Definitively the Best Running Apps for Apple Watch & iPhone

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Training today app apple watch 6 readiness to trainBest Running App for Apple Watch & iPhone

Here are the best and most popular Apple Watch & iPhone running apps from 2020, in descending order of popularity they are Apple Workout, Nike Run Club, One You Couch to 5‪K, STRAVA, Asics Runkeeper and adidas Runtastic. These are mass-appeal apps with tens of thousands of users and so I’m going to add a few of my favourites that might appeal to the running data geeks out there and these are iSmoothRun, WorkOutDoors and Stryd. There are many others too and, in reality, most of them will be fine to use unless you have a specific running feature that you really need.


Apple Watch 6 Accuracy

Best Apple Watch Running App for newbies

Most new runners will find that the best running app for the Apple Watch is the one that comes already loaded onto the Apple Watch. That is the Apple Workout app. It’s straightforward to use, shows the basic information and reliably captures your run data for you to peek at later in Apple Fitness.

Apple Watch 6 owners will be delighted to know that I rate the GPS accuracy and the optical heart rate accuracy of the Apple Watch 6 to be as good as every other device on the market. Yes, even as good as an $800 top-end Garmin Enduro running watch.

  • Cost: Totally Free
  • Standalone Watch mode? – Yes
  • Target: Anyone with rudimentary data display and data capture needs.
  • Link: pre-loaded

Best iPhone App for newbies

258,000 positive ratings!

If you are super-new to running and need some encouragement to get off the couch then a 5k running target is achievable and you will be rightly looking at Couch-to-5K apps. Unfortunately, there are lots of them and it’s tricky to know which to use. My recommendation here is clear – use the free one produced by NHS England. It offers a thought-through running plan for newbies that you can trust to be correct.

This is an iPhone-only app so there are no fancy bits of data to worry about any kind of sports watch. You can use this as you run with earphones to listen to your favourite audio and, if you want, be occasionally cajoled by the voice trainer of your choice. There are clear, post-workout pieces of information to give you the reassurance that you are progressing towards your goal.

  • Cost: Totally Free
  • Standalone Watch mode? – No
  • Target: Anyone sitting on a sofa that doesn’t want to be there.
  • Link:  download here





Apple Watch 6 SE 3 Compass Altimeter Barometer Routes best outdoor rugged Strap weather complication

Along a similar vein to iSmoothRun, you will find that WorkOutDoors has many highly advanced features. Its particular strengths include the ability to curate perfectly customised workout pages, unrivalled post-workout stats and its mapping is also second-to-none.

  • Cost: £3.99
  • Standalone Watch mode? – Yes
  • Target:  For those of you with precise in-workout, mapping and data display needs.
  • Link: Download here

Best Social Running App for Apple Watch

I do NOT really like the Strava app for the Apple Watch, although it does its job. However, Strava is a great social platform so it’s worthy of mention.


Let’s face it, there’s no point in having the most highly featured, best-looking app targetted at social features if none of your friends uses it ie you won’t be able to be social with them! The reality is that very many people use Strava and the chance is that many of your friends or club mates will already use it. So if social sharing is your thing then why not use the Strava app on your Apple Watch to record your workout and streamline the whole process of linking apps and sports platforms?

The more app-aware runners amongst you will of course realise that you can link just about any running app to the Strava platform so you can use many of the apps here on your watch and then, equally as easily, do the social stuff later on Strava with your buddies. That said, if you’re not too bothered about how you capture the ‘proof’ of your run then you might think it’s easier to use the Strava Apple Watch app alongside the wider Strava platform. Why not? Go for it, you can easily change your mind later. Oh and you can of course use a chest strap to pair to your Apple Watch.

  • Cost: Free with extra web features for subscribers.
  • Standalone Watch mode? – Yes
  • Target: Anyone with rudimentary data display and data capture needs.
  • Link: Download here

Best Apple Watch App for Running With Power.

Running with power is a way to sensibly measure your effort when running up hills or into the wind. If you plan to run at 180watts then that is the target regardless of the environmental conditions, ie power takes hills and wind into account. The downside here is that you will need to buy a 3rd party footpod called Stryd and, at just under $200, it’s not cheap. Other mechanisms for running with power exist but just don’t seem to give the same, correct feel for an effort like Stryd does. So, if you’re going to buy Stryd you might as well use their Apple Watch app. And it’s a good app, perhaps designed for more serious runners who like the certainty of numbers in their training. Stryd has some great running plans as well as ways to follow Training Peaks plans and complex structured workouts. Naturally, you can configure the display to your preferences and set target power alerts. Interestingly STRYD also let you configure how the Apple Watch buttons work for the people who don’t like to tap a touchscreen to take a lap.


  • Cost: The app is free, the pod certainly isn’t
  • Target: More advanced runners seeking precision and structure in their workouts and post-workout analyses
  • Link: Download here

Best Apple Watch app running platform

Nike Run Club is the runaway success on the Apple platform, partly becasue Nike work closely with Apple to produce customised watches, straps and a more advanced level app than Apple offers with the Workout app.

Nike Run Club NRC Apple Watch SE


The Apple Watch app from Nike does its job well enough but could add more bells and whistles to help runners as they run. That said there are several nice motivational touches to the Watch app as well as voice-guided training workouts for either the watch or phone. You get some decent post-workout stats on the app too, enough for most runners who need a little bit more than a glance at what they have just achieved.

Where Nike excels with less usual functionality is with the ability to have elements of your training progress as complications on your watchfaces and as widgets on your iOS screens. These are sweet features that help you mix your running progress with other icons and information on your favourite screens.

Most Advanced Apple Watch Running App

iSmoothRun gives you advanced-level running features

I use iSmoothRun several times a week. It can record my runs and rides plus sync the completed data to virtually any other platform including dropbox, Strava, Final Surge and more. It has a reasonable amount of post-workout stats and the ability to followed structured workouts. I love how I can pair it to Stryd, a chest strap and to my bike’s power meter or smart trainer.


Apple Watch 6 Bike Power Run Stryd ismoothrun review


  • Cost: £4.99 but worth it
  • Standalone Watch mode? – Yes
  • Target: Former Garmin owners who would rather have a superior smart watch like the Apple Watch
  • Link: Download here



Asics Runkeeper

As you would expect, Asics Runkeeper is a broadly similar offering to that from Nike and adidas. It covers the training plans (paid-for), motivation and workout tracking, plus it even has a nice, fresh page style on the Apple Watch app. I’m nervous about recommending it as I haven’t used it much and when I did in 2020, it was somewhat clunky with a few bugs. They’re probably all resolved now but…hey, what else can I say? You shouldn’t release buggy software.


  • Cost: Free with in-app purchases
  • Standalone Watch mode? – Yes
  • Target: Some who used to use Runkeeper before Asics bought it. Maybe you buy Asics shoes & Apparel?
  • Link: Download here


Prettiest Apple Running App

adidas Runstastic is a hugely popular Apple Watch running app with over 170m downloads to Apple devices.

The app contains everything from awesome maps to gear tracking and from training plans to mostly good post-workout stats. Other than a possible need for some in-app purchases I can’t see any reason not to like adidas Runtastic. The last time I spoke with Runtastic they were looking for ideas to implement…they had implemented a LOT already!

  • Cost: Free with in-app purchases
  • Standalone Watch mode? – Yes
  • Target:  Someone with a more discerning eye (who also likes to run)
  • Link: Download here

Best Apple App for Machine Learning

Well, as far as I know, there’s only one and it’s AI Endurance. Heads up: AI Endurance is about to hit the Apple store and I’ve only used it on Google Android devices.



AI Endurance looks very, very closely at your historical running performances on Garmin or Strava and determines which of your workouts led to the best outcomes. It then structures future training plans for you based on what worked well in the past. Perhaps another benefit here is that AI Endurance stops you from wasting your time doing those workouts that typically didn’t improve you in some way.

Other AI/ML products are coming which look at population-wide success factors or peer-group success factors and then apply those success factors to your future plan but AI Endurance doesn’t do that and that whole approach is complicated by data privacy rules.

Oh for Garmin owners: AI Endurance will also send its plans & workouts to your Garmin

  • Cost: Free one-month trial
  • Standalone Watch mode? – No
  • Target: Committed runners seeking to optimise limited training time
  • Link: Download here

Other Worthy Mentions

  • Watch to 5K – Track runs on the watch
  • Rungap – Some good stats but I use this to get my Apple Workout data ‘somewhere else’…usually dropbox. It’s free but you will likely need the paid-for version.

Other Interesting Apple Watch Reads

  1. How to use your Apple Watch for outdoor adventures aka turning your Apple Watch into a Garmin Fenix 6 for the weekend
  2. Apple Watch 7 – Detailed Review7
  3. Apple Watch SE – Longterm review (supporter-only content)
  4. Triathlon transition automation with Apple Watch
  5. Best Apple Watch Sport Bands – including which ones to avoid
  6. iSmoothRun – more detailed Apple Watch info
  7. Apple vs Garmin for sports usage – it’s really not as clear cut as you would think
  8. Nike Run Club – detailed widget insights

Please feel free to mention your favourites below. If you are a developer of a competing app please say so and please also feel free to past a link to your app.



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FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: All links pay commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Is it true, that when running with Nike app, the map is not saved to the apple health?


Great article, thx