8 best running apps for Apple Watch

From pace and distance to heart-rate tracking, we take these apps out on the road

best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

The Apple Watch is now a seriously good running partner. Of all the smartwatches with run tracking, it’s the one that stands out for the right reasons.

Apple Watch 7 has largely stuck to the same formula as the Series 6 delivering a smartwatch that delivers strong GPS and heart rate performance based on our testing.

If you’re tracking your runs, you might turn to Apple’s Workout app first. If over time you feel like the app doesn’t quite cut it, luckily there are plenty of other apps running the Apple Watch lurking in the Apple App Store that will serve you better.

We’ve tested most of them with Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch SE, Series 3, and other older Apple Watch models. These are the best running apps for Apple watch.

And we usually wear silicone or nylon bands when doing workouts. They are the perfect options to wear because they are lightweight, waterproof and breathable.

Nike Run Club

best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

Now renamed Nike Run Club instead of Nike+ Run Club, it’s no surprise that this particular Apple Watch app looks gorgeous. The Apple Watch Nike Edition exists for a reason. It makes sense for the two brands to collaborate.

Once in the app, the essence of how it works is that you can view recent runs, track runs (no phone required), and follow one of the many audio-guided workouts provided by Nike coaches and athletes.

It will also track indoor runs and offer settings like enabling/disabling auto-pause, determining how often performance updates, and a twilight mode that will show more neon colors if the ambient light sensor detects dim lighting conditions.

It loads fast, is easy to navigate, and is easy to run. You can add the Nike+ Run Club complication to your Apple Watch’s watch face, which launches directly into the app, where you can choose to start quickly, “match your last run” or choose run distance, duration, and The latter requires your phone.

Things have improved when using the app and the big, bold screen metrics are really easy to read – and you can swap between data screens by scrolling the Digital Crown. You also get heart rate, duration, and distance.

There’s also an indoor mode for tracking treadmill runs, but you’ll have to remember to switch between indoor and outdoor settings manually. In our testing, we also found that the running distance the treadmill told us was a long way off, although that’s not uncommon on wrist-based platforms.

There are other nice features, like complication support and the ability to set reminders for “when we’re running,” but that’s limited to the time of day. It doesn’t recognize if you’ve already run, and it would be nice to be able to set another reminder in the future.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch from the home screen: Yes

Free | Download

Strava: Run & Ride Training

best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

If you’re a runner, chances are you’ve heard of Strava. If you haven’t already, you probably know quite a few people who don’t track long Sunday runs without the accolades of the popular app.

The good news is that there’s a Strava Apple Watch app, and since its launch, it’s grown into one of the powerful options to consider packing on your smartwatch.

It’s also an iPhone-free device that lets you view real-time data directly from the Watch screen. We’re big fans and we’ve found that the Strava app tends to be more accurate than Apple’s native Workout app when you’re taking your iPhone with you.

In terms of what it lets you do, you can track outdoor and indoor runs, provide key running stats, and take advantage of Apple’s heart rate monitor to let you know how hard you’re working. You’ll also get audio prompts to hear speed and distance updates.

If you’re also willing to pay for a Strava subscription, you can mix up your running sessions with a range of training programs and workouts. Strava has since allowed users to import sessions from the Workout app – but these required manual pairing, so we’re sticking with the Strava standalone app for now.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch app from home screen: Yes

Free | Download

Apple Workout

best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

Workout has improved as the Apple Watch has become more focused on fitness.

You can start a ton of workouts from the Workout app, and there are indoor and outdoor running modes. You can also display a lot of data on the watch itself – which can be edited in the Apple Watch companion app.

Using your iPhone, you can choose to display distance, current pace, heart rate, duration, average pace, active calories, or total calories. You can specify the order in which they are displayed, and you can choose between single and multiple metric views.

Over time, Apple has added features like automatic motion detection, cadence tracking, and features like rolling pace, which analyzes your speed over the last kilometer/mile in addition to your average pace.

You’ll get a screen showing your stats, while a swipe left makes it easy to switch your tune, and a flick to the right pauses or ends the program.

The post-run stats screen is fairly comprehensive, including distance, time, active calories, total calories, average pace, and average heart rate. If you don’t trust your Watch data, you can check your outdoor route on your iPhone, pair with a Bluetooth heart rate monitor chest strap, and there’s also a power saving mode to help ensure the battery runs the distance as you do so.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch app from home screen: Yes

$5.99 | Download


best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

Over the last few years, WorkOutDoors has emerged as one of the standouts of Apple Watch apps for runners. Particularly if you’re big into your stats and have control over how those stats are displayed on your Watch too.

Its combination of vector maps and the ability to use up to 300 real-time metrics for your fully customizable data screen makes it more appealing than other apps running the Apple Watch. This mapping method makes it easier to interact with them on the watch screen and makes measuring the running terrain around you a more enjoyable experience.

You can view these maps in full screen and navigate with a real-time breadcrumb path that lets you zoom in on areas using the watch crown. Color coding to help you point out the hills and flat parts of your location is also handy.

You can create workouts, store maps for offline use, and head to the iPhone app to dig deeper into your data. Here you can upload a GPX route file to trigger to the Apple Watch.

It also has dedicated modes for other activities, including cycling and hiking. But if you’re a runner, it’s worth the effort.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch app from home screen: Yes

$5.99 | Download

Watch to 5K

best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

There are plenty of Couch to 5k apps on the App Store, but what stands out for the Apple Watch is an app that runs independently of the phone.

The concept is to get beginner runners to a 5k distance in two months, running 3 times a week. This one is optimized for Button Watch, lets you listen to music, and turns the volume down to let you hear audio cues that tell you what you need to do and how you’re doing.

It will track key stats like distance, average speed, calories burned and heart rate in real time. It lets you view your workouts in Apple’s Fitness app, and it’s also compatible with Apple Health.

The UI looks great, and it’s generally a very easy-to-use app, ideal if you’re trying to run for the first time. If you want a Couch to 5k Apple Watch app, we think you should download this one.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch app from home screen: No

$2.99 | Download 


best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

Unlike some of the options on this list, Runkeeper is an early stage of training for standalone applications. Like Nike Run Club, it also guesses your distance if you’re on a treadmill.

However, as far as the watch app goes, there’s not much to play with when it comes to personalization. Before you go, you can set a target pace and maximum heart rate and that’s it.

One of the things we love about Runkeeper is the ability to create and follow fixed workouts. There are three preset options, including a 20-minute easy workout, 2.25-mile or 2-mile rest, or you can build custom workouts in the phone app and they’ll automatically sync to a list in the Apple Watch app.

This instantly turns Runkeeper into a more serious training tool, offering a variety of options for speed and interval training. It only takes a few minutes to set up the workout, our only real criticism is that the distance increments are too large (the minimum you can set is 0.25km, so you can’t add a 200m recovery portion to any speed work), and you can’t set goals based on distance and time interval. Either or.

In run mode, the screen is divided into three areas, with a fixed display at the top for duration and GPS signal strength. You can tap the middle section to toggle between distance and current pace, while tapping the bottom section toggles between displaying current and average pace, current pace, and heart rate. You can also swipe left to view splits. There are also audio cues and Spotify and Apple Music integrations

Like most apps running on the Apple Watch, the run history isn’t shown in the app—you’ll need to fire up your phone to delve deeper into your data. If you pay for Runkeeper Go, you will have access to training programs. Without this fee, you still get a solid Apple Watch experience that lets you leave your iPhone behind too.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch from home screen: Yes

Free | Download


best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

A free Apple Watch app that lets you build your own offline routes or choose from 400,000 pre-installed routes, RunGo’s specialty is its ability to meet the needs of visually impaired people with voice assistance.

These supported routes include racetracks and running tours, and will chat with you about local landmarks and interesting stories about the area, such as your own running tour. It now adds virtual running support when you can’t get to those locations, but you can still learn the history and get trivia fixes for running closer to home or on the treadmill.

It also gives you basic information on your wrist such as speed, distance, splits and altitude, while you can import routes in GPX format to send to the Watch and get turn-by-turn directions. Advanced features include real-time tracking for friends and family to follow, and interval training.

While Series 2 and later users can exercise without a phone, RunGo has also joined ARKit and developed a feature that allows people to see routes and directions with the help of AR. We expect that, by then, this reliable Apple Watch-running app could be a contender for what Apple claims to be smartglasses, but for now it’s limited to phones.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch from home: Yes

Free | Download 

SIT (Simple Interval Timer)

best running apps for apple watch
best running apps for apple watch

It’s not the best looking app you’ll ever download, nor is it a wealth of run coaching features. However, it’s a very simple tool that has everything you need to set up interval sessions directly on your Apple Watch. That’s right, SIT gives you the kind of control that most of the apps on this list will benefit from.

All you have to do is choose the number of sets, the duration of the effort, and how long you want to rest. Hit start and you’ll see a screen showing which set you’re in the total, a countdown of how long you have left in this set or this rest period, and your current heart rate.

We’ll be making many improvements to the app: for example, there’s no audio or vibration alerts to tell you when you’re moving between work and breaks. We’d also like to see various interval types like distance and even heart rate-based effort, but that’s not a bad start.

Works without phone: Yes

Complications to launch from the home screen: No

Free | Download

Learn more Apple watch apps? Click: 4 best Apps for sleep tracking with Apple Watch



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