Multisport route planning and navigation app Komoot puts the fun back into mapping, sharing highlights from other walkers, runners and cyclists for you to explore. Claire Maxted took it out for a test run.
The path twisted and turned excitingly as I ran through the woodland, a real adventure through the wild places right on my doorstep. I was exploring a whole new section of off-road trails after a quick look on the Komoot app. It was really easy to plan and navigate using my smart phone with just a few taps, the perfect way to explore further afield too.
To create this route I simply opened the Komoot app on my phone, which was immediately centred on my location. I zoomed out, and the map became dotted with red circles showing highlights from other Komoot users, and white icons showing points of interest from Open Street Maps.
Tapping on these highlight dots revealed great information and often a photo about that area. Some dots were recommended cafes and pubs (perfect to start and finish a run from!), others were must-do sections of trail, or full circular loops, stunning views or points of interest like historic buildings.
It’d be handy if the app distinguished between points of interest and other trail segments or routes, but this community-sourced info is fantastic, offering another level of useful detail above a traditional Ordnance Survey (OS) map. You can filter these highlights by selecting specific sports, like mountain biking, road cycling, running and hiking.
I was after a hilly run so I scrolled around, clicking on the red dots to discover a good climb segment. Bingo! A Road Cycling Climbing Highlight with an inspiring photo. Looking for an off-road hill climb nearby, I found that contours do appear on the automatic Komoot map setting, but my local area isn’t hilly enough for them to feature. Luckily the Open Cycling Maps option showed contours in my area, and I found a new off-road climb nearby.
My new climb wasn’t on a marked path so to add this section to my running route I had to un-select Komoot’s automatic ‘Follow- ways’ setting which easily allowed me to drag my route off the mapped paths and create an off-piste section.
The rest was on clearly marked paths, so I re-selected ‘Follow ways’ and Komoot planned a great circuit with very useful summary info. Having selected the ‘In good shape’ fitness level rather than ‘couch potato’ or ‘pro’, the app estimated this 8.5km route with 80m ascent and descent would take 57 mins. The gradient profile showed where the hills were and how steep they were.
Amazingly, Komoot told me what type of terrain I’d be running and walking across and whereabouts I should expect it on my route, both on the map and under the gradient profile too. The surfaces ranged from Tarmac to paved and unpaved track, and footpath. Using Komoot Premium, it even told me the weather forecast in this precise area for the next 48 hours. You can also toggle this data is on the gradient profile and reverse route if you don’t fancy running any more exposed sections into the wind.
Excited about exploring my new off-grid trail, I set off to test out the app’s navigation.
If you’re not at your start point, the Komoot app will also help you plan how to get there by car or public transport. I was already at the start, “Let’s go,” said my phone as I started running. Motivational! You can mute this or change to notifications but I decided to see what else it said as I ran in the direction of the route arrow, popping on a podcast. “In 15m turn right on hiking trail” interrupted the podcast for a moment. Amazing, this was like a sat nav!
This was really easy navigation, especially great for trail runners without map reading skills. If you do take a wrong turn, auto-replan (optional) will get you back on track. Soon I was at my new section of trail – would my adventure be navigable? There was only one way to find out.
Off I trotted, up the track to explore my new path. Lo and behold, there was a skinny, snaking trail through woodland that I had never been on before. I took a quick photo and grinned idiotically at a couple of dog walkers as I enjoyed the unfamiliar scenery. The app was navigating me across this ‘off-grid’ section comfortably, and it was helpful to see the gradient profile and current elevation by swiping across the panel at the top of the map screen.
Bounding round the rest of my route with zero navigational errors (unusual!) I was pleased. Using Komoot it had been straight forward to plan and navigate a new trail running adventure, using helpful community-sourced highlights and incredibly detailed terrain info.
After pressing save, the app asked me if I wanted to create any highlights to share with the Komoot community, so I added a photo of my new trail. My tour (what Komoot calls a route) was automatically private, but you can toggle it to public to share it with others.
The emphasis is on sharing, exploring and enjoyment rather than fitness data. You get current speed, average speed, distance/time travelled and distance/time to go, but the app only has total tour stats with number of tours, overall time, distance and elevation month by month or for all time. It’s great for walkers, runners and cyclists who want to explore rather than analyse performance.
There’s also a ‘Discover’ timeline in the app with tours and photos from fellow Komoot users locally that I had started to follow. I left a comment on one to say it looked like an awesome run and pressed ‘save’ to add it to my ‘collection’, which is a folder of ideas that you can also make public if you want to share it.
I followed more Komooters in my area, and found a ‘Tips for the first week of February’ post based on my favourite activities and places, very inspirational for future running trips.
As well, routes from GPX files can be imported and you can upload routes from your GPS watch. You can also export your route as a GPX file and share it on social media. I wish I’d known about this app sooner. I’m excited about planning new adventures and having much less navigational faff using Komoot.