9 Best Running Apps to Elevate Your Apple Watch Workouts in 2023

As smartwatches continue to gain adoption with 16% of US adults already owning one, Apple dominates the market with a 51% market share. And their newest Apple Watch Series 8 model improves hardware capabilities even further for fitness enthusiasts.

With a tap of the wrist, heart rate tracking, blood oxygen sensors, advanced motion detectors and other features make the Apple Watch an increasingly useful running companion. Paired with the right app, it can act as your personal coach – offering guidance, designing training plans tailored to your ability, and providing motivation to help you achieve your running goals.

Let‘s delve into the top apps that truly unlock the potential of the Apple Watch specifically for runners. Whether you are just getting started or training for your next marathon, these apps provide customization, actionable insights, planning tools and community support to take your running to the next level.

Why Runners Love Using Dedicated Running Apps

Before we get into the top running app recommendations, you may be wondering why you even need a specialized running app if your Apple Watch already comes with general activity and workout tracking built-in.

Here are some key advantages standalone apps provide:

  • Customized training plans – Prepare for your next 5K, 10K, half marathon or other personal goal with guided workouts tailored to your current fitness level.

  • More detailed run tracking & analysis – Better segment performance by heart rate zones, view progression over time, and gain insights to improve pacing, endurance and more.

  • Audio guidance & coaching – Many apps provide audio cues during your run to encourage you, suggest pace changes, navigate routes and more. Some also feature integration with fully-trained human coaches.

  • Competition & motivation – From leaderboards to virtual races and social runs, running apps build community and foster competition to push you further.

  • Route planning – Discover safe and picturesque running paths wherever you are based on popularity and other runner reviews. Easily navigate planned routes turn-by-turn.

According to recent surveys, over 70% of runners utilize some form of smartphone fitness app to track their workouts. And Apple Watch offers the unique ability to access these apps and your important run data right on your wrist for added convenience.

Now let‘s check out some of the highest rated apps specifically designed to make you a better runner.


With over 95 million users globally, Strava ranks as the most popular third-party fitness app. And their Apple Watch integration remains top-notch.

Key Features:

  • Track running plus tons more activities: cycling, yoga, gym workouts and beyond
  • Robust community elements like leaderboards and challenges
  • Training plans for 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathon distances
  • Pace and heart rate analysis with effort level grading
  • Route recommendations based on where and how you love to run
  • Apple Watch Series 8 support with enhanced metrics tracking

As the highest grossing running app based on premium subscriptions, Strava appeals widely to fitness enthusiasts who enjoy competition and benchmarking themselves against their community. Whether you want to climb the leaderboards, win badges for consistency, take on a new challenge, share photos mid-run or just quantify your performance over time – Strava offers the complete package.

Nike Run Club

Given their unmatched branding in running apparel and sponsorship of elite athletes, it‘s no surprise Nike provides one of the most polished standalone Apple Watch running apps.

Noteworthy Features:

  • Get audio-guided runs from professional coaches
  • Custom training plans tailored to your goal race distance
  • Track mileage on your Nike running shoes
  • Tons of guided workouts from Nike athletes and coaches offering tips and tricks
  • Ability to create and join challenges and races against friends or the wider community
  • Configurable data screens during runs and customizable watch faces
  • Fully compatible even with the latest Apple Watch Series 8

Nike Run Club offers integrated and motivating features for all fitness levels that feel like your personal coach is right there with you pushing you to improve. Even novice runners training for their first 5K can follow guided workouts to slowly build endurance over time. While the community support helps more advanced runners stay sharp and consistent.


Sometimes running the same static routes gets monotonous. This popular app with over 60 million users excels at discovering and mapping new running paths wherever your travels take you.

Useful Capabilities:

  • Global database of 600,000+ mapped run routes uploaded by the community
  • Easily record and share any new route you create just by running it
  • Get turn-by-turn voice guidance to navigate saved routes hands-free
  • Training plans developed running experts tailored to your target race distance
  • Track additional sports like cycling, gym workouts and yoga
  • Integrates with MyFitnessPal, Apple Health and other apps to combine all your fitness data
  • Badge and reward systems keep you motivated to set new personal records
  • Full Apple Watch Series 8 compatibility even with the enhanced motion sensors

Exploring new running routes keeps your workouts fun and scenic. With MapMyRun, you have a personal assistant to guide you towards great nearby paths matched to your target distance and elevation preferences.


In the running app niche for over a decade, Runkeeper maintains an extremely loyal userbase who praise the highly customizable audio feedback and data display options.

Customization Highlights:

  • Create your own audio progress alerts with distance, pacing, splits and more voiced aloud
  • Fully configurable run data screens to highlight the metrics you care about most
  • Integrate playlists from Spotify, Apple Music and other services
  • Passive tracking of daily steps, activity minutes and nutrition logging
  • Export your run history and progress details to share across other apps
  • Celebrity-designed challenges with cameo audio guidance like the Terry Crews Challenge
  • Compatibility extends across entire Apple Watch lineup including newest Series 8

By tuning the app to your personal preferences around data displays and audio updates, Runkeeper almost feels like a custom-designed running app tailored to you. Create an experience that perfectly matches and encourages your running style.

Adidas Running

With over 170 million downloads, Adidas Running uses that scale to connect you with a massive community of runners. Everything becomes a competition or chance to link up with new friends to stay motivated.

Community & Social Highlights:

  • Group runs and challenges let you compete against other runners remotely
  • Global leaderboard ranks runners by lifetime distance
  • Earn points, record personal bests and win medals
  • Integrates smoothly with MyFitnessPal, Runtastic Results and Gear
  • Capture and share photos mid-run or post-workout
  • Get guidance and encouragement from Adidas running coaches
  • Access training plans for 5Ks through marathon distances
  • Support for Apple Watch models extending to latest Series 8

Leveraging fun competitions and community accountability, Adidas Running transforms fitness from a solo chore into a social experience where every workout moves you up the ranks in their worldwide runner rankings.


Finding safe running routes in unfamiliar destinations poses a significant challenge. RunGo provides turn-by-turn navigation guiding you through over 600,000 global routes logged by fellow runners.

Key Details:

  • Get audio cues to navigate pre-set routes without glancing at your watch
  • Search for recommended routes by destination with runner ratings and reviews
  • Simulate and race routes in real-time from your treadmill to stay motivated
  • Enter future travel dates to scout out paths in advance
  • Earn rewards and recognition by completing virtual races
  • Access completely ad-free experience
  • No cell service required thanks to offline maps capability
  • Works seamlessly across Apple Watch generations including newest Series 8

With RunGo, you‘ll always have an expanding library of running routes in every new city you travel to. Beat boredom by exploring exciting new terrain and local scenery based on curated suggestions from fellow runners.

Weight Loss Running

Get guidance and structure for intersecting running and dieting goals with this aptly named Weight Loss Running app. Created specifically to help you slim down over a customizable 4 week training plan.

Weight Loss Features:

  • Strategic guidance on balancing running with proper hydration and nutrition
  • Built-in playlists and ability to track songs to keep you motivated
  • Water intake suggestions and reminders during day
  • Healthy recipes recommendations and meal plans
  • Before and after photos to highlight your victories
  • Integrates fully Apple Watch and Apple Health
  • All content and features supported including on new Apple Watch Series 8

With Weight Loss Running serving as your instructor, physical activity, diet and hydration all work together in harmony to effectively and rapidly help shed pounds and body fat.

10K Trainer

Specifically constructed to get novice runners comfortably to 10K shape (or a 6.2 mile distance), this smartly designed app emphasizes gradual progress through approachable guided workouts.

Beginner Highlights:

  • Carefully paced run/walk sessions to slowly build endurance
  • Training plans requiring only 3 short sessions per week
  • Cheering audio cues announcing progress milestones
  • Top celebrity playlists to energize your feet
  • Supportive online community of beginners
  • Real-time tracking capability even from treadmill runs
  • Seamless Apple Watch Series 8 compatibility even as new sensors added

The guided workouts make elevating your running ability less intimidating even if new to running. Small early wins help build confidence to stick with the process until hitting the 10K goal.

Additional Noteworthy Apps

Beyond the highest rated apps above, runners deserve awareness of options in some more niche categories:

Trail RunningAllTrails provides advanced tracking, route planning and navigation for trail runs. Critical for safely exploring remote routes.

UltrarunningUltraRunnerPod specializes in extreme endurance runs like 50Ks to 100 mile distances. Offering long-run specific training plans, audio support and nutrition advice.

Gym EquipmentiFit Trainer enables Apple Watch connectivity with treadmills, ellipticals and bikes for automatic workout logging.

Couch to 5K – Multiple apps like C25K® provide structured plans progressing totally inactive people gradually through walking, jogging and running until completing a 5Ksuccessfully.

And niche apps meeting safety needs better like Space by How Far which allows live location tracking by emergency contacts for solo trail runners.

Key Decision Factors When Selecting a Running App

With numerous excellent Apple Watch running app options, finding the one best aligned to your needs and preferences helps ensure you stick with it. Here are key factors to evaluate:

  • Individual Goals – Select an app catered your target race distance and ability improvement goals over specific timeframes.

  • Guidance Style – Do you prefer gentle encouragement? Tough drill instructor pushing? Or fully customizable audio?

  • Competition – If leaderboards, medals and group challenges motivate you, choose a more social app.

  • Route Exploration – For discovering new local paths or navigating runs anywhere while traveling, turn to map-based apps.

  • Beginner Friendly – If just starting running, prioritize apps with structured couch-to-5K style training plans ramping you up slowly.

Balancing these personal preferences and app strengths allows narrowing towards just the couple top contenders for your needs. And the Apple Watch convenience lets you experiment with a broader list first if desired.

Final Recommendations

While the Apple Watch delivers an impressive standalone fitness tracking experience, specialized running apps extend capabilities making your watch an invaluable training partner. After covering the spectrum, here are my top 3 picks aligning to common runner profiles:

Competitive Runners – Utilize Strava to quantify workouts and benchmark against the broad running population with challenges and leaderboards.

Social & Community Driven – Allow Nike Run Club to introduce camaraderie through group runs and collaborative challenges.

New Runners – Get guided carefully from zero experience to 10K readiness with the C25K (Couch to 5K) app.

Hopefully this guide covered enough breadth and details around the value Apple Watch compatible running apps provide. Visit the App Store to continue exploring additional options to match your individual fitness pursuits. Happy Running!