Athleticism has never been my strong suit. I didn’t play any sports growing up and I don’t closely follow any today. I only started being physically active one year ago thanks in large part to my Apple Watch, and even then running has not been something I’ve enjoyed. Until recently that is…
I’ve been running with Apple Watch Nike+ ($379-$399) and tracking my workouts with the Nike+ Run Club app. My super short review is that I think any Apple Watch Series 2 is an excellent running watch while the NRC app has some kinks to work out. More on my experience below.
I say any Apple Watch Series 2 is an excellent running watch because any Apple Watch Series 2 can accurately track outdoor runs without carrying an iPhone thanks to the built-in GPS. This includes every Apple Watch Nike+ and Series 2 versions of Apple Watch Edition and Apple Watch Hermès.
You can even use the Nike+ Run Club app on other Apple Watch Series 2 models that aren’t Nike+ versions, and Apple features outdoor run tracking in its built-in Workouts app on all Apple Watches. If you prefer other third-party apps like Strava or Runkeeper, these work with any Apple Watch Series 2 versions as well.
The only difference with Apple Watch Nike+ compared to other Series 2 models is two Nike watch faces that are exclusive to the Nike models. These recently got new Nike color options through Apple’s watchOS 3.2 software update.
Before last month, Apple Watch Nike+ was the only way to buy the special Nike Sport bands too, but Apple and Nike started selling standalone versions recently (which do not unlock Nike watch faces on other Apple Watches). Their bands have perforations that makes them more breathable and flexible than Apple’s standard Sport bands, although band overlap for me minimizes the effect other than how it looks.
Most of my experience with Nike+ Run Club and running occurred using a space black stainless steel Apple Watch Series 2 with regular Sport band (and occasionally even the heavier Link Bracelet), although I switched to using an Apple Watch Nike+ in March solely for the Nike watch faces for style and lighter aluminum casing.
Nike+ Run Club works with both Apple’s Health app and Activity app on iPhone. You can see your workout history and details about each run in the Activity app, although route maps are only visible in the NRC app. If you log a run from Apple Watch with Apple’s Workouts app, the route map appears in Apple’s Activity app (but third-party apps do not have this capability yet).
NRC does a better job than Apple’s Workouts and Activity apps at showing lifetime achievements and even how many miles you’ve run with specific shoes so you know when it’s time to replace them (every 200-500 miles is recommended).
Features like coaching for running goals like getting started, 5Ks, half marathons, and marathons are valuable, and the NRC app does a good job of encouraging you to run regularly with planning features that include weather conditions.
I primarily track my history in the NRC app, although I have experienced a reoccurring bug when running with Apple Watch Nike+ without iPhone where runs appear in the Activity app but do not sync to the NRC app.
I ran daily in March and this occurred two days back to back. At Nike Support’s suggestion, I un-paired Apple Watch Nike+ from my iPhone and re-paired it. Run syncing with NRC on the iPhone worked again on the next run.
Then it happened again on Monday. A quick mile run using NRC on Apple Watch appeared in the Activity app on iPhone afterwards but never synced to the NRC iPhone app. Re-pairing takes a long time so I tried tracking a sample 0.1 mile run a few hours later and syncing worked again as expected.
So that’s one reoccurring bug. Another happens during a run with Apple Watch Nike+ using the Nike+ Run Club app on Apple Watch, and it’s happened in about one out of every seven runs.
You start tracking a run with the NRC app on Apple Watch without iPhone, then during the run it appears the NRC app has stopped tracking your run. The user interface stops showing your progress in the workout and instead shows you the buttons to start a new run.
This bug is tricky because your run is still actually being tracked (so don’t stop!) even though the NRC app looks like it has stopped, crashed, and started over. If you have auto-pause enabled for runs, the NRC app on Apple Watch will actually show you the stop and resume buttons when you stop moving which lets you save the workout.
Without these two specific bugs, Apple Watch Nike+ is an easy recommendation especially for casual runners looking to get more serious about the activity, but these issues can be frustrating and confusing when they occur. Both have occurred for other Apple Watch Nike+ users I’ve heard from and without using beta versions of software.
To be clear, both bugs are with the Nike+ Run Club app which is separate from Apple Watch’s software. The problem is Apple Watch Nike+ is marketed to rely on the NRC app being as quality as Apple’s own apps (even if development may be separate). Nike’s software team can easily slip a bug or two through the App Store in an update that changes the overall Apple Watch Nike+ experience.
The version of Nike’s app (version 5.0) that works with Apple Watch was released back in August and initially met with a fair amount of criticism. Nike has since released 12 updates to Nike+ Run Club, however, and other issues not mentioned above have been resolved. Still, Apple Watch Nike+ has been on the market for six months and there’s clearly still room for improvement with the NRC app.
NRC issues aside, I recommend any Apple Watch Series 2 model as a GPS watch for runners.
I tracked over 80 miles of running in March with Apple Watch Nike+ using Nike+ Run Club. I started running in September when Apple promoted the Nike+ Run Club app with a few runs under a half mile before I had to stop and walk.
I’ve steadily increased by distance to up to 6.4 miles at a time in some cases and 186 miles in total since starting. I actually marked the one year anniversary of starting my fitness and healthy living journey with a somewhat competitive 5K race in Miami at the beginning of this month where I beat my personal record which was my primary goal.
But any version of Apple Watch Series 2 can be used as a dedicated GPS watch for running. Personally, I enjoy the NRC app (and style of the Nike+ watch) and hope the bugs get sorted soon.
If the NRC bugs are too frustrating or you just prefer other apps, Apple’s Workouts app has excellent outdoor run tracking and apps like Strava and Runkeeper offer similar features.
My favorite part about Apple Watch Series 2 as a running watch is being able to just go out and run with AirPods or any Bluetooth headphones and play music wirelessly directly from my run tracker.
It’s easy to make excuses not to go for a run when you’re starting out, and Apple Watch Series 2 ensures that dealing with a cumbersome iPhone armband case and earphone cables isn’t one of those excuses.
Read more about my standalone Apple Watch Series 2 review and follow-up: