Identifying your running goals

Whether you are training for a marathon, a 5k, or running in your neighborhood, running apps are a must to keep track of your progress. Goal setting and achievement are key aspects of running. Receiving real-time feedback of your performance offers you the satisfaction and motivation to improve.

Though each runner has their own performance interests in mind, running apps offer various metrics that make tracking progress possible for short and long term purposes. This information is useful for guiding your goal-setting and improving the specific skills you wish to build upon, such as running longer distances or increasing your speed. Identifying your ever-evolving personal running goal is essential to reaching your own version of success as a runner.


Tracking your running progression

Different running apps and wearables track metrics to increase awareness of your progress; each program is different and may be targeting one type of runner over another. Some running apps and wearables are meant for daily use and activity tracking, while others are more performance-based in what information they provide to their users. 

In the upcoming paragraphs, the following running apps and wearables will be compared to one another and should help you to determine which one fits your running needs best: Strava, Asics Runkeeper, Garmin, Nike Run, and Apple Watch. Each program will be discussed based upon the presence of the following metrics: real-time cadence, cadence upon completion, real-time pace, average pace upon completion, accuracy, manual or automated pausing, stride length, elevation, music, and total distance.



Strava is used by over 100 million athletes in 195 countries. It is a very popular option for those seeking a program that will amplify their running performance analysis. Strava has the ability to sync with your phone, GPS watch, head unit, heart rate monitor, and power meter. It is capable of recording over 30 types of activities, so it is a good resource for those who are physically active in a variety of ways. Advantageous measures it tracks are real-time pace, average pace upon completion, elevation, and total distance.

At this time, Strava does not track your real-time cadence, cadence upon completion, or stride length. You must utilize music through an external app, and the ability to pause a workout is controlled manually. The accuracy of Strava’s tracking, 98.5%, is high. Additionally, Strava does in-depth run analysis within a runner’s recorded running periods through measures of run pacing and heart rate “zones” tracked within the total distance. 

A notable feature of Strava is the Strava feed, which allows you to share tracked results with friends and followers, comment, and react to others’ results. You can also organize club and group events, upload photos and captions to share, and compare results on leaderboards. In regard to safety features, Strava utilizes the “beacon feature,” which allows you to share real-time locations with loved ones when needed. This is particularly important when using Strava’s extensive route and trail resource, which is the largest of its kind and can help runners determine popular spots to explore.


Asics Runkeeper:

Asics Runkeeper is another popular option for runners to track their progress. Runkeeper’s traditional platform offers runners plenty of options for recording the details of runs: it shows you the average cadence upon completion, real-time pace, average pace upon completion, elevation, and total distance. When enabled, runners may have the pause feature automated for convenience. 

At this time, Runkeeper does not document your stride length and requires an external source for music, but overall the app is highly accurate in its recorded measures of location and pacing. Other information Runkeeper provides to you includes calories burned during a run, enableable audio cues, the ability to “fix GPS” to increase reliability of GPS readings, and opportunities for participation in virtual races with others in the Runkeeper community. 

Runkeeper also offers an upgrade to its users called The Runkeeper Go subscription which comes with the ability to create training plans and receive real-time updates and progress insights.


Garmin Connect:

Garmin Connect, otherwise known as Garmin among current users, is viewed as an option primarily for runners pursuing higher-intensive training results. Its programs, available for various compatible wearables, differ based upon the specific model that an individual has. Newer wearable models have a larger scope of features that enable you to get a more in-depth perspective of their training results. 

There are multiple types of Garmin wearables that enable you to track cadence upon completion of a workout. With the Garmin Speed Sensor 2 and Cadence Sensor 2 specifically, there are advanced capabilities that allow you to view real-time cadence data on your phone based on ANT+ and Bluetooth broadcasting. 

For other wearables, real-time cadence is shown as an average over the past five seconds of recorded activity; Garmin programs record ground contact time as well. You can see average pace upon completion of a run; real-time pace is rounded and averaged to the pace over the last five seconds, similarly to the collection of cadence data in most of Garmin’s devices and can also provide split averages. Also, you can view your vertical oscillation with a Garmin Running Dynamics Heart Strap. 

Garmin’s measurements are highly accurate as it uses location services to obtain results. You can pause the program manually on devices and wearables, and elevation is tracked on devices and some wearables. Stride length is recorded in real-time and as an average. Like the other programs discussed thus far, you must use music through a source outside of Garmin’s technology. 

Other notable features Garmin offers you are step and distance challenges, badges for accomplishments, a morale-boosting community to engage with, the Garmin Coach feature, and the ability to create training plans.

The app also tracks your sleep hours and stages, respiration, pulse oxygen (oxygen levels in the blood throughout the day; only on some devices), and the amount of oxygen the body can use during training. You can also input vital health data entries with customization capabilities. All in all, Garmin is intended to be used by the more serious runner.


Nike Run:

Nike Run is another popular running program that tracks an extensive range of metrics. First, Nike Run tracks your real-time cadence to the second, as well as providing an average cadence value over the course of your run. The program also shows the real-time pace, average pace, mile splits, elevation (and overall elevation gain), and total distance of a run. Ground contact time and vertical oscillation measurements are recorded exclusively in the app, but not with any wearable devices.

Its measurements are accurate for both indoor and outdoor running settings, pausing can be used as an automated or manual feature, and music can be played within the app or externally. The music function is compatible with Apple Music or Spotify Premium; it’s also able to play a previously downloaded audiobook or podcast. 

A few downsides to Nike Run are that it does not record your stride length in its measurements, and it has a somewhat buggier location service compared to other programs–users are unable to drop a pin for guided runs. However, Nike Run is still effective for tracking your overall distance covered, speed, heart rate, and other features discussed previously.


Apple Watch:

The Apple Watch, popular among a vast range of consumers, is a useful resource for runners of all skill levels. It tracks your real-time cadence to the second, cadence upon completion, and averages and split averages for segments of the run. It also records your real-time pace, average pace upon completion (sorted via averages, splits, and zones of fast, medium, and slow), stride length (via distance covered per step while running in meters), elevation (in the app and wearables), heart rate, and total distance of a workout. Unlike other running apps discussed previously, Apple Watches record ground contact time and vertical oscillation during your run. 

Its measurements are accurate utilizing location services and a stride length calculator for tracking. Apple Watches can measure ground contact time (how long your foot is on the ground) and vertical oscillation (basically a measure of how much you bounce up and down in your stride).  You can pause the program manually or by enabling the automatic feature, and Apple Music is compatible with the program; otherwise, external music sources are needed. 


Find your fit

It’s important to note that the running apps mentioned are not the only ones available to you, but each offers different features that may enhance your results. Running apps and wearables are not “one-size-fits-all,”, but they all have pros and cons you should consider. Some running apps are more general, while others have particular points of focus; some have additional costs, while others are more affordable. The best running app for you will depend on your individual running needs!