10 Best Couch to 5K Apps
Time to get off the couch and run your first 5K! These free apps will help.
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Many of us are interested in running a 5K—for charity, fun or like me, just to prove that we can do it. I decided to run my first 5K at age 50. I had never enjoyed running and I didn’t really expect to enjoy my first 5K either, but I wanted to accomplish this fitness goal for my milestone birthday.
For others, running a couch to 5K takes on a larger meaning. The pandemic saw a surge in new runners joining the sport to improve their mental health. And yes, “runner’s high” is real.
If you’ve never run a 5K before, it’s important to get some help. A running buddy is great and so is technology. While there's an official running plan for Couch to 5Ks, other running apps are both free and offer alternative features that might help reach your goals. I used an app, Runkeeper, when I was training for my first 5K and it really helped me. Check out these couch to 5K apps recommended by avid users to help you get to the finish line.
Best Couch to 5K Apps
1. Runkeeper (Free) iOS / Android
“I have always struggled with sticking to my fitness goals,” says Yurii Brown, Founder, Coffee Geek Lab. “So when I decided to run my first 5K, I knew I needed an app that didn’t just track my progress but would also hold me accountable. I found that with Runkeeper.” As mentioned, this is the app I used to train for my 5K. It is one of the most well-known running apps, and my running buddy used it, and suggested it to me. It was really easy to use. I was able to track my distance and pace, as well as set goals. One of my favorite features was getting audio updates on my distance and pace, which helped me stay on track and modify my run as necessary.
Related: 20 Best Workout Apps for Your Fitness Goals
2. Couch to 5K ($2.99) iOS / Android
Another popular option, “this is one of the best apps if your intention is to run a 5K without any previous training whatsoever,” says Pavel Ladziak, founder of The Beard Struggle. “It helped me to gradually increase the time I spent running and incorporated three 30-minute running sessions into my week over nine weeks. The training also included resting, walking and running intervals. I was ready for race day in just two months.”
3. Cardiocast (Free) iOS / Android
“I chose to use CardioCast to help prepare for both a 5K and a 10K,” says AnneMarie Boyle. “Between the interval runs to help me with increasing my speed and the steady-state runs to build up my endurance, I felt it was just the perfect combination. And having guidance and encouragement from the coaches along the way is so motivating, rather than just listening to music.” Boyle also liked the walk and jog options, which were great to use when she wanted to work out at an easier pace or as a rest day workout.
4. Zombies, Run! (Free) iOS / Android
Walking Dead lovers, unite! “Zombies Run is a sort of game and audio adventure rolled into one with one goal in mind: to get you running,” says Olivia Tan, co-founder of CocoFax. “You start up the app, get to running, go a little ways and (headphones in, of course) you'll start to hear the distant moaning and groaning of the undead.” At the beginning of 2021, Tan made a resolution that she would run a 5K by the end of the year. “I was quite overweight and had never run longer than a couple of seconds to catch a bus. Running a 5K really seemed like a feat that was beyond my capabilities, but with a lot of hard work and Zombies, Run! at my side, I managed to run my first 5K race last month.”
Related: 55 Running Tips to Keep You Happy and Healthy While You're Training
5. Start to Run 5K (Free) Available on Garmin fitness devices
“Last year I set out to run a 5K, which was a big deal for me, since I’m not really a sporty type of person,” says Chiara Gomiero, founder of Handy Wine Guide. “The Garmin app ‘Start To Run 5K!’ helped me big time.” Gomiero liked the well-defined nine-week program, so she always knew what to expect. The program gradually got her ready for the race and it was user-friendly.
6. Nike Run Club App (Free) iOS / Android
“I have used the Nike Run Club app to help train and prepare for every 5k race I have competed in,” says Jordan Duncan, DC, owner of Silverdale Sport & Spine. “The app helped me map out several 5k training routes and kept my time while I ran them. It let me know my overall time and pace at the end of every mile and at the completion of the run. This feature was the most valuable, as it provided me feedback during the training runs to let me know how I was doing relative to my target time. I was able to see real-time progress week after week. Without the app, I would have been lost.” Duncan also likes a feature that kicks in when you’re finished with the race: The Nike Run Plus coaches provide words of encouragement and remind you to hydrate and get on the foam roller.
7. Charity Miles (Free) iOS / Android
“As someone with an interest in social responsibility, I really like the Charity Miles app,” says Jeffrey Zhou, CEO of Fig Loans. “They donate 25 cents per mile when you run, so in addition to tracking and training, you are finding outside motivation to go the extra distance. It isn't as fancy as some of the other apps, but I like the simplicity and message,” he says. The app allows you to choose the charity you want to donate to and you can log all types of movement in addition to running, such as walking, cycling or dancing.
Related: Running Is a Great Way to Lose Weight—Here's How Trainers Recommend Going About It
8. Strava (Free) iOS / Android
Strava is an all-in-one sports app that allows you to map and record your running. It maps your run by using your phone’s GPS, and gives you insight into your runs, such as your average speed and calories. By recording your everyday practice, you can see your progress and check where you can improve more. “I really love the fact that Strava is also a social app that allows you to share and add your friends so you can see each other’s progress,” says Nate Tsang, founder & CEO of Wall Street Zen.
9. Map My Run (Free) iOS / Android
Several members of the Pathetic Triathletes Facebook Group use and love this app. It has almost a million top reviews on the Apple Store and Google Play. Features include training plans (including for running a 5K), audio coaching and the ability to set challenges with friends. The running app also works with fitness devices, including Apple Watch, Garmin and Fitbit.
10. My Fitness Pal (Free) iOS / Android
Former running coach Jeff Le offers a reminder that if you’re training for a 5K, you also need to consider your sleep, water intake and eating habits, which are vital to keeping you healthy and ready to run. This app will help you keep track of those key activities that will impact your ability to run a couch to 5K.
Up next, here's what you should eat before a workout.
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