Smartphones are essentially meant to improve our lives by making things easier. We use them for personal and business productivity, communications, entertainment and so many other functions. If you are a runner or you want to get out and run more often, the sophisticated sensors and computational capabilities in your smartphone also make it a great choice for supporting that activity.
As you read through this list of apps for running, keep in mind that there are also online resources that you can use for support and guidance in reaching your fitness goals. For instance, if you have trouble making time for your exercise regime, you can take an online course designed to help you work fitness in to your daily life.
And with that, here are the best running apps to suit individuals with different needs.
The Front-Runner: Runkeeper
If you are looking for a one-stop-shop to cover everything you need for your runs, Runkeeper is one of your best options. This feature-packed app is a long-standing popular favorite that manages to wrap all of its goodies up in to a sleek and intuitive user experience.
Fire it up at the beginning of your run, and it will track your time, distance, calories burned, and heart rate. You can hear updates on your progress intermittently and even get coaching cues from the app’s built-in audio coach. You can also control your music from within the app, using the default application for playing your audio files.
Of course, all of the data you capture isn’t much good if you don’t have a method for measuring it over time. You want to track your overall progress against your goals. Runkeeper will automate this tracking and analysis for you. And even better, it will help you establish a detailed plan for your ongoing fitness efforts.
Finally, Runkeeper offers social features in addition to its tracking and measurement proficiencies. Social exchange has proven useful for motivation in ongoing health and wellness efforts. So using this feature could help you get up and moving if you need a little motivation. Beyond integrating with Facebook and Twitter, the app offers its own internal network so that you can build a group of friends based on your shared interest in fitness.
The only thing you might not find with Runkeeper is advice on improving your running form. For that, try a course designed to help you achieve optimal running form.
The Contrarian: Endomondo
Close on the heels of Runkeeper in terms of popularity, Endomondo offers all of the same core functions but ultimately puts it in a different package. If you want to emphasize social support and a goal-centered fitness plan, you might find this app a little more attuned to your needs. Endomondo has an active installed membership that you can reach through the internal social network, and it puts your fitness plan front and center in an integrated calendar format.
Another area that makes the Endomondo app unique is that it offers challenges you can participate in, sometimes offering rewards for reaching goals. While those who are already maintaining fitness habits may find these superfluous, those who are looking to improve their lifestyle behaviors will find plenty to love in this capability.
So ultimately, if you simply don’t like the runkeeper interface or you feel you need something a bit more focused on helping you build a routine, Endomondo might be the underdog app that wins you over.
If, in fact, you are trying to overcome some barriers to a productive fitness routine, you might also benefit from a course that can teach you some behavior change and mind mastery techniques.
The Audiophile: Temporun (iOS only)
Choosing music for your run is no small consideration for many. Not only is it a motivator that many must have as part of their exercise, but it is also a tool to help you keep the right pace. So it only stands to reason that your smartphone should help you get your mix just right for these purposes.
Temporun loads in your music and assigns it a number rating based on its tempo (1 is a walk; 5 is a jog; and 10 is a sprint). That way your music selections are based on the level of intensity you are going for in your run.
And that’s not all. If you don’t keep your own music on your phone or you want to discover new tunes as you go, Temporun can help you with that. Using the Soundcloud music library, Temporun offers a radio option for music based on both your tempo and genre preferences.
The Statistician: My Tracks (Android Only)
Leave it to Google to make the most of your running data. Less developed in fitness-first features than either Endomondo or Runkeeper, Google’s My Tracks app excels at putting your data front and center. And it gives you lots of options for how you’d like to use that data.
Integrating with Google drive, you can store the details of your run in a spreadsheet to track progress. You can also see your path charted visually on Google Maps and share this data on Google Plus, Facebook, or Twitter. And, as a touch that’s quintessentially Android, My Tracks provides a very useful widget for recording your runs and tracking your time, distance etc. So you don’t really have to open the app to get a benefit from it.
Finally, My Tracks has begun to offer integration with a range of biometric monitoring devices, and as it is an open-source project, there will no doubt be more to come. Look for this app to be the data-centric option for run-tracking over the long term.
The Minimalist: Google Now
Maybe you don’t want a lot of bells and whistles with a run tracking app. You might just be looking for a simple tool that will tell you how much you’ve run each month so you have a basic idea of whether you need to step it up.
Well, if that’s your case, you don’t really need a dedicated app at all. Here is what you can do: Open the Google Search app; enable Google Now; you’re done.
At the end of every month Google will give you statistics on how many miles you have walked/run using your smartphone’s internal sensors. It’s a simple approach that is foolproof and uses no extra resources. It’s certainly not the right choice for a serious runner, but if you just want to make sure you’re keeping up an active lifestyle, you might try it out.
The Gamer: Zombies, Run!
For some of us, tracking capabilities are meaningless unless we can find something that will get us up and out the door on a fitness routine. A trend wellness initiatives have been taking to tackle this issue is gamification, or turning wellness in to a game. Zombies, Run! is a fantastically imaginative example of this concept.
In this running game, you are a survivor in the zombie apocalypse who is trying to escape the zombie hordes while also being tasked with missions that will require you to run from place to place. And if running around your city isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know it will work on a treadmill as well!
If this concept really strikes your fancy, and you are interested in learning about the gamification concept, you can take a course that will introduce you to designing gamification.