The first thing you need to know about Nike+ Running is that it's no longer called Nike+ Running. The latest incarnation of Nike's running app now goes by the name of Nike+ Run Club, linking the Oregon's digital running ecosystem more directly to its global, real world running community.
Nike+ Running was given this overhaul back in 2016 and let's just say the feedback about the initial upgrade wasn't all that popular. The Apple app star rating plummeted and loyal Nike+ users took to social to vent about missing features and new frustrations such as being forced to share runs to Nike's own social feed before you could post to Facebook. This wasn't Nike's finest hour.
Read this: Apple Watch Series 3 in-depth review
Nike quickly realised it had made some major mistakes and since then it's been busy addressing many, though not all, of the bigger gripes. There are new detailed training plans across a range of distances, guided runs with audio coaching for those who are working towards less race-specific goals and plenty of the motivation and social smarts you'd expect from the Just Do It tribe.
It's unlikely to replace your Garmin Forerunner 935 or your Polar M430 anytime soon but whether you run for fun and fitness or want to take your running to a more serious level, Nike+ Run Club is now a powerful tool, particularly when you consider it's completely free.
Here's everything you need to know to master Nike+ Run Club and use it to reach your running goals.
How do I get Nike+ Run Club?
For people who don't mind running with a smartphone, the Nike+ Run Club app is available for iPhone and Android devices.
If you prefer to run unencumbered, and you want to bung Apple a fistful of £100 notes, you can also get the app on the Apple Watch Series 3.
Essential reading: Best Apple Watch running apps
If you're a really, really big fan of Nike you can also buy the Nike+ flavour version of Apple's timepiece, the Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+. This Apple Watch not only comes with custom Nike bands but also lets you add Nike+ Run Club complications and watch faces, making it easy to launch a Nike run session straight from the home screen.
Sadly, Android Wear smartwatch fans aren't currently serviced by a watch specific app right now.
Does Nike Fuel still exist?
It's been six years since Nike launched its original fitness wearable the Nike Fuelband and with it the Nike Fuel points system that converted all your activity into one single fitness currency. By translating all movement into one centralised score, the idea was this would make it possible to compare the efforts of different sports and reward a wider range of effort.
While the Fuelband is dead, Nike Fuel lives on in the Nike+ Run Club and Nike+ Training Club app but in reality it now feels a bit lost.
16 ways to use Nike+ Run Club
We've been using the latest version of Nike+ Run Club for three months and have pulled out the features we feel can make the biggest difference to your performance, motivation and running enjoyment.
Build your running knowledge: Go for a guided run
Running is often seen as an easy sport to start. You just need a pair of shoes a bit of time right? While that is true, getting out there for the first time and building yourself into a better runner requires a little more than just lacing up and putting one foot in front of the other. That's where Nike's guided runs come in.
At the time of writing there were eight different guided runs available in the Nike+ Run Club app, largely focused on supporting new runners or those rediscovering their fitness. Each drill comes with complete written instructions for a session and a downloadable audio guide so you can be coached as you workout.
The workouts are designed to help runners improve strength, speed and endurance and have fun doing it. Additionally, intervals are automatically marked along the way so all you need to do is press start and go.
First Run: A beginner level introductory 23-minute audio guided run designed by a Nike Run Club Head Coach to help you with that early challenge of just getting moving.
First Speed Run: 8 x 1 minute intervals at 5k pace created as an introductory interval run for those who are new to speed work.
Ladder up, Ladder Down: A more involved interval session where you take on repeatedly longer intervals at a more relaxed pace and end the run with shorter intervals at faster paces.
Get some in-run support: Switch on Cheers
In-run support from your friends, family and running mates is something apps like Endomondo has been offering for years now and Nike+ Run Club has it on offer too.
To switch it on simply hit the Settings cog on the run screen, click on Audio Feedback (this is also where you can set your preferences for the style and frequency of voice feedback on your runs) and toggle Nike+ Run Club Cheers and Facebook Cheers on or off as desired.
When these are both on, Nike posts to your feed and Facebook to let people know you're heading out and they can simply Like or comment on the post to give you an over-the-ear boost as you run.
Get race ready: Create a My Coach training plan
While Guided Runs provide a framework for your individual runs, My Coach moves things up a notch. There's a Get Started four-week training plan for couch-to-5km level, an eight-week plan that targets building more athletic fitness and finally you can create detailed training plans for racing distances including: 5km, 10km, 15km, half and full marathon.
Set-up is simple but detailed enough to ensure your plan is tailored to your current fitness. For example, the app will ask you what you'd consider a long run right now and what a recent fast run would look like in terms of pace.
Once you've answered a set of seven questions you'll get your training schedule based on how often you'd like to run, with a combination of long, recovery, tempo and benchmark runs.
It's worth noting that the maximum training period for any race is 6 months, the app won't let you set up a plan for anything further in the future than that.
Monitor progress: Log results of your Benchmark Runs
As part of the My Coach training plans Nike+ challenges you periodically with "benchmark" workouts that are led by in-ear audio. These 15-minute drills – with 7 minute warm-up, 3 minute all out, 5 minute cool down – are designed to measure just how hard and fast you can push yourself – and how much you're improving.
Nike uses this to rework your pacing targets in your remaining training runs but it doesn't make it easy to compare your benchmark tests. Noting these down yourself and comparing things like heart rate and pace during, and heart rate recovery after, is a really useful way to visualise your own progress.
Discover new routes and become a boss: Nike+ Places
Nike now offers some Strava style features via Nike+ Places. This web only tool lets you discover new routes by using a heat map or tapping in a postcode to find popular running routes near you, ideal if you're running a new city on your travels. You can also create new run maps for your own new routes. For the ultra competitive (and in a bid to match Strava's USP), you can also race these routes and attempt to become a Route Boss by clocking the fastest time.
Pace your runs better: Use the heat map
A nifty feature of the Nike+ Run Club app is that it tracks how fast you're running at different parts of a course and marks this data on a GPS map. Your fastest lengths are represented with green, moderate with yellow, and your slowest with red.
This is hugely helpful data that will help you set a better pace throughout your run, highlighting areas where you need an extra push, and others where you can perhaps turn the dial down a tad. Keeping a record of your routes and your route performance for comparison will help improve your game.
Find a competitive edge: Join a Challenge
If you're a runner who has ever been on Facebook or Instagram there's a good chance you'll have seen one of those motivational post that says something like "It's not about you versus them, it's you versus you." While we salute this spirit, there's nothing like a bit of friendly competition to make you work hard when you just want to lie on the sofa and eat chips. That's where Nike+ challenges can help.
Another significant change that arrived with Nike+ Run Club, you now use hashtags to get involved in a whole range of existing global challenges or to create your own.
Keep on running
To create a new #hashtag leaderboard, just come up with your unique hashtag (e.g. #RunMoreMilesThanMichaelSawh), and share it with your friends. It's then up to you to spread the word by including the hashtag in your post-run posts to the Nike+ Feed.
It's worth noting though, that there are limitations. The only metric you can use for your challenge is Most Miles and whereas in the old Nike+ Running app you could create challenges just for your own selected group of running buddies, with this new hashtag approach anyone can join your challenge. And that can be a little #annoying.
Capture the feeling: Make post-run notes
The Nike+ Running app lets you add notes to your recorded runs, and it's never a bad idea to do so. Yes, you can pick a smiley face that best represents your post-run mood, but adding your own notes gives you much better picture of your progress so that, over time, you can discover what sort of workout is most effective for you.
Compare your runs: Fire up the Nike+ web tools
On the web browser version of Nike+ each run comes with some extra insights that you don't get on the smartphone or smartwatch app. This includes how you compare to the average Nike+ runner in your age groups for things like pace and overall distance. Who doesn't like a little positive feedback knowing they're faster than their peers or indeed welcome something to aim at if they're not quite there yet.
Train with your other running tech: Connect your running watch to Nike+
If you don't own an Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch but you do use a Garmin, Polar or alternative GPS running watch you can still connect these to Nike+ Run Club and sync your runs into the app. Each run carries a logo to make it easy to see which device was used to track the run.
Be honest with yourself: Kill the Nike+ Auto Pause
Auto pause is a liar. If your auto pause says you ran 10km sub-40 but during that run you stopped every 5 minutes for a 2 minute road crossing, then your 10km PB isn't now 39:99. It's 39:99 plus whatever time you spent standing still at the traffic lights. For a true reflection of what you're capable of it's essential to find somewhere you can run relatively uninterrupted, closer to race conditions.
Chase some personal bests: Check out Nike Achievements
We're going to pin our split shorts and vest to the mast here and say that running should be about more than just how far or how fast you can move and while Nike+ Run Club does give you shiny badges for your fastest 5k and your longest run, there's also recognition for a range of different successes such as running on New Year's Day or putting together various types of run streak.
Soundtrack your way to success: Sync with Spotify or Apple Music
Purists will disagree but for plenty of people running without music is unthinkable. You can connect Nike+ Run Club to Spotify and Apple Music. This not only lets you control your music from within the Nike+ Run Club smartphone app, or on your Apple Watch but you can also access weekly curated Nike+ Run Club playlists.
Run with discipline: Create a Spotify Pace Station
Music isn't just useful for those sections of your runs where your brain is telling you to quit, it's also a great way to ensure you run at the correct pace, whether that's fast or slow. Matching the music to your desired output is a smart way to stay on track and Spotify users can build custom playlists, tailored not just to their music preferences but also a target pace.
From the Nike+ Run Club run screen, tap the music icon, select Spotify and hit Create a Pace Station. From there you can set a desired pace and music genre and Spotify should do the rest. Warning: You will be find yourself listening to random music.
Access your hidden gears: Choose a Power Song
We've all had those moments during runs where we desperately need a boost. It might be you need an extra push to race home to a personal best or just a bit of oomph to push you through a bad patch, whatever your need, the right track can do the trick. One of Nike+ Run Club's long standing features is the Power Song. You assign the one track that can unlock your extra drive and you can play that at the touch of a button from within the app.
Add some strength: Sync your Nike+ Training sessions
If you also use Nike+ Training Club, you can sync all of your sessions into your Nike+ dashboard for a more complete picture of your overall training.
Got any questions about using Nike+ Run Club? Let us know in the comments section below.