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Strava vs Runkeeper: which of these popular running apps is best for you?

Two road runners in front of a spectacular view of mountains
(Image credit: Getty)

It's Strava vs Runkeeper, and the race is on! The two most well known and well used running apps are up against each other in the race to get you to persuade you to download and use them to track your runs.

Both apps are free at the basic level, with a premium subscription to unlock more in-depth features. Strava is most famous for being the social app – Facebook for runners, if you will – with the phrase 'if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen' keeping some users fixated on recording every single workout. Runkeeper is more goal-orientated and can recommend challenges and training plans to less experienced runners, offering guidance and encouragement in partnership with Asics to achieve those aims.

Below we put Strava and Runkeeper through their paces to find out which is best for you.

Screengrabs from Strava mobile app

(Image credit: Strava)

Strava

Find it at: https://www.strava.com | Price (standard version): Free | Price (Strava Summit premium): $5/month (US), £4/month (UK) (billed annually)

Very sociable, motivating sense of community
Very easy and intuitive to use app and desktop interfaces
Excellent analytical features for performance
Strava Beacon safety tracking
Works well and used by most serious runners
Segments great for motivation
Add shoes and kit to track their usage mileage
Premium version is great value
Can eat time scrolling through others’ run posts and pics
Can eat time putting on your own pics and workout diary notes
Can encourage you to run faster than you planned/should if someone beats your segment
Can feel too competitive or elite for some

Strava overview

If you like your stats, logging every run (or any exercise) and connecting with likeminded runners, Strava is a fantastic app for you. The basic premise of the app is that you use either the app or your best GPS watch to record you run, then Strava stores it in a timeline a bit like Facebook, and your weekly mileage is shown on a satisfying (or not!) graph. Accompanying each run is a map of where you’ve been (don’t worry, you can hide your home address) and you can add photos to each run if you like. You can also use Strava Beacon to share your real-time location with up to three friends and family members via a message with a link to view your position on a map in their browser.

People wearing Strava branded T-shirts using Strava mobile app

(Image credit: Strava)

Strava socials

Although primarily used for cycling and running, you can log many many different sports from rollerblading to skiing, and view your training timeline or a feed of workouts from all the athletes you follow. A lot of famous athletes are on Strava so this is a major excitement for fan boys and girls. You can create clubs for your friends to join and log mileage together, and join challenges from Strava and other brands that give you a discount coupon or similar incentive for completing them. You can give other athletes kudos (a thumbs up), comment on their efforts, and compete with them or yourself for the fastest time over various ‘segments’ – pre-decided sections of path or road.

Strava Summit premium option

Many runners are totally satisfied with the free version of Strava for logging all their runs, cross training and workouts and accessing a small amount of post-run analysis. However upgrading to the premium Strava Summit option is only $5/£4 per month (billed annually) and this gives you access to pretty much every juicy running stat you could ever hope to analyse including advanced heart rate and power data, segment leaderboards and your own past segment efforts to see how your performance changes over time.

You can also plan routes, create segments, set goals, access training plans and see your personal training log and dashboard at a glance. It’s worth noting that the route creator shows roads and paths but it’s not as detailed as the UK's Ordnance Survey mapping so it’s more useful for road than trail runners. You can also access personal ‘Heatmaps’ (maps of where you’ve run showing via colours where you’ve run more often) and make use of discounts from Strava’s partners.

Screengrabs from Runkeeper app

(Image credit: Runkeeper)

Runkeeper

Find it at: https://runkeeper.com/ | Price (standard): Free | Price (Runkeeper Go premium): $9.99 (US)/£7.99 (UK) (per month); $39.99(US)/£29.99 (UK) (annually)

Very encouraging and motivating towards your goals
Good for beginner runners
Integrates well with GPS watches
Very easy and intuitive to use
Highly customizable
Optional audio stats
Links to Spotify or other music library
Works well and used by many runners
Free basic guided runs and training plans
Add shoes to track their usage mileage
Live tracking for safety
Not as advanced performance stats as Strava
No route creator, segments or Heatmaps like Strava
No social side (this may not be a downside for some!)

Runkeeper overview

RunKeeper (and its premium version Runkeeper Go) is more focused on coaching and training you towards your running goals than just a training log with a huge dataset to analyse like Strava. This makes it much more suited to beginner and intermediate runners looking for guidance and training help without going so far as hiring a coach or personal trainer.

On downloading the Runkeeper app it asks you a series of questions to find out your goals, from 5k or 10k to weight loss. Cleverly, it asks you about your previous running experience and then steers you towards a challenge or training plan accordingly. Once you’ve logged a few runs you can see all your stats stored on there, including total milage, average pace and distance. You also get badges for doing certain mileages like 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon, which is great for motivation.

The Runkeeper partnership with Asics brings excellent coaching and training advice, including tips on form and cadence which is great for beginner and expert runners alike. Runkeeper incorporates Asics Studio which has 10 personal trainers giving audio-guided workouts from strength and cardio to treadmill and indoor running which is fantastic for motivation and doing more than just running. There’s also a live tracking feature for safety that will send a text with a link to the tracking webpage to up to five contacts.

Man training using Runkeeper app

(Image credit: Runkeeper)

Runkeeper Go premium overview

While there is access to some of these guided runs and basic training plans on the free version of the Runkeeper, the premium Go option is the place to unlock a huuuuuge library of training plans and audio workouts, plus real-time workout adjustments if you miss a day and weather updates so you can wear the right kit. There are also deeper insights into pace and distance, you can compare past runs and use this feature to shed light on what enhances or harms your performance.

Runkeeper socials

There is a social side to Runkeeper but it’s not nearly in the same league as Strava – we’ve never heard anyone saying 'If it’s not on Runkeeper it didn’t happen', for example. However, if you’re looking for more motivation and training advice to achieve your running goals, and less distraction from endless scrolling of other people’s impressive running activities and photos, Runkeeper is the better app for you.

Strava vs Runkeeper: the verdict

If you’re a beginner to intermediate runner looking for coaching advice, workouts and a straightforward way to log your runs and exercise sessions, look no further than Runkeeper. If you’re any level of runner and wish to log and analyze your own workouts with no training advice and are motivated by the competitive segments and social side with photos and comments, Strava is the one for you. Why not try both and see which one you get on with best?

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.