Nike Run Club Is a Slick, Fun App for Casual and Intermediate Runners
Nike Run Club Is a Slick, Fun App for Casual and Intermediate Runners

To continue my series on the best running apps (see also: Runna, and going app-less), I spent some time this week with my old love, Nike Run Club. I’ve always been a sucker for Nike’s aesthetics (go ahead, roast me) and this is an app I’ve come back to again and again. It has guided runs, training plans, and an incredibly good companion app for the Apple Watch.

What is Nike Run Club? 

Nike Run Club is an app for both iOS and Android. It can track runs from an Apple Watch or directly from your phone (put it in your pocket or running belt, and let it use your phone’s GPS). It has a library of guided runs and a few training programs, but you can also use it to track runs you do on your own (as long as you track them from the app).

Nike Run Club has an excellent Apple Watch app


Credit: Beth Skwarecki/Nike Run Club

The iOS version also comes with a full-featured Apple Watch app. Besides the basics of tracking your run and playing music, the Apple Watch app lets you view your workout history, choose a guided run, do the next run from your training plan, or start a new run with a time or distance goal. There’s a “speed” function that gives you a lap button if you’d like to do a homebrew interval workout, and a “match it” function for when you want to do the same run you did last time. 

The Apple Watch even has special Nike faces and some cute complications, like one that can tell you how many runs you’ve done from your training plan this week. 

What Nike Run Club is good at

  • Guided runs with a variety of lengths, types, and coach personalities

  • Full-featured Apple Watch app

  • Big, bold numbers to focus your attention on basic metrics, like the current interval time (during a run) or your weekly mileage (when you check your stats in the app)

  • Training plans are barebones, but get the job done

Where Nike Run Club falls short

  • Doesn’t have full integration with Garmin or other wearables—just the Apple Watch

  • Training plans aren’t personalized, and don’t give you a choice of guided runs

  • Not customizable enough for the most serious runners

Setup

Unlike Runna, you don’t need to tell Nike Run Club anything about yourself, or create a training plan, or look at your subscription options. You do need to create a free account, but that’s it. 

If you’d like to track the mileage on your shoes, you can add your shoes to the app. Many running apps have this feature, but Nike has images of all its shoes saved in the app and will use an icon of your current shoe to show your location on the Start Run screen. Yes, it’s cheesy, but I found it useful to see that it’s about to log my miles on my pink shoes, not my black shoes—so if I’m wearing the black ones, I’ll need to tap to change that.

Using the app

The app has five tabs along the bottom: 

  • Home, where you’ll see articles and announcements about new guided runs or challenges. (You can safely ignore this tab.) 

  • Plans, where you can check the status of your current training plan (more about those in a minute)

  • Run, the screen where you’ll start a run. You can access the library of guided runs from here.

  • Club, where you can find challenges and view the leaderboard comparing your weekly mileage to your friends’

  • Activity, which shows runs you’ve already done, and badges you’ve earned

Most of the time, you’ll open the app and go straight to the Run tab or, if you’re using a training plan, the Plan tab. To find the guided runs, choose one of the suggestions on the Run tab, or tap “Guided Runs” at the top to see the whole library. There are folders automatically created for runs that you have downloaded (you have to download a guided run before using it) and for runs that you’ve saved and that you’ve already completed.

Training plans

Screenshots of the training plan, a motivational message, and "1 run completed"

Credit: Beth Skwarecki/Nike Run Club

Nike Run Club has a barebones feature for training plans. Your options are “get started,” 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon race distances.

When you set up the plan, you’ll tell it the date of your race if you have one, and … that’s it. You have a plan now. Enjoy!

It doesn’t tailor the plan to your schedule or your fitness level. It just assumes that if you choose the 10K training plan, you’re ready to do most of the runs it programs for you. Fortunately, it’s easy to skip any runs you don’t want to do, and the app suggests this, with a note that says “You’re in charge of your plan, so you can take days off when you need to. You can adjust workouts to fit your weekly schedule, or modify pace and distance based on how you’re feeling.”

When you do a run from the training plan screen, you’ll earn an orange checkmark next to it. Each day’s workout comes with a suggested guided run, or you can choose to run unguided. So far, so good. 

But the plans have two major drawbacks, besides the lack of personalization. One is that you have to use that specific guided run to get the checkmark. With so many guided runs in the library, it’s a shame that you can’t explore and choose something different. And what do you do if you train for two 10Ks in a year? You’ll just have to hear the same guided runs all over again. 

The other problem, which is going to be a dealbreaker for a lot of serious runners, is that the plans don’t sync with Garmin devices. The app has a Garmin sync feature, but that’s only to get your Garmin Connect runs to show up on the Nike app; it doesn’t go the other way. And those runs won’t count for your training plan, either. People who like the Nike app and own a Garmin watch will have to use two devices at the same time and double-log their runs.

My experience running with Nike Run Club

If you don’t ask for much from this app, you’ll have a smooth experience, with lots of thoughtful touches. The Apple Watch app is great, as I mentioned before, and the guided runs are really well done. 

You get a choice of coaches with different personalities (Coach Bennett shows up a lot, but personally my fave is Coach Frankie) and different vibes (the “Don’t Wanna Run Run” is exactly what I need to hear when I’ve dragged myself out of bed). 

The app can pair with a heart rate chest strap if you’re running without a watch. If you’re running with both your phone and your watch, you’ll need to start the watch from your phone if you want to view metrics on both. This can be handy for interval runs, since the app gives you a screen showing your times and paces for all the intervals you’ve done in that workout.

Social features and privacy

Share tiles from the NRC app

Credit: Beth Skwarecki/Nike Run Club

You can connect with friends in the app, and you’ll see their name on the leaderboard for weekly mileage. You can choose whether your own profile and activities are viewable by everyone, or if you’d like to keep everything private. There is a middle ground, labeled “friends (social),” where your friends can search for you and find you, but they won’t see your activity unless you accept their friend invitation. 

There’s also a feature where friends can send you “cheers” during your run, as a canned message or a voice note that you record. I wasn’t able to test this, since I don’t have friends using the app right now. Years ago, you could share a special link on Twitter or Facebook where your friends could click to send you a cheer; it’s unclear whether that still works. Nike’s documentation about the app tells you how to receive cheers, but not how to send them. 

When you want to share a run on other platforms, Nike provides a handful of nifty templates that can overlay your pace, an abstract map of your route, or other details like elevation, over a photo from your camera roll. The options are limited, but I think they look kinda cool. (Again: Roast me.)

What you can do with and without a subscription

Good news: no subscription for this app! All the features are available on the free tier, and there is no paid tier.

What this app does well

Nike Run Club is a great app for runners who don’t need to do specific, complicated workouts, or follow specific training plans. If you just want to go for a run, and are willing to make a spur-of-the-moment choice about what to listen to, this is a great app. If you want a running app that works well on the Apple Watch, this is a great app. 

I’m going to take another minute to talk about the guided runs. The coaches sometimes take the role of motivational speakers, sometimes meditation guides (Andy Puddicomb from Headspace narrates several), and sometimes just a straightforward coach (especially in the interval workouts). The motivational talks are cheesy, but they work on me. I remember Coach Frankie telling me on one run: “I like your dedication. And I like the ease with which you’re handling this pace.” It’s a canned speech! He doesn’t know me! And yet, I felt seen, and appreciated, and encouraged. 

Downsides and drawbacks

Don’t choose this app if you want personalized training programs, or if you want the app to acknowledge your own training as being part of a program. (It will keep track of your weekly mileage, though.) 

Don’t choose this app if you’re a Garmin devotee. You’ll have to log everything on two devices at once. And even though the Apple Watch app is great, it’s not going to appeal to data-enjoying runners the way a Forerunner will. You’ll get pace stats and a little map of your route, but nothing compared to the detailed charts or in-run data you might be used to.

The bottom line

If you’re new to running, or if your main focus is just having fun and staying consistent, this is a great app for you. Same if you love guided runs; this isn’t the only app that provides those, but it does them particularly well. Serious runners should probably stick to an app that focuses more on performance metrics and personalized training plans.

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