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The 30 most heart-pounding running songs

We put together a playlist of beat-heavy tracks to get your blood—and feet—moving

Photograph: Shutterstock

Whether you love running with all your heart or only take to the pavement begrudgingly, it’s the mix of music in your ears that can make or break your runs in San Francisco. From thumping hip-hop beats to high-energy guitar jams, we’ve found the very best songs to keep you going mile after mile, in the gym or on the trail. So load ’em up and head out! 

Listen to the 30 best running songs on Spotify

Written by Brent DiCrescenzo, Sara Fay, Adam Feldman, Andrew Frisicano, Sophie Harris, Hank Shteamer and Kate Wertheimer

30
“The Distance” by Cake
1/30

“The Distance” by Cake

Could there be a better way to start your run than with John McCrea’s deadpanned opening words? When the bass kicks in on Cake’s 1996 track, it’s time to go. The driving jam (pun intended) is a great lead-off track—you might not be going for speed, but you’re definitely going the distance. Yaa!—Sara Fay



29
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson
2/30

“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson

This, one of the all-time greatest get-off-your-ass grooves, might actually be terrible fitness advice. We can’t imagine a trainer saying, “Stop when you get enough.” Because your body gets enough rather quickly: Set out on a 5K trek first thing in the a.m. and your calves are complaining by mile one. It’s about pushing through. You want to feel the burn? Don’t stop until well after you get enough. Fortunately, this godly disco classic is an immediate runner’s high—Michael could get us moonwalking an entire marathon.—Brent DiCrescenzo



28
“Race with the Devil” by Girlschool
3/30

“Race with the Devil” by Girlschool

Forget your fancy Nike Free Flyknit 3.0 shoes. You really want to fly down the sidewalk? Pour this scorching she-devil headbanger into your intake valves. Girlschool, a London all-female hair metal outfit, slays like a halberd coated in strawberry pink acrylic on this 1980 cover of an equally ripping 1968 proto-punk blazer by the Gun. For those who jog like they’re being chased, it’s like sprinting on hot coals.—Brent DiCrescenzo



27
“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
4/30

“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac

Really, most classic California driving songs—their pop sound usually equated with cruising down the PCH in the mandarin haze of a sunset—could secretly be running soundtracks. A bunch of Mac tunes seem like the whispers of a zen personal trainer: “Don't Stop,” “Never Going Back Again,” “Skies the Limit.” “Go Your Own Way” reads like an anthem for a cross country race. Blaze that trail! Attack that hill! Listen to this and try not to think of kicking up dust in Golden Gate Park.—Brent DiCrescenzo



26
“Runnin’” by Sinkane
5/30

“Runnin’” by Sinkane

Sudanese percussionist and Yeasayer, Caribou collaborator Ahmed Gallab jumped out of the solo career starting blocks with this slice of confectionary Afrobeat. “Gotta keep on runnin’, runnin’,” he sings in a sweet falsetto over funky wah-wah and cassette tape warble. The secret to the best jogging music is that it’s interchangeable with great dance music. Nothing Gallab has made in the years since this 2012 debut has matched its irresistibility—but nothing has to. He’s earned a place on every running mix. —Brent DiCrescenzo



25
“Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio
6/30

“Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio

This 2006 track—the band’s most successful single here in the U.S.—has a driving beat and propelling lyrics, making it easy to pick up your pace and focus in on the task at hand. Or foot, rather. The song is like a mini-workout in itself, with a slower and more subdued midsection to give your legs a break before picking back up and compelling you to fly through the very last second.—Kate Wertheimer



24
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
7/30

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

Get into the headspace of Bruce’s nameless protagonist: stuck in turnpike traffic with everyone else who’s trying to flee the same depressing Jersey town, trying to sweet talk Wendy who’s actually probably doing just fine thanks very much. It’s about as frazzled and out-of-sorts as the Boss gets, a state of mind that mirrors how you’re feeling right before the runner’s high kicks in.—Andrew Frisicano



23
“Run Run Run” by the Who
8/30

“Run Run Run” by the Who

Just watching Keith Moon drum takes your breath away—it’s impossible to imagine sustaining that level of gonzo energy for an entire song, let alone a gig. Slip this opening cut from the Who’s 1966 sophomore album, A Quick One, into your running mix and hopefully some of that manic force transfers to your limbs. Bounding along to Moon’s splashy racket keeps those knees high, those arms pumping…okay, yes, sometimes we air drum while jogging.—Brent DiCrescenzo



22
“Antichrist Television Blues” by Arcade Fire
9/30

“Antichrist Television Blues” by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire may have intended to make a grand statement about the absurdity of modern life and its attendant joys and tragedies, which in fact, they did do—but the Montreal rockers also delivered a solid gold running album with 2007’s Neon Bible, driven by propulsive beats and teary, go-faster drama. Inspired by Jessica Simpson, “Antichrist Television Blues” plays like a wild-eyed, amped-up, super-dark Springsteen anthem. If you’re beginning to flag on your run, it’ll give you the extra boost you need and then some.—Sophie Harris



21
“Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service
10/30

“Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service

Is your pace lagging? Feeling a little drained? Perhaps there’s a hill ahead. Don’t worry—this much-loved 2003 hit from the Postal Service hits the sweet spot of running cadence. In layman’s terms: let your feet hit the pavement on the beat of this song and you’ll be out of your mid-run funk in no time.—Sara Fay



20
“All My Life” by Foo Fighters
11/30

“All My Life” by Foo Fighters

If you need a little motivation to get you from the point of warming up (i.e. walking fast and fiddling with your iPod) to actually pounding the track, cue up this fiery Foo’s number from 2002. Its starting-block intro rumbles with pent-up energy, before a starter-pistol explosion hurls you into your running zone. Even the most normally tranquil athletes will find themselves singing along to Grohl’s defiant refrain—“Done! Done! On to the next one!”—and that’s a promise.—Sophie Harris



19
“Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem
12/30

“Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem

Okay, we’ll agree that running and dancing are two very distinct ways of moving our bodies. But this 2010 track—and most LCD songs in general—blur the lines and make your run feel like a party. It’s easy to keep your feet moving for the fast-paced four minutes, but if you find yourself flagging, pretend those antagonistic panda furries from the music video are after you with spraypaint and eggs.—Kate Wertheimer 



18
“212” by Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay
13/30

“212” by Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay

Banks’ 2011 track has a good beat, for sure, but it’s her rapping style that drives the song—and us while we’re running to it. There’s an undeniable attitude in the music, the artist and her practically lazy, swear-laced threats that makes us want to get up in someone’s face and fight—even if in reality we’re just pounding the pavement.—Kate Wertheimer



17
“Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones
14/30

“Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones

People run for exercise, for fun, for fresh air, sure, but sometimes we’re running something down—a bitterness or rage that needs to be expressed and exhausted. The Rolling Stones’ death-obsessed 1966 hit is ideal for that purpose: exercise as exorcism. The song may be most notable for Brian Jones’ groundbreaking sitar line, but Charlie Watts’ drums give it a relentless forward motion that bursts with fresh despair at each chorus. If you can’t outrun death, at least you can outpace it for a while.—Adam Feldman



16
“Red Morning Light” by Kings of Leon
15/30

“Red Morning Light” by Kings of Leon

Yes, there really was a time when Kings of Leon were not churning out zero-enthusiasm lite-rock albums and marrying Victoria’s Secret models. The group’s 2003 debut album,Youth and Young Manhood, throbbed with sweaty teenage dreams and ragged guitar licks. Cue up “Red Morning Light” on your Nano, run as fast as you can and punch the air—like the straggly champion you are.—Sophie Harris



15
“Stronger” by Kanye West
16/30

“Stronger” by Kanye West

Kanye makes no bones about lifting the hook of Daft Punk’s robot-disco anthem “Harder Better Faster Stronger” for his jacked-up 2007 tune. As you’re running along, questioning the meaning of life and asking what this is all for, take a lesson from Ye, who, despite the seemingly effortless borrowing, obsessed over the single’s mixing and production. It’s a process, people!—Andrew Frisicano



14
“Ace of Spades” by Mötorhead
17/30

“Ace of Spades” by Mötorhead

When Lemmy fires up that rumbling bass intro—the aural equivalent of exhaust fumes bellowing out of a tailpipe—sitting still ceases to be an option. You’ve got to move, and while an obnoxious Harley hog might be the most appropriate mode of transportation, your feet will do just fine. So let Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor’s hellhound gallop set the pace, and get off your ass.—Hank Shteamer



13
“Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello
18/30

“Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello

Costello’s 1978 single may seem a bit subdued (especially given its refrain), but the beat is so perfect for a steady running pace that we could literally do miles with it on repeat. It’s poppy enough to keep us light on our feet, and gets a bolstered chorus and set of chords just when we’re getting lazy. It also happens to be about releasing sexual frustration, which running is great for (though admittedly not as great as, er, pumping it).—Kate Wertheimer



12
“Baba O’Riley” by the Who
19/30

“Baba O’Riley” by the Who

Pete Townshend’s 1971 track (originally written for the band’s second rock opera, which was eventually scrapped) is a crashing rock anthem with an instrumental buildup that’s perfect for setting your pace—and your mindset—before the beat drops. Although it’s about the desolation and wasted potential of drugged out teens, the song is strangely uplifting—not to mention easy to run to. Oh, and getting wasted on running is totally a thing. Ever heard of runner’s high? —Kate Wertheimer



11
“Jesus Walks” by Kanye West
20/30

“Jesus Walks” by Kanye West

Jesus had great abs. You never see a depiction of the guy without a six pack. Unfortunately most of us cannot rely on carpentry and fishing as a fitness regime, but leave it to Yeezus to turn sermonizing and suffering into an arena sport. This personal (and, yes, mildly egotistical) plea, arguably West’s greatest song, doubles as an anabolic steroid. He masterfully samples the Arc Choir’s “Walk With Me,” turning the gospel hymn into a Marine march. It makes you feel ten feet tall. It puts length in your stride. Hut one two!—Brent DiCrescenzo



10
“Work Bitch” by Britney Spears
21/30

“Work Bitch” by Britney Spears

In the arena of running songs with a motivational message, Britney’s got your back just like a guilt-inducing trainer with rippling abs would: by obnoxiously reminding you “no pain, no gain.” Off 2013’s Britney Jean, this single has glimmers of early Britney dance tracks plus an obvious EDM sheen. It’s kind of an awful song (though by far the best on the album), but who cares? It’ll help you get those miles in, and remind you what you’re working toward: a hot body, a Bugatti…mostly that hot body. Now get to work, bitch.—Sara Fay

9
“The Jean Genie” by David Bowie
22/30

“The Jean Genie” by David Bowie

Bowie’s 1972 single, the A-side to “Ziggy Stardust,” has a chugging R&B riff and a steady beat that’s perfect for a long-legged jog. One of the best parts of running is getting lost in your thoughts, the movement, the music—and we can’t think of a more fun song to distract ourselves with. In Bowie’s own words: let yourself go!—Kate Wertheimer

8
“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine
23/30

“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine

This 2008 track builds momentum effortlessly, just like a run on a good day. (And speaking of which, the chorus is literally urging you to run, fast.) Florence might annoy the crap out of you, and this song was definitely overplayed for multiple years, but it’s nevertheless energetic and uplifting in a way that gives you wings, whether you’re running or not.—Kate Wertheimer

7
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem
24/30

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

The first rap to win an Oscar for Best Song, this cut from 2002’s 8 Mile soundtrack is a blast of pure nervous aggression. Singing as B-Rabbit, his character in the movie, Eminem captures a rising rapper’s harsh back-and-forth of anxiety and ambition. (Thanks to a trick of the lyric, a big opportunity to “blow” could also just be a chance to blow an opportunity.) Program the song for later in your run; it’s the ideal fuel to propel you beyond what you think your limits are.—Andrew Frisicano

6
“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
25/30

“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Sometimes during a run, you’re just trying to keep a steady pace and a smile on your face. Not every track has to be an angry sprint or a power anthem. CCR’s 1969 single has both a steady beat and a laid-back vibe, making it the song you’ll turn to when you’re trying to remember why the hell you went running in the first place. —Kate Wertheimer

5
“Go!” by Santigold feat. Karen O
26/30

“Go!” by Santigold feat. Karen O

This, friends, is your sprint song. Philly-based artist Santigold always gets our blood pumping, and in 2011 she collaborated with another, equally badass lady singer, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, to create this beat-heavy anthem. It’s got swagger, it’s got drive, and it’s perfect for busting out a quick half-mile (or for furiously running in place—whichever you’re in the mood for).—Kate Wertheimer

4
“Lightning Bolt” by Jake Bugg
27/30

“Lightning Bolt” by Jake Bugg

Young Brit Jake Bugg looks like he could be your kid brother. Like he’s almost old enough to taste the glory of a post-run beer—but his first big hit is more associated with Gatorade. It appeared in an ad for the runner’s drink of choice a few years ago, and its driving beat and catchy, scrabbling guitar will easily push you along the road. Short and sweet at under two and a half minutes, it’s a great opportunity for you to pick up the pace a little.—Sara Fay 

3
“Sabotage” by Beastie Boys
28/30

“Sabotage” by Beastie Boys

This grungy, distorted rapcore tune, off 1994’s Ill Communication, gets your heart racing whether you’re running or not, making it a go-to track for really pushing your pace. It’s easy to imagine running from the cops—or toward some mayhem—with the Boys yelling in your ears, and the steady beat and frantic turntable scratches don’t hurt either.—Kate Wertheimer 

2
“99 Problems” by Jay Z
29/30

“99 Problems” by Jay Z

Some people run for fitness. Others run for fun (really). Regardless of what motivates you to lace up, most runners learn pretty quickly that knocking out some miles on foot is a great opportunity to work shit out in your head. Jay Z’s 2003 track just might give you some perspective on life’s obstacles (blisters, runner’s knee, the law in your rear view mirror—you know, the normal stuff). If nothing else, the beat and the hook make the blocks pass by quickly.—Sara Fay 

1
“Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor
30/30

“Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor

Here’s the thing about “Eye of the Tiger.” If you get into running, you’ll probably think about signing up for a race. Maybe a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot or a neighborhood fun run to start, then a 5K or a 10K, or even a half or full marathon. This is where a runner’s intimate relationship with this song begins. It is basically impossible to run a race without hearing it, whether you’re going 3.1 miles or 26.2. We’re not here to claim this song as a modern musical masterpiece, but it’s going to motivate you to keep going whether you like it or not. Survivor wrote the track in 1982 specifically for Sylvester Stallone’s theme song in Rocky III, so its association with athleticism and ass-kicking is a given. And once you start associating those iconic power chords with race-day adrenaline, it’ll have a permanent spot on your run playlist—what better motivation to pick up the pace than chasing a personal record? Wherever it lands on your playlist—whether it’s in the beginning to help you warm up or towards the end when you’re fighting fatigue—“Eye of the Tiger” is a runner’s best friend and everyone knows it. The next race you run, just watch what happens to the athletes around you when the opening chords of the song blast from the speakers. You’ll see air punches. And kung-fu kicks. Probably some dance moves. Let’s just say that no one stops to re-tie a shoe when “Eye of the Tiger” is playing. Whatever mile you’re on when it happens, it’ll be a memorable and motivational moment. Bonus points if it’s playing as you cross that finish line.—Sara Fay 

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