Like many runners, I used the Strava iPhone app to track my runs. But, I was tired of having to carry my iPhone with me; I had it in an arm band and it was difficult to remove, making checking my pace almost impossible without stopping. So, when the iPhone Series 3 came out with built-in GPS, I thought the time was right to finally get one and ditch the phone on my runs!


I wanted to find the answer to a simple question, “does Strava work on Apple Watch Series 3?”  I went online and found some conflicting information about whether the Apple Watch really worked with Strava. Yes, there was a Strava App for Apple Watch, but some commenters said it didn’t work or was completely useless. I was hesitant to buy one without knowing for sure.

The Verdict: It Works, But It’s Sometimes Inaccurate

Well, I took a chance and purchased the Apple Watch (with no LTE) and tried it myself. It has a bare minimum number of features, but it does do the fundamental task of tracking your run, pace, and route, and syncing that to your iPhone afterwards without having to carry your phone with you.

The Good

To start a run with your watch, open the Strava app and select what type of workout you want to do.  The choices as of now are:

  • Outdoor Run
  • Outdoor Ride
  • Outdoor Walk
  • Indoor Run
  • Hike
  • Nordic Ski
  • Indoor Ride
  • Workout

Simply tap the icon and it starts tracking you!  Quick and easy.

At any time during your run you can look at your watch to get your current pace. At mile intervals, it will verbally announce the pace of your last mile, as well as your overall time.  So far so good!

At the end of your run, it will show your total distance, time, and pace.

You have a choice to save or delete your workout.  If your phone is nearby, it will sync your workout to your phone when you save it, just as if you had carried it with you!  That is what I wanted!!!


Discrepancy in Running Pace

The biggest problem I’ve had with Strava on the Apple Watch is that it sometimes after I sync my run to my phone, the iPhone app reports a much faster pace than my watch did.

The errors can be large. For example, while running, Strava told me I ran my first mile at just over a 10-minute pace, but after syncing with my phone, Strava says it was 9:36 minutes.

I found this article which gives two causes and fixes for this problem.

The first scenario happens if you start the Strava app on your watch while you’re near your phone, and you don’t bring your phone with you.  Basically, the app uses the phone’s GPS position for a while, then realizes the watch is disconnected and things get messed up. The solution is to make sure you’re far from your phone when you start the app. Now that I know the cause, it’s easy to avoid.

But that didn’t solve the problem completely for me.

The second suggestion is to “start an activity outside and wait for about 30 seconds before saving and discarding it – then start a new recording”, according to the article.

A lot of folks seem to be having this problem as you can see at the Strava forum. I’d estimate this discrepancy happens to me about 30% of the time.  Sometimes the watch is spot-on with the iPhone app.

I’m currently using Watch OS 4.2.3, and I’m about to upgrade to 4.3.  If that improves things, I’ll report it here.

My Apple Watch Wish List

The Apple Watch Strava app does not show any kind of map of your route while you run. Afterwards, it does show a summary, but once you save it, I haven’t found a way to get your splits on your watch after you finish your run (you can get them on the iPhone app). It would be nice to have these things.

Strava on the Apple Watch
The Strava App on the Apple Watch has a very minimal feature set. It doesn’t even show your pace for your previous runs.

Also, if you save your run while not in range of your iPhone, you’ll have to sync it manually later. So, it’s best to NOT save your workout until your iPhone is nearby.


Okay for Recreational Use Only

These issues notwithstanding, being able to see my pace has been a game-changer form me and has made me improve my pace from about 10 min/mile to the low 9’s. I also really like the voice announcements at every mile. For recreational workout use, I’m really glad I got it. If I was a hard-core runner, however, the occasional workout time inaccuracy would be a show-stopper.

What do you think of the Apple Watch with Strava?  Please leave any questions below. – Brian

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