Running should be a simple sport. Lace up your running shoes and off you go, right? Well, not if you're like me and you take a cell phone, iPod and GPS running watch on your runs. Fortunately, a number of apps use the iPhone's built-in GPS so you can leave some of these accessories at home. I put ten popular iPhone running apps to the test to see which is worth your hard-earned money.
To put it simply, I was blown away by the Runmeter GPS running app ($4.99). It has one of the best interfaces I've seen, with large, easy-to-read numbers that are easy to see at a glance -- even while running. Runmeter GPS is also packed with features you won't find on other running apps. Workouts are rated by how well you do in comparison to previous runs (it's motivating, I promise!), and an automatic email program will alert your friends or family when you've finished your run or reached a preset distance. The Runmeter GPS app also integrates with Twitter and Facebook. You can customize voice alerts so you only hear the information you want. The only downside is that you need earphones with a remote to control your iPod playlist. Overall rating: 5 stars out of 5.
RunKeeper Pro ($9.99) is undoubtedly the most raved about of the bunch; it's also the most expensive, but I think this app is well worth the money. RunKeeper Pro is highly accurate and the interface is sleek and easy to navigate. The app is very easy to use, and I'm able to get a quick view of my essential running details (time, distance, pace and calories) at a glance. The app includes several customizable running workouts, and it can also shuffle songs from your iPod playlist. The audio prompts can be annoying, but there's an option to turn them off in the settings menu. Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I had heard mixed things about the Nike+ GPS app ($1.99), but I came away impressed after testing it out for myself. Even though the app is very accurate, it still includes a calibration option so you can tweak your runs if the GPS signal happens to go out. Facebook and Twitter integration are another plus. I still think that Runmeter has a better interface overall, but Nike+ GPS is easy to see during a run and you can control your music from the display. Unfortunately, you can't stop or pause a song without stopping your workout, but that's a minor complaint. Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Runner ($5.99) has many of the same features as RunKeeper Pro, and I was impressed with the app overall. It accurately tracked my time, distance, pace, and calories burned, and it displayed my route on a map. You can listen to your iPod playlist or program a "boost song" for when you need extra motivation. The Runner app also integrates to Twitter so you can automatically tweet your workouts to your followers. It's not quite as easy to use as RunMeter GPS or RunKeeper Pro. In particular, I would prefer to just start the timer and go, rather than using one of the predetermined running workouts on the start page. Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
C25K ($2.99) is one of the best running apps for beginners. Although you'll have to pay an extra $0.99 to unlock the GPS tracking capabilities, the C25K app takes you step by step through a nine-week training plan. It's designed for true beginners (hence the name Couch to 5K), and you'll start out by alternating running and walking until you can run a full 3.1 miles. The app is easy to use, and you can control your iPod playlist right from the main display. I do have a few nitpicky complaints about the GPS tracking -- mainly that you can't really use it independent of the training plan -- but C25K is a great app for those new to the sport. Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.