The Best Running Route Planners

Male runner using route planning app
(Image credit: Dougal Waters / Getty Images)

It’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of running the same handful of routes, and while you will still be getting all the fitness benefits of the sport, after a while you might start to lose your mojo with the monotony of seeing the same scenery time and again.

You can simply veer off these well-trodden paths at random, but while that will undoubtedly liven up your run it can lead to extended trips where you’re completely lost, have to navigate main roads or hit dead ends with annoying regularity.

The solution is to plan your routes using an app or website, and then, if you have a running watch capable of showing those routes, pinging them to your wrist to follow. Even if you don’t, you can pop your phone in an armband or running belt and check it occasionally; or if you have the memory for it, just map out your preferred path and keep it in mind when you run.

How I Test Running Route Planners

I’m a keen runner who logs about 50-70 miles a week and I’m always on the lookout for new routes, whether that’s discovering previously unexplored areas near my home, or finding the best and most popular routes for runners when in a new place. I’ve tested a wide variety of the best running watches with navigation features, and used their partner apps to plan routes, as well as using standalone apps to plan and follow routes.

The Best Running Route Planning Apps And Websites

Strava route planner showing map and satellite view

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)


Easiest route planner to use

Price: Strava Premium $11.99/£8.99 monthly, $79.99/£54.99 annually

You probably already use Strava
Suggested routes
Huge user base for popularity heatmaps
Heatmap favors main roads
More expensive than others

If you’re a keen runner chances are you already use Strava to track or just share your training. If you upgrade to a premium membership you get access to Strava’s excellent Route Builder tool. You can use this to get recommended routes near you based on where other app users run, altering the app’s suggestions based on how far you want to run, the terrain and whether you want to avoid hills.

You can also build your own routes from scratch, using Strava’s Global Heatmap to help judge which paths are popular with other runners. I find it’s sometimes not helpful in urban environments where most people use main roads, but when you head off-road it’s great to know that marked paths are actually good for running, rather than impassable owing to mud or overgrown vegetation. 

Download from App Store and Google Play

Komoot screenshots

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)


Most advanced route planner

Price: One area free, $3.99/£3.99 per region, $29.99/£29.99 for the world

Chooses enjoyable routes
Syncs easily with watch apps
Good value
Steeper learning curve than others

Komoot’s route planning software is impressively advanced and is great for point-to-point planning, generally keeping you off busy roads where possible. You need to create an account to save routes and send them to your phone and watch via Komoot, but you do get one area free when you sign up—your local area is chosen as default—and it then costs $3.99/£3.99 to unlock a new region, or $29.99/£29.99 to unlock the entire world.

One thing I find particularly useful with Komoot is that it pairs with all the major sports watch brands—Garmin, Coros, Suunto and Polar—so it’s easy to sync routes from Komoot to partner apps and then on your watch. The route planner will also tell you what surfaces your planned route covers, so you can see if your road running shoes will need to cope with trails.

Download from App Store and Google Play 

Garmin route map screenshots

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Garmin Connect

Best route planner for Garmin watches

Price: Free

Fast sync to Garmin watches
Popularity heatmap
Creates routes for you
Hard to find in Garmin app
Often picks main roads

You don’t have to own a Garmin device to use the Garmin Connect route planner in the app and on the website (although you will need to create an account), but naturally the main point of creating a route there is to sync it to a compatible watch to follow when running. The route planning is easy enough to use and you can export runs you’ve done previously to use the routes again or send them to someone else. It can be hard to find in the app though. Go to the More menu, tap Training, and then Courses.

I’m usually wearing a Garmin watch, so I do use the Garmin route planner a lot since it’s the most direct way to get a route on that watch, but I find the route-planning features less intuitive and useful than those of Komoot and Footpath. The app can create routes for you if given a distance and rough direction, which is smart, but it often sticks to main roads with these routes.

Download from App Store and Google Play 

Footpath route planner screenshots

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)


Best route planning app

Price: $3.99/£3.49

Easy to draw routes with finger
Can download offline maps
Great Apple Watch app
Requires subscription 

You need a premium account to export routes from the Footpath app, but once you have one it’s the best route builder I’ve come across. It’s easy to use, has the best snap-to-path feature available that rarely makes errors when converting my quickly scribbled line into an actual route, and shows the elevation on your route clearly with a color-coded graph.

It’s easy to export Footpath routes in a variety of files to use with watches, and there is also a standalone Footpath app for the Apple Watch, which is the best Apple Watch app available for navigation. The app itself can also be used to navigate with turn-by-turn directions, and you can download maps to use offline if you’re heading somewhere without signal.

Download from App Store and Google Play 

Suunto route planner screenshots

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)


Best route planner for Suunto watches

Price: Free

Variety of map overlays
Popularity heatmaps
Smaller user pool

Suunto’s route planner is the most useful I’ve come across in a partner app for a watch, with popularity heatmaps and other overlays including one that shows you which paths are paved. There are also different map types to choose from including some I have not seen in other apps, like avalanche terrain, which is unlikely to ever be useful where I live in north London, but could be invaluable to those in the mountains. 

You can also filter the heatmaps by sport, which is useful for a runner because otherwise heatmaps often highlight main roads that cyclists favor and these aren’t much fun to run along. The only downside here is that Suunto’s user pool is a lot smaller than that of Garmin or Strava, so the app doesn’t capture as much information.

Download from App Store and Google Play 

Coros route map screenshot.

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)


Best route planner for Coros watches

Price: Free

Easy to sync with Coros watches
Can export to use with other apps
Not very detailed
No heatmaps

Coros added a route builder to its app in 2023 and while it’s not as advanced as dedicated navigation apps, it’s a speedy and easy way to get routes on a Coros watch. It’s also free to use if you have a Coros account and you can export the route to use with other watches, not just Coros ones. 

There’s no popularity heatmap on the app as yet, though, which you do get with Suunto and Garmin’s route builders. In general it’s pretty light on the details and overlays that you get with other route planners.

Download from App Store and Google Play 

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.