Nrc HeroSource: Jordan Palmer / Android Central

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. The goal is for you to be able to complete a full 5K run with no walking breaks needed by week eight.

The top 3 apps

More options

Go from couch potato to hero with these Couch to 5K apps

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? The C25K - 5K Running Trainer program helps you get started in as little as 30-minutes a day for just three days a week. You'll find integration with MyFitnessPal, and there's so much more under the hood.

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Next up, we have the aptly named Couch to 5K, which is the "official" Couch to 5K app on mobile platforms. There is an upfront cost that opens the doors to various training plans, along with virtual motivational coaches to help guide you through your journey.

Rounding out our top three favorite Couch to 5K apps actually isn't designed just for the C25K movement. Nike Run Club is a favorite for those who just want to do some workouts, maybe start running, and more. There are specialized training programs built right in, including a couch to 5K option.

1. C25K - 5K Running Trainer

C25k Running Trainer HeroSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

It can be challenging to find the right motivation to get off the couch and into running shape. The C25K Running Trainer app comes from Zen Labs Fitness, which already has a bit of experience with its other running trainer apps. These include the likes of Couch to 10K, 7 Minute Workout, and Half Marathon Trainer.

Without paying a dime, this app gets you started by running for just 30 minutes a day, three days a week, for eight weeks. You can map your run and see at what pace you were running. Then, you can share your progress across all social media platforms. But the really neat aspect is the integration with MyFitnessPal, Samsung's wearables, and even Fitbit.

While there are a lot of features available just by downloading the app, there are even more available with the Zen Unlimited Pass. The company provides music curated by DJ's, calories and distance stats, along with full access to all of the Zen Labs Fitness running apps and programs.

Unlock the power

C25K - 5K Running Trainer

Designed for first-timers

From curated playlists to audio coaching and integration with your favorite wearables, C25K - 5K Running Trainer has everything you need to get started and push your limits. And if you want to sign up for Zen Unlimited, you are provided with even more access and features to keep your motivation levels up.

2. Couch to 5K

Couch To 5K LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Couch to 5K is the "official" app for the program and offers a bit more without the need for signing up for a subscription. After paying the "entry fee" (the cost of the app), you are provided with a slew of options, including specific training plans, four different motivational virtual coaches, and human audio cues to guide you through your workouts.

There's free GPS support, so you can figure out exactly how far you ran, along with the pace. As time marches on, there are some information graphs included to help you compare your distance between workouts. This will assist in determining which route, pace, or area you should run in to get into the best shape.

You don't have to worry about only listening to the in-app trainers, as there's a built-in music player as well. And for those who can't make it outside to get in a run don't have to fret, as the app sports treadmill support with manual workout entries.

The official app

Couch to 5K

Used by thousands

The "official" Couch to 5K app has everything you need to get off the couch and into shape for a 5K. There are built-in virtual trainers, along with access to all of the critical information you'll need to know what works and what doesn't.

3. Nike Run Club

Nike Run Club Lifestyle AltSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

It's an odd time in the Play Store right now, as some apps are free, others require payment upfront, but the rest try to take advantage of "in-app purchases." So when you find an app like Nike Run Club, which not only is chock-full of features, but completely free, you have to consider it.

NRC is not your traditional Couch to 5K application, but there are training programs designed around just that goal. Along with working perfectly with Wear OS, NRC also features "audio-guided runs" with various Nike Coaches and Athletes.

But perhaps the best way to keep you motivated is by challenging yourself and friends. With this app, you have access to an entire community of like-minded Nike Running Club users. With the help of challenges, you may be the one helping someone else out instead of the other way around, and you'll end up feeling amazing.

Completely free

Nike Run Club

Free and feature-packed

Nike Run Club is not designed explicitly for the Couch to 5K program, but it's one of the best running apps on the Play Store. There are challenges, guided audio runs, personalized coaching plans, and even support for Google's Wear OS.

Other great options

Though they didn't quite make it into our top three, here are some other excellent apps for you to try out if you're trying to start the Couch to 5K program.

Zombies, Run! 5k Training

Zombies Run 5K LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

The standard Zombies, Run! app only focuses on tracking and guiding you through your runs. The 5K training version is designed with beginners in mind. When it comes to the training plan, this was specifically created by fitness professionals who have already "been there and done that."

As you follow the story and escape the zombies, new secrets will become available, and you will be able to do all of this while listening to your favorite Spotify and Pandora playlists. With over 25 different workouts, this eight-week program will ensure that you outrun the zombies and stay off the couch.

Don't get caught

Zombies, Run! 5k Training

Not for the faint of heart

This eight-week program ensures the zombies won't catch you while training you for the 5K you've always wanted to run. Then, you can go back and share your story after surviving the apocalypse.

Just Run: Zero to 5K

Just Run 5k LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

It's not often that you find a great app that is still being developed by just a single person. But that's just what you'll find with Just Run: Zero to 5K. The app is pretty simple and straightforward, but you won't have to worry about ads, and are provided with access to trainer voices for motivation.

The developer also made it so you can use your favorite music apps while letting Just Run continue to notify you when it's time to run or walk. Usually, the app has some additional premium features, but those have all been unlocked until September, giving you no excuses to give this app a shot.

Just one person

Just Run: Zero to 5K

Indie developer FTW

Just Run: Zero to 5K provides everything you need to train for a 5K. The developer has even unlocked all premium features temporarily for everyone.

Start to Run. Running for Beginners

Start to Run LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

On its surface, Start to Run aims to just get you in the habit of running. There are standard features such as distance and pace tracking, along with a calorie counter and a built-in pedometer. But Start to Run also has an "alternative" training plan built-in for those who want to run a 5K.

There are four different workout levels, each of which should be performed three times per week. Eventually, you will reach your goal and be able to enter a 5K near you or just continue following the plan to become and even better runner.

Get out and start

Start to Run. Running for Beginners

Just start running

Getting started with 5K training can be tough, but Start to Run makes it easy. There are various levels, along with the necessary charts and maps to keep track of your progress.

Couch to 10K Running Trainer

C210K Running Trainer HeroSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Zen Labs Fitness already has a slew of great running and workout apps. We've even featured their Couch to 5K app as our favorite of this lot. But Zen Labs has pushed it up a notch with the Couch to 10K application.

If you have already started to Couch to 5K program, you can just skip ahead and keep going on the road to 10K. But if you haven't started, the app will guide you through the 14-week program, with all of the features you'll need.

Step it up

Couch to 10K Running Trainer

Push your limits

If you want to break past the 5K barrier and step things up, the Couch to 10K Running Trainer app is perfect. Either start from the beginning or pick things up after the 5K training ended.

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

When it comes to running or even jogging, it can be a bit daunting to get started. That's why using an app like 5K Run is so useful, as the trainer will tell you when to run, walk, cool down, and stop. Playing music in the background is no problem, and you are given an overview of your running plan.

The best part is that you don't even have to run outside, as you can run on the treadmill if that suits you better. If you need to stop or pause the run early, you won't be guilted, and can just start it back up when you're ready.

Build your strength

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

The voice guidance you need

From a running plan overview to controlling your intervals, 5K Run is a great companion to get in shape. This app will make sure you have the cardio and body strength to complete a 5K with ease.

5K Runner: 0 to 5K in 8 Weeks. Couch potato to 5K

5K Runner LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Some of these apps rely on voice guidance but don't offer much else in terms of motivation. 5K Runner is a bit different, as you can unlock achievements as you progress through your running program. This, paired with the voice guidance, and your days of being a couch potato, will be long behind you.

Spanning eight weeks, the program requires you to go for 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Train in the great outdoors or from a treadmill and track how many calories you've burned and weight loss.

Don't be a potato

5K Runner: 0 to 5K in 8 Weeks. Couch potato to 5K

Leave the potato days behind you

5K Runner transforms you from a couch potato into a well-oiled machine in just eight weeks. With all the tools and audio coaching, training for a 5K never has been more accessible.