfit, rock climbing, surfing, and more. 

Best for

Beginner runners to ultra-marathoners driven by data and social connection.

Pros

  • Robust trail and route network makes it easy to discover new running routes no matter where you are
  • Race friends and community members with virtual segments along your favorite running routes
  • Share workouts to your Strava feed to get support from friends and fellow athletes
  • Customizable training and workout plans, live feedback, route suggestions, and advanced analysis of performance metrics with a Strava subscription

Cons

  • Need to upgrade to unlock some of the highly desired features, including advanced data analytics, training plans, and route suggestions
  • Friendly competition can get fierce. Some Strava enthusiasts say competing against your peers for podium spots and PRs can get a bit intense, and possibly lead to unhealthy behaviors — particularly if you’re fiercely competitive or tend to obsess about your exercise data. 

Price

Free or $7.99/month ($60/year) for their premium subscription service

Runcoach

Runcoach is another great running app that can create a customized training schedule based on your current fitness level, distance goals, and how often you want to train. It has all the bells and whistles including built-in GPS tracking, voice guidance, and integrations with Garmin, Fitbit, Healthkit, Strava, Runkeeper, and more. What sets Runcoach apart from other app-based training programs is you can tweak your plan as you go, which means that you can stay on track even if you miss a workout and update goals as your fitness improves. You can also get access to affordable personal coaching from live running coaches through the Runcoach app.

Best for

Beginner to intermediate-level runners wanting fully customizable training plans and/or affordable personal coaching

Pros

  • Adaptive training plans
  • Affordable personal coaching

Cons

  • No social sharing or connecting with friends and fellow members
  • Workout tracking and syncing features can be finicky so users might want to consider tracking with another app or wearable device
  • Seems to have more issues on Android devices
  • More expensive than other apps

Price

Free or $19.95/month ($119.95/year) for Gold membership with personal coaching

RockMyRun

Music lovers, rejoice. RockMyRun is a great app for runners who like to move to music. Using data from the accelerometer in your phone, this app automatically adjusts the tempo of the music to match your stride, or you can manually adjust the beats per minute to match your ideal cadence. RockMyRun offers a huge selection of music including DJ-curated playlists and station suggestions as well as the ability to search for specific artists, songs, and mixes. Not sure what you want to listen to? You can discover new music by genre, mix length, BPM, mood, or activity. Though it’s not a run tracker, it works seamlessly alongside tracking apps like Strava, Nike+ Run Club, Runkeeper, and more.

Best for

Runners who want to get max motivation from their workout music

Pros 

  • All songs seamlessly blended together to help you keep up the pace
  • DJ-curated playlists are frequently being added
  • Station suggestions based on your personal music preferences 
  • Ability to sync music to your heartbeat with compatible heart rate monitors (iOS)
  • Apple Watch users can play, skip and pause music, view performance stats, and quickly adjust music tempo directly from their watch

Cons

  • No free version
  • The ability to see playlists is device-dependent and users can no longer skip to specific songs, which means you have to suffer through songs you don’t like (nooooo!).
  • Significant data usage when your device is not connected to Wifi since playlists cannot be downloaded in advance
  • Compatible with Apple Watch but users still need to carry their phone
  • Android users seem to experience more glitches

Price

$7.99/month ($79.99/year) after a free trial

AllTrails

Whether you want to explore a national park or discover new running trails in your backyard, AllTrails is the perfect app for runners who want to embrace the great outdoors. With the built-in GPS, you can follow any of AllTrails 100,000+ hand-curated trail maps without getting lost. No service? No problem. Download offline maps and track your exact GPS location as you go, even when you don’t have a signal. AllTrails also allows you to filter by dog-friendly trails for runners with four-legged friends. 

Best for

Runners of all levels who want to go off-road

Pros

  • The best selection of hiking and trail running trails with 100,000+ hand-curated trail maps plus reviews and photos crowdsourced from millions of users around the world
  • Save maps offline and track your exact location even when you don’t have a signal
  • Off-route notifications so you never get lost (AllTrails Pro) 
  • Robust search functionality that allows you to filter trails by location, distance, fitness, and experience. 
  • Planning tools for saving your favorite trails

Cons 

  • Free version has ads
  • Users complain that GPS tracking, map downloading, and exercise recording can be finicky

Price

Free or $29.99/year ($59.99/3 years) for AllTrails Pro 

HRV4Training

HRV4Training is a scientifically-validated heart-rate assessment tool for runners, offering insights into training, performance, and recovery. Though it’s compatible with most wearable monitors, HRV4Training uses photoplethysmography technology (say that five times fast!) to accurately assess your heart rate variability (HRV) using just the camera on your phone. 

Best for

Hardcore, data-driven runners who want to geek out on their heartrate and personalize their training program

Pros

  • Scientifically validated against gold-standard echocardiogram data
  • Users can export data into a .CSV file for independent analysis
  • HRV-based advice helps runners adapt trainings based on objective measures of recovery
  • Affordable and user-friendly 
  • Works with Apple Watch, Oura ring, and compatible Bluetooth sensors

Cons

  • No free version
  • Extensive measures are needed to reliably estimate daily variations, weekly trends, as well as VO2max and lactate threshold 
  • Camera HRV monitor has greater potential for measurement and data inaccuracies
  • Knowledge of heart rate training required to understand and benefit from app features

Price

$9.99 (iOS) / $11.99 (Android)
Whether you’re a beginner, dedicated trail seeker, or hardcore endurance enthusiast, there’s truly a running app for every runner. While none of them will miraculously make you faster or stronger (sorry, folks), they can help you plan running routes, track progress, stay accountable and understand your own body. So, what are you waiting for? Pull out your phone and lace up your running shoes. It’s time to hit the road (or track, treadmill, trail).
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.

Key Takeaways

  • C25K® offers a full 8-week training plan that utilizes run-walk interval training to gradually acclimate new runners to distance running.
  • Nike+ Run Club has the ability to track pace, distance, elevation, and splits, making it a solid all-around with a slew of other fun features.
  • The Peloton app is a new favorite on the running scene, as it offers another solid GPS run tracker with metric tracking, coaching, and curated playlists.
  • Runkeeper puts a lot of emphasis on helping runners set and meet their fitness goals, whether it’s to train for a race, lose weight, or reach a new personal record.
  • Strava is a sophisticated activity tracker that allows runners to incorporate (friendly) competition into every workout with challenges, clubs, leaderboards, and social sharing.
EnduranceFitnessHealth techRunningUltra runningUltramarathonSports PerformanceExercisePhysical activityAthlete