Tracking your runs and heart rate with Runtastic PRO for Windows Phone

Running remains one of the most popular ways to drop a few pounds or improve overall health. It’s cheap (just get a good pair of running shoes), you can do it virtually anywhere, and people of all skill and fitness levels can start. There are just too many benefits to list, but if you’re looking to start running or track your current workouts, you might want to check out runtastic Pro for Windows Phone.

Runtastic is small startup from Austria (that’s the one without an ‘L’ and no koalas) that makes various fitness apps and accessories for all mobile platforms. Right now they’ve only got one for the Windows Phone Store and that’s Runtastic and Runtastic Pro. We’ll focus on runtastic Pro for the majority of the review and towards the end let you know the big differences between Runtastic and Runtastic Pro.

The app first hit the Windows Phone ecosystem back in March 2011 and has gotten some small bumps in features and performance over time (big update coming next week). If you look at the free version it has over 2000 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars in the Windows Phone Store, while the Pro version has about 650 reviews with the same average rating. People like this app, I like this app, so what’s it all about?  

Tracking your runs

Runtastic is first and foremost, an app to track your runs. It excels at running, but you can select from a variety of sports like hiking, cycling, and kayaking to name a few.

When you first launch the app you’re presented with a panorama view offering you: home, map, and music.  Under the home setting is where you’ll probably spend most of your time, mostly because it’s where you start tracking your workout. You’ll select the type of activity and workout.

Activities are broken into a ton of different sports – you’ll probably select running 90% of the time. The workout selection is really interesting: you can either chose a basic workout or interval workout.  You’ll select basic if all you’re doing is going for a nice long run where you don’t expect to change your pace much.

The interval option is really awesome if you’re into interval training, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT). An interval workout is basically periods of relatively high output mixed with periods of rest or low output. For example, you might jog for three minutes, then sprint for one minute, followed by another three minutes of jogging. You might do that until you’ve done four or five sprint sessions. Runtastic allows you to select from premade interval workouts or create your own.

HIIT is a very popular form of interval training for people looking to drop fat without spending two hours on the treadmill. Most HIIT workouts are about 20 minutes in length and have been shown in numerous studies to be better at burning fat than long aerobic exercises. It’s a very popular choice for losing fat in the bodybuilding community because it minimizes muscle loss. If you’re curious about HIIT just go google Bing it.

You’re probably going to want some music while running, which you can get under the music heading. Here you can select music to play from within the app. You’ll want to make a workout playlist since you can only select playlists from within the app. However, you can start playing an album from Xbox Music or another 3rd party app and still use runtastic.

The map allows you to view your current run and can be handy if you’re in a new area. You can turn on or off aerial view, have the map follow you, and unlock the map to scroll around.

Listen to my heart

Like I mentioned at the beginning, runtastic makes a variety of fitness apps and accessories. They happen to have a heart rate monitor that works with their Windows Phone app. Which is one reason I started using runtastic, the ability to see my heart rate synced with my runs was too cool to pass up on. The heart rate monitor is the chest strap variety and was quite comfortable to wear. It was my first time wearing one and I didn’t really notice it while running. It’s adjustable, so it can fit people with different chest sizes.

Since Windows Phone 7 and 8 both suck in regards to lack of Bluetooth 4.0 support, you’ll need to insert an included Bluetooth dongle into your headphone jack to use the heart rate monitor. Don’t worry, you don’t lose out on listening to music, since headphones can still be plugged in through the top of the dongle. Once you’ve connected the dongle to your phone, head into the settings of runtastic to sync the heart rate monitor to the app.

The accuracy was spot on, a few times I manually checked my heart rate to compare it to the chest strap and found it within +/- three beats per minute. Not bad at all.

The only bummer for folks stateside is that you can get the heart rate monitor just yet. The company is based in Austria and is working towards expanding their retail presence here in the US. For our readers in the UK and Europe they shouldn’t have any trouble getting it from the Runtastic website.

Feedback and support while running

During a workout session you can have the app give you voice feedback on your progress. You can select intervals of time or distance for the feedback. For example, every seven minutes or every two miles you’ll get a pause in music and receive voice feedback for whatever parameters you set. Those parameters can be current distance, time, pace, speed, heart rate (if you have the heart rate monitor hooked up), and calories. So every two miles you might hear your current pace, distance and time. The options are yours. I found this feature to be really helpful, it allowed me to slow or speed up depending on if I was under or over my target for that workout session.

A unique social twist on running comes from the ability to have friends cheer you on from the comfort of their chair. While you’re busy busting your ass on the pavement, your couch potato buddies can cheer you on from the runtastic website. They can send cheers or personal greetings while running. While not for everybody, it’s a nice feature if you’re marathon training and need some motivation during mile 10 of a workout.

Statistics, devices, and web overload

Like most modern apps that track something in the real world, you can view all your stats on their website. You can do this on the app as well, but looking at data like this is usually better on larger screens. You can view your workout history, number activities, total distance, calories burned and a lot more.  You’re also able to drill down to individual sessions and get a map overview of your route, see your heart rate throughout the workout. The screenshot below gives you an overview of you can check out.

On the website you’re also able to hook up your runtastic account with MyFitnessPal, which we’ve previously covered this month. Which is super great, your workouts aren’t just confined to the runtastic platform. Additionally, you can sync Facebook and Twitter for sharing your workouts when you’re done. Syncing Facebook allows your friends there to cheer you along in real time as well. Withings is another fitness company that is well known for their wireless scales. If you have one, you can also connect your runtastic account with it and have your body composition synced to your account.

Runtastic BASIC vs. GOLD

Let’s dive into the difference between the two apps and the basic and gold accounts online.

In the Windows Phone Store you’ll find Runtastic and Runtastic Pro. And if you can’t tell the difference at first blush you won’t be alone. I had to reach out to the team to see what exactly the difference between the two was. If you opt for the runtastic Pro version you’ll be presented with a few more features that you won’t get with the basic version. Those features are the ability to use routes, heart rate monitoring, split tables per mile, taking photos, ad free, and the music player. Those features can be unlocked in the basic via a promo code, which is what I think I did because the two apps were identical to me when I tried comparing (I had really only been using the Pro version).

When you create a Runtastic account you’re automatically using the ‘BASIC’ version and can upgrade to ‘GOLD’ if you want. Here is what you get with gold that you won’t get with the free version: enhanced statistics, enhanced training characteristics, enhanced weight management,  no ads, priority support, compare yourself to yourself, compare yourself to your friends, performance reports, motivation feed, custom cheering, advanced filters, weather 3 day forecast, discounted training plans, flagging routes as favorite, sync flagged routes to runtastic app, and colored traces. To get the full breakdown hit up their site here to compare the two. Runtastic GOLD is currently on sale, so check out their site if you’re interested in adding those features.

Looking ahead to Windows Phone 8

Right now, both versions of runtastic don’t take advantage of any unique features of Windows Phone 8. But that’s about to change as the company has plans for an update that should hit the Windows Phone Store on or before February 28. Here’s what you can look forward in the update that is due in less than a week:

  • Create or mark one of thousands of routes on the runtastic website and sync them to your device
  • Do activities on your favorite routes
  • Transfer routes between two devices with NFC
  • Be navigated to the routes start point by a navigation app of your choice (e.g. Nokia Drive+)
  • See your activity statistics on a Wide Live Tile
  • See number of your monthly activities on your lock screen
  • Additional languages: Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and Swedish
  • New icon design for sport types

I just got a beta of the Windows Phone 8 app and will be playing with it the next few days. I’ll give my impression in a shorter version when the app hits the Store for everyone else fairly soon.  

Wrapping it up                                                                                                                   

This whole month we’ve been looking at how technology can help add to your fitness. Runtastic has been instrumental in simplifying how I quantify my workouts, in this case running. In the past I’ve had an aversion to running as a form of cardiovascular workout, preferring something like basketball. However, the benefits of long runs are hard to ignore and I’ve recently signed up for my first half marathon at the start of this summer. Runtastic will be great at tracking, storing, and analyzing my runs so that I can meet my goals for it.

You can download Runtastic for free in the Windows Phone Store right here, by using the QR code on the left below, or by swiping right in our Windows Phone Central app. If you're wanting Runtastic PRO for $4.99 you can get that here in the Windows Phone Store, use the QR code on the right below, or swiping to the right in our app.

Sam Sabri
  • I have the free version, use whilst hiking. £3.99 is too expensive for me. I did receive an email a couple of weeks ago stating the pro version was free for a period of time.......................on android & iOS only. Bah!
  • I've been using this app, PRO, for a few months and logged over 100 miles on it. The best app IMO. I wish they'd upgrade the app for WP8. In comparison to an iOS app like Nike+ running, it kills it. Plunk down the $$ for the pro version.
  • I'm currently using a beta of the Windows Phone 8 version. It's great. It should be out to everyone in the Store within a few days.
  • it is pretty poor that the bluetooth chestbelt (is it called so?) doesn't work with windows phones. it needs bt 4.0, which isn't supported so far. I contacted the support, that's where I got the information from...
  • They make chest strap heart rate monitors. One works with Windows Phone currently (the one with Bluetooth dongle) and the other doesn't because WP lacks BT 4.0 support. Nothing they can do about that until Microsoft enables Bluetooth 4.0 in Windows Phone.
  • I am considering of buying RUNTASTIC HEART RATE RECEIVER PM200+ - the same one what You have been tested. Will it be working with my lumia 820?? I will be gratefull for information. BR
  •   Sam, Tomas, I ordered the runtastic strap with the bluetooth dongle because of this blog. Unfortunatly, it doesn't connect to my Lumia 820. I connected Runtastic support and they replied that on this moment the cannot guarantee any strap to work with wp8. So, how about these report Sam, that you got this strap to work? Am I missing out on something?
  • Marathon have been around since the WM days and was the first supporter of WP. Maybe do a comparison between the two?
    I also agree that technology can make things more fun, it did for me. I don't,know,if this is a L920 issue specific, but my experience have been ruined by bad GPS measures. I tryed 3 apps and there is no difference in measures, but there all over half a kilometer off.
    This destroyed the experience for me, and it would be nice to see a comparison between WP devices in measuring length of tracks. Is this L920 specific or?
  • I'd also love to see a comparison of Marathon and this app.  I currently use Marathon, but if there is a big WP8 upgrade for this one I'll have to give it a shot.
  • Hi, 
    Do you know if you can use voice feedback while using Nokia Music?
    I've been using endomondo for the past years, and voice feedback works fine if I'm using the default WP Music app, but if I'm using Nokia Music, endomondo just shut it down at the first audio cue :/ 
    I'm now looking for an alternative to endomondo that can play nice with Nokia Music (workout mix + offline play = win), I might try Runtastic on my next run.
    Thanks in advance.
    BTW: I'm still hoping that BT4.0 will be enabled in a future update:
    AFAIK, all WP8 handsets are using a S4 SoC that does indeed support BT4.0 and BLE.
  • Hey,
    I used to use Endomondo until like you, the audio cus cuts off. Switched to Runtastic and Nokia music and I can confirm the offline mixes work no problem. Only drawback is the music doesnt pause so the music volume and audio cue volume are the same. Still, I have no problem hearing the distance, pace etc. 
  • Same here. Moved from Endomondo to Runtastic. Background music is fine except it doesn't pause. I'd rather no pause than the complete interruption in Endomondo.
  • I've used this a few times witn my L920 strapped to my arm, but it always drops GPS signal.... Only gets GPS signal back if i take it off and hold my phone while i run. Kind of annoying since i don't go through tunnels or anything like that.
    Side note, i guess i'll have to paypal my cousin in England to mail me the chestpiece.
  • I was under the impression that the Lumia 920 supported the BT 4.0 stack?  I distinctly remember comments and discussions about this here on wpcentral.  Is it because the OS doesn't yet fully support it (or the development APIs) that is the reason it cannot be utilized?
  • They do support windows phone 8 already. The biggest feature that demonstrates this is being able to run in background. I think they're the only ones that have this today and its wonderful. It means that when you've started an hour long run and someone texts you and you write back but forget to move the app back to the foreground, it keeps tracking. Its the most frustrating thing in the world with apps like endomondo when you're excited to look at the details of your 10 mile run only to realize none of it was tracked after that text message because you forgot to bring the app back to foreground. Runtastic has had this feature for a while and its why I've switched to them and will be buying the pro and gold. Want to support a company that cares enough to integrate the latest features for our platform.
  • Well if they support that already - I'm in!  I've always hated that when my GPS stops because of a text.
    I'm going to try it today.  Can't wait!
  • You can go one better too. I have my phone strapped to my arm and use headphones to listen to my music. If you do the same, go into your settings - speech and then change the "read incoming text messages" to wired headset only, your music will mute, youre text message will be read alound in your earphones and you will have the option to dictate a reply... works brilliantly. Have replied to a few text messages while running. Once done, your music will come back on and Runtastic carries on in the background so continues to track your run.... give it a try.
  • I have been using Runtastic Pro for some time and love it. I works perfectly on my Nokia 920.
  • Heart rate is working?? What device??
  • I don't get what' Bluetooth 4.0 is needed for? SportsTracker got this long ago and doesn't need Bluetooth 4.0. It works brillant both on Meego and Symbian. WP is just an OS way too simple and not well thought out. And all ingenious developers put together won't be able to wipe out Microsofts dopiness.
    This extra gedget here and extra gedget there to circumvent WindowsPhone's narrowness really is annoying. Right on the move towards the Lightning Connector?
  • Speaking of being dopy, you should probably know that Microsoft didn't invent the Runtastic devices, and so obviously they have nothing to do with Microsoft or WP's complexity.
  • Tried a few of them and Runtastic is the best one, especially with Runkeeper out of the picture. Opted for PRO too and it's great.
  • I'm assuming that none of these apps will work while running on a treadmill, right?
  • There are numerous settings for the type of activity you're doing. These are some examples of what you can select as your activity before you begin a workout : Treadmill, elliptical, spinning, walking, ice skating, biathlon, etc. There are dozens of choices. Try the trial and you can see.
  • First of all: I love this app!!!
    @Sam Sabri: you're stressing how good this app is for running. I can tell you from experience: its great for mountainbiking and speed cycling also!!!! 
  • I've only really used it running, I'll have to use it for more physical activities then. I've been meaning to fix up the mountain bike and hit the trails now that the weather is warming up. Thanks for the input!
  • No Zephyr support????:(
  • What's Zephyr?
  • Sam, I would also like to see a review comparison of Endomondo, Caledos Runner, Runtastic Pro (when updated), Marathon Pro, and MapMyRun (which I think is still supported by WP8 but I may be wrong). Specifically (and I am hoping for this with the Runtastic update) I want the ability to chart speed, elevation, and pulse along my route, heart rate zones, and interval capability. It seems like most of these solutions just don't have the resources to support WP so I am really hoping for Runtastic to become "the one". Microsoft opening up bluetooth 4.0 (as Lumia 920 has recently been certified) would also help to expand heart rate monitor options.
    Finally, in the first picture of this article you show a Nokia Lumia phone, a heart rate monitor with blue tooth dongle, and an arm band. I am in the US and recently had to buy the CP-531 from for a fairly high price. It is a great arm band, but I am wondering what the arm band in the picture is? Thanks.
  • So I just looked at the Runtastic website, and it appears that the armband in the picture is offered by them. Does that armband really fit the Lumia 920 and allow for operation of all functions? It says it fits "iPhone, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Android, and Blackberry", but I have a hard time believing that something that "fits" the iPhone also fits the Lumia 920. It costs about the same as the CP-531 as well. Also, if I am not able to get the heartrate monitor stateside does that mean that they don't sell the arm band here? Thanks again, Sam.
  • Now that Lumia 925 supports Bluetooth 4.0 (along with other Lumia phones in the near future), I hope to see the ability to track heart rate without the need for a dongle.
  • I use the Lumia 920 WP8 and have the pro version.. curious if the Gold is worth it.. all I've used is the gold because I'm on the trial.. they are offering it for $19.90 for the 1st year, but if the features aren't worth it, I would rather just use the free version( I paid $4.99) for the Pro version for WP8.
  • I recently started usig this and so far it's been great.  I noticed they have a new heart rate monitor and it says compatible with ios and android 4.3.  Does anyone know for sure if this accessory works with windows? Thanks
  • Do not Subscribe to GOLD membership. They auto renew your subscription after the year and automatically take the money from your account. There is no way to cancel the subscription. When you try to cancel, you have to submit a request but you do not get a reply. I have submitted 10 request s in the last 3 days. The only thing I think I can to do is delete my account, but I do not know if they will try to take money from my account next year anyway, because there is no way to contact them.
  • this is something that I really hate... isn't enough, if you pay by PayPal, to cancel the payment subscription on PayPal site? that's what I did 5 minutes after subscribing Runtastic GOLD, because I want to decide whether to renew or not.    
  • I'm using Runtastic PRO with Wahoo Blue HR and it works fine except when I switch between apps the HRM disconnects and I have to start another workout to reconnect which basically makes the ability to run the app in the background pretty useless to me. I also miss the ability (from sports tracker) to be able to view my workouts in the app itself, not having to login to the website.