12 Best Apps For Every Type Of Runner

These 12 iOS and Android apps will coach you, track you, motivate you, and keep you entertained.

RW Editors |

Looking to get more out of your running workouts? There’s an app for that – or more like a hundred. These days, apps can not only track your run, but also coach you, motivate you with music, keep you safe, and more.

To keep it simple, we rounded up our favourites and narrowed them down to the 12 best running apps across four categories, highlighting what makes each unique. Whether you’re just starting out as a runner or you’re a seasoned pro, this list will help you find the tools you need to get the most out of your run.

Beginner: Human

Photograph courtesy of Human

Best for: Getting motivated to be more active

Human isn’t the most advanced activity tracker on this list, but it wins points as a strong motivator. The app works in the background, tracks the time you spend being active (running, walking, and cycling), and nudges you to hit your “Daily 30,” or 30 minutes of exercise per day. But the real motivation comes from other people. Human compares your data to other nearby users to create a leaderboard of who’s exercising nearby, so you can see how you rank against your neighbors.

Free; iOS, Android

Beginner: Pacer

Photograph courtesy of Pacer

Best for: Starting a regular running routine

This app is centered on step-counting, but it’s a great launching point into developing a running habit, too. Like Human, Pacer works in the background, logging your steps as you move around during the day to give you a picture of your activity level. Unlike Human, you can also track runs with GPS and join group challenges, and if you opt for Premium, you can access training plans with video workouts.

Free; iOS, Android

Beginner: Couch to 5K

Photograph courtesy of Couch-to-5K

Best for: Building your confidence by working toward a goal

The popular Couch-to-5K app does exactly what it says: Turns you from sedentary couch potato into a runner. It guides you through three 30-minute workouts per week to get you ready for a 5km race in only nine weeks. Along the way, it tracks your time and distance via GPS, and a virtual coach gives you verbal cues about your workout. After each run, you can log your data to active.com, and you can share your achievements with friends in the app’s newsfeed.

R49.99; iOS, Android

Advanced: Strava

Photograph courtesy of Strava

Best for: Tracking runs and rides with a strong social element

Wildly popular among cyclists and runners, Strava is a great choice for casual runners and pros alike. It offers in-depth GPS tracking, works with a variety of GPS devices, and tracks all kinds of metrics (especially if you opt for a Premium membership at around R96 per month). It’s also known for its popular segments feature, which shows how you stack up against other runners on the same route. Premium users also get access to Beacon, a safety option that allows three designated contacts to monitor your location while you’re out running.

Free; iOS, Android

Advanced: MapMyRun

Photograph courtesy of MapMyRun

Best for: Finding new routes to run

Not sure where to run? Choose from one of more than 70 million routes on MapMyRun, Under Armour’s comprehensive tracker that records distance, pace, elevation, calories burned, and more. It integrates with a variety of major wearable trackers, as well as the My Fitness Pal app, so you can sync your diet and exercise info together for a clearer picture of your health.

Free; iOS, Android

Advanced: Nike+ Run Club

Photograph courtesy of Nike+ Run Club

Best for: Run tracking, photo sharing, and audio coaching

Engineered specifically for runners, the Nike+ Run Club app goes beyond basic tracking with several motivation and coaching features, such as end-of-run cheers from top athletes, built-in photo sharing that overlays your run stats with a photo from your route, and audio-based workouts from top Nike coaches to help guide you along the way. Plus, the audio-coached runs feature a Spotify integration so you can lay the coach’s cues over your favourite playlist – the best of both worlds.

Free; iOS, Android

Advanced: iSmoothRun

Photograph courtesy of iSmoothRun

Best for: Training with multiple tracking services

In addition to showing you information about your run – basics such as distance and time, but also steps, weather, and the name of the street you started on – the iSmoothRun app supports run/walk and interval workouts, syncs with a variety of devices, tracks shoe mileage, and can also send workout data to other training logs. We imported a slew of TCX files from Dropbox, then exported them all in one go to MapMyRun in a matter of a few seconds.

R79.99; iOS

Music & Motivation: Sylo

Photograph courtesy of Sylo

Best for: Getting all your jams in one place

If you like to dig around on SoundCloud, YouTube, and Spotify for your music, check out Sylo – it’s an app that lets you stream from all three services in one place, so you don’t have to switch between apps to listen to your tunes. Connect your Spotify premium and SoundCloud Go accounts to download music for offline listening as well.

R59.99; iOS

Music & Motivation: Runtastic

Photograph courtesy of Runtastic

Best for: Keeping your mind occupied while running

Runtastic is a full-fledged run tracker, but it also stands out for its unique “Story Running” feature. Download stories (around R12 a piece) in the app to listen to podcast-style tracks as you run. Each story is roughly 35 to 40 minutes long – just about the same duration as your typical daily workout.

Free; iOS, Android

Music & Motivation: Zombies, Run!

Photograph courtesy of Zombies, Run!

Best for: Turning your run into a video game

If lacing up for a run sounds daunting, try adding a little primal fear to your routine with Zombies, Run! This app puts you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse by providing a series audio stories and missions for you to listen to as you run, mixed in with your own music. Follow the audio prompts to collect supplies, fortify your zombie-proof base, and save humanity – what’s better motivation than that?

Free; iOS, Android

Safety: RoadID

Photograph courtesy of RoadID

Best for: Automatically getting help in case of an accident

Road ID is better known for its bracelets that identify you to first responders after an accident (if it unfortunately happens). But the company also has a handy app that lets you share your location with friends and family, and it sends them an SOS message with your location if you stop moving for five minutes and don’t respond to the app’s alert. Better yet, your contacts don’t even need the RoadID app to use it – they get alerts via text or email.

Free; iOS, Android

Safety: Companion

Photograph courtesy of Companion

Best for: Instantly letting friends and family know if you’re unsafe

Similar to RoadID, Companion allows you to pick contacts to share your location with while out running (or doing anything else). Select who you want to monitor you, and they can see your location in real time, either in the app or via text. It comes with built in “Safety Triggers” to detect falls or when you veer off course, and it will notify your contacts if you don’t respond to the alert prompts. You can also adjust your destination and timing as you run, and immediately call 082 911 if there’s an emergency.

Free; iOS

READ MORE ON: apps motivation running apps technology

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