Strength training and HIIT workouts may be everywhere on social media, but walking is one of the simplest and best forms of exercise you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Daily walking can help support weight loss, improve cognitive function, reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and even help decrease cortisol and stress, according to an April 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology.
If you want to start taking more steps, walking apps are a great way to hold yourself accountable. Easy to download in app stores, these tools can help you track steps, weight-loss progress and even meals — and they're usually free!
But with seemingly hundreds of options out there, I had no choice but to max out my phone storage and download them all (well, at least a bunch). Many, many steps later, I've narrowed down the five best walking apps that can help you increase your daily step count or give your motivation a boost.
Keep safety in mind before you set out on your first app-guided walk. Be cautious of traffic — if you're wearing headphones, keep the volume moderate or leave one earbud out — watch for pedestrians and keep a water bottle handy, just in case.
Best Overall Walking App: MapMyWalk
With a 4.8-star rating in the Apple app store, the consensus on this walking app is pretty obvious. After several test runs (or, rather, walks), I'd have to agree. MapMyWalk has an easy-to-use interface, allows for plenty of customization and makes your data easy to analyze.
The app is free to download and offers an in-app upgrade purchase. The MapMyWalk MVP upgrade costs $29.99 per year or you can pay $5.99 per month for training plans, heart-rate data, location sharing and an ad-free overall experience.
One of the reasons I imagine Under Armour apps (like MapMyWalk and MapMyRun) do so well is because they're so easy to use. Unlike the other most popular walking apps (most of which open right to a dashboard), MapMyWalk opens up to a map and a Start Workout button.
The walk duration and distance (arguably the most important data points) are the most prominently displayed on the screen, and it's easy to switch from page to page using the navigation at the bottom of the opening screen.
The variety of data this app offers sets it apart from its competition. As you walk you can check your time, distance, pace, stride length, cadence and calories burned. After you're finished with your workout, the app let's you snap a picture or jot down a few notes on how your workout went — my personal favorite element because, honestly, I just love to share sweaty selfies with my friends.
After your walk is done, you can also find the total steps you took and the changes in elevation on your route. You can even compare all your previous walks on an easy-to-read chart.
If you're a fan of setting goals, MapMyWalk lets you to create your own challenges, like walking a mile per day. You can select the activity type (walking, running, biking, etc.), the challenge type (most steps, most workouts, most distance, most calories burned, etc.), and the duration and dates of the challenge. Plus, you can even invite friends to join in if they're using the app, too!
Another perk of MapMyWalk is how customizable it is. The app can track 20 different activities that can then be further personalized. If you choose to track a walk, for example, you can specify if you were stair walking, treadmill walking, dog walking or power walking (or, of course, standard outdoor walking).
You can also customize your workout settings by enabling voice feedback (which updates you on your distance and pace) or configuring the stats displayed during your walk. If you don't care to see the distance of your walk on the homepage but prefer to easily see your average pace, for example, you can adjust as needed.
MapMyWalk can sync with a variety of fitness trackers, including the Apple Watch, Under Armour Connected Footwear, Under Armour Sport Wireless Heart Rate Monitors, Garmin Connect or Fitbit. You can even connect to other apps on your phone, like Withings, Samsung Health or MyFitnessPal.
- MapMyWalk is free to download, but you can upgrade for $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year.
- The app tracks all your most important walking data over time with a simple interface that shows you key numbers right away.
- You can easily configure your settings to display the stats you care about most.
Best Walking App for Health Tracking: Pacer
If you're looking to track your walks but also overall health data, Pacer is probably the walking app for you. It not only lets you track your walking with a built-in map and GPS, but you can also log your food and explore other workout options.
Pacer is free but can be upgraded for additional data and analytics like training plans, customized personal goals and additional workout videos. The Pacer upgrade is either $4.99 per month, $29.99 per year or $99.99 for lifetime access.
When it comes to appearance, this app is similar to MapMyWalk but opens up to a personal dashboard, which shows how many steps you've taken, how many calories you've burned, how much time you've spent being active and how many miles you've completed that day.
Pacer also offers navigation at the bottom of the screen where you can scroll through account information and personal insights and explore challenges and groups hosted on the app.
Pacer allows access to a number of data points in its free version, including your total steps, calories burned, active hours and miles logged. The app also tracks some more general health metrics like your weight, blood pressure and flights of stairs taken, which you can compare over time in a bar graph. In the paid version, you'll also get to track your weight trends and personal record progress, among other benchmarks.
Pacer's customization is a bit limited. In the app's settings, you're able to adjust your units of measurement and set up push notifications to remind you to get more steps or log your weight or workouts. Pacer also lets you set personal step goals.
The majority of Pacer's app-based workout videos are available only with a paid subscription. And while the app lets you log a variety of activity types, it doesn't track these workouts. You'll need to manually enter your duration, distance and calories burned if you're running, swimming or biking (other activities are available, too).
- Pacer is free to download, but you can also subscribe for $4.99 a month, $29.99 a year or $99.99 for lifetime access.
- You can measure your daily steps, calories burned, weight, blood pressure and heart rate, among other metrics, on an easy-to-follow personal dashboard.
- The app does not track workouts, so you'll have to enter them manually.
Read more: 20 Reasons to Go For a Walk Right Now
Best for Step Tracking: Steps App
Much simpler in design than other walking apps, the Steps app is exactly as it sounds: an app that tracks your steps. Anyone looking for a simple, to-the-point pedometer-style app will likely be happy with what Steps has to offer.
The basic version of the app is free but can be upgraded for a one-time fee of $2.99 for additional tools and personalization.
This app gets right to the point and opens up to a page displaying your steps taken and your daily step goal. You'll also see how many calories you've burned, the distance you've crossed and how many active minutes you've racked up. The bottom of the page also breaks down your activity in a bar graph by the hour of the day, displaying when you were most active.
You can change that homepage's settings to scroll through your activity for the week and month instead of the day.
As the app really only consists of one page, it's simple to use. However, the background is a black, rather than a white screen. This isn't a huge deal, but if you're accustomed to looking at a bright white screen and happen to be picky (like yours truly), the sudden shift in color is distracting and unappealing.
The Steps app offers the most limited data in its free version, tracking only the three data points on the homepage. However, if you decide to upgrade, you're able to track your calories, sync with your Apple Watch, import your iPhone health app data, analyze your activity trends and get an hourly overview of your daily steps in widget form.
As this app is really only for tracking steps, there's little you can change. But you can customize your step length and the units used in the app.
- The basic version of Steps is free, but you can upgrade for $2.99 to track calories and other health data from a fitness wearable or smartphone.
- The free version only tracks steps and consists of just one page, so it's easy to use and navigate but limited.
Best Walking App for Tracking Meals: Argus
With a unique and interactive design, Argus is great for anyone looking for an overall wellness app. It allows you to track not only your steps but your calories, water intake, meals and workouts. You can even check the weather as you're planning your next walk — because there's nothing worse than getting caught in crisp white sneakers in the rain.
Argus is available in its basic form for free, or you can upgrade to the premium version for $14.99 per month or $29.99 per year. The free version offers a 24/7 step counter, calorie and meal tracking, macro tracking and upper-body workout tracking. Argus Premium also offers detailed nutrition info, personalized training plans, heart stress tests, heart-rate insights and a tool to create your own at-home workouts.
Although Argus probably offers the most unique homepage of the walking apps I tried, it's also one of the more confusing to navigate, as it's highly interactive. Argus displays information like steps, calories, water tracking and the weather in bubbles, which you can customize and rearrange to your liking. As an organization freak, I'd recommend arranging by color to create a rainbow effect — but that's just me.
As with other walking apps, you can scroll between pages, like your dashboard, friends, meals, challenges and profile settings, at the bottom of the screen.
Argus' insights page shows several data points like your daily active minutes, sleep duration, daily calories, steps and workouts per week. The app also lets you track your weight, water intake and heart rate (measured using your phone's camera).
Aside from walking, Argus lets you track your runs, including your pace, time and distance. The app also offers a food diary and meal plan option, allowing you to pick the best meal plan for your goals.
The Argus homepage is its most customizable feature, enabling you to rearrange data points however you like (yep, you can literally just drag the little bubbles across the screen).
The app is also great for personal goal-setting, as you can set up your own water, sleep, calorie, exercise and weight-loss targets.
- The basic version of Argus is free, or you can upgrade to Argus Premium for $14.99 a month or $29.99 a year.
- Argus offers some unique tracking metrics, including water intake and heart rate, but the interface can be a little confusing, as it's extremely interactive.
Best for the Gadget-Obsessed: Fitbit
The Fitbit app easily connects with a bunch of devices, not just Fitbit gear — and you don't even need to own a watch to use this app! Fitbit is great for tracking your progress over time, as it can import data from other health apps you're using.
Fitbit offers both a free version and a premium version for $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. The paid option offers additional audio and video workouts, sleep tracking and more.
Fitbit's app is easy to use and navigate. All of the most important metrics are the first to pop up on the home screen, including the steps you've taken, the miles you've clocked and the calories you've burned.
You can scroll between a few different pages in the app using the navigation options at the bottom of the screen.
The app tracks a variety of metrics, including your step count, calories burned, miles walked, current weight, exercise, water intake, food and menstrual cycle. Each of these can also be viewed on a line graph, which allows you to easily assess your progress over time.
Exercise options are a little sparse; you can only track walking, running or hiking directly in the app without a separate fitness tracker. But if walking is your thing, the Fitbit app uses GPS to track your location on a map; you can turn on audio cues to update you on your time, pace and distance.
In Fitbit's free app, you can personalize your daily goals for steps, distance walked and calories burned. You can also edit your exercise goals and food intake or ideal body weight and fat percentage.
The Fitbit app is compatible with all Fitbit devices and a variety of other apps, which is key to its appeal. If you're a fan of RunKeeper, for instance, you can easily sync that data with Fitbit.
- Fitbit offers both a free and premium version for either $9.99 a month or $79.99 per year (not including the price of a wearable tracker).
- The app is easy to navigate and displays the most major walking metrics first.
- Fitbit is great for observing progress over time, allowing you to compare different time frames, and is compatible with a variety of different devices and apps.
The Bottom Line on Walking Apps
Whether you're a long-time power walker or hoping to increase your daily step count, walking apps are great tools that can help boost motivation and accountability. If you're still not 100 percent sure which app is best for you, download a few and give them your own test walk.