As I wrote in a recent article, Endomondo stopped moving forward. I didn’t see any new features, any progress. And that is the reason why I search for an alternative. The first step is to explore other choices, compare their advantages, disadvantages and price. The first app I tested was Runkeeper.
In the beginning, I would like to proclaim, that it’s not easy to say that some app is good or bad. It isn’t about the app itself, but about expectations of the user. Everyone wants something else. Someone wants to use navigation through a fitness app, someone tracks activities with a smartwatch and use the phone only for view and analyses. For someone money matters and for someone…
History of Runkeeper
I would like to start with a little bit of history. Don’t worry, it won’t be much. Runkeeper was found in 2008, so it’s his tenth anniversary this year. For comparison – Endomondo is one year older.
They were bought by Asics in 2016. In the same year, they had some troubles with a privacy of their users because they sold location data to advertisers.
As you can expect based on its name, Runkeeper focuses on run tracking, but you can use it generally on any activity.
I had an opportunity to test Android version of the app only. But I think that iOS would be the same in most the cases.
As I said earlier, Runkeeper can track not only runs but also 30 other activities. For the tracking, you can use GPS or just a stopwatch for an indoor activity like weightlifting or swimming in a pool.
The audio couch is one of the most important features of fitness apps. It can’t be missing in Runkeeper. Information about your current state will give you in time or distance intervals you set. You can also choose which information you want to hear – like duration, current pace, average pace, …
There are six voices that differ not only in an intonation but also in the way they are giving you the data. For example “Drill Instructor” shouting about your mother and it’s actually pretty comic figure. I think that everyone finds his favourite.
The Audio coach has one essential disadvantage. If he speaks, music volume is lowered. The music itself isn’t stopped. If you listen to audiobook it’s really annoying. In the best moment, you don’t hear what the characters say, because they are shout down by the audio coach.
There are great options to prepare for your interval training. You can choose from default workouts or create your own.
Intervals are split to time or distance, in which you choose the slow, medium or fast pace. You can add warm up and cool down at the end of the workout.
You can also set the pace you want to achieve in your training. The audio coach will inform you how you’re going. Unfortunately, he will not try to adjust your pace when you slow down or go too fast.
What I miss is the easy way to set simple goals like run 10 kilometres or to run for 30 minutes. It is possible but it’s not easy to set different goals for every training.
Live tracking is the first premium service I mention in this article. You have to pay monthly fees to use it.
This service should tell your friends and family where you are, so they won’t have to fear about you. But … I wasn’t able to make this service work.
At the beginning of the activity, the link should be shared on Twitter or Facebook, which is, I think, pretty stupid. A don’t want to share this link with everyone. I just want the link and then send it to whoever I want. The second thing is that this sharing never worked for me.
If you family fears about you, there is an easier and cheaper way. You can share your location via Google Maps. It works great.
Activity tracking view
Activity tracking is split into 3 screens:
- Basic statistics like time, distance, pace – you cannot personalize the data
- Splits to each kilometre
End of activity
After the end of the activity, you will see the classic screen with statistics. There are some interesting features I would like to mention
- You can choose the shoe you used. Sadly, you can’t other gears like a bike.\
- You can note your feeling from a run and if there were bad, pick negatives you experienced – like foot pain or bad weather. The idea is great but there isn’t a summary for these data. You can see them in activity detail only.
- Only in premium – comparison with other runs at a similar distance – which is interesting but can be tricky. Other runs can differ in elevation, weather, surface and during the training, you should not try to beat the records.
- Also in premium, you see a weather data. But I don’t think it’s a relevant information. Especially in long activities weather can vary and it’s not possible to express it in one number. There is one more thing – weather data didn’t show for me anyway…
List of activities
The activity list is an important part of a fitness app because you can explore data from your training. In Runkeeper you have a basic summary view for this and previous week. If you want to see all your activity, you can go to gigantic feed where you cannot filter or sort and if you are interested in an old workout, you will spend some time scrolling down.
The premium function is to view summed graphs of your activities. There you can find interesting views of your data.
Better views are available in a web app. You will get weekly and monthly mileage for free. Other data are available for premium users only.
I like the option to define your goals. You can choose from several choices:
- Beat some distance in one workout – like run a marathon
- Lost weight
- Finish some race – which is pretty much same as the first option
- Total distance
- Weekly frequency
You can put multiple goals together. Like, run 1000 kilometres in a year, run at last 4 times a week and once a week take a bike.
Training plans are another premium only feature. It will guide you to run races from 5K to marathon in various times and performance categories. The plan has multiple phases and you can adjust your training in every day as you wish.
There is also an option to create a training plan for one week. It is not about training for some distance, but more about keep your fitness level.
Truth to be told I don’t understand challenges fully. But what I saw there are two types:
- Official training for 5K that should improve your time. It’s basically a type of training plan.
- An option to create a running group where you can support each other to achieve your common fitness goals.
I’m now old enough to say that I’m old-fashioned and I just cannot control my life through the phone. That’s why the web part of a fitness app is crucial to me. I want to see all my data here. But that’s a problem with Runkeeper. Some information just doesn’t exist in the web app.
I mention features like gear and feeling tracking. You won’t find these on the web.
I can see a graph of cadence on the phone. I cannot see it in the web app.
You can see the training plans on the web … but there are empty. Probably they work only on the mobile app.
There is one feature that exists only in the web app – that is route planning. But there are much better and easier ways like to prepare your routes. I love en.mapy.cz It’s a Czech app for maps but it’s translated into English and has great layers for tourist and cyclist.
Even that you can tracking any activity with Runkeeper only running provides some great features. Training plans and goals are great. But there are too many things that annoy me. It’s mainly audio coach, that cannot pause music, and the web app, where you cannot see all your data.
Recently they suspended their API for a public which makes harder to export or migrate your data. There is an export tool in Runkeeper web app but it doesn’t export all your data. Fortunately, you can still use tapiirik for syncing with other fitness apps.
If you want to use all features of Runkeeper, you have to pay monthly fees. It’s 10$ a month or 3.3$ if you pay a year in advance. But based on my test some premium feature doesn’t event works.
Since Runkeeper does not fulfil my expectation I will continue on my journey to find the best fitness app for me.