Beyond telling the time or sending a talk-to-text message, Apple has truly stepped up its game if you’re looking for fitness functions on your brand new Apple Watch. It’s fast becoming the perfect running partner.
With dozens of running apps in the App Store, finding the right one is often a matter of taste. Some users never stray from Apple’s built-in Workout app, while other runners will use a combination of 3 or 4 different apps to track their progress and share updates with various communities. Our list features the top nine running apps for Apple Watch.
Most apps on the fitness market can produce a thorough post-workout analysis, so this list will hone in on all of the nitty-gritty details and features available while you are on the go.
What Are The Best Apps For Runners on Apple Watch?
Whether you want to stick with Workout, or explore third party running apps, the Apple Watch has come on leaps and bounds as a performance tracking device for runners. There’s not much it can’t do to rival its competitors (like Garmin).
So let’s start with the flagship Apple app for runners:
Workout (The Default Apple Fitness App)
Why add another app to your cluttered home screen when you could just use the Apple in-house special? This app is great for any fitness enthusiast – runner or not – and it is completely free to use.
Workout allows you to track outdoor and indoor runs, so if you’re one of the few runners that prefer the treadmill to the sidewalk – no problem. Whether you are lacing up your running shoes for an indoor or an outdoor workout, the app offers different run formats, from paced to open and anywhere in between.
You can either set a time and pace you hope to maintain or see where your leisurely jog on the winding trails behind your house takes you. You can even customize your run with time-confined or distance-measured runs and recovery period splits.
Your Apple Watch face can show your average and current pace, elapsed time, and distance covered at the flick of a wrist. You can even control your music from the watch if slow songs are bogging you down or not fitting your energized vibe.
You don’t have to carry your iPhone when using the Workout app, so leave it in the car for one less item to slow you down. The Fitness+ upgrade also features guided runs and pre-curated playlists to mix up each running experience.
Nike Run Club
The Nike Run Club app has been expertly integrated with Apple smartphones for over a decade, ensuring a reliable and user-friendly experience with the Apple Watch. The app provides a comprehensive range of features for runners of all levels.
At its core, the Nike Run Club app effectively tracks essential running metrics such as heart rate, current pace, and elapsed time. By swiping on your Apple Watch, you can access extended features that cater to more dedicated runners. These advanced options include tracking calories burned, cadence, total distance run, and average pace.
Whether you’re a casual runner or a seasoned athlete, the Nike Run Club app on the Apple Watch is a valuable tool designed to keep you informed and motivated, regardless of your preferred running terrain. Its smooth integration and robust features make it an excellent choice for those looking to enhance their running experience.
When launching the app, you can use a QuickStart function to “Match Your Last Run” or to pair your iPhone-compatible Nike Run Club app to specify components for your upcoming run, such as distance, duration, and speed preferences.
One of the Nike Run Club app’s most notable features is the training plans and guided workouts narrated by Nike coaches and athletes (like Mo Farah above!). You won’t feel like you’re running alone when you have Kevin Hart giving you audio cues every mile.
Another nifty feature unique to the Nike Run Club app on iPhones is the ability to track how far you have run in each pair of shoes. This helps ensure that you aren’t running in shoes that are past their prime and will notify you when it’s time to retire your old friends. No doubt Nike will be on hand to suggest a new upgrade. It’s all in the upsell. 😉
This running app for Apple Watch is totally free; no upgrade is needed.
RunKeeper also has a large following of runners devoted to using this app on their Apple Watch, even through the ebb and flow of new apps and trackers vying for the same dedicated market.
You can select preset workouts from this app, like “20-Minute Easy Workout” or “Two Mile Run with Rest.” You can even customize workout routines in the iPhone app and have it set to pop up on your Apple Watch when you open the watch interface.
With audio controls and access to your favorite music subscription services, your runs will not skip a beat, nor will you.
The primary app shows the total elapsed time running, average pace, distance completed, and your heart rate. You can also swipe side-to-side to see more analytical information in real-time, such as your heart rate or upcoming intervals in the preset workout you selected. The app will also estimate your distance completed on days you decide to run on a treadmill instead.
The initial RunKeeper app is free, but upgrading to RunKeeper Go grants you access to personalized, optimized training plans, live tracking, and progress insights.
Strava emphasizes the social dimension of exercise and running, fostering a sense of community that fitness enthusiasts appreciate. The app allows you to track and compare your pace with other users, as well as create challenges to gauge various metrics within your community, such as distance or speed. If camaraderie through physical activities appeals to you, Strava is an ideal choice.
Notable features of the watch app include audio cues for pace and distance updates, which can be particularly useful during long runs or when you’re eagerly anticipating a rest. The app ensures you stay informed about your progress throughout the workout.
Even if you leave your phone behind, Strava on your Apple Watch displays essential information such as running time, heart rate, distance, and average pace, so you never miss a beat.
By upgrading to a Strava paid subscription, you’ll gain exclusive access to workout routes created and shared by fellow users. This feature eliminates the need to chart new courses, allowing you to focus on enjoying your run.
WorkOutDoors is a versatile running app designed specifically for Apple Watch users, offering several features that make it a strong contender in this list of the best running apps for Apple users.
One of the key strengths of WorkOutDoors is its detailed vector mapping, which provides a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate representation of your running route. The extremely detailed maps (seen above) can be customized to display various data points, such as distance, pace, and heart rate. You can personalise your entire running experience in a way that is highly impressive, given the limitations in display-size.
The app also supports a wide range of workout types, including running, hiking, and cycling, making it suitable for users with diverse fitness interests. WorkOutDoors offers a robust interval training feature that enables users to create tailored workouts for specific goals.
While offline map support is a valuable feature for those running in areas with limited connectivity, users should note that downloading maps requires an internet connection and can consume a significant amount of storage space on the watch. Some users have also reported occasional difficulties syncing data between the Apple Watch and the iPhone app.
Despite these minor drawbacks, WorkOutDoors remains an excellent running app for Apple Watch if navigation and mapping is at the top of your priority list.
RunGo is a free Apple Watch app with high-end voice assistance, specially designed for visually impaired runners. With over 400,000 pre-installed routes and the ability to make customized offline routes, it’s the ideal app for offline running.
Virtual run support has recently been added, allowing you to virtually run famous race courses and tours that you may otherwise never be able to do yourself. These preloaded routes have guided voice assistance that chats with runners as they run about local landmarks and fun facts. It’s almost like a private tour in running shoes. Very cool.
This app also provides the basics at-a-glance, including pace, distance, running splits, and elevation. Uploading GPX files to your Apple Watch also lets users receive turn-by-turn directions when your routes are new or unfamiliar.
A key advantage of iSmoothRun is its compatibility with various sensors and devices, including footpods, heart rate monitors, and power meters. This versatility allows users to collect an extensive array of data for a more in-depth analysis of their performance.
The app also boasts a powerful interval training feature, enabling runners to design and execute custom workout plans tailored to their specific goals. iSmoothRun provides audio feedback, which will update you with real-time information on pace, distance, and other essential metrics.
However, some users have reported occasional issues with GPS tracking accuracy, which may affect the precision of recorded routes and distances. It’s not the best user interface, from our experience, although it does sync well with other apps that you might prefer to use as your ‘main’ running app for the Apple Watch.
Watch to 5K
The Couch to 5K is something of a fitness trend sensation, encouraging beginner runners from all over the globe to get up and complete a 5K. The Watch to 5K is a cute play on this trend that provides much of the necessary training through the interface of your Apple Watch.
Watch to 5K generates a personalized training plan based on the values you enter about yourself, like age, weight, height, and running goals. The first run follows a pattern featuring a 60-second run and a 90-second walk, which is repeated 6 times. At the end of the eight-week training program, you’ll be able to run an entire 5K race without stopping.
The watch’s face shows real-time information, such as distance, average pace, calories burned, and heart rate for you to keep track of. It also allows you to change music from the running diagnostics screen and automatically reduces the volume when audio cues come up to direct your run.
If you are looking for a running app that caters to complete beginners, we highly recommend this guided course.
Adidas Running (previously Runtastic)
The Adidas Running Apple Watch app has all the standard bells and whistles, including distance run, elapsed time, current pace, and heart rate. Live tracking is also available if you have loved ones who like to track you while you log your miles or hit the trails.
If you prefer, you can also turn on voice updates while you’re running. This app also allows you to manipulate music controls throughout your run to help you keep the energy up on long-run days.
For those runners that need a little extra Apple Watch energy, the premium membership has several upgrades, including interval training, distance and duration goals, training plans, and target pace goals.
As for the interface, you’ll either love it or hate it. It’s not as intuitive or detail-rich as some of the other choices in our list, but the app still boasts a large community of runners – so it’s obviously doing something right!