11 mins

What are the Best Running Route Planners?

Finding the right running routes can have a big effect on how safe, fun, and effective runners are at any level. Although sometimes just walking out the door works, planning courses with route optimization tools made just for runners can be more effective—as long as you choose the right one for your needs.

This detailed article examines more than a dozen popular running route planners by key elements like important features, ease of use, mapping quality, the ability to sync, community data, and pricing models.

Evaluating Running Route Planners: Matching Platforms to Runner Profiles

The goal is to figure out how to decode each platform so that its unique strengths can be better matched to the needs of different types of runners.

Experience level: Casual runners look for different things than club runners who are trying to get better by collecting data and finding motivation to cut seconds off their own bests. When it comes to this, measuring distance and height with great care means more.

Type of Terrain: Road runners need maps that differ from trail runners who go into the remote mountain and river networks far from roads. Reviews, surface types, and details are the most important things.

Ecosystem of gear: The difference between carrying a phone and syncing with a GPS or Apple Watch is huge. From time to time, you may need to use offline access.

Examples of travel: Run-captioning in a new, faraway city adds new safety and navigation issues that people who live there don’t think about. Social data is used to find the best places to run.

Racing goals: 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon runners reach their peak training periods at very different levels of speed and session length. Being able to change your route better fits your plans.

Making tools for social accountability part of solo training helps people be more consistent, which is good for apps that are designed to encourage competition, whether it’s against yourself or other people, by letting you share workouts, maps, and progress.

When it comes to budget, users who don’t mind paying little or nothing for a subscription are more likely to use it, while athletes who are training hard to improve their performance will find that paying for unlimited advanced features is well worth it. Some platforms are so free that they can even handle niche cases pretty well.

We want to help you choose the best platform for your goals by showing you the best features of the best running route planners in areas that are relevant to runners. By understanding the main differences between “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features, you can set realistic goals for what you can achieve.

Choosing the Right Running Route Planner

Learning how to customize certain apps for trail runners who want to run on exciting routes away from busy streets will pay off right away compared to options that are better for urban runners who want to run the same distances every day instead of exploring.

However, driven by results, club runners should look at people who can look at detailed metrics like pace, heart rate, power, and cadence per interval and only occasionally run a local 5K, ignoring advanced analytics completely.

The main things that are used to judge are these:

  • What It Does
  • Easy of use
  • Creating good maps
  • Accessibility both online and off
  • Models for pricing

To use that standard for all running route planners, suggestions must fall into two categories: great niche solutions and well-rounded, flexible platforms that work for all types of runners, even if they aren’t fully optimized for a single situation.

Runners of all levels need running route planners to plan courses that are safe, scenic, and good for training runs, long runs, and races. It might take some time to figure out which platform is best for you since there are so many to choose from. This detailed guide rates popular running route planners based on important factors such as features, ease of use, mapping abilities, and prices to help you choose the best route planning tool.

When we looked at the running route planners, we looked at things like

  • Tracking, planning, a community, coaching, reviews, and more are some of the features.
  • How easy it is to use—course planning, waypoints, loops, exports, and more.
  • Mapping: Accuracy, detail, 3D terrain, surfaces, and limits.
  • Access: mobile, web, device integration, and use when not online.
  • Prices: Free, freemium, and paid subscriptions.

The goal is to list the good and bad points of each platform so that route planners can be tailored to the needs and budgets of each runner.

Strava

Strava has over 95 million users around the world, making it the most popular running and cycling tracking and social platform. It lets you share your GPS activities, compete on segment leaderboards, join challenges, look at performance data, and connect with a big community.

Key Features

  • Adding workouts from fitness trackers, watches, and phones
  • To compare your time to others or your own, use segmented leaderboards.
  • Tools for planning routes that let you make and share courses
  • Fitness challenges to keep you going
  • Strong data analysis, such as heart rate zones, pace, and splits

Pros

  • Huge community helps keep people motivated and gives route advice
  • Strong mobile and web apps for planning and keeping track of things
  • Competition on different parts of the leaderboard drives performance.

Cons

  • Few changes can be made not possible to plan a route
  • Mostly uses GPS activities that have already been recorded
  • For important analytics and features, you need a Premium Subscription.

Pricing

It’s free, but it only gives you basic Strava analysis and no splits. All features are available for a premium price of $7.99 a month or $59.99 a year.

Strava is the best global platform for tracking and training, and its community-driven motivation and data analysis can help you reach new performance levels. When you sync your activities from your phone or sports watch, you can see detailed information about your pace, heart rate, power, and pain over certain courses or efforts.

With the free plan, you can only look at the last six weeks of activities. When you upgrade to Premium, you get access to all of your past runs and the important Segment Explore tab, which shows you popular runs and lets you sort them by distance, surface, or climb difficulty to find new runs to do on your next run.

MapMyRun

MapMyRun has over 45 million users and integrates with Under Armour’s ecosystem of health and fitness apps and wearables like MyFitnessPal, Endomondo, and UA Record. Tracking activities provide route recommendations based on distance, surface preference, and elevation matching logged fitness levels.

Key Features

  • Online route builder to map courses
  • Training plans from 5K to marathon
  • Weather and air quality data layers
  • Track runs via Under Armour apps
  • MapMyRun MVP membership unlocks customization

Pros

  • Syncs heart rate, pace, and cadence data
  • Adaptive training plans adjust to performance
  • Audio coaching guides you on phone-free runs
  • Analyze routes, grades, and pacing strategy after

Cons

  • Smaller community than competitors
  • Requires MVP subscription for custom workouts

Pricing

Free app use but limited training features. MVP, $5.99 per month or $29.99 per year, enables customized workouts, route recommendations, training plans, and more.

While MapMyRun lacks the community motivation of Strava, its tight Under Armour integration allows you to dial training to your goals. Based on logged run history and fitness levels, adaptive plans automatically adjust for performance, rest needed between strenuous efforts, ideal recovery run pacing, and hitting weekly volume targets.

The audio coaching features that provide real-time updates on pace, duration, and distance remaining through your headphones help eliminate distractions from constantly looking down at your watch. With distances calibrated to your stride length, guidance stays accurate without requiring footpads or phone GPS connectivity.

Komoot

Komoot specializes in planning hiking, trail running, road cycling, and gravel riding tours powered by detailed digital maps graded by difficulty, surface types, and popularity. Courses sync to apps and devices for turn-by-turn guidance.

Key Features

  • Maps rated by difficulty, surface, steepness
  • Elevation profiles & gradients for climbs
  • Roundtrip generator for any distance
  • Works offline once the region is downloaded

Pros

  • Excellent planning for specific distance & elevation
  • Download regions for offline accessibility
  • The community provides route advice & reviews

Cons

  • More limited routes database in North America
  • Exports incur extra one-time fees
  • Region packs have additional costs

Pricing

Free with limited usage. Premium $59.99 per year. Region packs $3.99–$29.99 each.

While the core Komoot experience excels at planning routes to match your preferred terrain, distance, and difficulty preferences, some limitations exist depending on geography.

In the US and Canada, trail coverage focuses on major metropolitan areas and national parks. So backpackers or ultra runners aiming for remote mountain routes may need supplemental resources.

The good news is that Komoot uses OpenStreetMap and public data, meaning any user can directly improve the underlying maps by submitting missing trails or correcting errors. Over time, the platform can build North American coverage on par with European coverage.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect provides a complete ecosystem for Garmin wearable and GPS device owners to track runs and bike rides while syncing courses and workouts. Analyze performance and share activities with friends.

Key Features

  • Auto-sync of activities from watches/bike computers
  • Build routes based on distance, points of interest
  • Advanced workout creator with repeats, intervals
  • Adaptive training plans from 5K to ultramarathon

Pros

  • Seamless integration with Garmin ecosystem
  • Audio prompts guide your route & pacing
  • Fitness & training load optimize recovery

Cons

  • Requires Garmin device to enable key benefits
  • Basic third-party maps lack detail & trail coverage

Pricing

Free when using Garmin gear. No subscription is required.

Connect provides a powerful route planning experience for Garmin device owners that syncs directly to your watch or bike computer for turn guidance prompts as you ride or run. After uploading completed activities, you can review deep data like stride length, vertical oscillation, training load focus, and recommended recovery time.

While the first-party Garmin topo maps provide excellent detail for following routes and tracking progress, third-party map options fare worse if seeking features like full-resolution satellite view, traffic avoidance, or trail network overlays.

Part of that limitation stems from the tight symbiotic relationship to sell Garmin hardware paired with proprietary software features. As the investment in a GPS watch or bike computer increases, dedicating your fitness data platform to Connect becomes an easy choice to optimize the end-to-end lifecycle.

AllTrails

AllTrails helps discover new trail routes for running and hiking powered by a community tracking over 300,000 miles worldwide. Heatmaps show popular paths, while user-generated reviews and photos preview conditions and difficulty before heading out.

Key Features

  • Heat and terrain maps indicate most used trails
  • Community reviews and recent condition photos
  • Advanced filters to match distance and difficulty
  • Save routes offline for areas with poor cell service

Pros

  • Excellent for finding and previewing new trails
  • Reviews from local runners provide valuable insight
  • Pro plan unlocks advanced trail filters

Cons

  • Limited planning features for urban city runs
  • Imprecise location search requires trail knowledge

Pricing

Free access includes basic features. AllTrails Pro is $29.99 annually for offline maps, PDF printing, and no ads.

While AllTrails specializes in hiking and trail running route discovery, some limitations exist for on-road runners. Finding nearby paths by searching a city park or neighborhood address often needs to be clarified compared to traditional street maps.

However, once familiar with a local trail system, the AllTrails database truly shines by revealing route options filtered by distance, elevation change, and current condition notes from fellow runners. Trail popularity heatmaps double as a vetting system for safer, well-established paths in remote areas.

For adventurous runners constantly looking to explore new terrain, the social features help take some risk and uncertainty out of the equation by learning from the community’s collective experience.

Plot A Route

PlotARoute provides advanced tools for planning running, walking, and cycling routes through any terrain using an intuitive browser-based editor. Easily customize loops, segments, and points of interest while analyzing elevation profiles in 2D and 3D.

Key Features

  • Click map nodes to build a route path
  • View elevation gain and segments
  • Create complex loops or multi-leg journeys
  • Export GPX, TCX, KML files

Pros

  • Intuitive point-and-click editor to customize
  • Analyze by distance, ascent, checkpoints
  • Route app syncing

Cons

  • Premium subscription is required for exporting
  • Lower popularity than competitors

Pricing

Basic features are free. Premium Route Tools are $3.99 per month.

PlotARoute stands out through flexible route planning features combined with solid community support. Toggle between map, satellite, and traffic views within the route planner while editing checkpoints along your course.

Analyze by total distance, climbing effort, altitude peaks, and mileage between aid stations. PlotARoute caters well to ultrarunners plotting 50+ mile courses spanning different terrains and fueling stops.

While some GPS devices auto-sync routes from the cloud dashboard, loading GPX files manually provides wider compatibility. Enjoy planning running or riding adventures abroad by importing GPX files into rental devices as a backup.

Runkeeper

Runkeeper helps runners track runs, set goals, and receive audio-guided coaching on mobile devices to stay motivated and meet fitness milestones. Integrates with music apps for phone-free tracking.

Key Features

  • Create routes by a desired distance
  • Adaptive training plans from 5K to marathon
  • Bluetooth integration to play music
  • Get progress updates through headphones

Pros

  • Well-designed mobile apps with audio coaching
  • Training plans adapt to performance
  • Social graph encourages friends

Cons

  • Limited terrain maps and detail
  • Requires phone on runs

Pricing

Free basic features. Go Premium Coaching is $9.99 per month or $39.99 per year.

While longtime runners may have legacy data within Runkeeper, the platform has stagnated relative to increased competition, offering richer routing functionality, maps, and ecosystem integration.

By focusing heavily on the mobile experience, Runkeeper requires carrying your phone on runs and rides to track activity and provide in-ear coaching guidance. If aiming to run a telephone free or own a Garmin or Apple Watch, more capable apps integrate natively with those devices via Bluetooth.

However, the adaptive training plans dynamically adjust based on your performance, rest, recovery, and hitting weekly targets, making it easy to stick with the guided curriculum explicitly tailored to your improving capabilities week over week.

Caltopo

Caltopo provides professional-grade altitude mapping, 3D flyovers, and turn-by-turn creation for planning hiking, trail running, cycling, and outdoor expeditions. Analyze terrain to optimize route finding.

Key Features

  • Build customizable large-format topographic maps
  • Overlay NET public land grids, USFS, and more
  • Analyze terrain line of sight, grade and geography
  • Create, export, and print GPX and KML routes

Pros

  • Robust and highly customizable mapping
  • Third-party map layers like fires, snow depth
  • Mobile and desktop-friendly

Cons

  • Steep learning curve due to dense features
  • No activity upload or live tracking

Pricing

Generous free tier. Premium, starting at $29.99 annually, unlocks additional map layers, storage, and PDF print output.

Serious outdoor athletes have long relied on traditional paper USGS quad topographic maps for adventure route planning and emergency navigation. Caltopo provides next-generation digital enhancements sought after by search and rescue responders combined with backcountry explorers requiring the highest quality terrain mapping and analysis.

Features like viewshed shading reveal visible terrain from specified elevations—a vital tool for planning running routes with desired scenic vistas or avoiding thickly wooded sections prone to surprise bear encounters based on proximity to rivers and berry patches.

The learning curve is natural due to the sheer analytical depth spanning decades of cartography expertise digitized, but reward patient investment by pursuing adventures made possible through mastering this unique hardware-independent platform.

OS Maps

OS Maps powered by Ordnance Survey provides official, continually updated topographic mapping and routing optimized for traversing Great Britain, including England, Scotland, and Wales.

Key Features

  • National mapping agency data via web and mobile
  • Plot routes with live distance and ascent stats
  • Measure tool great for Ultra race pacing
  • Sync device to follow routes offline

Pros

  • Best-quality digital mapping of UK trails
  • Create, export GPX, and print routes
  • Ideal for self-navigated challenges like UK ultras

Cons

  • Focused exclusively on the United Kingdom
  • No workout data upload or activity feed

Pricing

Free limited access. Premium subscription packages from ~£20-~£80 per year based on features.

With robust public data access laws mandating governmental agencies open up their mapping resources, the Ordnance Survey’s OS Maps offer best-in-class topographic detail for planning challenging feats like self-supported Fastest Known Time attempts across Britain’s ancient coast-to-coast trail.

Plot new mountain running routes through Snowdonia National Park, leveraging surface gradation layering denoting qualities from manicured low grass to post-holing prone boulder fields combined with 3D fly-through perspective visuals.

Compare altitude profiles of desired paths using the profiler tool denoting milestones, checkpoints, and bailout cutoffs. Toggle map layers like visible stars for checking clear skies during remote overnight navigational pursuits crossing the wild Pennine Way into legendary fell racing territory.

Comparison of Running Route Planner Pricing

Running route planners range from free entry-level services like Google Maps to advanced paid platforms with premium features targeting power users, athletes in training, and global adventurers. Here is a pricing comparison:

Platform

Free Features

Paid Tiers

Price Per Year

AllTrails

Limited, throttled

AllTrails Pro

$29.99

Caltopo

Limited area downloads

Premium Membership

$29.99

Garmin Connect

Full features require a device

N/A

Free w/ device

Google Maps

Full functionality

N/A

Free

Komoot

Limited downloads

Premium

$59.99

MapMyRun

Full app access

MVP membership

$29.99

OnTheGoMap

No limits

N/A

Free

OS Maps

Limited area access

Premium subscriptions

£20-£120 based on features

PlotARoute

Very basic

Premium route tools

~$48

Runtastic

Limited, some ads

Premium Membership

~$59.88

Runkeeper

Core features

Go Premium Coaching

$39.99

Strava

Limited analysis

Premium Membership

$59.99

Remember that some services charge extra fees for particular map areas or require you to purchase standalone apps for mobile devices.

Choosing the Best Running Route Planner For You

With so many route planning options available, match the critical criteria below to your usage, budget, device ecosystem, and fitness level:

User Persona

Recommended Platforms

Garmin users

Garmin Connect

Trail runners

AllTrails, Caltopo

Ultra-planners

Caltopo, PlotARoute

UK-based

OS Maps

US coverage

AllTrails

Coaching motivation

Runkeeper, Runtastic

Device uploads

Strava, Garmin Connect, Komoot

Audio training

MapMyRun MVP, Runkeeper Go Premium

Goal race prep

Runtastic, Runkeeper

Casual use

Strava free, Komoot, Google Maps

Off-road routing

MTB Project, Ride with GPS, Trailforks

On-street navigation

Komoot, OSMAnd~, Locus Map

Conclusion

Tracking runs and rides and reviewing rich data is invaluable. Still, thoughtful route planning takes your training and races to higher levels using specialized tools matched precisely for the task. Hopefully, this guide is a comprehensive start to selecting the best running route planner for your fitness pursuits, navigation preferences, geographic terrain, training needs, device ecosystem, and budget. You can confidently build your perfect running routes with the foundation covered here.

In this Article

About Author
Rishabh

Rishabh is a freelance technical writer based in India. He is a technology enthusiast who loves working in the B2B tech space.

FAQs

Go to MapMyRun.com and sign in to your account. If you don’t already have an account, you can make one for free. In the menu at the top, click on the “Routes” tab. Press the “Create Route” button on the Routes page.

Strava is better if you want to connect with other runners, share your stats, and compare your scores. If you want a more personalized system with more privacy and full, tried-and-true routes, MapMyRun is the way to go.

To make a walking, running, or cycling route, click on the map and choose where to start. Then, to find out how far the route you want to make is, click once at each point along it. The controls on top of the Google route map let you switch between map, satellite, hybrid, and terrain views.