Did you have bold plans to start running more at the start of the summer, but things just didn't pan out? It can be tough to just go out for a free run when you're maybe still working on your form and endurance.

That's where a running app can come in handy. The most popular smartphone apps for runners are the Couch to 5K training programs. They are typically built around an 8- or 9-week program that eases you into running using the interval training method. You start out with an even mix of walking and jogging, with the program gradually increasing the running intervals as you progress through the program. The goal is by week eight you're able to complete a full 5K run with no walking breaks needed.

If you search for "Couch to 5K" in the Google Play Store and you're going to find dozens of app options to choose from, so which one is right for you? There are a couple free options that are a bit more basic, as well as some premium options that play nice with other fitness apps and include GPS to track your run routes and distances. You're also going to need a good set of in-ear headphones to get the most out of these apps because they all use audio cues to tell you when to switch from running to walking — plus it's always better to run with music.

We've broken things down into the free apps and paid apps. Let's run through each app's features.

Free apps

5K Runner: 0 to 5K

5K Runner was developed by Fitness22 and is all about inspiring you to keep running — there's daily inspirational quotes and badges to earn as you continue down your path from couch to 5K. It also looks downright pretty with your next run's intervals clearly visualized from the app's home screen.

There's a built-in music player for any MP3s on your phone, and you're able to temporarily lock the screen from within the app so you can easily see how much time you have left on each interval at a glance without touching your phone — perfect if you're running with your phone in an armband case.

The app tracks your progress and run history so you can see how you've improved over the weeks. Fitness22 has some other related apps including a 5K to 10K app, a Gym Workout Trainer app, and bunch of other fitness apps that you may want to check out if you enjoy your experience with 5K Runner.

This app is free for the first week and includes all the premium features found in the other paid apps, but then you'll need to pay $2.99 to unlock the remaining seven weeks. A good option if you'd rather try before you buy.

Download: 5K Runner: 0 to 5K (Free trial)

5K Run — Couch to 5K Walk/Jog Interval Training

If you're just looking for a free running app to help you jumpstart a new running habit, 5K Run is right for you. You're able to use it on a treadmill or outdoors and it plays well with any music app you might use — although you'll need to switch between the 5K app and the music app to control the music.

The schedule has nine weeks of runs programmed in with the ninth week dedicated to hitting 5K on a 40-minute run. From there, you can move on to the 10K trainer app if you want to keep pushing yourself in training.

The app UI is very basic here with few bells and whistles. You get the chimes and voice prompts to start walking or jogging as you go, and there's built-in GPS to track your distance. You're also able to manually enter your distance if you're running on a treadmill.

It's all free and simple to use for beginners. If you want to try out a Couch to 5K program for free without any commitment required, this is your best bet.

Download: 5K Run (Free)

Paid apps

Couch to 5K (Active Network)

The first paid app we'll look at is the Couch to 5K app from Active Network. Its main features include an easy-to-use interface, customizable personal trainers, GPS support to track your distance and pace, and great integration for community support and finding 5K races near you.

One of the coolest features is the ability to select a personal trainer that suits your needs. You can choose a friendly female trainer that will offer you words of encouragement during your run, or other characters like Sergeant Block who will bark orders at you like you're in the military. You're able to switch between the different trainers so your runs never feel stagnant.

There's a music player built into the app, but it only works with MP3s downloaded onto your phone so if you use Spotify or the like you'll need to switch between the two apps. You're able to log all your workouts and view your progress which includes your total run time and distance, which can be encouraging to follow.

There's a 5K to 10K app, too, if you complete the 8-week program and wish to continue with Active Network app's towards your next goal.

Download: Couch to 5K (Active Network) ($2.99)

C25K Pro

C25K Pro is another great paid option that features really good app integration with other fitness apps like Google Fit and MyFitnessPal. It's easy to use and fully customizable, which is nice. Developed by Zen Labs Fitness, this app also claims to be the official Couch to 5K app and comes with a bunch of great features built in.

While there is a free version with ads, the Pro version is where it's at with premium features including calorie and distance tracking. For music, C25K lets you listen to your own playlist from music on your phone, but the app also recommends a couple companion apps for music and audiobooks. RockMyRun is a free app with curated workout mixes from popular DJs, and actually ups the beats per minute (BPM) as your workout progresses to give you a boost as you go. There's also Audio Books by Audiobooks.com, which lets you engage your brain on your run with your choice of over 100,000 titles to choose through. You get one audiobook for free and then will need to sign up for a monthly subscription for more.

As you would expect, Zen Labs Fitness also has a 10K training app and other fitness apps you might consider checking out if you enjoy your experience with C25K Pro.

Download: C25K Pro ($2.99)

Which Couch to 5K apps have you tried?

Have you found success with a Couch to 5K app in the past? Got any tips for beginners just starting out? Let us know in the comments below!

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