I have to admit there was a time in my running career when I said I would never use a running app. It was when smartphones were just becoming ubiquitous, and although I had one myself, I considered running apps to detract from the act of running.
I’m not exactly sure what my reasoning was, but it went something along the lines of this: if you’re constantly looking down at your smartphone while you’re running and using the app as a crutch, you’re not truly going to be engaged in the running experience.
If you’re looking for a running app for your tempo run to try out — whether you’re a beginning runner, an intermediate runner, or a well-seasoned runner, below you’ll find a few to get you started. But first, let’s talk about some of the advantages you can expect when using a running app.
Why Use a Running App?
One of the first things you learn when you start running is how challenging it can be to know how far you’ve gone. Of course, this was more the case about 30 or 40 years ago.
These days, you can simply use Google Maps or the equivalent to track your distance (if you’re not using an app), but you also have to remember that Google Maps’ distance is usually more related to how cars drive. And when it comes to running, even 1/4 of a mile or 1/8 of a mile can make a big difference to your overall journey and pace, so you want to be precise.
Apps really help here. With an app, you no longer have to measure the circumference of your bike wheel and bike your running path to know exactly how far you’ve gone on any given run (yes, I’ve done this many times in my youth).
Not only that, but running apps can also give you quick stats on your pace, how often you run and how far you’ve run in the past week or month, and other data that gives you great information about the trends in your workouts and progress.
Of course, there are all different types of running apps, for all different types of runners, with all different types of options and features. So, I’ve aimed to give you a smattering of the best ones below. Out of all of the running apps available, these are the best ones for beginners, in my opinion.
Also check out these yoga apps for beginners.
The Best Running Apps for Beginners
This is the first running app I had, and I still use it sometimes when I want something simple and straightforward. It’s definitely the one I recommend the most.
Runkeeper helps you get your feet off the ground — literally and figuratively. This app features periodic audio stats readings (which you can alter and change as you like).
For example, if you want to know every time you hit a mile on your run, you can get an audio update about that. If you’d prefer to track your times rather than your distance, you can get an update every time you hit 10 extra minutes, 15 more minutes, etc. Hearing these little boosts really helps because it motivates you to push onward.
While you probably aren’t going to see the latest technology with this app, I still think it’s a “keeper” myself. You might also be interested in our round-up of the best interval running apps.
2. Map My Run
Map My Run not only allows you to find new running routes that you may not have known about (in your local area!), but you can also forge new paths on your own, and the app will track your distances and other data.
If you like this app, you can upgrade to a premium version, which gives you more options and pairing features for Under Armour’s running community and their shoes!
3. Daily Burn
While Runkeeper is awesome at giving you updates and keeping you motivated throughout your runs, Daily Burn is like actually having a physical coach with you on your run. Some people like this, and some people like to keep it simple, so they prefer Runkeeper. I’ve gone both ways, personally.
What Daily Burn does is actually set up a running plan for you. You choose how far you want to go, how fast you want to go, whether you want to run inside or outside, be challenged or take it slow. You can configure everything to your needs and wants, and then let the app guide you.
If you like running with a group or you know people close or far away who also run and you like to compare stats, Strava may be the running app for you.
Personally, I like to keep my running pretty private. If I know another runner who asks me about my stats, I’ll just tell them, but they don’t need to see my details on an app. Still, I know a lot of people who love sharing this information, and the group challenges they participate in help keep them motivated.
If you like the social aspect of running or if you plan on starting running with a pal, your spouse, or a group, I definitely recommend considering Strava.
The Final Word on the Best Running Apps for Beginners
If you’ve looked over all of the above running apps and you’re still not sure which one to go with, here’s my advice:
Start by picking the one that seems like it will work the best for you, download it, and try it out. Don’t worry too much about getting the absolute perfect app the first time, and I don’t advise making a big purchase on a special high-end one that you’re not sure you’ll like. That’s why free trials exist!
If you don’t like the first one you’ve chosen, you can always go with a different one.
Again, I want to reiterate that I truly rely on running apps to help make my running easier and improve my stats. I don’t know where I would be as a runner without them. I hope you will feel the same too!