Running is really hard. I used to hate it. Music changed that. It made running fun. What brought wonderful music into my running experience was mobile streaming music apps.
For inspiring running music, not any old app will do. The music service behind the app really needs to have a healthy library of inspirational running music that suits your tastes.
In this article, you’ll find recommendations for the best mobile music streaming apps, backed by an awesome collection of running music.
What Is Running Music?
Not everyone loves the same kind of music, and not everyone is inspired by the same songs. So what makes certain music better for running? It is, in essence, whatever makes your heart start pounding.
For me personally, that’s beat-pounding music by the likes of Eminem, 50 Cent, Ice Cube, and Flo Rida. For you, it might be the growling electric guitars of Metallica, Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest. But we’re not here to talk about particular artists or songs. We’re here to find the kind of music that’ll inspire you to get off the couch and immerse yourself in the running experience.
Not all mobile streaming music apps will give you that experience, but let’s take a look at all of your options.
Pandora: Victim to Someone Else’s Whims
The nice thing about Pandora is that it’s free. The Pandora app is available from either Google Play or the iTunes App Store. It takes no effort to start listening to music that you like. You just create a new station, type in a genre or artist, and it creates a streaming music station tuned exactly to the kind of music you’re looking for.
The problem is, if you try searching for “running” music, you’ll find that those kind of stations are in short supply.
Pandora search is primarily artist- and genre-based, rather than activity-based. Unless you know of specific artists or an overall genre that you love to run to, Pandora is going to struggle to fulfill your needs.
Google Play Music: Dedicated Running Stations
Google Play Music (also available from iTunes) is a music streaming app I discovered once by accident when searching around for some new music streaming apps to try out. I didn’t realize Google offered a dedicated free music streaming service until I stumbled upon it while checking to see how much it would cost to download individual songs.
On Google Play Music you’ll discover a “Working Out” genre all pre-programmed with energetic and motivational tunes to get you going at the gym or running on the trail. The “Working Out” section has a dedicated “Running” section.
The “Running” section has a limited selection of stations filled with music. Based on the chosen song selections, the folks at Google seem to lean a bit more toward hip-hop, rap, and general pop music for running inspiration.
Don’t get me wrong, the songs are great and the music will help you grind through your 5k run with little effort. You may just find that you’re running out of new music to listen to if you use Google Play Music often.
Like Pandora, a drawback of Google Play Music, is that you’re streaming music over your cellular data plan. One bonus here is you can opt to go “premium” for $9.99 per month.
Our advice is to download music, or entire stations, before you step out of the door. That will save a lot of bandwidth.
Spotify: King of Offline Music for Running
It wasn’t until I purchased Spotify Premium ($10 per month on Google Play or the iTunes App Store) and purchased a set of Bluetooth earbuds that I truly experienced what an inspirational run can feel like. When you search Spotify for “running” you’ll discover all sorts of playlists covering a whole variety of music styles and interests.
There are even running playlists organized into “type” of run like “Spring Run,” “Gym Beats,” “Winter Run,” and much more.
The only thing better than having a nearly unlimited collection of running music at your disposal is the ability to listen to as much as you want offline.
This is all thanks to Spotify Premium, which enables you t0 download as many tracks as you like for offline listening.
This way you can go for a run deep into the woods without a cellular signal, and still listen to your rocking beats. It’s a beautiful thing.
Slacker Radio: No Better Than Pandora
You’ll discover quickly that the selection at Slacker Radio is just as limited as that at Pandora. It isn’t that Slacker is lacking in music that’s great for running, it’s just that the music isn’t organized into playlists or stations that make it easy to find and play.
If you already have the Slacker app on your phone and you’re at the gym looking for quick musical inspiration, you can find it with Slacker.
You will have to search for individual tracks to keep yourself motivated on the treadmill, rather than entire playlists.
RockMyRun: Just Running and Nothing Else
Yes, all of the best-known music streaming services listed above will do you justice if you need music for running. But if you run a lot and don’t really care about anything other than running, you might prefer the RockMyRun app.
RockMyRun (available from Google Play and the iTunes App Store) is all about adding tunes to your run, and it does it better than probably any other app on the market. With a library of housands of great songs, you’ll never run out of inspiration.
You can choose which genre of music you’re interested in, or you can select the type of activity you’re doing, like burning time on an elliptical or running a marathon. In the first case you can stick to the type of music you know you love. In the second case you can just let the app give you tunes that are perfect for that activity.
It isn’t entirely just about music though. The app is intended to help you integrate music with your workout. It does that through a unique step-matching feature. This is where the app will let you choose music at a tempo that matches your running cadence. Or, you can adjust your cadence to match the beat of the music. In either case, it helps you maintain a steady pace. This is better for your breathing as well as your endurance.
Run! Run Like the Wind!
Now that you have a library of great streaming music apps to choose from for your run, why not get on some running gear and head out on the trail? There is nothing quite as energizing and motivating as a 20-minute jog listening to the music that you love.
Why not give the apps listed above a try and let us know which one you liked using most while running. Or, if you already have a favorite, please share your thoughts about it with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Africa Studio/Shutterstock