When it comes to free running apps, I wonder if new runners realize just how lucky they are and what’s available to make your running life easier.
In 2002, I grabbed my trusty digital Timex to time the length of my new running habit, strapped a big yellow radio to my arm and headed out without a specific route. Once home, I listened to the beep of my dial up as I logged in to MapMyRun to plot out the path I’d just taken and figure out my distance.
Luckily I’m a very consistent pace, so I generally knew how far I’d gone, but if not…man running took a lot more work back in the old days (ha!).
Now one gizmo, our smartphone, can do it all on the run: music, podcasts, tracking your pace, your location, ensuring that running in new cities you don’t get lost, really whatever you fancy.
Best Free Running Apps
These are the best fitness apps that I’ve found testing out a variety of things on my workouts from roads to trails to the gym.
Here are the free ones that will help tons of runners:
- Gym Boss Timer
- Nike Run Club
- Charity Miles
- Smart Metronome
- Trail Run Project
I’ve detailed more below, plus some additional apps that are 100% worth adding!
What’s funny is we often think we need all the gizmos, but these free running apps are enough to get the job done!!
Yup that whole log on to a website and figure out my route thing is history.
Now I can open an app on my phone and it automatically finds my location via GPS (no wifi needed), then plots out my route as I run. I’ve seen some pretty hilarious images made from runners who get creative with their path.
The bonus here is you don’t need to sync a watch to your computer. All the details of your run are automatically saved, giving you a great log of your speed, elevation, distance and more.
👉If you’re just starting out and not ready to invest in a GPS watch, this is PERFECTION. It’s going to help you track everything that you need to get in to the habit and do your training.
If running for weight loss is one of your goals, then tracking your food is often just as important as putting in the miles.
It’s not about obsessing over good and bad, but instead becoming aware of habits, portion sizes, eating more veggies and tuning in to your hunger.
By tracking, we often find we’re actually eating more than we thought or in my case, realizing just how low I was on protein!
If you want to do some sprints at the track, this is a great free timer to set for both running and rest periods.
It’s most well known for setting timers to do HIIT workouts, but for runners it’s a great way to stop looking at your watch during sprints! Just run until the beep, then recover and get at it again.
I also now use this to complete the 30 Day Core Program, getting in my 10 minutes of Core work before each run!
For trail runners, it’s extremely helpful to have an app that’s showing all the trails so you can hopefully prevent getting lost.
- Trails are rated for difficulty
- You can use the app while out of cell service thanks to the GPS feature, keeping you on track
- People will load their own photos and descriptions to help you know exactly what things are like
This one is specifically for trail running, but the Mountain Bike Run Project actually shows more trails and most are open to runners as well.
5. Nike Run Club
My husband started using this on his recent return to running (yup that’s right an app over his built in coach). And one of the things he told me he enjoyed was the new partnership with Headspace!
So I downloaded it to find out for myself.
While I am not the runner who loves a coach in my ear or needs the planned workouts, I did super enjoy those Headspace sessions which help you figure out a lot of the mental side of running. Meanwhile, he LOVES that the app tells him when to speed up, when to slow down and everything in between.
The only drawback is it’s hard to find a plan to truly follow.
BONUS: If you want more strength training at home, checkout this review of Beachbody vs Peloton.
6. Smart Metronome
You want to get faster? You want to improve your running cadence?
One of the first things you can work on is your foot turn over and a metronome app is extremely helpful for a lot of runners to get used to the rhythm.
The aim is 90 RPM, which reduces the amount of time your foot is on the ground and allows for speed without overstriding. If you’re really working on form then checkout the Running Technique Program.
7. Charity Miles
Want your sweat to count for even more than fun and good health?
This free app lets you earn money towards the charity of your choice, just open it up during your run and using GPS it will track mileage, adding up to .25cents per mile walk/run!
BONUS APPS FOR RUNNERS
If you’re like me and never bother to make an actual playlist, a streaming solution is a great option for keeping you on the go with tunes.
I recently switched us over Amazon Streaming with my Prime membership and like it even better than the other options I’d used before because I can turn on certain stations or create my own playlist that stays in the cloud.
However, please note that you should plan ahead by going in to your Amazon Playlist and downloading (still free) some songs on the off chance you end up somewhere that streaming doesn’t work. Like when we ran through the canyons for the Colorado Half Marathon and David had NO MUSIC.
The Weather Channel
We know that runners aren’t afraid of the sweltering heat or the freezing rain, in fact we might just relish our moments of badassery. But we still need to be safe and dress for the weather!
I use the radar section of the app to turn on a layer like wind or rain. Then I can see if there’s an area nearby that happens to have lower wind, not unusual in Colorado thanks to the mountains. But it also shows sunset, sunrise, humidity and top allergens.Find out which running apps are worth it and share your favorites! #runchat Click To Tweet
Ready to be an awesome spectator and not have your hands feel like they’re stinging from hours of clapping?! Just pull up your cowbell!!! Seriously, I’m totally angry at myself for forgetting this during Ragnar!
Did your run happen if it wasn’t posted to social media?
I’m not sure it did, so let’s be honest we all love Instagram now for showcasing our beautiful locations or sharing the highs and lows. Here are some hashtags to find other runners or grow your following.
Of course, I’m always following #runtothefinish to stay in touch with you and cheer you on.
Bonus: Running Log
After the app I was using from roughly 2007-2011 abruptly closed I lost all of my training data. So I have a little distrust of keeping it all there, which is why I put together a printable running log!
You can customize the days, so you aren’t wasting pages. You can track milestones and chart your progress over time.
Carrying Your Phone on a Run
One of the big questions that I long had and now often receive is, but how do you carry your phone? Does it work for when you get sweaty? Does it feel good or throw you off?
Let me help you out with a number of ideas!!
- Leggings with Pockets for phone
- Running Hydration Packs I Love
- The flipbelt – I like this the best of all waist belts I’ve tried.
- Skip the phone all together with a GPS watch that has music
BONUS POINTS: Get rid of the cord I mention all together with the best wireless headphones for running. I reviewed a bunch of options for you to find the one that will fit you best.
What’s your favorite running app?
How do you carry a phone?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish