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I was a very early adopter – and advocate – of the Nike+iPod system. Apple and Nike developed an easy and fun way to track running data on the iPod nano and the Nikeplus.com website. Unfortunately, as Apple’s product line advanced into phone and touch territory, the Nike+ system remained stagnant. Not only is the Nike+iPod hardware incompatible with the iPhone and iPod touch, you can’t even check your stats on the Nikeplus website with mobile Safari, due to Nike’s heavy reliance on Flash. As a result, the question I’m most often asked these days is, “When will the iPhone support Nike+iPod?” That question is now largely moot thanks to the introduction of RunKeeper.

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RunKeeper is a new iPhone app that does a great job of emulating the Nike+iPod experience without the need for extra hardware, special shoes (or shoe hacks), or an iPod nano. It uses the built-in GPS of the iPhone 3G to track your distance, time, and pace, then automatically uploads your data to the RunKeeper website where you can view your routes and run history.

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Using RunKeeper couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve downloaded and launched the app for the first time, you’re asked to enter an email address and password to create an account on the RunKeeper website. (I’m not sure if you can skip this step or not, but there is an option to turn off the sending of data to their website.) After that, just go outside, press the start button, and start running. If you want to listen to music as you run, start your music via the iPod app before launching RunKeeper; music will play in the background. RunKeeper displays a graph of your pace in one-minute increments along with your time, speed (in miles or km), your total distance, and you average time per mi/km. The screen updates in real time and is easy to read at a glance. When you’re finished running, just tap the stop button.

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Data from your runs is saved on the phone itself, for quick comparisons, and also uploaded to the RunKeeper website directly from the phone. No need to connect to a computer and sync. The RunKeeper website displays a list of your previous runs, and when you click on one, you’re given a google map with your route displayed. This is especially handy for checking the accuracy of your GPS reading.

runkeeper map

On my two test runs, the accuracy was perfect. My first run was a one mile (nearly) run/walk with the iPhone held in my hand to test the responsiveness of the pace graph. My second was a one mile walk with the iPhone in my pocket, to see if I could still get a good reading. Both performed flawlessly. I run along the beach next to San Francisco Bay, so I have an especially clear view of the sky. In more urban or wooded areas, your results might not be as good.

Alameda beach

Overall, RunKeeper is an exceptionally good value for $9.99 and a no-brainer purchase for runners (or bikers) who already own an iPhone 3G. This is exactly the direction Nike and Apple should have gone with Nike+iPod, but since they’ve chosen not to (yet), I’m glad RunKeeper took the initiative.


  • Affordable ($9.99).
  • Accurate.
  • Easy to use.
  • Clear, easy to read display (even in direct sunlight).
  • You can play iPod music in the background while RunKeeper is running.
  • Effortless syncing with RunKeeper website.
  • Handy mile markers on maps.
  • Worked just fine with phone in my pocket (which RunKeeper doesn’t recommend).
  • Worked with screen locked (which Runkeeper also doesn’t recommend).
  • Not just for runners; Works for cyclists, walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers.
  • No need for any additional hardware, special shoes, or accessories.


  • Doesn’t work on original iPhone or iPod touch (only iPhone 3G).
  • Might have trouble getting clear GPS signal in urban or wooded areas.
  • No Nike+iPod “PowerSong.”
  • No congratulations from famous athletes at end of run.
  • Graphics aren’t as polished as Nike+iPod interface/website.
  • No widgets or way to share run data (yet).
  • No calorie-burning calculation.
  • Can’t run other iPhone apps – like Pandora – at same time (per Apple’s guidelines).
  • Obviously doesn’t work on treadmills or elliptical machines.

RunKeeper can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about RunKeeper, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

15 Responses to “Running With iPhone: RunKeeper Review”

  1. Alex says:

    I had a few issues;
    - no screen lock for the app when running (to prevent accidental button press)
    - doesn’t seem to explicitly sample the last point of your run
    - website is in miles and not configurable
    - the minute breakdown is absent from the website

    Other than that, it was awesome. Looks like it will be really handy once a few fixes are in.

  2. Podophile says:

    Thanks for your observations, Alex. I didn’t have any problem locking the screen while using RunKeeper. Even though they don’t recommend it, it worked just fine.

    Looking forward to bug fixes and new features.

  3. Jamie says:

    I got this app today and tried it out on about a 2mile run. Halfway through the run I looked at the screen and I had the “Accurate Location Unavailable” message and was bummed because I thought it wouldn’t work in the park I run in because of the trees. But when I got home and checked my run data on the map it was mapped out perfectly. I bought iTrail yesterday and I doubt I will be using it ever again. I would recommend a way for people to share their run data. A public webpage people could access to see your info, because right now you need to login to see info.

  4. MSW says:

    3 tests.
    Test 1. Started RunKeeper only to be horrified when i finished the 10 mile run toi find that it had switched off only 14 seconds into the run.

    Test 2. Just a 1 mile walk with iphone in my pocket- Perfect route uploaded onto website, with accurate timings.

    Test 3. Started RunKeeper and switched iphone off (Using top power button), walked for 1/2 mile and turned iphone back on, to find RunKeeper still counting and mapping my walk. Again perfect upload to website.

    Summary-Great application, which can run in background with iphone switched off.

    Would be nice if: The upgrades had altimiter to get altitude readings, could calculate calories burned and had some features from Nike:iPod combo…wait and see!

  5. LS says:

    “- website is in miles and not configurable” this sort of thing is really annoying when you consider how much of the world is metric.

    Also is it possible to get voice feedback without looking at your screen?

  6. Mike says:

    I wish the GPS would work in Airplane mode. I hate it when people phone, text, and email me while I’m running.

  7. richard says:

    Just so everyone knows, the developer has updated this app so you can get KM now instead of just miles.

  8. avid says:

    Has anyone tested this app running on a circular track? My concern is that the distance tracker would be confused after the track looped back on itself.

  9. Mori says:

    It works thanks to GPS, right? Are there any software for other devices (not Apple), like Samsung i900 Omnia, which have GPS build in them?

  10. ED says:



  11. Jon says:

    I was using RunKeeper for a while after reading this blog post but recently discovered a new iPhone Running/Cycling app called Fitnio.

    In my opinion its much better and is FREE. :D which is good since i’d already shelled out $10 for RunKeeper.

    Fitnio is a lot easier to use, calculates calories burned, and handles the interruptions of txt msgs, calls and changing music during my run gracefully without losing session data.

    To Ed’s point the Fitnio app provides two quick start buttons for running and cycling.

    I was also impressed by how seamlessly the app interacts with the free account they give you at fitnio.com

  12. Jonny Adbuster says:

    Jon is clearly advertising here for Fitnio, it’s worded just like an ad. I have tried all the free GPS fitness apps in the store so far and they’ve all got a ways to go, the features aren’t rocket science so I’m sure in a few months they’ll all have the basics and they’ll all have the same accuracy (since they’re all on the same device). So far I think the RunKeeper and TrailGuru folks have shown the potential and there will be a lot of wanna-be apps like Fitnio and Runnner popping up after the fact this year.

  13. Tammie says:

    Just started using Runkeeper Free/trial version. Thanks for the info. I do a run:walk in training for a marathon, as recommended by famous runner Jeff Galloway. Does the Pro version of Runkeeper have an interval timer? Right now I still use my ol’ Timex Ironman watch for that.

  14. Kira says:

    Does it drain the battery fast, I have used the trial version and it seems to suck the battery in a 4 mile run. Maybe if i buy it it will be better???

  15. Rachel says:

    I’ve been using RunKeeper Lite since it was free, and while I like it, it does have a couple of pretty serious issues. Somehow, it cuts out part of my run on the map so that it doesn’t accurately calculate my mileage. Also (and this may be an iPhone issue and not a RK issue), it will sometimes tell me that it can’t find my location – under a clear blue sky with not a tree or cloud in sight. I’m still looking for a good running app that will chart my mileage as I am training for a 10K.