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8 of the best running apps for beginners + the pros and cons of each

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There are lots of running apps on the market now that help you track your run, monitor your distance and pace and provide some motivation.

If you’re a beginner runner, you may be wondering: “What are the best running apps for beginners?”

The beauty of running is that when you first get started, you don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive running gear or a sports watch to help you track your runs.

Simply download one of the best free running apps in this guide on your Apple or Android phone and set off for your run!

Depending on your running goals, you may want a guided plan or simply a few tips or motivation.

The good news is there are plenty of running apps to help you get started.

Read on to find about 8 of the best running apps for beginners.

Ready?

Let’s go!

the best running apps for beginners

8 of the best running apps for beginners

#1 Best for Couch to 5k: NHS Couch to 5k app

The Couch to 5k app from Public Health England is one of the best running apps for beginners when it comes to starting your running journey.

You may already be familiar with the Couch to 5k program which is one of the UK’s most popular 5k training plans for beginner runners.

The app is based on a 9-week training plan and includes a mix of walking and running.

It provides simple step by step instructions, complete with celebrity voice overs and prompts within the app.

You can even choose a celebrity ‘trainer’ who, once selected, guides you through each week.

You just start the app and the timer begins. It then gives you prompts when you are coming to the end of a running or walking block.

The app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play.

Pros:

  • Easy to follow program with step by step instructions and voiceovers.
  • Perfect for new runners.
  • Great for motivation.

Cons:

  • Limited to one training plan.
  • No additional training features like pacing or GPS tracking.
  • Limited to UK runners.

#2 Best for sharing running routes: Map My Run app

Map My Run is one of the most popular running apps on the market.

It’s probably one of the best running apps for beginners who have recently completed Couch to 5k or their first 5k and want more features when it comes to a running app.

Developed by Under Armour, it provides a simple tool for tracking your runs that is backed by a community of over 50 million runners.

The app allows you to track and map your runs and get feedback and stats to improve your performance.

Another cool feature is that it allows you to search for and share local running routes that other Map My Run users have uploaded to the app.

The app is free is download from the Map My Run website. The app offers upgrades and premium features like stats and data analytics.

Pros:

  • Allows you to track and map your runs, including your pace and elevation.
  • Offers enhanced features like calorie tracking.
  • Allows you to search and share local running routes.
  • Integrates with Garmin and Apple Watch.

Cons:

  • Its social network feature is not as popular as Strava’s social fitness community.
  • Premium features like stats and data analytics are paid-for features.

#3 Best all-rounder: Run Keeper app

Run Keeper is another popular running app used by over 50 million users worldwide.

Developed by Asics, the app allows you to track your runs and set goals depending on the distance you are working towards.

This app offers plans for a range of distances which you can follow. It also provides added motivation by allowing you to join challenges with other runners.

The live tracking feature is also pretty cool if you want to share your progress with family and friends.

The app is free to download from the Run Keeper website. As with the Map My Run app, it offers premium features like custom training plans, stats and data analytics.

Pros:

  • Allows you to track and map your runs, including your pace and elevation.
  • Allows you to search and share local running routes.
  • Offers virtual races and challenges and live tracking features.

Cons:

  • Its social network feature is not as popular as Strava’s social fitness network.
  • Premium features like live tracking, data insights and custom training plans are paid-for features.
  • Limited to UK runners.

the best running apps for beginners

#4 Best for sharing your progress: Strava app

Strava is popular with runners and cyclists alike, and is essentially the social fitness app built for endurance athletes.

To date, the app has been downloaded over 50 million times by athletes across the world.

It has its own social network where you can share your runs and follow your friends’ races and workouts and give ‘kudos’ and leave comments on each other’s runs.

The app also uses sophisticated GPS technology to track your run.

Moreover, their GPS technology is compatible with a whole range of devices, including FitBit and Garmin, so you can keep all your running stats in one place.

The app is free to download from the Strava website.

Pros:

  • Great for logging workouts and sharing these with friends.
  • Encourages individual runners to connect with other like-minded runners.
  • Uses sophisticated GPS technology to track your runs.

Cons:

  • More geared towards intermediate and advanced runners.
  • Can be intimidating for beginner runners.

#5 Best for having fun: Zombies, Run! app

If you find running a little boring or you’re struggling to find your mojo, then Zombies, Run! is the perfect app for you!

With over 1 million players worldwide, it’s one of the world’s biggest smartphone games ever.

The app is based around an award-winning story about a zombie apocalypse.

You venture out of your run and you are fed missions as you run. If you’re chased by zombies, you have to speed up. During your run you collect virtual supplies to build up your base.

And with over 200 missions, you’ll never get bored!

The app is free to download from the Zombies, Run! website. The app is free to download and offers in-app purchases.

Pros:

  • Offers an 8-week 5k training plan that is great for beginners.
  • Offers in-app instructions so you know when to walk, jog, run and stretch.
  • Offers fun and interactive running workouts to keep you motivated and entertained.

Cons:

  • You are limited to one 5k training plan.

#6 Best for interval training: Interval Timer app

This is an interval training app that I’ve used for a few months now to set and record my interval runs.

It’s really basic but it does the job, making it one of the best running apps for beginners when doing interval training.

You set your timings for each interval (e.g. 1 or 2 minutes), followed by the rest/recovery period, then off you go!

The app plays a single beep once an interval finishes. You can download the premium feature to get additional prompts once an interval is coming to an end.

The app is free to download from the App Store.

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Great for setting timers for your interval runs.

Cons:

  • Limited to one type of workout – interval training.
  • Premium features like prompts are paid-for features.

the best running apps for beginners

Pros:

  • Great for sharing photos of your runs.
  • Offers a wide variety of guided runs.
  • Offers Spotify integration so you can lay coach cues over your favourite playlist.

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to know where to start if you’re a beginner runner.

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