One of the wonderful things about smart phones is how seamlessly they have become integrated into the lives of those who wield them. For practically any activity under the sun––eating out, roadtrips, finding a car in a foreign parking lot, and running––there are so many great apps to help facilitate these activities. Compiled below are six of the top-rated apps of 2014 for runners looking to get the most out of their routines.
Nike+ Running was ahead of its time when it integrated itself into the iPod and iPhone in 2006. Since its humble beginnings as a shoe-insert-app-combo that allowed runners to track their steps, distance and pace, Nike’s running app has grown by leaps and bounds. Nike+ Running maps runs, tracks stats and runner progress over time, and includes audio cues and motivation to keep runners aligned with fitness goals. Nike+ automatically uploads workout data to their dedicated website (Nike+), and from there, joggers can view data provided by their phone’s GPS and accelerometer such as their routes, up-to-the-minute workout activity and training goals at a glance. When new goals are reached, Nike has partnered with athletes to deliver a special message to runners once they’ve surpassed a previously unattained personal best or milestone.
Nike+ Running pioneered the incorporation of fitness coaching and audio cues into running activities. Nike+ has improved over time, incorporating features to keep the experience up-to-date (such as snapping photos in-app of a run, for example). For the most part, however, Nike is the pioneer in comprehensive running applications. This app made popular the idea of global challenges, sharing and integration through social media, and developing a lifestyle that was centered around self-improvement. Also, Nike+ running has a visually stunning design that is perhaps the most easy to navigate, making it the most mature, approachable and organized fitness tracker interface. Added to all this is the Nike cheering section, Cheer Me On, which enables users to broadcast activity to Facebook or Path and get real-time cheers every time their status update is liked or commented on while engaged in an activity. Best of all, this app is completely free.
Runkeekper is one of the most widely used free applications for runners, possibly because the app is also good for all kinds of cross-training, also. With Runkeeper, athletes can monitor and compare their performance in activities such as cycling, hiking, skiing and snowboarding, canoeing, swimming and more. This app is available for free, and also integrates sharing through Facebook. In addition, Runkeeper also features a leaderboard on which to compare a runner’s activity with his or her friends.
Runkeeper also offers a paid version of their popular app. For $9.99, users can compare their activity in a detailed breakdown of charts, graphs and other useful statistical data; RunKeeper Live also allows users to track and be tracked on a run, encouraging friends and followers to follow along and offer support via social media. On both the paid and free version of this app, users can also select training plans designed by fitness experts to help improve lap times, help runners add distance to their treks, develop and reach new goals, and record running routes using their phone’s GPS (including elevation stats and exact mileage). As if that were not enough, the app also offers runners a dedicated website on which users can check in. RunKeeper syncs with FitBit, Garmin, Fitocricy and other such apps and devices in order to provide comprehensive tracking of all health and fitness stats. Calories, personal bests, GPS–Runkeeper, arguably, does it all.
Map My Run offers similar features as the aforementioned running companions. Where Map My run takes a departure, however, is in the department of nutrition tracking. Map My Run offers calories breakdowns for a wealth of sports (such as activities like yoga, horseback riding, yard work, and walking) and eating habits (including features such as nutrition, food, diet and weight tacking. This apps main focus is on using a runner’s GPS to track routes and share runs, not unlike the other apps reviewed. Map My Run is great for someone who is looking for a personal trainer, coach and running buddy, all-in-one. Map My Run can even recommend meal plans and water intake based on workout activities. While this app is not as established as Nike+ Running or Runkeeper, it is higher rated by reviewers. May My Run offers a variety of in-app purchases ranging from monthly or annual MVP perks. Premium access to the service give runners custom route recommendations based on a user’s location and fitness habits, live location tracking, and an absence of ads.
Another great app for athletes to track running activity is Endomondo. In addition to all of the features shared by the apps above, Endomondo is a slightly more social running ally. Users can build a social network for their fitness profile, sending and receiving real time encouragement, accessing news feeds, and racing against friends and challengers to win prizes and accolades. The app also allows runners to challenge nearby users, as well as to compare their best times en route against other “ghost runners” (and challenge those bests, of course). Audio cues, performance analyses and workout journaling are standard features in Endomondo, also. Like Nike+ Running, Runkeeper and Map My Run, this app cannot accurately track indoor activities. However, users are encouraged to enter these activities manually online. Endomondo is free, but does offer a premium version of the app for $2.50/mo that removes ads, introduces a weather review function to the workout summary, and includes a personal training plan for users (available for a variety of distances).
For runners looking for an app that does something a little different, Rock My Run is a top-rated app that connects runners with energizing music. Developers claim that Rock My Run is scientifically proven to enhance a runner’s best time. Using a technology called myBeat, runners can change the energy level of the workout mixes played during a run by synchronizing playlists to the cadence of their steps. The workouts on this app are engineered by DJ’s, and the MatchMe technology built in syncs the beats per minute of the music to the steps a runner is taking. Free accounts offer mixes that are 45 minutes and under, and these mixes are designed specifically with runners in mind. For real music lovers, in-app purchases offer runners a premium subscription that ranges in price from $2.99 to $4.99/mo, which grants users even more access to the highly touted MyBeats technology.
Finally, for a great running app designed to impress someone who has seen and done it all in the world of fitness tracking, Zombies, Run! Much like the interactive GPS waypoint app Google Ingress, Zombies, Run! turns a pedestrian activity like jogging into a full-blown adventure. While this app doesn’t offer as much in the way of stats or fitness journaling, it does manage to provide fun goals and objectives in a way that none of the apps above can. Zombies, Run! lets athletes run for their lives, chase down and run away from zombies, complete missions, and even level up. An immersive audio adventure and running game, Zombies even offers interval training (using Zombie Chase mode, where users must outrun zombies based on audio cues provided by the app). Users can play streaming music or a playlist while the app is running, but Zombies will occasionally interrupt musical selections, interjecting as a mock emergency broadcast; this advances the story behind Zombies, Run!, which was co-created by award-winning novelist Naomi Alderman.
Zombies, Run! works on the treadmill, as well, since the adventure takes place not based on GPS, but using distance input from a user’s accelerometer. Season 1 offers 33 levels, and at present Season 2 includes seven levels for free (with another 120 available as an in-app purchase or premium download). Runners collect supplies, uncover a mystery, and share progress with friends while they exercise using Zombies, Run! At home, athletes can pair Zombies with Runkeeper or upload data to Zombielink, a service that is comparable in journaling and GPS data as the apps listed above.
There are countless great apps designed to help make running fun and efficient, and so many that did not make this list are also fantastic. Whether runners are after self-improvement, a fresh challenge, weight loss, new music, or just a little decompression, one thing is for sure: there is an app for that.
By Mariah Beckman