Running is hard. But if it’s something you are into (or want to be into), you can make it suck less with the thing that’s with you 24 hours a day anyway: your phone.
These apps for Android and iOS will help you crush your goals or just log some outside time in your kicks (and these leggings with pockets for your phone). Let’s get sweaty.
Whether you want to make your own playlist or choose one of Spotify’s kick-ass running mixes organized by beats per minute (my personal fave is “Run Wild”), this app is your ride-or-die for running with tunes. It’s totally free if you don’t mind listening to ads, but a premium subscription will get you ad-free music and the ability to download your playlist so you can listen without Wi-Fi or cell service (aka any outdoor run ever).
The app uses “eCrumbs” or “electronic bread crumbs” to track your location as you run (or do literally anything), allowing your friends and fam to keep tabs on you—if you want them to. You can also set up a Stationary Alert Notification, which pings your emergency contact when you stop moving for more than five minutes. And finally, you can create a personalized lock screen displaying your in-case-of-emergency contacts and health info like allergies or medical conditions. So if something happens to you, a bystander can call your people for help and notify first responders of your health issues.
Tune in to live treadmill workout classes (filmed in New York City studios) or follow on-demand ones anytime you hop on the tread. Each class is complete with music, amazing trainers, and lots of motivational eye contact (well, the instructors look into the cameras…so close enough). It’s kind of addictive.
If you think running is pointless without knowing how many miles you’ve clocked this week, this month, or this year, or you like to investigate how your runs have changed over time, this is for you. The free version also lets you follow your friends’ runs and compete with them to log the most miles. With the premium membership, you can use the app to train for a race, follow your favorite routes, and track your personal records. Nerd alert.
One of the hardest parts of launching a new running routine is learning how to keep a steady pace. This music-streaming app prevents you from slowing down by detecting your starting speed and creating a playlist of popular songs (which you can sort by genre and artist) with enough beats per minute to match your cadence. Plus, the app records your route, pace, and distance, so you can set goals for your next run. You can also challenge yourself with Spring’s interval workout playlists, which incorporate faster songs that cue you when it’s time to sprint.
Free for basic app or $5/month, $50/year for pro version on iTunes and Google Play
Setting out to run a 5K, aka 3.2 miles? This app will be your new running bae. Throughout its eight-week Couch to 5K program, which includes three 30- to 40-minute workouts per week, it delivers audio cues to tell you when to walk or jog. The free time-based workouts can increase your stamina for race day, but if you’d also like to track distance during training runs, upgrade to the paid pro version so you can gauge your progress.
This 14-week program is designed for new runners to conquer their first 10K (a little over 6 miles) with three runs per week. Like the C25K app, the 10K Runner also acts as an audio coach to talk you through walking and running intervals, so you can steadily improve without sustaining injuries. If you already run pretty regularly, you can still use the app to train in fewer than 14 weeks: Just scroll through the weekly workouts to find one that most resembles your current routine, then backtrack three days to determine where to begin and how many weeks you’ll need to train for your race.
Preparing your body to cover these distances can take up to 26 weeks—so you need a plan that gets you across the finish line regardless of how often life interferes with scheduled runs. Whether you’re going for a half or full marathon, Nike + Run Club offers ample flexibility: You can reschedule your run or skip it entirely, in which case the app adjusts your training schedule so you’re still ready for race day.
Depending on your weekly mileage, the farthest distance you can run, the amount of time you can sustain a fast pace, and how many runs you can commit to per week, the Nike + Run Club can get you ready for a half marathon in as few as eight weeks or a marathon in as few as 12 weeks. All plans are based on distance, not time, and require at least two runs per week. The Nike + Run Club app tracks your mileage and pace, talks you through speed drills, and recommends Nike Training Club cross-training workouts for runners, which you can follow on the NTC app.
A running coach can help perfect your form, challenge you, and push you to achieve new personal records. Thing is, they’re expensive as hell. With an Aaptiv subscription, a human trainer will coach you on form—cueing you to adjust your body by lifting your knees higher or leaning forward—and speed and motivate you through treadmill runs and interval drills that range from 4 to 63 minutes plus outdoor runs and speed work (for 14 to 61 minutes). Bonus: A bomb-ass playlist (read: no stock tunes) created specifically for that workout plays in the background the whole time.
If you won’t run for yourself, run for one of more than 40 charities, like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and She’s The First, a nonprofit that fights gender inequality, with this activity-tracking app. Its corporate sponsors, which include companies such as Johnson and Johnson, donate 25 cents toward the charity of your choice for every mile you run (or walk), leaving you sweaty but your bank account untouched.
Whether you just moved to a new neighborhood, you travel often, or you’re sick of the same old routine, Map My Run can help you discover new paths with its routes tool. You can search through other app users’ runs, find one that looks fun, and tap “do it” for audio guidance. If you upgrade to premium, you can also share your real-time running location with a buddy, which gives you peace of mind if you’re running in an unfamiliar place.
Like most running apps, Strava tracks your progress over time, so you can compete against yourself. But what makes this app extra special are its local route locator and leaderboard features, which allow you to compare your pace to that of other Strava users who use the same path—and try to beat ’em. Record your results, and any friends using the app will see you’ve clocked a run, sparking friendly competition.
Who says training plans are only for race prep? To create a routine that helps you increase your mileage and endurance without a finish line in sight, RunKeeper accesses your running level using your answers to a series of questions, then produces a running schedule based on the days and times that work best for your schedule. When you miss a workout (it happens!), the app recalibrates to keep you on track.
Runs that incorporate speed intervals can burn extra calories, which can be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight. Based on your current fitness ability—new to running, able to run one to two miles, comfortable running four miles—this app creates eight-week training plans with three 35- to 40-minute workouts each week. During sweat sessions, a voiceover takes you through a warm-up, walking intervals (for beginners), jogging (for intermediate and advanced exercisers), and bursts of sprints throughout the run, so you can stay in the zone.
With 50 stretching routines sorted by fitness level, time, and sport, this app provides plenty of moves to help runners recover. Each routine features its own instructional video, but if you’re feeling extra, the app also offers 300 videos of individual stretches sorted by body part, which you can string together to build your own pre- or post-run routine.