Tech for your connected self

Strava compatible watches: Best devices to help you ditch your smartphone

You'll finally be able to run wild and free

If you're a fan of Strava but are tired of being tethered to your smartphone when you exercise, there's good news: plenty of running watches and smartwatches will give you the freedom you crave. We know that most sports watches from Garmin, Polar, Suunto and TomTom play nice with Strava, but now smartwatches are catching up with standalone apps and providing smarter integration, as well.

The fitness tracking app isn't just easier to use from your wrist, but also gives you the opportunity to tap into more advanced metrics, accurate GPS and the packed Strava community.

Essential reading: The best running apps

So if you're ready to take the next step in the Strava universe and compete against fellow cyclists and runners on a refreshed scale, read on to take a look at some of the smartwatches that play nice with the sports tracking app goliath.

Garmin

Strava compatible watches: Best devices to help you ditch your smartphone

Pretty much all of Garmin's watches are built to play nice with Strava, from budget watches like the Garmin Forerunner 35 all the way up to the likes of the Fenix 5 and the Forerunner 935 (pictured above).

The problem, of course, is that Garmin Connect isn't nearly as fun, informative and motivating as Strava, despite its recent facelift. Thankfully, you can link your account with the app for seamless syncing of runs, cycles and swims.

Essential reading: How to connect Garmin and Strava

This allows you to get the best of both worlds: Garmin Connect's handy insights and workout history and Strava's impressive Segments, leaderboards and social features. It's win-win here.

Polar

Strava compatible watches: Best devices to help you ditch your smartphone

Just like Garmin, Polar makes sure that watches like the Polar M200, the feature-packed M430 and even the ageing Polar V800 offers Strava integration.

Those who enjoy using the Polar Flow app can sync runs and cycle rides, as well as take advantage of features such as Strava Segments.

To pair the two services, just log into the Polar Flow web account, head to settings and opt to connect the Flow account with Strava. Log into your Strava account and verify the connection to have your workouts transferred when you sync your device as normal. Then you're good to get tracking.

Suunto

Strava compatible watches: Best devices to help you ditch your smartphone

Suunto's Spartan watches are steadily becoming better rivals for Garmin and Polar's top end devices, including the Spartan Sport Wrist HR and the newer Trainer Wrist HR, which offers similar features in a slimmer body.

When the two are connected, you can track runs, rides and cross-training sessions with Segment support syncing the data to Strava.

The best way to get the two to play nice is to head into Suunto Movescount from the web application and choose the Connect with Strava option to get the ball rolling.

TomTom

Strava compatible watches

TomTom may have announced last year that it's leaving wearables behind, but the run-centric Spark 3 and the TomTom Adventurer still offer some of the best Strava compatibility available on a sports watch.

This is largely thanks to its route exploration mode, which enables you to upload GPX routes to the watch via the TomTom web app and then follow on the watch.

TomTom's own interface works well, but it's the impressive integration with Strava that really helps you enjoy the best of both worlds.

Strava compatible smartwatches

If you crave more smartwatch-like features from your runs and rides, there are some options out there. They're by no means perfect, so keep that in mind, but here's our pick of the Strava-friendly smartwatches you can consider.

Apple Watch Series 3

Strava compatible watches: Best devices to help you ditch your smartphone

It took some time, but we finally got a standalone Strava app that's compatible with the Apple Watch last year.

And after initial accuracy issues, this can now be considered a strong addition to the watch's third-party mix. There's still limited customisation of the data faces, and you can't view workout history from the watch itself, but much of what makes Strava worthwhile is provided through the companion app, so we don't consider this a reason to avoid the smartwatch.

During our testing both on the bike and running, accuracy has matched up well to the both bike computers and running watches.

From $329, apple.com | Amazon

Samsung Gear S3

Strava compatible watches

While Samsung disappointingly doesn't offer direct support for Strava, you can still sync your data to Strava from the Samsung Health app.

The Samsung Gear S3 offers built-in GPS for activities like running and cycling, plus a host of sensors including a heart rate monitor, barometer and speedometer.

Samsung Health itself is improving and the Gear S3 certainly isn't the worst device out there that can track your activity. You'll just have to live with the odd inconsistency with regards to heart rate and GPS. Or, alternatively, you can opt for the newer Samsung Gear Sport.

$349.99, samsung.com | Amazon

LG Watch Sport

Strava compatible watches

With Android Wear 2.0 and its standalone app goodness now spread across a whole host of devices, you're free to enjoy Strava on Android without your phone for the first time.

While the scope is there for pretty much any device rocking Google's new OS to get involved, the LG Watch Sport is the best in class. Sure, it has a slightly chunky case, but you'll be too busy running wild and enjoying the untethered GPS and heart rate experience to care.

Elsewhere on the Android Wear front, there is also the New Balance RunIQ, a smartwatch that makes it easier to track runs and cycling sessions and get the data synced to the popular fitness platform with minimal fuss. While the Strava integration is actually pretty good, the watch itself is not, so it's one we'd recommend steering clear of.

$249, lg.com | Amazon

Fitbit Ionic

Strava compatible watches: Best devices to help you ditch your smartphone

Strava was one of the first standalone apps on board the Fitbit Ionic when it launched late last year, but it works slightly differently to the other smartwatches on this list.

Instead of recording activity within the Strava app itself, you'll instead have to use the Ionic's own running platform and then wait for it to sync across the data - assuming you've already synced your accounts through the Strava smartphone app.

So, what is the app actually good for? Well, unlike with other smartwatches, you can handily view recent activity and also take a look at 'matched runs' if you've completed the same route more than once. This allows you to view your progress over time and pinpoint where you may be improving or declining.

It's not the simplest of procedures to initially link Strava and the Ionic together, and we're not sure why you're not free to simply run everything from the app itself, but you can get there eventually. And once you do it all works pretty nicely.

From $299, fitbit.com | Amazon


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5 comments

  • Ggggg says:

    The Garmin Fenix 3 or 5 will beat any of these watches for accuracy, raw features (for sports), and battery life. Plus you can use a foot pod if you do a lot of trail running with no GPS reception. It's way more accurate than any watches internal accelerometer. Plus you can dive with it and do triathlons. Try doing that with an Apple watch.

    Also what is wrong with Garmin connect? You get way more granular data like run caidance and stride length. Plus you can easily sync to TP or Strava if you want to compete for segments, but I guess you did mention that part.

    • j.stables says:

      Agree! We find Strava a better motivator than GC, but you're right, they both have their place. Love the Fenix range, and are waiting to complete our Fenix 5 review before recommending here.

  • judgepd says:

    How did you manage to write this article without mentioning a watch created in conjunction with Strava, namely the New Balance RunIQ?

    • j.stables says:

      Because we haven't finished reviewing the RunIQ yet, thus not able to recommend.

  • LouiseDM says:

    Thanks for this. 

    Just wondered if you'd finished reviewing the other Garim watches and RunIQ? I'm a particularly petite lady with very small wrists and trying to find the best watch for running and linking to strava and that's not ridiculously bulky.

    Thanks

    LDM

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