What’s the best Apple Watch running app? [Runner’s Week: Day 7]

by Graham Bower July 15, 2017

Runner's Week All this week on Cult of Mac, I’ve been reviewing the best running apps for Apple Watch.

Over the past three months, I’ve run more than a thousand kilometers testing these apps in real-world running conditions, and now it’s time to reveal which one earns pride of place on my sweaty wrist.

Scoreboard: Best Apple Watch running apps

If you missed the previous reviews, you can read them all for more in-depth takes: check back to see my reviews of Nike+ Run Club, Runkeeper, Strava, RuntasticMapMyRun and Apple’s Workout app.

Here are the key takeaways from my Apple Watch running app reviews. You’ll find links to the full reviews as well if you want to take a deeper dive into a specific app’s pros and cons.

Nike+ Run Club

Nike+ Run Club presents the best user interface design of all the apps I tested. It’s stylish and very clear, even when you’re on the move. Nike packed its watch app with features, and the Nike+ website is excellent. Right now, the only downers are Nike’s iPhone app, which is pretty unreliable, and the lack of an option to export your run data via GPX. Full review.

Runner's Week score: Nike+ Run Club

Runkeeper

Runkeeper is a well-thought-out app with unique features like a GPS signal strength indicator and the option to log your run using Watch and iPhone together, or just on your watch. The app’s Achilles heel is reliability: I encountered a few too many problems syncing my runs from watch to iPhone. Full review.

Runner's Week score: Runkeeper

Strava

This cycling app is also great for runners, with a very well-designed and impressive website for viewing and analyzing your stats. Strava’s user interface design is a little cluttered, though, and the lack of a current pace indicator is a major omission. Full review.

Runner's Week score: Strava

Runtastic

One of the first apps to introduce support for running without taking your iPhone in watchOS 2, Runtastic sadly lost its early lead — along with that feature. Disappointingly, the app now only works when you take your phone with you, and does not support built-in GPS in Apple Watch Series 2. Full review.

Runner's Week score: Runtastic

MapMyRun

Like Runtastic, MapMyRun also lacks basic features such as support for running without your iPhone and Series 2 built-in GPS. The user interface looks cluttered, and becomes unresponsive when a “Syncing with iPhone” message appears. One bright spot is the excellent split-time display — the best I’ve seen. Full review.

Runner's Week score: MapMyRun

Apple Workout

The Workout app is by far the best Apple Watch app I tested, which is perhaps no surprise, since Apple built it. It shines with a beautiful, flexible, well-thought-out user interface offering comprehensive metrics and rock-solid stability. The only thing that lets it down is the total lack of a website to analyze your stats. Full review.

Runner's Week score: Apple Workout

Still wearing two watches when I run
Unfortunately, I’m still wearing two watches when I run.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

And the winner is …

If it just came down to Apple Watch apps, Apple’s own Workout app would win, hands down. It delivers the most comprehensive metrics, and the most customizable display. The auto-pause feature is reliable, and its elegant design perfectly complements the Apple Watch’s looks.

The trouble is that there is more to a running app than what happens on your wrist during a workout. At least as important are the stats you get afterward to analyze your progress. And Apple’s offering in this respect is woefully inadequate.

Nike+ Run Club provides a good alternative. The stats tracking on its free website is excellent. If you can live with being locked into the Nike ecosystem, with no chance of ever exporting your data, this is a good choice.

Personally, though, I still prefer to log my runs using my trusty TomTom Runner, which syncs automatically with all the major running platforms, including Nike+, Strava and Runkeeper. That way I’m never locked in to a single platform. I wear that on one wrist and my Apple Watch on the other, so I get the credit toward my Activity Rings.

If Apple gets its act together with watchOS 4 and launches a proper fitness website, that might persuade me to switch.



Graham Bower
Graham Bower

Author



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Learn about your Apple Watch

This hidden Apple Watch feature tells you if your workouts are doing any good

by Graham Bower February 14, 2018

It’s all very well to know how far you ran, cycled and swam. But the whole point of exercise is not just to clock the miles. It’s supposed to make you more fit. So, how do you know if all those sweaty miles are actually doing any good? One way is by measuring your heart […]

Continue Reading

This silicone Apple Watch band is perfect for fitness freaks [Review]

by Lewis Wallace February 10, 2018

While many Apple Watch bands put fashion front and center, the Nomad Sport Strap embraces the wearable’s exercise potential. This wide, black silicone strap makes the Apple Watch look less like a smartwatch and more like a hard-core fitness tracker.

Continue Reading

Grab any two Nyloon Apple Watch bands for $65 [Watch Store]

by Ami Icanberry February 08, 2018

Note: Buy two nylon Apple Watch bands from Nyloon for $65. Regularly priced at $38.95 each. Sale ends Tuesday, February 13. Use code Nyloon65 at checkout.  Nyloon just introduced six fun new designs to its collection of nylon Apple Watch bands right on time for spring shopping. Best yet, these bands compare in quality to Apple’s nylon […]

Continue Reading