Heart rate monitors for Strava: Compatible devices and how to connect
Use Strava and want to train with a heart rate monitor? Whether you run or ride with HR, the way you can do that with the fitness app has changed.
Most of it comes down to the way you choose to use Strava.
As pretty much every service – and here we’re talking Garmin Connect, Polar Flow, Fitbit app etc – out there connects to Strava within the settings. So nothing has changed in that respect. Whether you have any Garmin Forerunner watch or even a Fitbit device such as the Charge 4 or Ionic, this is a great way to get your data into Strava.
Strava heart rate monitor app changes
However, in 2019, the company decided to remove the ability to pair Bluetooth or ANT+ external sensors directly to the Strava smartphone app.
While you can still pull in heart rate data from the sensor on your running watch or smartwatch, connecting something like a chest strap to the app isn’t something you can do anymore.
Strava does offer a workaround though. If you download and use the Wahoo Fitness app (iOS and Android) to record activities using an external sensor, you can automatically sync that data over to Strava once the two services have been connected.
And it’s not just Wahoo. You can still use the native app of HR devices such as Polar, Garmin and others, and then set the activities to export to Strava.
Whether you take that route mentioned above to pushing over your HR data, or you’re looking for a reliable sports watch or smartwatch to push data to Strava, we’ve picked out the ones we’ve found the most reliable in terms of accuracy and playing nice with the app.
Best HR chest strap: Wahoo Tickr X
If you’re looking for something that plays nice with Wahoo Fitness, then going for Wahoo’s Tickr X is a good shout. It’s recently been revamped, but still remains at a great price and is a strong option for both runners and cyclists.
Like the original Tickr X, it uses the same ECG-style sensor setup and has ANT+ as well as Bluetooth connectivity. The latter connectivity support will allow you to pair to three Bluetooth devices at once, which is definitely a good thing for cyclists.
Along with an overall redesign of the look, LED notification lights are moved to the top of the sensor to make it easier to see when it’s connected to another device. It can also store up to 50 hours of workout data if you’re phone’s not nearby. There’s now the ability to dish out advanced running metrics like cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time to smartwatches via ANT+.
If you’re not fussed about those running metric extras, you can save some money and pick up the Wahoo Tickr strap for £39.99 too.
Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 5
Price when reviewed: £399
If you asked us what is the most reliable and accurate heart rate monitor we’ve used on a smartwatch, our answer would be the Apple Watch Series 5. In fact it fares better than a fair few dedicated sports watches at tracking you on the move.
Read this: Apple heart rate monitor guide
Apple uses its latest generation heart rate monitor sensor technology that’s still based on using light and LEDs to detect blood volume changes to generate heart rate readings. You also have that ECG sensor, to offer heart rate readings more in line on what you’d expect to find from ECG setups in hospitals. For exercise tracking, it’s all about the light-based optical sensor here.
In our testing, it’s proved one of the most reliable we’ve used for activities like running and interval training where many optical sensors can falter. Whether you go for the 40mm and 44mm size options, you can expect a similarly solid heart rate monitoring performance for exercise and having something useful to pipe into Strava.
Best running watch: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Price when reviewed: £299.99
Most if not all new sports watches from the likes of Garmin, Suunto and Polar work with Strava. If you’ve connected the companion app tied to your watch to Strava, and you track a workout using the heart rate monitor, it will be synced over along with your other metrics.
Essential reading: Garmin heart rate monitor in-depth guide
Heart rate monitors on sports watches are still not perfect, but they have got significantly better over the years. If you’re looking for a running watch with a solid enough sensor to monitor your heart rate during exercise, the Forerunner 245 Music.
It uses Garmin’s own Elevate heart rate sensor technology, which like the Apple Watch is a light-based method of generating a reading during exercise. While the sensor still struggled to match a chest strap in some high intensity testing, for general running and most exercise, it does cut it.
If you want more accurate heart rate data, then you do have the option to pair up and external heart rate chest straps with Garmin as well as Polar and Wahoo’s chest straps working with the solid sports watch. As long as the external sensor is paired with the watch, it will override the onboard sensor and that data will be shown inside of Strava instead.
Also, if you don’t care about having an onboard music player, the Forerunner 245 costs £249.99 and will give you the same performance in terms of heart rate monitoring.
Best fitness tracker: Fitbit Charge 4
Price when reviewed: £129.99
Just like many smartwatches and sports watches, nothing changes in terms of pushing your heart rate data from Fitbit’s fitness trackers alongside other metrics to Strava. Just make sure Fitbit is connected to Strava, and you should be good to go.
Now that Fitbit has added GPS to its flagship fitness tracker, it’s a much better fit for tracking running and cycling. The Charge 4 continues to use its own own PurePulse technology letting you workout in heart rate zones or generally keep tabs on your effort levels during exercise.
The heart rate monitor also powers new data insights like Active Minutes that puts a greater emphasis on raising your heart rate as opposed to cranking up the step counts.
Crucially, accuracy is pretty good for an optical sensor. It falters at high intensity levels, but for general fitness, it should be good enough for most.
Best for swimming: Polar OH1+
Price when reviewed: [currency usd=”79.95″ gbp=”69.50″]
Don’t worry swimmers, we haven’t forgotten about you. While more watches are promising to offer accurate underwater heart rate monitoring, the jury is still firmly out on whether it’s reliable data. Polar’s OH1+ is a heart rate monitor that can be worn on different parts of your arm, but can also be clipped onto a pair of swim goggles via a mounting clip. It’s still the optical-style sensor setup used on many wrist-based monitors, though moving tracking from the wrist to the temple is seen as a way to improve accuracy in the water.
Along with letting you clip them onto a regular pair of goggles, it also works with the Form Swim Goggles, which will let you view real-time heart rate data on the built-in AR display.
The connected goggles also work with Strava, letting you pore over that data along with the usual swim metrics too.
Best heart rate headphones: Jabra Elite Sport
Price when reviewed: [currency usd=”219.99″ gbp=”199.99″]
There’s not an abundance of heart rate tracking headphones out there. From the ones that we’ve tested, Jabra’s truly wireless pair are some of the most reliable.
First and foremost, the Jabra Elite Sport buds work with Android and iOS phones and along with Jabra’s own app, does work with third party options like Wahoo Fitness. So that’s the option Strava recommends using to record your heart rate based workouts in to automatically sync to its platform.
From an accuracy point of view, we found them generally pretty good. As long as you get a good fit, data will be accurate. Jabra doesn’t use ear hooks to keep them in place. While we didn’t have issues securing them, you might need to play around with the additional buds to find something that works.
Along with those heart rate monitoring skills, you also get great sound quality, an okay 4.5 hours battery life (9 hours with charging case), built-in controls and a design that should be good for a fair few sweaty workouts.