There is a free version of Strava with plenty of great usability, but for full access to their slate of features a Strava Premium subscription is required. As someone who has willing paid for Strava for multiple years, we take a look at what we find good about it.
The service is an annual subscription which used to be available for $60/year. Updated in 2023: Strava updated the cost of a 1 year subscription of Strava Premium to $79.99 in the US, or $11.99 billed monthly for new users or renewals. This differs depending on the market.
Even with the recent cost increases the feature set has stayed the same and the question is still how much value each of these adds to your social media and training management; and if that’s worth the cost of a light lunch a month.
If you want to get Strava even cheaper you’ll need to either be a student (which results in a 50% discount), this seems to be the only discount provided.
There are sometime free trials of Strava included with various GPS devices or purchase of various gear. Still, for any runner or cyclists the offering is less than the cost of a pair of shoes, or a handful of inner tubes.
The rest of this article looks at Strava Free vs Premium on a handful of specific premium features. Strava subscription benefits are spread across a number of features, so it is important to consider which ones matter to you before signing up.
Is Strava Premium Really Worth It? Strava Free vs. Paid
While we think the answer is yes, Strava premium is worth it, others debate the value. There is no one feature we’ve found that you can point to and say “that’s what makes Strava Premium worth the money”. That’s not to say there is no killer feature, but more to point out that multiple features carry enough value to justify the cost.
Individually some of the features are comparable to stand alone products that cost the same, notably Training Plans and the Training log, which both have apps and services that cost more than $80/year on their own. But combining them with the other tracking features is what makes them really useful.
Since you can track activities with the free version, what do you really get for the added cost. Even though the price isn’t too large, it’s worth diving into the features and seeing which ones are useful and which can be replaced by other free services.
To that end we have reviewed here before the best Strava add ons, which is worth checking out even for Premium members. Below is a short summary of what each of the Strava Premium subscription features is and how you can replicate it without the service.
Leaderboards and Segment Results
Useful Rating: Moderate
Segment leader boards and search and filtering options are only available for premium users. This is good to know if you care about leaderboards, however if getting to the top of a leaderboard is not your goal, this is an irrelevant feature. There are also leaderboard groupings that will matter less to certain users. If you are not following any friends or users, if you do not belong to any groups, and if you have not added your age or weight to the service, then getting these groupings will not be helpful.
There is a handy ability to compare your existing results to all past results on the same segment as well. For most who train well, this is the feature that becomes great to have. with it you can see your progression over time on the same segments. It is possible to get this level of data through third party extensions, like Strafforts, but not to the same fidelity that the native Strava tool provides.
Useful Rating: Moderate
This is one of those features that is only occasionally helpful. It is useful if you wind up using the mobile Strava app and have the app open. This really is best if you care about long riding segments since it’s the most effective way to see current results. Trying to monitor where you stand in a leaderboard on a .25 mile downhill run will likely take more time to catch a glimpse of then it would to just go finish the segment.
To be able to get the most out of live segments you likely need to be a cyclist who can mount your phone, and the mobile Strava app, directly to your handle bars in place of a bike computer. There are also a handful of similarly structured devices that work like this and contain a display.
Useful Rating: High
This is one of our favorite features to look at over time. Still there are other options that replicate this feature using the Strava API. The native training log makes it possible to look across all activities however which makes it better than most of the 3rd party extensions which tend to be focused on individual sports. These include SmashRun, while some multi-sport add-ons like Intervals.ICU work better than the Strava Premium training log.
While it is possible to organize by miles or relative effort, the most functional sorting of the training log we have found is sorting and totaling by hours spent. Especially when training for a multi-sport event like a triathlon, the goal is often simply time spent training. Admittedly the add-ons again do a better job of sorting through how much effort was expended on each training, but the premium training log does a good enough job to have a quick look.
Useful Rating: Low
Not everything is about PRs or segments, but it is still great to know how your current fitness stacks up. Sometimes you have a regular run, and matched runs lets you see where you are in comparison to other runs. This feature is similar to the matched segments and personal leaderboards, but matched runs allows you to monitor longer efforts without going through the hassle of saving out a new segment for each of your specific runs.
The amount of the activity that overlaps does not have to be 100%. We have seen runs that vary by 0.5mi or more still be tracked as a matched run, although this might depend on the length of the run as well. In the chart above you can see why it is not all about a PR, some routes are not ones that are done for speed. This specific segment is more of a casual effort, with only a single effort done as a way to set a personal best. Even so, the trend clearly shows the progress of fitness (or lack there of).
Useful Rating: High
One of the top reasons to have Strava premium is to provide motivation. Bringing a clear set of personalized goals to the forefront is a great way to do this.
The goals visual includes simple progress displays. Each goal can be customized on a weekly and annual total basis.
Useful Rating: Low
Depending on the devices that you use this is one feature that can be hard to replicate. While an iPhone to iPhone user can share location via find my friend without any need for Strava, if you are sharing during activities to someone who is on a different (or unknown) platform Strava makes it easy to share location. This is a great safety feature assuming you have an Apple Watch, Wear OS device, Garmin with Live Track, or are using the Strava mobile app on Android or iPhones.
We rate this feature as low usefulness in part because it requires such a specific setup, and because it will rarely be used. As a safety feature it is nice to give someone tracking abilities, but if you want tracking on all of your runs then other always on beacons (avalanche trackers, Spot trackers, find my friend, etc) are likely better options. Strava Premium Beacon works best when you are trying to share a specific activity, like tracking a marathon on race day, in which you can not rely on the race day timing services to provide accurate data. If you do have a single race, this might be the time to sign up for a trial version of Premium and test out the feature just for the event.
Useful Rating: High
While our review of Strava Training plans suggest that there could be some improvements, the value that they provide is great compared to the total costs of an Annual Strava Premium subscription. We tried one of the 5k training plans a few years ago, and the McMillan system led us to a PR in the 5k. There are dozens of available plans online, with some of them being free, and others available for a small cost.
Some plans wind up being $50 or more just for what is effectively a calendar. The premium subscription allows you to take part in as many training plans as you want. This means that throughout the year you very well could use this feature 5 or more times, each time with a unique training plan that customizes to your target date and then emails you daily with the planned workout.
Anyone who is planning on training for a marathon may find the full value of the subscription with just the plans. Want to hit a BQ? Start out with a few weeks of base building, then following a V02 max style 5k plan, followed by a half marathon and marathon plan. All this can be fit into a single year.
This is a great value and the ease of finding and creating a plan also reduces the complexity of combing through a sea of potential options and then still having to create your own spreadsheet or print it out to manage. The personalization of the plans is not quite as great as having a personalized coach, but it is on par with dozens of free and paid sample plans found around the web.
Useful Rating: Medium
Finding a fun and safe place to run can make a workout or ride much more enjoyable. While there are many tools that let you click and create a simple route, Strava has added features that lets you discover routes that are more aligned to your preferences. This includes data on what trail surface your route is on, optimizing for hills or elevation profiles you like, and overlaying against heat maps to see how popular your route might be.
These added features do a solid job of personalizing running routes and avoiding the issues that other route planners have (namely that they wind up putting you on overly popular roads with traffic lights and no good sites to see). See our full review of popular running route planners here.
Fitness and Freshness
Useful Rating: Medium
Relative effort and the fitness and freshness graphs add an additional layer that helps monitor day to day fitness and not just individual efforts. We have covered extensively what goes into a Freshness and Fitness score on Strava, but without a Premium account you will not be presented with this data. All of these metrics are replicated in other training platforms as well. Notably, Training Peaks offers this analysis of Fitness, Form, and Fatigues as well, but also locks it behind a Premium subscription.
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