As any runner will tell you, it can be hard to keep moving when things start to get tough. Music can help and has been scientifically proven to be the case. A study in 2001 by a well-known sports psychologist showed unequivocally the benefits of music during exercise.
Hopefully, my selection of some of the best running songs will help you on your way when your energy levels start to dip. So, let’s get started, shall we?
- Top 19 Best Running Songs
- Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
- Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
- Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions
- Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd
- My Hero by Foo Fighters
- Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi
- Lust for Life by Iggy Pop
- One More Time by Daft Punk
- Adagio for Strings by Tiesto
- Memories by David Guetta (feat. Kid Cudi)
- Children by Robert Miles
- Survivor by Destiny’s Child
- Beat It by Michael Jackson
- Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
- Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
- Run to You by Bryan Adams
- The Final Countdown by Europe
- Eye of The Tiger by Survivor
- Looking for More High-Energy Songs?
- Best Running Songs – Final Thoughts
Top 19 Best Running Songs
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
They don’t come much more obvious than this. As well as being a perfect song to listen to on a run, I think this also happens to be Springsteen’s best piece of music. Consequently, it’s a great combination to start any list of the greatest running songs.
This is a Rock classic. But, one of the nice things about this piece is that it starts slowly and builds to a much higher intensity.
This means you can slowly ease yourself into your run before it crescendos towards the end of the song. The song last four and half minutes. Hopefully, that’s long enough to get into the swing of things.
Hitting the pavement…
“Born to Run” was released as a single in 1975 from the same-titled album. In many ways, this was his first exposure as a major artist as it was his debut global release. Happily, it sold well, although most copies were still sold in the US.
The single is a piece of mastery when it comes to storytelling. He manages to recount the drama of young lovers looking for excitement and escape in a highly relatable way. This is undoubtedly one of Springsteen’s strengths.
His ability to tell everyday stories compellingly is almost unrivaled. It’s one of the reasons for his enduring popularity with fans and music critics.
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
I bet if I did a poll, most adults under forty would know the song but wouldn’t know who originally wrote and sang it. The majority would associate it with the hit TV series Glee. And that’s fine because, quite frankly, I enjoyed it.
So, who did write it, and when was it released?
It was written by the fine gentlemen of Journey. Namely, Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain, and Neal Schon. It came out in 1991 and was taken from the album, Escape.
The cover by the cast of Glee was huge. It sold over two million copies and broke the Top 10 in both the US and the UK. Not bad at all. And, in many ways, it’s every bit as good, and maybe even better than, the original.
But what about Journey’s 1991 version?
The sales were bonkers. It sold over four million copies and went multi-platinum in the US and the UK. I don’t think it matters which one you prefer because both have a great high-tempo beat that is perfect to accompany a run. The lyrics also kind of lend themselves to any exercise routine.
Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions
It’s confession time. I love The Scorpions, and I love their music. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I’d been listening to them for years before I realized they were German.
For some reason, I’d always assumed they were American. Well done to Klaus for singing in such a flawless accent. The above confession makes it impossible for me to pass judgment on anyone’s lack of musical knowledge.
Back to the song…
It was released in 1984 as the main single from the album Love at First Sting. For such a great song, considered their best by many, it sold only moderately well. The UK had the highest recorded sales with just 200,000 records sold. In contrast, the album did much better with four million in sales.
What you get is a Hard Rock song with heavy riffs, a strong drum beat, great solos, and piercing vocals. Hopefully, this will be a motivating song for running or working out.
Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd
I’ve been lucky enough to hear this song played live twice. I can tell you that the live version is not only as good as the studio version, but I believe it’s better. If you want to listen to the song live, you’ll find it on their live album, Pulse, which was brought out in 1995.
Back to the single…
It’s quite unusual for Pink Floyd to bring out a single. So I had to do a bit of fact-checking to make sure it had been released as one. It was, and it was released in 1980, from The Wall, as you presumably already know.
The single did a bit crap, and the best it could manage was #15 in the Canadian charts. Despite the lack of sales, I don’t think Pink Floyd will have lost too much sleep over it, considering they’re the fourth best-selling band of all time.
So, why did the single do so poorly?
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the track. Far from it, it is excellent. The reason is that Pink Floyd has always been an album band. Through the 70s, they also became more interested in albums as entire pieces of work.
Their albums, and no more so than The Wall, were no longer a group of random songs. To fully understand the album, it became necessary to listen to its entirety. This is why buying and listening to a single track would make a lot less sense.
Additionally, most Floyd fans didn’t see the need since the single was brought out a year later than the album. Despite all of this, “Run Like Hell” is a brilliant track, and unlike much of the album, it is at a high tempo. If I had to pick any Pink Floyd track to take out and listen to on a run, this would be it.
My Hero by Foo Fighters
It’s tough to pick just one song from the Foo Fighters catalog because so many of their songs are high-energy and are perfect songs for a workout or a run. However, I think “My Hero” is the best pick.
Let’s take a look at why…
It was written by Dave Grohl, along with Nate Mendel and Pat Smear. It’s a well-written and catchy Rock song and has all the great passion you’d expect of something from a Foo Fighter song. This is all good, but what I think is most fitting are the lyrics.
“My Hero” was written to celebrate the amazing potential of normal people. Rather than celebrating the exploits of sports or movie stars, this is all about the common man.
I think it’s a nice fit for most of us as we go about our workouts. Our efforts are unlikely to be anywhere close to those of a professional athlete. But, our personal achievements are just as important. “My Hero” celebrates and echoes these efforts.
Not bad, eh?
It was released in 1998 and taken from the album, The Colour and the Shape. The single sold reasonably well, but the album did much better. It sold over two million copies in the US alone and marked the point where the Foo Fighters surpassed ten million copies of all record sales.
Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers are another band with an excellent back catalog and a good selection of high-energy running songs. I picked “Californication” because of this and also because of the music video that went with it.
The single was released in 2000, and the accompanying video was extensively played on MTV. The video featured segments with the lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, as a character in a video game. It showed him running through various landscapes as he progressed through the game.
If you’ve not seen the video, you should…
It’s superb, and once you’ve seen it, you can be sure that you’ll be able to channel your inner gaming self for a great run.
Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi
This Pop Rock band put fun into music and Rock. Like so many bands, they were formed in 1983 in Los Angeles. They are made up of a group of great musicians who bring quality and flair to the genre.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” contains all of the qualities we’ve come to expect from Bon Jovi. It was released in 1986 and was taken from their breakthrough album, Slippery When Wet. This was their third album and the one that helped propel them to international fame.
Similarly, “Livin on a Prayer” was also a significant marker for their increased popularity. It went to #1 in a host of countries and planets within a billion miles of earth. Additionally, it sold three and a half million copies in the US and six million copies in total.
The band is also awesome in concert…
So, it’s well worth taking a listen to the live version. I’d also recommend you consider including a whole live album somewhere on one of your best running song playlists.
Bon Jovi has always been a tight band, but I believe that the inclusion of the charismatic Phil X in their live shows has taken their performance to a new level. He started touring with the band in 2016. If you want to hear a show featuring his amazing talents, check out “This House is not for Sale.”
If you’re in the mood to contrast the differences pre-Phil X, and why not, take a listen to One Wild Night Live 1985 – 2001.
Lust for Life by Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop was an influential artist back in the 70s. He achieved massive critical acclaim throughout his career. However, that never translated to the commercial success his immense talent truly deserved.
The Dutch to the rescue…
The single was released in 1977 and went to #4 in The Netherlands. This was the highest-charting position anywhere in the world. Other than in Belgium, where it reached #6, it didn’t chart inside the Top 100 anywhere.
The single was released from the album of the same name. Like the single, the album saw similar tepid sales. Again, it was The Netherlands where it charted the highest. Although, this time only at #8. Elsewhere it got to #28 in the UK and just #120 in the US.
It sold reasonably well in the UK. Over 200,000 copies were sold, and one of those was me. You’re welcome, Iggy.
Despite having close to thirty singles and album releases to his name, it wasn’t until the 1996 film “Trainspotting” that things changed. This British cult classic movie played “Lust for Life” in the opening chase sequence.
It featured Ewan McGregor as he ran through the streets of Glasgow in an attempt to evade arrest following a shoplifting incident. It’s now an iconic scene, and it helped to push the song and Iggy Pop into the spotlight where he’s always belonged.
It’s a shame that up until this point, he seemed to be blocked from receiving more radio play and coverage. This is all the more perplexing, given that the song was jointly written by his good friend David Bowie.
One More Time by Daft Punk
Let’s change things up now and bring a little bit of Dance style music into the equation. Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is a great partner for any run.
The fast tempo and high energy make it ideal for keeping you motivated when you’re on the road or treadmill. Daft Punk is a great inclusion for your playlist and brings with them their very own French/House/Disco twist to the party.
Formed in France during the early 90s, their music was often experimental. They weren’t afraid to try new sounds and ideas and bring fun into their music. This is clear to see in the way they present their music via recordings, videos, or during live shows.
Get your blood pumping…
“One More Time” perfectly encapsulates their style and showcases their talent. It was released in 2000 and taken from their second studio album, Discovery. The single sold two million copies globally and was their best-selling single.
As you expect from an EDM song, the track relies heavily on a drum machine to lay down the beat. The song also contains a lot of auto-tuned vocals and is also heavy on synthesizes.
Happily, the mix works well. Coupled with some clever breaks and the use of changing dynamics, the sound never gets old. That is great news for you if you have a long road stretching out ahead.
Adagio for Strings by Tiesto
It’s time to go hardcore EDM. This is a proper piece of club-orientated music that’s perfect for a live set and mixing.
Don’t expect any catchy Pop melodies. And, don’t expect some kind of hook-up with an R&B or Hip Hop artist. Oh, and don’t expect any kind of vocals at all, because there’s none to be had.
“Adagio For Strings” is a seven-minute banging tune from start to finish. The hard and rapid synthesized beat is beautifully blended with classical and electronic instruments. It’s Tiesto at his very best, and despite its age, it’s a song that has stood the test of time superbly well.
Get lost in a groove…
The track was released in 2005 as a remix of the song originally penned by Samuel Barber. It featured on the legendary Just Be album. An absolute must-listen for those of you into Trance.
Remarkably, for a Dance track, the single sold well around the world. It went platinum in the UK, selling over 600,000 copies. That’s honestly some achievement.
There is a reason that, at one time, Tiesto was the highest-paid DJ in the world. There’s a reason why he was voted as the top DJ for three years in a row in the early 2000s. “Adagio to Strings” gives you a glimpse at why, and Just Be helps nicely to fill in any missing blanks.
Memories by David Guetta (feat. Kid Cudi)
Since we’re staying with EDM, it seems appropriate to move on to the current leader of the Dance world. For the last couple of years, David Guetta has been voted as the top dog disc spinner. It also looks like a crown he’s unlikely to give away anytime soon.
Unlike Tiesto, David Guetta’s style leads more toward House and Dance/Pop than Trance. However, whichever way you look at it, the tunes he comes up with still have fast and hard tempos with tons of energy.
Coming up with a single track for a playlist of the best songs to play when running wasn’t easy. The natural choice is “Titanium,” which he co-wrote with Sia. After all, it was his biggest hit and sold over five million copies. But, I wanted to go with something different.
Because “Memories” gives a deeper dive into Guetta’s diversity as a producer, songwriter, and musician.
The track was released in 2009 and was included on the album, One Love. It’s a pure House track and features some beautifully integrated rapping from Kid Cudi. It’s an amazing EDM piece of music that showcases the best of David Guetta’s talents and shines a positive light on the future of the genre.
If I was going for a run, and if my knees could take it, I’d be sure to bring this along for the ride.
Children by Robert Miles
I’m going back a long way now. Right back to the 90s, when we didn’t even know what EDM was. But, I can tell you that we are sure as hell knew what House music was. We also knew who Robert Miles was, and we’d all heard of and danced to “Children”… a lot!
This will be the last EDM track, but I think it’s worth doing as it may open a new world to many of you not familiar with old-school House. If you like this track, take a listen to other House DJs of the same era, such as Paul Oakenfold, Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, and Pete Tong.
Now, let’s get back to the song…
It was released in 1995 on the album, Dreamland. The single was a monster hit around the world. It sold over five million copies and became one of the most commercially successful EDM tracks of all time.
The track features a slow build-up. It starts with just piano music and eventually builds to a pulsating crescendo. It’s undoubtedly one of the more musically orientated pieces of EDM and this, in no small measure, was the reason for its success.
More than just a dance song…
The song was written as a memorial and commentary on the wide-scale death of young Italians in the 90s. Many youngsters were killed on the roads as they made their way back home from clubs and raves whilst still high on drugs and alcohol. It’s thought that over 2,000 were killed in five years.
The strange thing is that “Children” is mostly a very uplifting song. However, it also contains quieter and darker moments that contrast with the general mood. This makes it an emotional and moving piece of music in many ways. Well worth a listen.
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
It’s a great motivational song with a fantastic video to go with it. The song was written by Beyonce along with her father, Matthew, and Anthony Dent. This is one of Destiny’s Child’s best songs and hints at what was to come once Beyonce embarked on her solo career.
The song was released as the lead single from the album of the same name, Survivor. Both the single and album went to #1 in the US and the UK. Additionally, they went platinum, again in both countries, with the album selling over ten million copies.
“Survivor” is essentially a Pop song though there are R&B elements. It has an upbeat tempo, and the chorus is catchy to the point of being infectious.
No wonder it was so popular…
The lyrics are, not surprisingly, based on the theme of survival. It explores things like toxic relationships, mental health problems, and physical health issues.
Initially, the song was penned as a bit of a joke and comeback to the criticism Beyonce endured because of the band line-up changes that had left her as the sole “survivor.” Not a bad riposte and a great way to silence her critics.
Channel your inner survivor with this popular running song as you pound the roads or treadmill, and the miles will fly by.
Beat It by Michael Jackson
As the most successful solo artist of all time, even beating Elvis Presley, there’s not much you can say about Michael Jackson that hasn’t already been said. However, when it comes to high-energy Pop music, I think he deserves a category all of his own.
But, ultimately, I believe “Beat It” maintains higher levels of intensity. An important attribute for all the best running songs.
As far as the music is concerned…
The production and quality were off the scale. Van Halen’s guitar solo was especially noteworthy and nothing short of superb. It fits the song perfectly and is bound to get the blood pumping.
The music video was a piece of art. No expense was spared, and it looked like something out of a Hollywood movie. Lots of dancing and well worth a watch to get some inspiration before you put on your shoes and listen to the song.
The track was released at the height of Michael Jackson’s career in 1983. It was taken from his sixth album and produced by the incredible Quincy Jones. It was the third single from the album and was a huge hit.
The sales topped ten million, and it went to #1 pretty much everywhere there was electricity. That was impressive enough, but album sales were just ridiculous. Thriller sold over 70 million copies and became the #1 best-selling album of all time.
Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
The third most successful band of all time (depending on who you ask), Queen, knew how to write a catchy Rock/Pop song. The title tells you a lot of what the song is about and why it’s such a great pick.
Lyrics that include “I’m traveling at the speed of light” should get you going and put a smile on your face. The fact is that “Don’t Stop Me Now” isn’t just a great energetic Rock/Pop song, but it’s a lot of fun too.
Like a lot of Queen’s music…
There’s a playful side to it. However, this doesn’t belay the quality of the musical composition from all sides. The riffs and the chorus are all catchy, and the guitar solo is possibly one of Brian May’s best.
It was released in 1979 on the album Jazz. It was a phenomenal period for the band when they just couldn’t seem to put a foot wrong. The single went multi-platinum in the US and the UK.
As good as Queen are…
They’re most renowned for their live shows. I think Freddie Mercury was the greatest frontman of all time, and I’m secure in the fact that there are very few who’d argue against it.
If you like “Don’t Stop Me Now,” take a listen to Queen Rock Montreal or Live Killers. Any of their live albums are great. Although, anything after 2014, when Adam Lambert joined the band, saw a severe drop-off.
Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
The song was released in 1982 on their third album, The Number of the Beast. It had great significance for the band as it marked the first occasion that Bruce Dickinson took over as frontman for the band.
Talk about an entrance…
The song became one of Iron Maidens’ most popular songs and is critically acclaimed as one of the Top 40 Metal songs of all time. Despite this, it didn’t sell in the same numbers as the album. The Number of The Beast fared much better, selling over seven million copies and reaching #1 in the UK.
“Run to the Hills” is a typical Iron Maiden song. It’s filled with hard drumming, heavy riffs, and soaring guitar solos. It’s a powerful song and more so because of its message.
The lyrics deal with the colonization of America and the ensuing conflict between the natives and settlers. It’s an interesting song as it takes an even-handed approach by looking at the issues from the viewpoint of both sides.
Also, that driving beat…
There’s inevitably a large military theme, and this is beautifully encapsulated by Nicko McBrain’s galloping style of drumming. It’s a distinctive sound and one that Nicko is closely associated with. Hopefully, it also has the kind of beat to help you on your way, with or without hills.
Run to You by Bryan Adams
The song was released in 1984. It was a single from the album, Reckless. It just so happens that back in the days of vinyl, I parted with my hard-earned cash for a copy. I loved the album, and I loved the song too.
So, what’s it about?
Infidelity! Nothing I relate to on any level and would ever condone, but the writing cleverly hints at another meaning. It’s evident that this infidelity is more skewed towards music or possibly the guitar as the treacherous other party. A well-written song by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.
Musically, it’s equally well put together. The melodies and chorus are both memorable and powerful. It’s Rock/Pop filled with emotion that’s beautifully expressed through the guitar playing and Bryan Adams vocals.
With such a lot going for it, there’s no surprise it reached #1 in the US. It might not have been as popular as the ridiculously successful “Everything I Do,” but I think it’s a much better song.
The Final Countdown by Europe
This could have been last on my best running songs list. However, when you see my final choice, I’m sure you’ll understand why it wasn’t. Regardless, it’s still a brilliant song for running and deserves its spot.
It was released in 1986 off the album of the same name. The band at the time was very much riding the Glam Metal bandwagon along with bands like Bon Jovi. In another confession, for a long time, I thought Europe was American. It came as a bit of a surprise when I found out they’re from Sweden.
“The Final Countdown” was their biggest hit and the track most of us associate the band with. It went to #1 in Sweden and the UK. It also made it to #8 in the US.
The song is renowned for the synth riff…
Interestingly, in the 90s, it became a familiar ringtone for many. As people increasingly used mobile phones, you couldn’t seem to go anywhere without hearing the familiar tune.
It’s a high tempo song, and to get the full effect, it’s worth watching the video. You’ll be in good company if you do since it’s already been streamed over a billion times. Not bad for a Hair Metal 80s song from a Swedish band.
Eye of The Tiger by Survivor
I decided to finish with this absolute classic. It was honestly a toss-up between this and “Gonna Fly Now,” which was written by DeEtta West and Nelson Pigford.
Both of them are featured in Rocky movies. “Eye of the Tiger” in the movie “Rocky III” and “Gonna Fly Now” in “Rocky.” Both of them starred Sylvester Stallone, who played the lead character, Rocky Balboa, a washed-up heavyweight boxer.
They are iconic pieces of music and are some of the best running songs you could wish for. However, I decided to go with “Eye of the Tiger” because I think it has a more powerful and driving beat. Coupled with the catchy riffs and melody, it’s addictive to listen to.
They’re both awesome pieces of music…
But, to get the best out of them, you need to watch the movies. “Eye of the Tiger” was released in 1982, and thanks to the connection with the Rocky movie, it was a big success. It reached the top of the charts in the US and several other countries. What’s more, it went on to sell over three million copies.
A great song and a great way to end the list.
Looking for More High-Energy Songs?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs About Heroes, the Best Songs About Fire, the Best Songs About Thunder and Lightning, and the Songs About Flying and Planes for more heart-pumping song selections.
Also, you’ll need to listen to those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Earbuds for Running, the Best Waterproof Headphones, the Best Running Headphones, the Best Headphones For Cycling, and the Best Lightweight Headphones you can buy in 2022.
Best Running Songs – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. I hope my list has given you a few interesting choices. Good luck on your future runs, and remember to put a few playlists of the best songs for running together to keep you going when things get tough.
Until next time, happy listening and happy running.