The 9 Best Running Apps of 2021

Track your distance, progress, and more

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Runkeeper

"If you’re also into biking or fitness walking, you can track those activities."

Best Route Finding and Tracking: MapMyRun

"You can add your shoes to the app and the Gear Tracker will notify you when it’s time to get a new pair."

Best for Beginners: C25K 5K Trainer

"It starts with a mix of running and walking, gradually building up your strength and stamina."

Best Community App: Strava

"Allows you to compare times with other members of the Strava community or with your own group of friends."

Best for Runners Who Want a Coach: Running by Daily Burn

"In-your-ear coaching for runners of all fitness levels."

Best for Motivation: Charity Miles

"Helps you make your miles more meaningful and motivational by donating 25 cents for every mile you run to the charity of your choice."

Best for Reaching Your Health Goals: MyFitnessPal

"You can chart your fitness and weight loss progress and connect with friends on the app."

Best for Apple Watch: Nike+ Run Club

"You can connect to Apple Music or Spotify to access curated playlists that are specific for your runs."

Best for Marathon Runners: Runtastic

"You can save all your routes and stats, so you can stay motivated."

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Runkeeper

Runkeeper
Courtesy of Apple Store

As one of the most popular and tried-and-true running apps out there, Runkeeper gets our top ranking for its wide array of features, accuracy, as well as ease of use. Whether you’re a beginner runner or an experienced marathoner, this app has something for everyone. You can use the GPS capability to track your distance, pace, and overall time, and mix up your running routine by following one of Runkeeper’s pre-created routes.

Runkeeper also lets you set goals and watch your progress to stay motivated. If you’re also into biking or fitness walking, you can track those activities. For runners training for races, Runkeeper offers personalized training routines, complete with helpful reminders to keep you on track. It also syncs with other apps and devices, such as Fitbit, as well as your Apple watch. All of these features are available free on iOS or Android.

Best Route Finding and Tracking: MapMyRun

Map My Run by Under Armour
Courtesy of the Apple Store

MapMyRun is another running app that has stood the test of time. It first debuted as a way to measure running routes, but the latest version offers runners many more cool and helpful features. You can use it to track your runs and find running routes locally or in new cities, as well as get feedback on your stats so you can try to improve your performance.

If you’re one of those runners who never knows when to replace your running shoes, you can add your shoes to the app and the Gear Tracker will notify you when it’s time to get a new pair. You can also join the MapMyRun community to connect with other runners and stay motivated with fun challenges.

MapMyRun is available on iOS and Android and is compatible with hundreds of other popular apps and devices, allowing you to sync your data with your Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, and more.

Best for Beginners: C25K 5K Trainer

C25K® 5K Trainer
Courtesy of the Apple Store

New runners rave about how this popular app took them from couch potato to the finish line of a 5K race in just eight weeks. With pre-designed training plans, Couch to 5K guides you through three workouts each week and keeps track of your progress and routes.

Perfect for beginners, it starts with a mix of running and walking, gradually building up your strength and stamina so you learn how to get into a regular running habit. You’ll also get verbal feedback as you’re running, so you’ll stay motivated to stick with the training. C25K works on any iOS or Android device.

Best Community App: Strava

Strava
Courtesy of Strava

If you love the social and competition aspects of running, Strava is the app for you. It allows you to compare times with other members of the Strava community or with your own group of friends to boost your motivation. It also has a safety feature called Beacon, which allows up to 3 people to know where you are running (they don't need to have the app or be Strava members, either).

You can use Strava to set up group challenges, such as fastest 5K or most miles in a set period of time, to keep each other going. You can use Strava on any iOS or Android device and Apple Watch.

Best for Runners Who Want a Coach: Running by Daily Burn

Daily Burn
Daily Burn

Daily Burn is known for its incredibly motivational coaching, and its new running app is no different. Running by Daily Burn offers in-your-ear coaching for runners of all fitness levels: Choose from tempo, distance, interval, outdoor, beginner, treadmill, and fun runs. You can also set time or distance to run on your own, and the app will pace you.

Before you start using Running by Daily Burn, the app will prompt you for your running goals (do you want to get faster, build endurance, crush your first race?) and ask how many workouts per week you can commit to. This gives the app a good idea of what type of runs to curate for you. Likewise, the app makes it easy to get up and go, with guided warm-ups to stretch out your muscles and prevent injury, and the ability to share your best runs with other athletes for a little bit of added competition.

Best for Motivation: Charity Miles

Charity Miles
Courtesy of Charity Miles

Charity Miles helps you make your miles more meaningful and motivational by donating money for every mile you run to the charity of your choice. Just open up this free app, choose a charity and you’ll start raising money with each mile you run, bike, or walk.

You can also form teams with running friends to combine fundraising efforts. To stay motivated, Charity Miles prompts you with reminders to run and keep raising money. You can use Charity Miles on any iOS or Android device.

Best for Reaching Your Health Goals: MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal
Courtesy of MyFitnessPal 

If you’re hoping to lose some weight through running, the MyFitnessPal app can help you achieve your goals. It allows you to track all your calories and runs in one place and lets you know how many calories you have left based on your daily calorie goals.

You can chart your fitness and weight loss progress and connect with friends on the app, so you can hold each other accountable and maintain motivation. MyFitnessPal is available on iOS and Android and it syncs with other apps and devices including Fitbit, Strava, Runkeeper, and Runtastic.

Best for Apple Watch: Nike+ Run Club

NRC
Courtesy of NRC

One of the most popular running apps in the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch, Nike+ Run Club is a fantastic, all-in-one app. This free app offers GPS tracking, audio-guided workouts, weekly and monthly distance challenges to keep you motivated, and personalized coaching plans.

You can connect to Apple Music or Spotify to access curated playlists that are specific for your runs. If you’re a social runner, you’ll love the opportunities to compete with friends and cheer each other on during runs. Nike+ Run Club is perfect for runners with Apple Watches who want stats and feedback during their runs, but don’t want to carry a smartphone. It’s also available for Android devices.

Best for Marathon Runners: Runtastic

Runtastic GPS Running App
Courtesy of Runtastic

Reach your goals in your next marathon with this app that tracks all your runs and offers training plans for marathons and other races. You can save all your routes and stats, so you can stay motivated by trying to beat your personal records.

Once you’ve finished your run, post your stats to Facebook or Twitter right from the app. This app can be used on iOS and Android devices and syncs with other apps such as MyFitnessPal as well as Garmin devices.

Are Running Apps Good for Beginner Runners?

Whether you’re brand-new to running or you’ve taken a long break from it and want to ease your way back, there’s a running app that’s suitable for you. Many of them are very user-friendly and have training programs and workouts that are designed for beginners.

Can Running Help Me Lose Weight?

Running is one of the best forms of exercise for weight loss, as it burns a lot of calories and is very affordable and accessible. The more you run, the more calories you’ll burn, so if you maintain a regular running habit, you’ll see better results. To help stay motivated, you can follow a plan, such as a 5K training program for beginners.

You’ll also want to avoid a common mistake that many runners make, which is assuming that running gives you a license to eat anything you want. The basic rule of weight loss is that you must burn (through life functions and exercise) more calories than you take in. The most effective approach is to follow a proper running program and a healthy, calorie-appropriate nutrition plan if you’re trying to lose weight.

Can a Running App Replace Your Gym Membership?       

If you use the gym primarily to run on the treadmill, you may find that using a running app to track your running stats and keep you motivated to run is a sufficient substitute. However, if you like to use other equipment and amenities at the gym and enjoy the face-to-face interaction with instructors and other gym members, you might regret giving up your membership.

In many cases, it works best to keep your gym membership and use a running app as a tool to supplement your training and help you reach your running-related goals.

How Much Do Running Apps Cost?

Most running apps are free to download, but they may include just the basic features. You can make an in-app purchase to access a premium version with more functionality and no ads. Other running apps charge a one-time download cost, usually in the range of $2 to $5.

Some running apps also offer a monthly or yearly membership. Members get access to more robust and advanced features such as personalized training plans and in-depth data analysis. They’re available for a monthly or yearly subscription, which can range from approximately $3 to $20 per month. 

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Article Sources
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  1. Williams PT. Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-upMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45(4):706-713. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827b0d0a