The other day, I went for an eight-kilometer run in the deep canyon city center environments. At the end of the run, Strava had recorded only 7.9km, and I was mad. Where did the 100m go? How accurate is Strava Distance?
Have you been in a similar situation before that you had to run a few extra miles to get the correct distance on Strava? Here are my findings.
Under normal conditions – sky visibility, high-end device, and superior GPS chipset – Strava distance is very accurate. However, in places where the satellite is less obscured, Strava distance is less exact than in areas where the GPS signal is clean.
The peripheral devices connected to Strava via the GPS also play a significant role in the app’s accuracy. For example, you might be using Strava on your phone, on a portable GPS unit, or a smartwatch. All these will provide varying distance measurements.
Nevertheless, several Strava users have reported near to accurate distances. Unlike the Apple Watch, which rounds off the corners of a map, Strava overlays the route on its map to provide accurate distances. The overall effect is the loss of considerable distances with the Apple Watch than with Strava.
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Factors Affecting the Accuracy of Strava Distance
Strava is a useful app for accurately recording and monitoring several things, including elevation, speed, and distance. However, it does not work alone in measuring distance. Strava distance is only as accurate as of the device that feeds it with the data.
Several technical and non-technical factors are involved. Sky visibility, location, and the actual device’s GPS chipset also affect the accuracy of Strava distance.
1. Sky Visibility / Location
For example, nearby obstacles like high-rise buildings and hollow areas around the grand canyon partially obscure satellite signals. Even with an accurate distance tracker like Strava or Garmin, you will likely experience distance jumps and lags.
GPS signals can be reflected off the surfaces of tall buildings before reaching the receivers on the ground. The reflection of GPS signals can thus result in inaccurate Strava distance. However, if you run around areas with increased sky visibility, Strava will provide accurate distances.
Similarly, location influences the accuracy of Strava distance. First, if your location settings on Strava are not turned on, you may be getting estimates instead of actual values. You can also allow the Strava app to use GPS in the background to ensure timely distance updates.
Ensure that heavy objects do not obscure the device you are using to measure distance. For example, the distance will be more accurate if the tracking device is exposed to the environment, unlike in a backpack. In short, the location and visibility of the distance tracker affect Strava’s distance accuracy.
2. Actual GPS Chip
The sensitivity and accuracy of various GPS chips differ. Although not so much, the GPS chip can limit Strava’s performance if your battery-saving features are on. Also, you need to check that you do not have several applications running in the background of your smartwatch.
These hidden processes affect the performance of your smartwatch’s GPS chip when you go for a run. For instance, the GPS of a professional device like Garmin is more accurate than a phone GPS, which can be notoriously inaccurate. Therefore, going for a run with a Strava app installed on Garmin will give you accurate results than using the app on a smartphone.
Additionally, Apple Watchs’ battery-saving setting allows it to rely on the iPhone’s GPS, which may be inaccurate. If you want an accurate distance from Strava, it is advisable to leave the iPhone behind when going for a run with the Apple Watch. Or, you can disable the setting on your phone and use only the GPS of the Apple Watch.
3. Type / Quality of Device
Installing the Strava app on high-end intelligent devices can give you more accurate distances than with lower-end gadgets. The same is true for all devices that can upload data to Strava; smartwatches, cycling computers, and even other apps.
However, not all phones are inaccurate in their GPS positioning. If you are using Strava on Samsung 4, the distances you get will be very accurate. On the other hand, lower-end phones have inferior GPS chipsets and signal antennae.
I recommend that you use a dedicated device like a fitness smartwatch to get accurate Strava distance.
How Do You Correct Distance on Strava?
What if the sky visibility and location are perfect? What if the device you are using is high-end and has a high-performing GPS chipset, but you are still getting inaccurate Strava distances? How do you correct distance on Strava?
Strava is the only fitness tracking app that does some smoothing to your uploaded data to correct outlier GPS points. According to the app developers, Strava does this by adding your GPS distances from one point of the inconsistency to another. In doing so, Strava removes inconsistent data files and inaccurate GPS points.
For that reason, Strava may report a reprocessed distance different from the one reported by your GPS device. But if you are concerned about Strava’s distance inaccuracies, there are other ways to correct them. Let us look see how.
Steps to Correct Distance on Strava
- Restart your device
- Turn off GPS and turn it back on
- Allow Strava access to your location in Settings>>Apps>>Strava>>Permissions>>Toggle Location ON
- Disable your device battery-saving settings
- Set your location to High accuracy in Settings>Connections>Location>Locating Method>High Accuracy
- Download the GPS Status & Toolbox app to your device. The app will help you to troubleshoot any GPS issues you are experiencing with Strava.
- Open the downloaded app and go to Menu>>Manage A-GPS State>>Reset.
- Look for an area with an open view of the sky, keep your device immobile, and open the Strava app to search for signals for 10 minutes.
- If the GPS Status & Toolbox app shows overall accuracy of fewer than 30 meters, Strava will report accurate distances.
The procedure might be tedious but will yield the desired results. However, if you find Strava too complicated, there is an alternative that can provide accurate distances.
The Best Alternative to Strava
Google Fit is arguably the best alternative to Strava. Although it is a product of Google, the app can run on Android as well as iOS. However, unlike Strava, Google Fit does not provide the website interface for monitoring and analyzing your stats.
Differences between Strava and Google Fit
|Integrates several apps||Few apps can be integrated|
|It has an app and a website interface||Only the app is available|
Whether you are biking, walking, or running, Google Fit’ uses GPS to track your movements. Smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch 4, Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3, and Xiaomi Mi Band 6 works perfectly with Google Fit. Most importantly, if you can sync your Google Fit data to Strava and monitor your distances on the Website interface of Strava.
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At the end of the eight-kilometer run, I realized that areas around the grand canyon obscured GPS signals, taking away 100 meters from the distance I covered. It turns out Strava is an accurate app for measuring the distance covered.
If your Strava app is inaccurate, you can follow my findings to reset your device. You should not worry about losing your data because Strava records your data history in their website version, which you can access anytime, anywhere.