Which Running App has the Most Accurate GPS and Why are They all Different?

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running app accuracy

After running with the following apps.

  • Nike Run Club
  • Strava
  • MapMyRun
  • Relive
  • AllTrails
  • Gaia GPS

I noticed that the Nike Run Club spoke to me in my ear so that I could find my turnaround points without digging my phone out. That was nice. But I liked the social aspect of Strava so that my friends could see what I was up to and give me those Kudos. After one day of running on the trails, I noticed that Strava mileage was around 10% higher than the Nike Run Club app.

10% different was too much to ignore. It was nice that Strava was showing higher mileage because that is what my friends saw. But I was running to the mileage on the Nike Run Club because I wanted to get my full distances just in case.

This spawned an experiment to determine who was recording the most accurate distance.

I pulled up Google Maps and measured a known distance. This was the length of my driveway. Google Maps measured it at 89.22′. I measured it with a tape measure and it measured 89.25′. That was only a .01% difference which is more than close enough to say that Google Maps is the most accurate in distance measurement.

Using Google Maps I mapped out a 5.00 mile distance that I could use to measure each of the apps to see what their measurements are against a known long distance.

With my new route with a known distance I got into my truck and started each of the 6 apps. I drove the route and stopped right at the 5.00 mile marker. I then took a screenshot of the apps and loaded their recorded mileage into the table.

You can see that Strava, Relive, Gaia GPS and AllTrails were very close and for all intents and purposes, very accurate to the actual mileage that we measured. Nike Run Club did not register a distance. I attribute this to the speed since I was driving my truck and going slightly faster than a normal runner. MapMyRun was a tenth of a mile off for no understood reason.

I conclude from the first test that while traveling in more or less straight lines on a road, those 4 apps can measure your distance very accurately.

But while running on mountainous trails they all register very different distances.

Now to test them on mountainous trails. I used the same method to test their distances. I went to a known trail in Google Maps and measured the trail. One section of known trail came out to be exactly 2.50 miles. I began my run with all apps running on my phone.

When I came to the 2.50 mile point I took screenshots of all the apps and here are the results.

Nike Run Club registered its normal mileage that is 10% lower than actual. Strava was surprisingly accurate. The other two that were accurate in the distance were Gaia GPS and AllTrails.

Strava proved to be the most accurate in distance measurements. While I like the mileage audio feedback from Nike Run Club, it is not accurate enough to rely on when publishing your run data.

My only guess as to why this happens is around the refresh rate of the used GPS signal. If Nike Run Club is using the GPS signal information less often and cutting some of the turns short, then the mileage will be short overall.