Staying in shape isn’t easy. Between paying for gym memberships, buying fresh fruit and vegetables, and finding the time to workout – it’s not always possible to find enough hours in the day.

This is why we consider running as a great all-rounder. You can do it virtually anywhere, you don’t have to join a gym, and the possibilities are endless – whether you’re doing circuits, taking a light relaxing job, or training for a 10k race, you can always find ways to challenge yourself to stay interested.

But it’s still hard to stay motivated.

One of the greatest achievements of the App Store, was providing a platform for virtually anything – so it’s no surprise that it’s awash with running apps. The problem with that, however, is which are any good?

We’ve delved into the selection and found five to get you started – whether you’re a complete novice that wants something to help stay motivated by mapping your progress, or a seasoned pro looking to track or share your continued success – this selection will fit the bill.

A quick note on the selection: It’s virtually impossible to rank the five best running apps when there are so many. What we’ve aimed to do is give you five that won’t let you down, that provide solid features, value for money, and longevity. Furthermore, we went outside of the TapSmart team to get feedback, screenshots, and information – from marathon runners to those working towards a 10k, and complete novices.

Nike+ Running

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The Nike+ line was revealed all the way back in 2006 as a collaboration between Nike and Apple, but the kit required sensors until 2010 when Nike released the Nike+ Running App in 2010, which instead used the iPhone’s GPS.

This is the app we’re looking at. It sites in a similar space to the likes of RunKeeper, and MapMyRun (which is listed below). It’s colors and approach are more simplified (in a good way) and emboldened than its contemporaries which gives it a great advantage in its usability.

It tracks all your stats and achievements, including average pacing

It tracks all your stats and achievements, including average pacing

Nike+ allows you to track your progress efficiently and accurately, and gives you a huge amount of facts, and averages based on pace, average distances and more. You can set goals too, and the app will give you training programmes to help you reach them. The app is perfect for those that see running as a long-term activity and wish to track progress over time, store their race times. It’s also a great tool for those that may wish to try their hand at a 10k, or even build up to a marathon.

Price: Free
Size: 47.7MB
Version: 4.5.5
Developer: Nike Inc.

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MapMyRun

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MapMyRun has experienced its fair share of criticism over the years. And it’s easy to see why – the menu is pretty hefty, the fonts can be small, it’s not as easy to just pick up and go as other similar apps such as Nike+. However, the most recent updates has seen these issues addressed to a certain extent.

Upon opening the app, you’re taken straight to a map of your location where all you have to do is hit a big bar at the bottom that says ‘Start Workout’. And you’re off. Tracking can be pre-programmed, allowing you to get spoken updates on your pacing and distance at pre-set intervals. You can also set music via the app, or it can run in the background of the Music app, or you can listen to a Podcast if you wish.

You can track your distance, pace, location, duration and calories burned as you run

You can track your distance, pace, location, duration and calories burned as you run

The criticism on its heft is fair, but its so big because it does so much, provider one of the biggest solutions of its kind. The free version allows you to set routes, follow friends’ activity, take challenges, and track nutrition. There’s also a pro version too, which allows live tracking so you can track friends out on a run and vice-versa, but only if you want. It also includes heart rate analysis, training plans, mobile coaching, ad-removal, in-app camera and interval training.

The free app is great for starting out, but if you begin to get serious then it’s certainly worth considering the pro version for an all-in-one fitness experience. It’s not cheap though, and runs on a subscription basis at $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year.

Price: Free    
Size: 36.4MB    
Version: 5.4.7 
Developer: MapMyFitness

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Zombies, Run!

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Let’s get down to the serious question. Is running actually fun? If you were to say yes without a hint of irony, we’d bet you were in the minority. That’s not to say running is boring – there’s plenty of ways to make it interesting, but have you ever considered ‘gamifying’ your running?

It’s a logical approach – it’s much easier to maintain your group softball games, or meet up with your friends to play basketball each week. But to maintain a running schedule by yourself? That’s a little harder. Enter Zombies, Run! jumping on the bandwagon of the popular zombie movement, this app puts your running in the centre of apocalypse story.

The story starts with you on a helicopter, on the way to ‘Abel’ a community in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. But your ‘copter crash-lands and you find yourself surrounded by zombies with just the reassurance of a radio operator. To escape, and find safety you must… run!

Home screen, where you can see if there are new episodes, and start missions.

Home screen, where you can see if there are new episodes, and start missions.

Along the way, you pick up various objects; health packs, weapons, and even a sports bra. The radio operator talks you through the whole thing, and you’re guided on where to go. This part is all quite passive, and just acts to break up the monotony and insert some narrative between your music collection, which can play in the background within the app. However, if you’re running outside, there are some extra features. Zombies can actually chase you. That’s right, if you hear the familiar moan it indicates that their are zombies nearby, requiring you to outrun them. Also, if you want to take a specific route, you can set it within the app, and your run becomes a supply-run.

The story itself is set out like a TV show; so far there are three seasons to download, each with 20+ episodes each. However, the app itself is by London-based developers Six to Run, so it’s more 28 Days Later than the Walking Dead when it comes to the characters.

While Zombies, Run won’t necessarily help you with specific training (although companion app Zombies 5k might), it puts a fun twist on an often myopic sport.

Price: $3.99 / £2.49    
Size: 544MB    
Version: 3.1.3 
Developer: Six to Run

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Get Running (Couch to 5k)

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Get Running is a widely-regarded app because of its simple mission: to get you running at the 5km with as little pain, or risk of giving up as possible. The app provides you with a nine-week plan, based on running three times a week, by the end of which, you should be much fitter and easily able to complete a 5k.

It’s appeal is in its simplicity and one-goal view. To get started, you simply open up week one, and follow the plan. This will include a lengthy warm up, plenty of short bursts of running, with plenty of period of walking and a cool down. As you progress through the weeks you’ll find the rests shorten, and the periods of time running get longer, until you can complete the whole thing without stopping.

The interface is simple, clearly indicating when to run and when to rest

The interface is simple, clearly indicating when to run and when to rest

Get Running doesn’t track, or worry how fast you’re going and is all about reaching that distance goal which means it’s perfect for any beginner, no matter their starting fitness level. In-app coaching also provides motivation to keep going.

The app may not have a huge amount of long-term appeal, but it’s a great one to return to after long periods of not running.

Price: $2.99 / £1.99    
Size: 21.4MB    
Version: 1.11.0 
Developer: BenJohn Barnes

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Interval Run

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There are plenty of interval training apps on the app store, but as this is a running-based round-up we’ve chosen a more specific one. Otherwise known as circuit training or high-intensity interval-training (HIIT), this approach to exercise is fairly straight-forward, but essentially involves quick bursts of… well, really going for it. This aims to get your heart-rate going faster, burning more calories.

Interval Run focuses only on interval runs, whereas others might include squat programmes and other additional exercises.  It comes with three different, pre-programmed workouts: Coach to 5k, Gateway to 8k, and One Hour Runner. These include three workouts a week over ten weeks and are great for beginners, or those looking for some programmed improvement. You can also create workouts yourself, choosing from a variety of options, including sprint periods, cool-down time and more, for however time you want to spend.

An example of how you can build you own interval programme

An example of how you can build you own interval programme

The app also records all your workouts, has the ability to pause and resume workouts and it is incredibly simple and easy to use. It also includes different voices to change up motivation styles.

Price: $1.99 / £1.49    
Size: 26.6MB    
Version: 1.8.2 
Developer: Delta Vee

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Best of the rest

RunKeeper

Free

Nearly made the cut, but we went for MapMyRun over RunKeeper. Still, it’s hugely popular, if not more so. It allows you to track, share, and view stats and more.

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Endomondo

Free

Social running app that allows you to track and share routes with your friends. Extremely feature rich, and can also track hydration and give pep talks.

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iSmoothRun Pro

$4.99 / £3.99

Great fitness tracker – works on both run-tracking, and intervals. You can also schedule a workout plan to meet your goals and use the app as a step counter.

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TempoRun

$2.99 / £1.99

Fancy running to the beat of your music? TempoRun looks at your library and categorizes the songs into 10 levels based on their tempo.

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Cadence Trainer

$0.99 / £0.69

The goal here is to improve form and reduce injury. Cadence Trainer essentially provides a metronome to be played over your music to help you run consistently.

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