Top Running Apps of 2016
"Let’s review the top 10 best running apps starting with the best developed apps for experienced runners."
Driven by our enlightened awareness of health & fitness and by our desire to track progress, fitness apps have evolved at a rapid rate by many wanting a slice of the pie.
In many ways fitness apps and sports headphones go hand in hand - with the opportunity to have your own personal coach sitting on your shoulder all the way, giving to timely feedback direct to your ear!
But not all apps are made equal. As we barrel into the second half of 2016, we wanted to take a fresh look at some of the best apps, and the best partners to get the most from your allocated time when working out with SoundWhiz running headphones.
Before we dive in, it’s worth a mention, there is a lot of talk about the new iPhone and what will happen to the iPhone jack. The good news is with bluetooth wireless sports headphones, it’s one less thing you need to worry about.
Whatever fitness app you choose, your audio coach will keep on working with SoundWhiz wireless headphones!
Let’s review the top 10 best running apps starting with the best developed apps for experienced runners before sharing what we feel are the best apps to get you up and running if you’re just starting out.
We’ll finish with a surprising entry that, honestly, we only reviewed for a bit of fun. However it turned out to be both the most fun and the scariest running app out there… and incredible through the new SoundWhiz Turbo!
FIND WHICH APPS ARE BEST FOR YOUR IF YOU'RE AN EXPERIENCED RUNNER:
First we take a look at the Garmin Connect from the company that’s been developing training and tracking devices for decades.
We felt compelled to included it in this review due to its integration with some of the world’s most loved fitness trackers like Vivosmart HR, the Forerunner 630 and the Forerunner 235. It makes the Connect a natural selection for anyone with these trackers, but you can still use it without those devices.
Of course, it tracks your standard statistics such as distance, pace, time and route. Plus there’s the ability to set up training plans of different types, and compete with friends using the app.
The ability to get weather forecasts is a nice touch when you’re running the trails, and as you would expect from Garmin, the GPS accuracy seems very good.
The real downside for us is that we find it really clunky and hard to use.
We give the Garmin connect a 7/10.
Next, Nike have put together a remarkably competent running app in the Nike + Running.
It adequately tracks pace, distance and time whether on road track or treadmill. It uses its in-built algorithm MotionX® to combine data from the phone’s GPS and accelerometer (the clever bit of wizardry that tracks your motion in different directions) for pretty accurate statistics.
It gives you live coaching of course, as well as various level of coaching plans. Plus, it’s nicely gamified to allow share runs and challenge friends to beat your pace.
Making the most from your SoundWhiz - Nike+ Running mostly makes into our list thanks to the ability to use Spotify’s Pace Stations which collect up music with a beat to match your running pace, as well as the ability to load a "Power Song" to help you through those tough patches.
Best of all - you get all the features FREE.
Our vote gives the Nike + Runner a 7.5 out of 10.
The Adidas Train & Run offers very similar functionality to the Nike+ Runner, with some nice post-run features for exploring your training zones.
As you would expect it integrates seamlessly with the Adidas smart trackers, including their training shoe and the Fit Smart wristband for more comprehensive biometrics. You can share statistics on various social platforms.
We think the Adidas app edges out the Nike app on two fronts. Firstly the integration to the fitness band enables you to track everyday activity giving you a more complete picture of your overall activity level.
Secondly, the Adidas app includes hundreds of free professionally designed training and exercise routines for improving fitness, cardio training, strength training or just losing weight, complete with voice coaching.
They can be customized with your own personal goals in mind, and set new goals each week. It also integrates with some key 3rd party fitness platforms including Google fit, Myfitnesspal and Strava.
However there is limited integration with other smart devices, including the apple watch, and ANT+, which does limit its uptake with people more serious about their training. In our testing we also noticed quite a few GPS drop-outs.
Just for the diversity of free programmes, we give this app an 8 out of 10.
Runtastic is a dedicated running app, and in short has all the features you’d expect from a sophisticated app, with integrations to Google fit and myfitnesspal.
Your routes can be viewed in a Google Earth-style view which is a nice touch, and your workouts are tracked in a personal training diary. Of course, you can share your progress over social networks.
They’ve included a shoe tracker to remind you when your running shoes are getting long in the tooth, though we feel that’s a bit superfluous.
However, a cool thing is you can configure your preferred statistics to be provided by audio feedback to our SoundWhiz headphones, and integrated music player plus PowerSong to give you that extra boost.
Going premium unlocks some nice additional reports, training plans, coaching videos and so on, plus a 3-day weather forecasts.
Good value for only about $4.99 a month. It’s a pretty comprehensive app but for us lacks the seamless integration with fitness trackers and smart watches other than android wear that we would have expected.
8 out of 10.
Best known and widely loved by Cyclists, Strava is now sliding in to be best loved by runners too.
It records your speed, distance, time, elevation and route map, recording a history of your achievements in a training log.
Leveraging the competitive elements that made it such a hit with cyclists, the running app also allows you to race against your friends, share route highlights with photos,and encourage each other, which can be a huge motivation.
You can even participate in challenges from all over the world! It integrates quite well with Android Wear and Apple Watch and many other GPS trackers.
If your heart rate strap connects with the .fit format, you can also plug that in for super-accurate biometrics.
We’ve included this in the ‘experienced runners’ section mostly because the free version is pretty lightweight and you can’t track history until you’ve upgraded to a premium subscription for around $60 a year.
Users report it’s less accurate than the Garmin, but all in all, we think it’s an excellent app and practically a must if you’re a bi-athlete.
8.5 out of 10.
And finally, for experienced runners we take a look at Runkeeper, long a favourite of experienced runners, reporting over 45 million active users.
Naturally it records all the expected metrics like pace, distance, calories, elevation and so on. It also allows you to add in other fitness activities from treadmill to Yoga, so you can keep a complete log of all your workouts in one place.
When hitting the pavement, you have access to pre-planned routes as well as a wealth of professional training programmes and of course you get real time audio feedback on your statistics when paired up to your favourite headphones.
Recently they’ve also added Spotify support and Runkeeper DJ allowing you to build custom playlists.
In our opinion, Runkeeper leads the field in integration to smart tracker devices, including support for Mio, Basis, Garmin, Polar, Pebble, apple watch, samsung gear and even Withings body weight scales- in fact pretty much anything that runs on Bluetooth Low Energy or ANT+.
Runkeeper has a huge online community, and of course supports the same social sharing features supported by most current apps, with leaderboards, challenges, live tracking and more.
Many of the features are only available in the Runkeeper ‘Go’ version, which at $9.99 per month is one of the most expensive, but you can pick up an annual fee for only $39.99, which is a great deal.
And the winner is... Runkeeper!
It gets our top vote for the best running app for experienced runners. It also offers an excellent cross-over to beginners too, supporting “Couch to 5k” skill levels with the same degree of accuracy, and provides a diversity of tailored run/walk programmes to get you moving.
All in all, we award Runkeeper 9.5 out of 10!
Not so experienced but ready to get up and go? These Apps for Beginners may be more up your street...
Get Running is a solid “Couch to 5K” beginner's running app taking you through a nine week programme designed to get you running for a 30 minute period by the end, supported by audio feedback from ‘Claire’, the coach.
It offers the ability to post your progress to social channels offering that accountability we often need to habitualize our training programs. They’ve added support for Spotify and Rdio too, which is great for anyone using the SoundWhiz headphones!
Strangely, they haven’t included a GPS or calorie counter that we could find, and users report social sharing to Twitter in particular as being a bit spotty.
All in all, not a bad app to get you going - we rate it 6.5 out of 10.
5K Runner is very similar to Get Running in targeting your progress towards the first 5k (3.1 miles).
Like Get Running, it has specific training programmes based on a 3x per week, 8 week programme with a basic audio-coach to provide encouragement as well as directions of when to run walk based on your progress.
Its very easy to use and designed not to burden the beginner with too much data or complex reports. That said, it just edges out Get Running in its inclusion of calorie counter, support for activity trackers so you can include heart rate, and integration to apple heath.
We rate 5K runner a 7 out of 10.
Map My Run, by popular sports attire company UnderArmor takes our vote for the best beginners app.
We find that the simple to use free version provides everything you need to get started across any activity, but you also have the ability to upgrade to more sophisticate features as you progress, meaning you don’t have to learn a whole new app.
The app displays your real-time stats as well as reports for after-workout analysis, and real time audio feedback on your split times. You can share your results and progress socially, and of course it has a huge online community.
It supports a variety of fitness trackers and heart rate sensors. Mapmyrun Trainer is a personalised training planner, and you can access professionally designed training plans.
A downside of the free app (though we feel you can put up with this when just starting out without too much bother) is the constant ad interruptions. Pretty soon you’ll be wanting to upgrade to premium to unlock features anyway for just $5.99 per month or $29.99 per year.
Simplicity of the dedicated ‘Couch to 5k’ apps aside, we think you should give Mapmyrun a go, and we give it 8 out of 10.
MOST FUN APP- Our surprise category!
Many of the apps listed above are kinda fun to use, particularly with the sharing and friend tracking capabilities. But while conducting our analysis, we came across the Zombies, Run!.
To be honest, we thought it had no chance at first. But it turns out that running for your life in an ultra-immersive audio game is an insanely effective way to push some of your best running times!
CNN quotes that Zombies Run “Turns exercise into a game - a terrifying, terrifying game.” Not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a different kind of motivation, give it a go! [Word of caution - do NOT run to this at night time - it’s waaay to scary!]
The app navigates you through a series of storylines as you run for your life from flesh-hungry zombies. With the free version, you get episodes 1-4, and can subscribe or unlock extra episodes weekly thereafter.
Each story unfolds a narrative where you are the hero in a post-apocalyptic struggle to rebuild civilisation, but you can also go into ‘zombie chase mode’ for that burst of terror to get you moving faster than ever.
With the SoundWhiz headphones connected, you hear every terrifying groan and rasping breath of the zombies, and feel you pulse and neck hairs rise as they get closer if you slow down. Personally, it made me move, too scared to stop, I never exactly discovered what happens if they catch you…
The app also integrates with Spotify and Pandora, allowing you to play a soundtrack of your choice, with game commentary thoughtfully cutting in between tracks.
Despite the fun - there is actually a competent run tracker to this app, you can pull up histories, looks at run history, and share maps and run progress with friends.
The only downside of this app, which shouldn’t inconvenience many people, is that the unlock progress is stored on your phone only, so if you lose or upgrade your phone, you start again. I’m sure they’ll fix that soon though.
All in all, despite ourselves we love the idea of this app and the execution delivers! We give it 9 out of 10!!
- SoundWhiz Editor