Best Android Wear running apps tested

From pace to heart rate tracking, we put the best Android running apps to the test

The majority of Android Wear smartwatches put style before sports, but there are also the likes of the Polar M600, LG Watch Sport and the Ticwatch E that do offer more for fitness fans.

For those who want to use their Droid timepiece to track their runs, there are a range of apps you can download to add running skills to your watch. Now, there are some notable absentees in the Android Wear running app line up, not least Nike+ Run Club, but you'll find most of the big names seen on the Apple Watch are also available for Android Wear.

Strava, Endomondo, RunKeeper and Runtastic are all present, and the arrival of Android Wear 2.0, with its standalone app goodness spread across a whole host of devices, means that runners can also enjoy some of these apps without having to carry a phone.

Essential reading: Android Wear tips and tricks

So what's the best Android Wear running app? To ensure you're getting the best out of your smartwatch, we've clocked up miles on the tarmac, treadmill and trail to test the best on offer. Here's what's worth a download, and what to run a mile from.

Best Android Wear running app: Endomondo

Best Android Wear running apps tested

Part of the Under Armour Connected collection – which also includes MyFitnessPal, Under Armour Record and MapMyFitness – Endomondo was one of the first running apps to arrive on Android Wear. An extremely capable app with a feature set to rival the best, Endomondo offers all the usual in-run tracking with pace, distance, elevation and splits, but there are also advanced tools that are good enough to challenge even the more advanced running watch brands.

Training plans, social challenges and a route finder for seeking out new runs nearby are all part of the mix. If you opt for the Premium ($29.99 per year / $5.99 per month) over free, you also get audio coaching and dynamic training plans that adjust to you based on recent performance.

It's a great smartphone app and it's no surprise that the Android Wear app set-up is slick too. There's the added convenience of voice commands that work well for the simple instructions like start, stop and pause, plus you can customise the data you first see on your watch to suit your needs and you can view maps right there on your wrist for easier navigation.

If your watch offers heart rate tracking, you can access the heart rate zone training features and your BPM stats will appear in your run data too. All of which is stored on the watch and syncs to the smartphone app once the two are paired. It also plays nice with Google Fit.

Works without phone: Yes

Syncs to Google Fit: Yes

Free/Premium: $29.99 | Download

Runtastic Pro

Best Android Wear running apps tested

Adidas-owned Runtastic was quick to jump on the arrival of Android 2.0 and the ability to run smartphone free. In fact, it even bagged an award for Best Android Wear Experience at the Google Play Awards 2017. The main Runtastic app offers all of the run tracking essentials you'd expect to come as standard from a GPS app: pace, distance, heart rate and route mapping. But what we really love are the additions of Live Tracking and Live Cheers, where 'friends' on Runtastic can follow you during a run and send cheers over your headphones for support. The interval training features are strong too, something that many dedicated GPS running watches fail to do well.

Read this: Learning to train with heart rate zones

When it comes to the Android Wear app, it's all about simplicity. And we're big fans of that. The app controls are very straightforward; no complicated menus here and that all-important voice command to start, pause and stop a run is present and correct. We also love the fact that the Runtastic screen is fully customisable, so you can choose the stats that are most important to you. Also, as with Endomondo, if your watch has a built-in heart rate monitor you can use this for more targeted training.

Treadmill tracking is available using your watch's built-in sensors, though we found our stats didn't always match what the treadmill says. The good news here is that you can – if you're as geeky as us – amend the stats yourself. If your smartwatch has an internet connection your run data is automatically sent to Runtastic.com and for those who don't the upload happens via your smartphone. Once it's up there you can tweak it to reflect what the treadmill says.

Works without phone: Yes

Syncs to Google Fit: Yes

Price: $3.99 | Download

Strava

Best Android Wear running apps tested

There's an argument to say that Strava has become more than just a GPS-tracking app, it's now a niche social network for runners. And if you're like us, even when we're not using the Strava app to track our runs, we tend to ensure our other devices still fire our data into the Strava community so we can make the most of its rich features. That said, Strava is one of the best tools out there for run tracking and thankfully the Android Wear integration doesn't let it down.

Essential reading: The ultimate guide to using Strava

Let's start with the obvious. All the key stats – time, distance, pace, laps and split times, heart rate etc – are there on your wrist in the Strava Wear app, and once you're done running all the data is automatically synced to your Strava feed to await the floods of kudos. And, yes, you can do all of this without touching your phone. Strava for Wear 2.0 also syncs with built-in heart rate monitors so you can keep tabs on your BPM.

Information and navigation in the Wear app is well thought out; there's no clutter here, just simple, pared back vital stats. That's not to say there's no room for improvement and we'd love to see additional features on board, such as interval training and turn-by-turn route finding. But if all you want are your vital in-run stats right where you can seem them on your Android Wear smartwatch, and an instant line in to the Strava universe, this is a very compelling app.

Works without phone: Yes

Syncs to Google Fit: Yes

Price: Free / Premium: $59£44.99 per year | Download

Ghostracer

Best Android Wear running apps tested

While most of the other Android Wear running apps on this list are classic tracking apps, Ghostracer is a little different. It has the basics of a GPS run tracker but with one simple, extremely motivating extra – you can race against Strava segments in real time, chasing your own personal best or battling against anyone from the Strava leaderboard.

It took us a little while to learn the app and get it set up to work as we wanted. But once we did it was a whole lot of fun, bringing some added competition to our training runs in real time. We'd definitely recommend firing it up when you're doing your benchmark runs, as racing yourself against a regular route and distance is ideal for charting your progress and this gives you something else to chase.

You can also add layers of data by pairing Bluetooth accessories like heart rate chest straps, and even if your Android watch doesn't have built-in GPS, the app can be paired to a phone and used in mirrored mode so you can still control the app from your watch and see what the phone is recording.

The Android Wear app has full support for the standalone GPS tracking that came with 2.0, and it also works with GPS-enabled watches like the Polar M600 and LG Watch Sport.

There are also some premium features via in-app purchases worth considering coughing up for. The ability to chase multiple ghosts during one activity was one that we found useful.

Works without phone: Yes

Syncs to Google Fit: Via Strava

Price: Free/Some in-app purchases | Download

RunKeeper

Best Android Wear running apps tested

Runkeeper remains one of the most complete running apps on the Google Play app store. Pace, distance, elevation and calories burned are all taken care of as standard but there's much more, if you're willing to pay for Runkeeper Elite.

Upgrading to the premium app unlocks things like live tracking that can be set up to post automatically to your social media when you start a run. There are also Pace Academy training challenges built to get you running faster, with a series of interval workouts that are tailored to your running level and with audio coaching to guide you through. You can also access community challenges and heart rate tracking via a built-in or chest strap heart rate monitor. All of which put Runkeeper on a par with Endomondo and Runtastic.

So what about the Android Wear setup? Well, we found the voice controls to be spot on for starting, pausing and stopping runs, while the information display was easy to read on the move when the screen was on full blast. However, one slightly peculiar quirk of Runkeeper is ambient mode. While you're running the screen dims to a level that's still visible, but much darker, and the stats on your watch only update every 10 seconds, to conserve battery life. You can override this at any point by tapping the screen but we found it a bit irritating at times.

It integrates with Google Fit and allows you to sync data with the likes of MyFitnessPal, GymPact, Zombies Run, and Gym Hero.

Works without phone: Yes

Syncs to Google Fit: Yes

Price: Free/Premium $39.99 per year | Download

Google Fit

Best Android Wear running apps tested

Google Fit is also worth a mention, not just because it's a great place to house all of your data from third-party fitness apps in one place, but now you can also track runs and view data in real time, including pace. Not to mention you can pull in data from other sensors built into your Wear watch too – including GPS.

Read this: How to get the most out of Google Fit

In reality it's unlikely that you'll want to choose Google Fit over some of the other better known apps listed here, not least because they tend to have more features and better developed communities, but with a selection of automatic activity trackers that ranges from basics like walking and running to the likes of treadmill running, aerobics and stair climbing machines, Google Fit does have merit as an entry level app for casual runners.

The fact that it can automatically count reps for push-ups, squats and sit-ups with your Android Wear device is a bonus for runners who like to focus on strength training as much as miles. Oh, and it's 100% free.

Works without phone: Yes

Syncs to Google Fit: Um, it is Google Fit

Price: Free | Download


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