First Run with the Apple Watch and Nike+

I finally received my Apple Watch last week. As a runner, I’ve been looking forward to this for sometime. Could the Apple Watch replace GPS running watches? The main reason I got my Garmin was I wanted something to see my pace on.

Last Friday I got my Apple Watch and took it out for a run. My favorite running app is Nike+. Here I am out on the run with my pup Jake. Yes, a 15 min pace… I had to stop for the picture! Geeze!


I like the Nike+ app. Worked pretty well. Not sure if I’m ready to retire my Garmin just yet though.

Pros and Cons of running with the Apple Watch and Nike+

Stuff I liked about running with the Apple Watch and Nike Plus:

  • Nice to see my pace w/o needing to look at my phone.
  • Performance – faster and picked up GPS faster than my Garmin Forerunner 220.

Stuff I didn’t like about running with the Apple Watch and Nike Plus:

  • The Apple touch display is almost useless with fingers wet with sweat. I run in the Florida heat, so I’m accustomed to sweating a ton while running. Easy enough to dry your fingers before use. If your fingers are wet, the Apple Watch display is unresponsive. (The touch display on the Timex Ironman works surprisingly well with wet sweaty fingers)
  • No distance on Nike+ watch display. Found myself checking my phone display for my distance ran.

Nike+ On Apple Watch

The Nike+ on the Apple Watch is a good first release. Application developers are clearly just getting started with the Apple Watch development platform. So, it would be unfair to compare the Nike+ running app on the Apple Watch to other mobile applications which have been around for years.

Some things I’d like to see from the Nike+ Apple Watch App:

  • Configurable display options. The Nike+ App shows elapsed time in the upper left, current time in the top right, pace in the center, then pace again in the bottom.  Why show the pace twice? I’d like to see distance on the main display.
  • Cadence would be a nice add. Garmin can figure it out without a foot sensor, Nike should be able to too.
  • The Apple Watch can pick up your heart rate – not sure if this will work while running and sweating.
  • The ability to tie in a traditional heart rate sensor to the Nike+ app. This has been missing for some time.
  • Music controls, not tied to the Nike Music library.

A Gotcha with Apple Watch and Nike+

One problem I had on my first run with the Apple Watch and Nike+ was the display kept going back to the watch face. Which meant while running, I’d need to interact with the watch. It was easy enough to get Nike+ back on the face of the Apple Watch by double tapping the top button on the Apple Watch. I found this rather annoying while running. Since the WatchKit SDK from Apple is in its initial release, I’m going to speculate maybe there’s no way for the Nike+ developers to say stay on top for the app – kind of like they do with the running app (Notice how while running, your phone doesn’t go to sleep & the app continues to be displayed? ).

I found in the Nike+ app under the settings section for the Apple Watch what feels like a work around. You can set the Apple Watch to always show the last app on wrist raise instead of the phone face. To set this up, you will need to go into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then into General Settings for the Apple Watch:

Apple Watch General Settings
Apple Watch General Settings

Make sure ‘Wrist Detection” is enabled, then from under “Activate on Wrist Raise” select “Resume Previous Activity”.

On Wrist Raise Settings for Apple Watch
On Wrist Raise Settings

During my first run with the Apple Watch, I had the ‘Show Watch Face’ option selected. These changes are global for the Apple Watch. I’m not sure if I’m going to like the change or not. I’m going to need to try this one out some. I hope I’m correct about options missing from the WatchKit SDK. Maybe in a future release Apple will give application developers more control of this feature.

If I’m using an app like Nike+ on the Apple Watch, of course I want it to display on wrist raise. Otherwise, I think I’d rather see the watch face.


Is the Apple Watch the ultimate watch for running? No, its not. Right now, I think I still favor my Garmin Forerunner 220. The Garmin is an excellent GPS watch for running. Also a fraction of the cost of the Apple Watch. Another point in favor the Garmin Forerunner over the Apple Watch, is you can run with just the watch. I’m not sure if the Apple Watch would work for a run without the presence of the iPhone. But the reality for me, I will probably always run with my iPhone. I’ll use it for music and just general safety (in case of emergency). Plus who doesn’t like getting real time cheers from their Facebook friends via Nike+ while they run???

The Apple Watch is not just a running watch. But, as a first release, it’s a pretty damn good alternative to GPS running watches. I can see a lot of people forgoing the traditional GPS running watch for an Apple Watch. The tough part for the GPS Watches is, the Apple Watch is only going to get better. Most of my complaints were around the software, which is going to evolve.

The Apple Watch is not a replacement for GPS running watches – yet.

John has been racing triathlons since 2007. He has completed more sprints than he can remember, a handful of International distance triathlons and two Ironman 70.3 races. He is leading a Ragnar team to Key West in February 2015, and is registered to race the Augusta Ironman 70.3 race again in September 2015.

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About John Thompson

John has been racing triathlons since 2007. He has completed more sprints than he can remember, a handful of International distance triathlons and two Ironman 70.3 races. He is leading a Ragnar team to Key West in February 2015, and is registered to race the Augusta Ironman 70.3 race again in September 2015.

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2 comments on “First Run with the Apple Watch and Nike+

  1. January 5, 2016 at 8:46 am

    I bought the apple watch solely for the fact I could still use my Nike plus app and they would automatically sink. Like you said, getting back to the app is really annoying. It is so easy to accidently push the side button 1 time instead of twice…or a text comes in and throws off the “double clicking” mechanism, then you need to go back into the app with sweaty hands. However, I bought the Nike+ watch and never used it. I just returned it. I felt like the apple watch did everything I need it to and more in hopes I could find an easier way to use JUST the apple watch.

    My questions for you:

    1) how do you get the watch not to “time out” or keep the screen on so I don’t have to keep double clicking to get my distance.

    2) I did notice if you double click the face of the screen/or swipe (not sure what I was doing) it will take you from the distance display to the pace display. (I don’t see the pace displayed on the distance screen which is really annoying, let me know if you know otherwise)

    3) Lastly, how do you stop it!? I had 3 people try to stop it at the end of my race and non of us could figure it out. I always have to take my phone out of my pouch and stop it that way.

    If you have any other pointers let me know. I have my first 1/2 marathon on Saturday and I hope to get most of the kinks figured out before the race!


  2. March 21, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Well this is really lazy on Nikes part.. The Nike+ app for the iPhone has been my absolute favorite since I started running with my iPod Nano 1st gen back in the days. I have kept using the same for my iPhone and later Nike watch, but the Apple Watch app REALLY needs an update. It doesn’t use any of the WatchOS 2.0 features (raise hand goes directly to app during a run, heart rate sensor, faster performance etc.)….

    Come on Nike – update the damn thing – we’re over half a year down the road.

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