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The best 11 free running apps for beginners: Track your runs

Unearth the best free running apps for beginners in our in-depth analysis. Whether you're just starting out or seeking to enhance your running routine, our curated list offers top-notch options to guide your fitness journey. Explore features, user feedback, and expert insights to find your ideal running companion.

By: Aleksey Makohon Date: 09 / 07, 2023
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From the vibrant notes of a well-tuned instrument to the rhythm of footsteps on a trail, both music and running have been constants in my life. Each resonates with its own kind of magic, and as someone deeply embedded in the tech world, I’ve come to appreciate the harmony between them.

Beginning the Run: Every Mile Tells a Story

Setting out on my running journey, it was a means to fitness. But running, I discovered, was more than that—it was about charting personal progress. Just as in music where every note matters, in running, every step counts. For beginners, tracking each run becomes a chapter in their unique story, a testament to growth, stamina, and perseverance.

Running Apps: The New Age Tracklist

As technology evolved, so did my tracking methods. Gone were the days of handwritten notes, replaced by the digital efficiency of running apps. They're like the high-definition headphones of the fitness world—bringing clarity and depth to your exercise narrative. These apps, with their data analytics and GPS tracking, not only record your performance but also celebrate your explorations and achievements. Sharing routes and milestones with fellow runners makes it all the more communal, reminiscent of the days when we'd swap our favorite tracks with friends. Among them, the best free running apps for beginners 2023 stand out for their user-centric features and intuitive design.

Why should you use a running app?

Ever wondered how musicians perfect their craft? It’s a blend of passion, practice, and often, the right tech tools. Similarly, in the world of running, your dedication is best complemented by a running app. Here's why:

  1. Precision: Unlike guesstimating distances or pacing, apps give accurate metrics, ensuring you know exactly how you performed.
  2. Progress Tracking: Visualize your growth over weeks, months, or years. It's like listening to a song’s evolution from its first demo to its final master.
  3. Motivation: Get inspired with personalized goals, challenges, and badges, turning every run into a rewarding experience.
  4. Community Connect: Share your runs, join group challenges, and draw inspiration from fellow runners, akin to a shared playlist with friends.
  5. Explore & Record: Unearth new routes with GPS mapping, ensuring that spontaneous detour on a foggy morning doesn't remain an unsung melody but a track you can revisit.

Harnessing the power of an app is like tuning an instrument—it refines, enhances, and propels your performance to its crescendo.

Running Apps for Rookies: Amplifying Your First Strides

Real-Time Symphony: Distance, Pace, and Time

The beauty of music lies in its evolving rhythms, each note deliberately placed, each tempo meticulously chosen. Think back to the times you attempted to play a tune by ear. The satisfaction of hitting the right note, the awareness when you missed one. This is precisely the beauty of real-time tracking in the best free running apps for beginners. For a novice runner, every step, every mile, every second counts.

During my early days as a budding musician, I remember painstakingly recording my sessions. Listening back, I'd pinpoint where I faltered or where the melody soared. Similarly, as a fledgling runner, having immediate feedback on my distance covered, my pace, and the time taken was nothing short of revolutionary. Instead of waiting to get home, I could adjust my pace on the fly, ensuring I stayed on track with my goals. It's like fine-tuning an instrument mid-performance, optimizing the sound as you go.

GPS: Your Digital Cartographer

It wasn't long ago when I was working on tweaking the sound quality of earbuds, I stumbled upon a scenic but unfamiliar route during a run. By the end, I was lost, both literally and in the beauty of the trail. Enter the brilliance of GPS technology in running apps. Like a reliable metronome guiding the rhythm, GPS became my trustworthy guide, charting the meandering routes I took.

For beginners, this means the liberty to explore without the fear of getting lost. You can tread new paths, discover hidden trails, and always have a digital breadcrumb trail leading you back home. Additionally, the thrill of looking back at the convoluted paths you took, the hills you conquered, and the terrains you tackled is unmatched.

Strike a Chord with Motivation

Just as a well-constructed chorus can uplift a song, motivational features in apps for beginner runners serve as the crescendo in your fitness journey. In my early days at the local repair shop, I’d set small targets – maybe fixing a certain number of devices in a day. Meeting those targets gave an immense sense of achievement. Likewise, setting running goals, no matter how minor, and achieving them provides a boost of confidence.

Imagine finishing your first continuous 5k and receiving a virtual badge of honor. Or being cheered on by a community when you surpass your previous best. These achievements, even if digital, resonate deeply, pushing you to lace up and hit the tracks day after day.

Deciphering the Beats: Data Analysis & Insights

In my stint as a product manager at TREBLAB, delving deep into data was a daily chore. Tweaking frequencies, balancing sounds, and ensuring optimum output based on user feedback. This analytical mindset was a boon when I took up running. Modern free running apps without subscriptions, with their deep-dive data analyses, are akin to high-tech sound mixers. They lay bare your performance, showcasing where you shine and where you need a bit more practice.

For a beginner, understanding these metrics is pivotal. Maybe you're great at sprinting short distances but need to work on endurance. Perhaps your uphill runs are commendable, but descents are tricky. By dissecting this data, you not only know where you stand but also get tailored advice on how to improve. It's like having a personal coach, guiding you at every step, ensuring your performance is always in harmony.

Top 11 Free Running Apps for Beginners

1. Strava GPS Cycling and Running

How to Use 

Watch this comprehensive guide on how to use Strava.


  • Comprehensive Tracking: Strava isn't just about running. It's equipped to handle 31 different sports, including hiking, canoeing, skiing, swimming, and even yoga. This makes it an optimal choice for multi-sport enthusiasts.
  • Safety First: The app's Beacon feature ensures the safety of runners by allowing them to share their live location with up to three contacts.
  • Community and Competition: Strava boasts a thriving community of athletes, providing a space for challenges, competitions, and motivation. For those who thrive on competition, Strava's segments allow runners to challenge each other on specific routes.
  • In-depth Analysis: For those who opt for the subscription, Strava provides intricate metrics including heart rate data, set custom goals, and training plans.

Interface and User Experience

Strava, often touted as the best running app for beginners, has an intuitive and user-friendly interface. Beginning a workout is a breeze; simply click the record icon and start your activity. The app also makes it easy to customize your feed and focus on the athletes you care about most. While the mobile app offers a plethora of features, some features, such as creating a custom route, might require you to use the desktop version.

Tracking Capabilities

At its core, Strava excels in its tracking capabilities. For free users, expect insights into distance, average pace, moving time, elevation gain, and calories. Those with a heart rate monitor or fitness watch can also see their average heart rate. Additionally, you get visual representation in the form of charts for pace, elevation, cadence, and heart rate. Subscription users can dive even deeper with power metrics and advanced heart rate data.

Motivational Elements

Strava is as much about community as it is about running. You can follow other athletes, join challenges, and partake in clubs. It's not just about tracking your performance but also engaging in a social aspect, measuring against others, and challenging peers. Strava's "kudos" system is akin to a "like" on social media, giving a pat on the back for a job well done.

What We Liked

  1. Diverse Sport Options: While many know Strava for running and cycling, its ability to track 31 different activities ensures it caters to a wide range of athletes.
  2. Social Integration: The blend of community, competition, and personal performance metrics makes Strava feel like a social network for athletes.
  3. Safety Features: Beacon, particularly, is a standout. The peace of mind it provides to both runners and their loved ones is invaluable.
  4. Multisport Compatibility: Strava's compatibility with various smartwatches ensures that you're not limited by your choice of tech. Whether you use an Apple Watch, Garmin, Polar, or others, Strava has got you covered.
  5. Privacy and Control: Post the 2018 heatmaps incident, Strava has revamped its privacy settings. The app now gives users increased control over their data, ensuring that their running routes and schedules remain confidential.

2. Nike+ Run Club 

How to Use

For a detailed walkthrough of how to utilize the Nike+ Run Club app to its fullest, please watch the provided YouTube video guide.


  • Reignite Passion for Running: The writer of the review rediscovered their joy for running primarily due to this app.
  • Guided Runs: From runs tailored for relaxation to high-intensity interval training, there's a plethora of options for users.
  • Coaching: Users benefit from the guidance and wisdom of coaches like Chris Bennett, who's known for his motivating and positive coaching style.
  • Training Plans: From novices to marathon trainers, the app offers a variety of detailed plans to aid runners.
  • Shoe Tracking: Monitor the wear and tear of your shoes and receive recommendations on when to replace them.
  • Compatibility: Syncs with platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, and devices like Apple Watch.

Interface and User Experience:

When it comes to user-friendly applications, this app shines with its intuitive design. Starting a run or diving into the multitude of features feels natural and uncomplicated. What stands out is the ease of navigation. Whether you're browsing your recorded data or exploring new features, every step feels intuitive. One particular feature I've found especially useful is the lock screen metric display, showing rolling speed and the distance covered. This handy touch minimizes disruptions during runs, allowing runners to stay in the zone.

Tracking Capabilities:

Diversity is at the heart of this app's tracking capabilities. Whether you're keen on monitoring your speed, keenly observing the distance covered, or recording your heart rate (provided you're equipped with compatible devices), this app has you covered. One of my personal favorites is the auto-pause feature. Whenever I take a breather or stop for traffic, the app cleverly detects the halt and pauses its recording, ensuring accuracy. Moreover, the post-run analytics are impressively detailed. After each session, I often find myself engrossed in dissecting every aspect of my run, from the chosen route to the subtle elevation changes.

Motivational Elements:

I've often said that motivation plays a pivotal role in any fitness journey, and this app seems to agree. The influence of its coaches, with Chris Bennett leading the charge, propels users to challenge their boundaries. Their voices aren't just instructional—they inspire. But the motivation doesn't stop there. Achieving personal milestones or completing specific Nike challenges earns users a set of unique badges, adding a gratifying touch to your progress. And if you're the competitive type or simply thrive on group encouragement, the app's social features are perfect. Engage in friendly contests with friends or family, and set up challenges that push you all towards greatness.

What We Liked:

There's a lot to love about this best free running app. For one, Coach Bennett's coaching style resonates deeply. His words aren't generic or automated; it feels as if he's right there with you, speaking directly to you, fueling your motivation. This personal touch, combined with the app's sheer ease of use, makes for an exceptional experience. Initiating a run or delving into past performance metrics feels fluid, with no hiccups. Additionally, its cost-effective nature (being free) lowers the entry barrier, welcoming anyone with an interest in running. The content is diverse and caters to a range of runners: whether you're looking for guided runs tailored to specific weather conditions, seeking relaxation through mindful runs, or craving the adrenaline of high-intensity workouts. Lastly, the cherry on top is the app's seamless integration capabilities. It pairs effortlessly with a range of smartwatches and devices, including Garmin, Polar, TomTom, and Wahoo, amplifying the running experience manifold.

3. NHS Couch to 5k

How to use

For an in-depth tutorial on how to fully utilize the Couch to 5k app, I recommend checking out this YouTube guide. It covers everything from setting up your profile, selecting a coach, to tracking your runs.


  • Program-based Approach: Couch to 5k is not just an app, but a full-fledged program.
  • Tailored for Beginners: It offers structured runs with a balanced blend of jogging and walking.
  • Stamina and Confidence Building: The program is designed to gradually increase stamina and confidence in its users.
  • Mental Preparedness: Users can view the structure of each run, allowing them to mentally prepare and reduce pre-run anxiety.
  • Noticeable Progress: Many users, including some of my friends, have reported significant progress, reaching goals they once thought were out of reach.

Interface and user experience

The interface of the Couch to 5k is straightforward and intuitive. It’s broken down into four main sections: My Runs, Discover, Support, and Settings. The app’s design promotes a hassle-free experience. For instance, during your run, a vibrant graphic keeps you updated on the session's progress, omitting the daunting countdown timers.

However, one piece of advice: tweak your device settings to keep the app active in the background. A friend learned the hard way; her run went untracked because she hadn’t allowed the app to stay open.

Tracking capabilities

The app includes a built-in run log, ensuring users can easily track their progress and growth. Before every run, there's a clear view of the session's structure, which can be incredibly helpful to mentally prepare and set the pace. Although it offers gradual progress, users need to be aware that the intensity does increase as the weeks progress.

Motivational elements

One of the standout features is the choice of coaches. From professional trainers to the hilarious UK comedian, Sarah Millican, the app ensures you have a voice resonating with your mood or preference. My buddy, for instance, swears by Sarah's quirky comments, claiming they make his runs more entertaining.

While the app lacks direct music integration, it tries to compensate by linking to motivational playlists on BBC Sounds. But here's a catch; it directs to a webpage rather than the app itself, which many, including a few of my friends, found a tad inconvenient. The lack of in-app community and challenges might be a downside for those who thrive on social motivation. But on the brighter side, external forums like HealthUnlocked offer some level of community interaction.

What we liked

The simplicity of the Couch to 5k, a standout free running app for beginners, is its strength. Setting up is a breeze, and navigation is fluid. The choice of coaches ensures that runs never get monotonous. Its holistic approach to fitness is commendable; the app doesn't just concentrate on running but provides resources for overall well-being.

One feature that particularly stood out to us was the “top tip” before and after the runs. These nuggets of wisdom improved our running technique and posture, paving the way for a better running experience.

4. Adidas Running

How to use

Adidas Running Guide:


  • Comprehensive Tracking: Live running maps, in-depth statistic charts, and customized training plans.
  • Suitability: Ideal for dedicated runners who appreciate detailed statistics.
  • Versatility: Track a total of 48 different sports, ensuring all your activities are logged in one location.
  • Voice-Activated: Offers voice updates while running, so you remain hands-free.
  • Premium Access: Advanced stats, auto-pause, targeted training plans, and much more with a premium membership.

Interface and user experience:

The Adidas Running app boasts an impressively comprehensive display on its homepage, which proudly showcases every workout and its intricate details. Users can even upload photos to accompany their run data. For those looking to dissect their performance, they can deep dive into stats, graphs, and charts for each run. Tracking your activities couldn't be more intuitive; users simply press “start live running” to kick off their session and slide across the screen to conclude it. While there are numerous in-depth settings available, newcomers can rest easy knowing that tracking basic runs requires only minimal setup. A notable feature is the app's music integration capability. It works harmoniously with music apps like Apple Music and Spotify, ensuring users have the perfect soundtrack for every run.

Tracking Capabilities: 

At its core, the app offers basic features that include real-time tracking powered by GPS. This showcases crucial metrics like duration, distance, calories burned, pace, and even heart rate. For those seeking a more enhanced experience, the premium version provides access to personal bests, elevation data, maximum speed, and a meticulous personal record log. Furthermore, premium members have the luxury of targeted training plans tailored for various activities and specific goals, ensuring they get the most out of their workouts.

Motivational Elements: 

Adidas Running is not just about data; it’s about pushing its users to achieve their best. The app encourages constant improvement by allowing users to set challenges on specific routes. There's a community feature, enabling users to connect with fellow runners and even partake in local community events. A unique feature is the mileage log which diligently tracks miles covered in specific shoes, serving as a timely reminder for users when it might be time for a footwear change. And if that's not enough, there are coaching options available to diversify and enhance training sessions.

What We Liked: 

Our experience with the app was overwhelmingly positive. We were particularly taken by the detailed interface which offered a comprehensive, yet easy-to-read display of runs, complemented by maps and relevant stats. Its versatility stood out, with the ability to track a wide range of sports and activities. The premium offerings were especially tantalizing, as the deep dive into statistics and personalized training plans made the premium membership all the more enticing. A bonus was the integration with the Adidas Training App; upon signing up, users are introduced to guided workouts tailored to specific goals and body areas. Another commendable feature was the audio updates, which keep runners informed without the hassle of constantly checking the app.

5. Garmin Connect

How to use 

For those eager to dive right into the functionalities of Garmin Connect, you can watch this helpful YouTube video guide that provides a comprehensive overview of the app.


  • An extension of Garmin's acclaimed fitness trackers and running watches.
  • Ideal for both runners and general fitness enthusiasts.
  • Not just a data collector; it intelligently presents data.
  • Helps athletes interpret and understand their performance metrics.
  • Suitable for both first-time users and experienced athletes.
  • Transforms raw data into actionable insights.
  • Elevates your training experience and effectiveness.

Interface and user experience:

The app, available both on desktop and mobile, primarily focuses on the mobile interface, offering a slightly different set of features from its desktop counterpart. As a central hub for data from your Garmin watch, Garmin Connect displays everything from running metrics to cycling, cardio, and more. Once synced with your device, you'll be privy to a plethora of data including steps taken, distance covered over various time frames, VO2 max, training load, and more. The app has the 'My Day' feature that provides a summary of your activities over the past 24 hours. What's more, you can customize this feature by reordering or even removing metrics. The 'Calendar' feature provides a longer-term view, tracking data on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

Tracking capabilities:

Delving deeper, the Garmin Connect app showcases individual activity data, starting from the 'My Day' overview to more intricate details. Clicking on a data point reveals information such as map routes, distance, pace, heart rate, VO2 max, etc. But it's not just about daily stats. Users can access their performance over time, seeing monthly mileage totals and understanding patterns in their training. Additionally, the app aids in monitoring gear usage, like calculating the miles covered in a specific pair of running shoes.

Motivational elements: 

Customization is at the heart of Garmin Connect. Users can tailor their watch settings to assist them in real-time during workouts. They can create specific workouts and load them onto the watch, which then provides timely alerts. Mapping out routes is another handy feature, allowing users to plan routes and upload them to their watch. Moreover, the app offers ready-made training plans for various sports, ensuring users stay consistent and motivated in their training routines.

What we liked

  • Detailed Interface: The 'My Day' dashboard provides a succinct yet detailed summary of the user's daily activities, which can be delved into for more insights.
  • Versatility: With tracking options spanning from running to cycling and beyond, its extensive range is impressive.
  • Custom Uploads: The ability to customize workouts, routes, and training plans and sync them to the watch sets Garmin Connect apart.
  • Training Plans: Offering both generic and heart-rate based training plans caters to a wide range of users.
  • Comprehensive Data Analysis: From daily stats to long-term trends, the app provides in-depth insights that can be pivotal for training adjustments.

6. Pacer

How to use

Pacer Tutorial:


  • Cost-effective: Offered for free with minimal ads.
  • Requires no additional hardware, uses the existing smartphone.
  • Simplified activity tracking, ideal for beginners.
  • Data correlation: Correlate activity with physiological markers like body weight and blood pressure.
  • Offers basic fitness planning tools.
  • Option to upgrade for more detailed planning and data management.

Interface and user experience:

The interface and user experience of the Pacer app are particularly optimized for smartphones. It leverages the smartphone's large screen, keyboard, and memory to its advantage, providing a simple and straightforward step display. Users can conveniently review their past activities and steps, making it easier to understand and track their progress. Furthermore, the app offers a unique feature allowing users to correlate physiological markers, such as body weight and blood pressure, with their activity levels. This interface is designed to be intuitive, ensuring that even those new to such applications find it easy to navigate.

Tracking capabilities:

When it comes to tracking capabilities, Pacer stands out by utilizing the integrated accelerometer in smartphones for counting steps. It offers basic daily activity tracking functionalities, making it a suitable option for individuals who prefer a more generalized overview of their activity. Additionally, the app provides summary screens which let users review their weekly steps, allowing a deeper understanding of their progress over time.

Motivational elements:

The motivational elements of Pacer deserve special mention. It encompasses a basic training plan tailored for beginners, guiding them effectively as they embark on their fitness journey. One of the app's unique selling points is its ability to correlate and track body weight and blood pressure in tandem with activity. This provides users with a more comprehensive view of their health. Moreover, the visual summaries presented by the app enable users to quickly grasp and assess their progress, further fueling their motivation.

What we liked:

There's much to appreciate about the Pacer app. Its affordability stands out—being a free application makes it accessible to a broad spectrum of users. The ease of setup is commendable, tailored specifically for the intuitive nature of smartphone users. By harnessing the full potential of smartphone capabilities, from its large screen to its memory, Pacer offers a casual and basic tracking experience, which is ideal for those just starting to explore the world of activity tracking.

7. Asics Runkeeper

How to use

For a detailed guide on how to make the most out of the Asics Runkeeper app, refer to this YouTube video tutorial:


  • Revered for simplicity and design.
  • Highly adaptable for diverse users.
  • Supports various goals
  • Versatile workout tracker for
  • Emphasizes positive mental health running options.


Interface and user experience:

Runkeeper's interface is tailor-made for customization. Right from starting an activity, users can switch between various workout types such as running, cycling, and walking. In quick start mode, you can set daily targets based on distance, pace, or run duration. Audio stats are configurable to provide feedback at specified intervals or upon achieving set distances. Moreover, the post-run feedback system, represented by emoticons ranging from 'smiley face' to 'sad face', helps users to remember how they felt during their run. This provides a comprehensive overview of both statistical and emotional progress. Additionally, users can easily integrate their Spotify accounts or their music libraries for a seamless running experience.

Tracking capabilities:

Runkeeper not only tracks your standard time and pace but dives deeper into metrics such as cadence, elevation gain, and more. A unique feature is its shoe tracker, which allows users to monitor the mileage on multiple pairs of running shoes. The app can function as a standalone tracker on Apple Watch or in conjunction with the phone. Integration is also seamless with Garmin Connect, Fitbit, Withings, and MyFitness Pal, enabling richer data and stat collation, especially for those tracking heart rates.

Motivational elements:

Runkeeper shines in motivating its users. From an initial assessment, it curates personalized goals — be it for races, mental well-being, or fitness improvement. These goals are broad-ranging, from weight loss to specific race targets or even self-set goals, ensuring there's something for everyone. For beginners or irregular runners, the reminder feature can be a game-changer, ensuring consistent commitment to running.

What we liked:

Runkeeper's adaptability is praiseworthy. Its simple 'on-the-run' interface coupled with deep customization ensures every user can get their desired experience. The app supports a vast array of goals, not just centered on performance but also emphasizing mental well-being. While there are areas where competitors like Strava might have an edge, especially in features like auto-pause or social sharing, when it comes to pure running tracking and commitment to a routine, Runkeeper is unbeatable.

8. Map My Run by Under Armour

How to use

For a detailed guide on how to use the Map My Run app, watch the YouTube tutorial here:


  • Simplicity and Metrics: It offers a straightforward tracking system for distance, pace, and duration of your run, while also providing a plethora of metrics and data.
  • Versatile Training Diary: Beyond just tracking runs, you can also log various activities, from swimming to yoga, enabling you to monitor your overall fitness journey.
  • Integration: It syncs easily with a variety of devices and apps, including smartwatches and MyFitness Pal.

Interface and user experience:

Map My Run's basic interface is user-friendly and intuitive, allowing users to easily navigate the app. Despite its simplicity, for those who wish to delve deeper, it offers a plethora of sub-menus, further accentuating its features. A hallmark of the app is its extensive customization options. Users can seamlessly switch between different types of runs and workouts. Additionally, the app boasts a route planning feature on its website. This unique feature enables users to craft, save, and even share specific routes. For those always on the go, the added functionality of exploring routes created by other users is a boon, especially when they find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

Tracking Capabilities: 

When it comes to accuracy, Map My Run stands out. Its distance tracking is notably precise, and it impressively holds its ground even when pitted against high-end GPS devices. For those eager to understand the intricacies of their runs, the app provides detailed metrics and analysis. From charts and graphs that shed light on cadence and stride length to a deep dive into performance over time, users are sure to appreciate the insights. Additionally, for those who rely on their smartwatches, the app doesn't disappoint. It's compatible with both Apple and Samsung smartwatches, providing essential data at a glance and even integrating music control.

Motivational Elements: 

Map My Run incorporates several motivational elements to keep its users engaged. While social features might not be its strongest suit, they offer a unique angle to the app. Users can explore local routes created by fellow runners, possibly forging new connections along the way. Challenges are also a central feature, accessible right from the app's main screen. Users can either participate in existing challenges or craft their own, with a focus on diverse metrics, be it total workouts, the distance they've covered, or the calories they've torched.

What We Liked: 

Map My Run has several standout features that we genuinely admired. Its user-friendliness is particularly striking, catering to both novices and seasoned runners alike. The website's route planning tool deserves a special mention, adding a dimension to the app that many will find invaluable. Its tracking accuracy, especially when it comes to gauging distances, rivals even some of the more renowned GPS devices. Lastly, the app's range of built-in training plans, tailored to suit a spectrum of goals from achieving specific distances to aiding in weight loss, is a testament to its versatility.

9. Zwift App

How to Use

For a comprehensive guide on how to use the ZSwift app, check out this YouTube video:


  • ZSwift is a dynamic virtual training program.
  • Uniquely combines video game elements with treadmill training.
  • Offers runners a novel running experience.
  • Features varied virtual courses.
  • Includes nine diverse worlds for running.
  • Provides not just an exciting run, but an immersive experience.
  • Effectively removes the monotony of indoor running.


Interface and User Experience: 

ZSwift offers an intuitive interface, with an array of customization options. Once set up, users can select their run type and venue, even customizing their avatars – which can be upgraded as they progress. The detailed interface includes a heart rate monitor, speed, calorie count, and other essential metrics. There's also a map detailing your virtual surroundings, information on splits, and a list of fellow runners. Given the amount of data displayed, using a tablet for an optimized experience is recommended. As you run, the app keeps things interesting by changing the virtual world's scenery, even adapting real-time day/night and weather conditions.

Tracking Capabilities: 

ZSwift's tracking capabilities extend beyond mere distance and pace. The app syncs with Apple Watch, allowing users to use it as a heart rate monitor. Additionally, post-run, it offers the option to export data to apps like Strava and Training Peaks, presenting a map of your virtual run. The app also supports external heart rate monitors, which can be effortlessly paired.

Motivational Elements: 

One of the standout features of ZSwift is its emphasis on community. Runners can join group runs, standing alongside virtual avatars of real runners from around the world. During these runs, the app offers guidance, adjusting treadmill speeds, and tracking stats like distance, duration, and pace. Beyond group runs, ZSwift boasts built-in interval sessions, hill workouts, tempo runs, and customizable training plans. Whether you're aiming for a quick 5K or a marathon, ZSwift's training plans adjust to your performance, ensuring a tailored running regimen.

What We Liked: 

ZSwift successfully breaks the monotony of indoor treadmill sessions by offering an engaging and interactive platform. The app's ability to virtually transport runners to different courses and worlds makes indoor runs far more enjoyable. Its competitive aspect, allowing users to run alongside real people in a virtual space, is both fun and motivating. Additionally, the app's easy navigation, challenge participation, and comprehensive data display make it a valuable tool for runners.

10. Zombies, Run!

How to use 

 Zombies, Run! Tutorial:


  • Unique combination of a running app with an engaging story.
  • Encourages users to establish and maintain a workout routine.
  • Offers a refreshing alternative to traditional running apps with its interactive missions.
  • Structured workout plans with 30 total missions, providing ample motivation for regular running.

Interface and user experience:

In terms of interface and user experience, the app is primarily designed for auditory interaction. This makes it perfect for those who enjoy running, as they don't have to constantly glance at their phone. However, there's a sense that the user interface harks back to an earlier time, specifically reminiscent of the Gingerbread era of design. Moreover, certain sections of the app, like the "Home" and "Missions" tabs, display inconsistent design elements which could potentially cause confusion for users.

Tracking capabilities:

On the tracking capabilities front, the app boasts 23 missions with an additional 7 set to be introduced soon. During these missions, runners are aided by audio prompts, guiding them in activities such as collecting supplies or evading zombies. There's also an option to sync one's runs with a ZombieLink account, which is free. This feature allows users to access summaries of their runs, which detail items they've collected and any zombie encounters they've had. An exciting upcoming feature is the planned integration of maps that will enable users to review the paths they've taken during their runs.

Motivational elements:

When it comes to motivational elements, the app has been ingeniously designed to intertwine a gripping narrative with the physical activity of running. This not only makes workouts feel more enjoyable but also keeps them engaging. A unique feature is the base-building aspect, where runners can allocate items they've gathered. This adds a sense of progression and accomplishment to the app. Additionally, its $8 price tag might seem steep to some, but this can act as a motivation in itself. Investing in the app might drive users to utilize it to its fullest.

What we liked:

We were particularly impressed by several features. The groundbreaking idea of blending storytelling with running transforms even mundane indoor or treadmill exercises into captivating experiences. Audio interactions further elevate this, providing an enveloping experience, especially when complemented by background music. For those who find conventional running apps to be monotonous, this app stands out as a refreshing change. Its episodic narrative structure promises consistent and extended engagement, acting as a continual incentive for users to stick to their running schedules.

11. Charity Miles

How to use

For a detailed guide on how to use Charity Miles, you can refer to the provided YouTube video:


  • Inspiring platform for users.
  • Contribute to charitable causes through daily activities.
  • Supports a variety of activities: running, walking, cycling.
  • App donates money on behalf of users.
  • Enhances user health while creating a positive global impact.


Interface and User Experience: 

The app’s premise is certainly commendable. However, its interface can be a tad confusing. For instance, users might find it challenging to ascertain when the app starts recording their activity due to the lack of distinct visual indicators. Additionally, some inconsistencies in recording the history of activities can be a cause of concern. The backdrop images serving as advertisements from sponsors, while subtle, provide users with insights about the brands backing their charitable efforts.

Tracking Capabilities: 

When users initiate an activity, they can monitor their speed and distance covered in real-time. The app's end summary provides insights into the total distance and the corresponding monetary contribution made to the chosen charity. However, the app seems to falter slightly in accurately recording and displaying the historical data of all activities undertaken, which can be an aspect needing attention.

Motivational Elements: 

Charity Miles excels in the motivation department. Users can not only choose from a vast array of charities but also have the freedom to change their choice every time they log miles. The satisfaction of seeing real-time contributions to causes close to one's heart is unmatched. For those who enjoy community-driven motivation, the app offers features allowing users to join or create teams, amplifying the collective charitable impact.

What we liked:

  • The novel idea of merging fitness with philanthropy, making Charity Miles stand out in the saturated fitness app market.
  • The simplicity of the concept: no solicitation, just choose a charity and get moving.
  • The variety of recognized charities users can choose to support, from global causes to more niche endeavors.
  • The app's transparency in explaining its operational model, making it clear how corporate sponsorships play a role in the donations.

12. TrainAsOne

How to use 

For an in-depth tutorial on how to navigate and utilize TrainAsOne, you can check out this YouTube video guide:


  • Adaptive Training: Unlike most traditional running plans, TrainAsOne tailors your running schedule based on your current performance and conditions. It doesn't give you a static plan; instead, it adapts to you.
  • Scientifically Backed: Built on proven scientific research, TrainAsOne ensures that its recommendations are aligned with what's known to work in the running community.
  • Comprehensive Data Analysis: Leveraging data from your devices, it provides detailed insights into your pace, heart rate, elevation, and more to offer optimal training recommendations.
  • Avoid Injuries: The system's primary concern is to make sure you're improving without risking injury.

Interface and user experience:

Upon signing up with TrainAsOne, the app analyzes your running history to determine baseline numbers and future goals. Its interface is intuitive, with clear workout breakdowns, including types, pacing, intervals, and target heart rate.

Tracking capabilities:

TrainAsOne offers impressive tracking capabilities that go beyond merely recording your runs. By seamlessly integrating data from wearables and various tracking devices, this application not only understands your past and current workouts but also recommends sessions based on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Moreover, as it recognizes physiological changes, the app refines its suggestions, ensuring that they evolve as you do.

Motivational elements:

The motivational components of TrainAsOne also deserve a mention. The platform allows users to set their race goals, providing a clear and tangible objective to chase. Additionally, whenever users achieve personal best times, the app jubilantly notifies them, serving as a constant source of motivation. This is further enhanced by the provision of ongoing feedback, ensuring that users remain informed about their performance metrics and areas that require attention.

What we liked:

What stood out about TrainAsOne is its unique approach to training. Unlike the generic, one-size-fits-all plans that flood the market, TrainAsOne offers a truly personalized training regimen. It meticulously designs a plan that caters specifically to an individual's strengths, weaknesses, and objectives. More than just driving users to their limits, the system emphasizes training intelligently, ensuring they don't push themselves too far, thus minimizing the risk of injury. The app's sophisticated ability to integrate with wearables, absorbing a plethora of data, is truly transformative. Lastly, TrainAsOne's unwavering commitment to incorporating proven scientific principles distinctly sets it apart in the crowded landscape of training applications.

How We Selected the Best Free Running Apps for Beginners

In today's digital age, the plethora of apps available can often feel overwhelming, especially for something as seemingly straightforward as running. It begs the question, how did we sift through the clutter to find the best free running apps tailored for beginners? Dive deep with us as we reveal the meticulous process behind our selection.

Understanding the Newbie's Mindset

First and foremost, it's essential to appreciate the perspective of a beginner. Unlike seasoned runners, beginners are not looking for advanced metrics or complex training regimens. Instead, they need a supportive platform that's user-friendly, intuitive, and designed to make the early stages of their running journey as seamless as possible.

Personal Experience: I remember my early days of running. The confusion, the hesitation, the overwhelming amount of information I had to digest. This personal experience was at the forefront of our minds when we began our selection process.

Criteria For Selection

  • Simplicity is Key: Apps that boasted of their simplicity grabbed our attention first. Overloaded interfaces can be daunting, so we leaned towards apps that prioritized a clean design and easy navigation.
  • Progress Tracking: Every step counts, especially for a beginner. We sought apps that celebrated even the tiniest milestones, fostering a sense of achievement.
  • Motivational Push: We all remember the struggle of those initial runs - the burning lungs, the tired legs. An app that comes with motivational elements can make all the difference. Whether it's through motivating quotes, achievement badges, or even simple reminders – we recognized the power of encouragement.
  • Education and Guidance: A good app isn't just a tracker; it's a teacher. We gave brownie points to apps that provided running tips, correct posture guidance, and other educational content beneficial for novices.
  • Social Integration: Sharing progress with friends or joining local running groups can provide an additional layer of motivation. We looked for apps that enabled easy social media sharing or had community features.
  • Feedback and Reviews: What better way to judge an app than by the experiences of its users? We delved deep into reviews, looking for common pain points or praises. Apps that had a swarm of satisfied users, especially beginners, naturally climbed our list.

Note: The above criteria doesn't mean we overlooked the importance of accuracy. Every app's fundamental ability to correctly track runs remained paramount.

The Trial Runs

Just reading about an app or relying solely on other's experiences wasn't enough. We took it a step further. A team of our freshest members, who could resonate with the beginner mindset, embarked on a journey with these free running apps with training plans. They were our ground-zero testers, and their feedback was invaluable. From battling app glitches to basking in the joy of those achievement badges – their experiences were diverse, real, and unfiltered.

Personal Touch: I recall testing an app during my initial days, where after completing a particularly grueling run, I was rewarded with a virtual high-five and a message that read, "You did it! You're a runner." That small virtual pat on the back felt monumental, making me yearn for more. It's these subtle touches that can truly amplify a beginner's experience.

Diversity in Selection

Different runners, different needs. While some might be gearing up for their first marathon, others might be looking to shed a few pounds or find a meditative rhythm in running. We ensured our selection was diverse enough to cater to various goals and motivations.

Insider's Peek: One of our team members, a newbie, was predominantly running to improve her mental health. An app she tested had integrated meditative runs, blending running with mindfulness. It was an eye-opener for many of us, showcasing the multifaceted nature of running apps available.

Through this rigorous and thorough selection process, we were armed with a list of apps that we firmly believe stand out in the vast sea of options. Each app, in its unique way, promises to support, guide, and motivate beginners, ensuring they transition from hesitant starters to passionate runners.

Decoding the Ideal: Key Features to Look for in Free Running Apps

In our digital age, there's no dearth of apps claiming to be the 'best' for your running journey. But what truly sets the ideal running app apart? We've broken down the indispensable features that transform an average app into a runner's trusty sidekick. Here’s what you should be zeroing in on:

1. The Power of Simplicity: User-friendly Interface and Intuitive Design

At the heart of any app, especially for beginners, lies its interface. Imagine gearing up for a run, adrenaline pumping, only to be deterred by a confusing array of buttons and options. The best apps ensure you spend more time pounding the pavement than scratching your head.

Anecdote: A few years back, I downloaded what was touted as the “ultimate running app.” But every time I tried to start a run, I found myself lost in a maze of options. It wasn't long before I bid it goodbye, favoring a more straightforward app.

2. Seamless Experience: Compatibility with Various Devices

Your smartphone might be your primary device, but what if you decide to invest in a smartwatch down the line? Or perhaps you already have one? Compatibility ensures that your app grows with you, adapting to various devices and offering a seamless experience. No one wants the hassle of hopping between apps, losing precious run data in the process.

3. Speak to Me: Audio Cues and Voice Feedback

Music pumping in your ears, the wind against your face, and then a soft voice updating you on your pace, distance, or time. Audio feedback can be a game-changer. It negates the need to constantly check your device, allowing you to remain focused and in the zone.

My Two Cents: During my earlier runs, I had an app that would surprise me with motivational voice notes, like "Keep going, you're smashing it!" or "Just one more kilometer!" It felt like having a personal cheerleader by my side.

4. Together We Run: Community and Social Sharing Functionalities

Running might be a solitary activity for many, but there's an undeniable charm in sharing your progress, joining challenges, or even just being part of a community that understands the runner's high and the occasional lows. Whether it's sharing a new personal best or seeking advice on tackling those uphill runs, a community feature can significantly enrich the running experience.

5. Guided Paths: Availability of Training Plans and Coaching Options

While freestyle running has its merits, having a structured plan or even a virtual coach can prove invaluable, especially for those aiming for specific goals. Whether it’s prepping for a 5k, improving stamina, or even just building a running habit, guided plans offer direction and purpose to your runs.

Personal Insight: I remember embarking on a 'Couch to 5K' journey. The app I used had a structured 9-week plan. Week by week, with gradual increases, it transformed me from a couch potato to someone who could run 5K without collapsing in exhaustion. That structured approach was pivotal in my journey.


Is there a completely free running app?

Absolutely! There are several running apps out there that offer a range of features without costing a dime. However, it's essential to note that while many apps are free to download and use, they might come with in-app purchases or premium versions that unlock additional features. I've touched on this in the "How We Selected the Best Free Running Apps for Beginners" section above.

Is there an app to help you start running?

Yes, indeed. Several apps cater specifically to those who are lacing up their running shoes for the very first time. These apps often come with structured plans like "Couch to 5K" which is designed to transition you from zero activity to running 5 kilometers in a set number of weeks. I had my own transformation with one such app, as I mentioned in the "Key Features to Look for in Free Running Apps" section.

What is the running app that tells you your pace?

Most modern running apps offer this feature. They'll provide you with real-time feedback on your current pace, ensuring you're on track to meet your goals. It's an invaluable tool, especially if you're trying to maintain consistency or push your limits. I've sung praises for this feature in the "Audio Cues and Voice Feedback" sub-section earlier in the article.

How many days a week should a beginner run?

Ah, the age-old question. As a general guideline, beginners should aim for 2-3 days a week, ensuring they have rest days in between. This allows muscles to recover and helps prevent injury. As you build stamina and strength, you can increase the frequency. But remember, it's crucial to listen to your body; if you're feeling fatigued or experience persistent pain, it might be wise to take a break or consult a professional. I delve deeper into building a running habit and its nuances in the "Guided Paths: Availability of Training Plans and Coaching Options" section.


Running, especially for beginners, is as much a journey of discovery as it is of endurance. Tracking those initial runs, feeling the thrill of each added mile, and observing the subtle shifts in pace and stamina can be immensely rewarding. Reflecting on my own journey, I can't emphasize enough the importance of keeping tabs on these metrics, as they often serve as the very milestones of our growth.

In this digital age, running apps have emerged as more than just tools; they're companions. They cheer for us during our highs and encourage us during our lows, ensuring that we never lose sight of our progress. If you're just embarking on your running journey or seeking to amplify your experience, I wholeheartedly recommend embracing these apps. They not only monitor your strides but motivate your spirit. So, lace up, sync up, and let the roads be your storybook. Happy running!

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