Why Is Strava Pissing Off Its Most Loyal Fans?

The fitness app's fees just went up for certain users...with little warning or explanation

A screenshot of the Strava app icon on a smartphone. The fitness tracking platform is increasing prices, but doing so in a secretive way.
We're used to having a positive relationship with Strava, so this feels weird.
NurPhoto via Getty

Strava has a 4.8 rating with over 209,000 reviews in the Apple App Store. Its loyalists — runners, cyclists, rowers, snowboarders and now even pickleballers (categorizable as of a week ago) — love the fitness tracking app, and often refer to it as their favorite form of social media.

People rely on the platform for inspiration, for compliments, for an accountability check. As fitness tracking goes, Strava has efficient features and an elegant design. It’s a reliable way to codify and study one’s week-to-week fitness progress; at the end of the year, Strava even sends a helpful, Spotify Wrapped-esque summary of all your completed efforts from the previous 12 months.

It’s unsurprising to me as a proud Strava-ite, who’s recommended the app to many friends over the years (and seen my “kudos” collect in kind) that the app’s user base has swelled from 20 million in 2016 to over 100 million in 2023. But aside from the occasional glitch, or a safety concern, this is the first time I’ve seen those users upset with the mothership.

That’s because Strava is suddenly raising its subscription rates for the first time in a decade, in an extremely scattershot way, with different rates for different members. Depending on when you joined, where you live or both, you may have already seen an uptick in your monthly or annual dues, or can expect some sort of increase in the coming months. Headed into a year where money is tight and monthly subscription costs are already out of control, people are pissed.

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Most perplexing to online users is the apparent randomness of the price increases. The examples are all over the map in a recent subreddit: from $6 a month to $13, from $59.99 a year to $99.99 a year. And instead of Strava explaining to these users why they were raising rates, they simply sent emails headed “Dear _____” with a brief FYI that when they renewed their subscription, they could expect to pay more.

A YouTuber named Ray Maker, who’s been reviewing sports tech for over a decade, spent 14 minutes this weekend attempting to decode what in god’s name is going on at Strava, and came to to the following apoplectic conclusions: if you live in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Spain, the United Kingdom or the United States, and signed up for Strava before November 23, 2022, but don’t have a scheduled renewal until after February 2, 2023, you can expect a price increase.

When should you expect news of that price increase to reach your inbox? A month before your auto-renewal, though don’t expect to have that information a second sooner — whether from your own research, or from the sleuthing of someone like Maker, who literally makes a living on getting answers from reps at Strava, Fitbit, Google, Apple and the like.

Maker emailed Strava over and over again in a bid for clarity on what sort of increase he should expect, and why his wife (who has a Dutch account) will actually see no increase under the mysterious new bylaws. He got the equivalent of a middle finger emoji from the service, which sent a couple caustic press statements before going radio silent. As someone who had used and reviewed the platform for years, he was more than a little confused. If you’re not going to tell me why you’re raising rates, at least tell me what you’re raising them to, right?

Evidently not. And as if there wasn’t enough internet ire already, some users are pointing out that Strava ran online promos to attract new accounts (25% off for a NYE deal)…which presumably will be free of the price hikes. Until, of course, they eventually aren’t.

Where does this leave you? Should you cancel your Strava subscription? Not necessarily. It’s upsetting that a brand with so many fans is this bad at communicating their strategy, but Strava is good at what it does. Aside from individual catalogs, its database is a treasure trove for insights into exercise, commuting and travel trends on a much larger scale. That sort of information is invaluable.

But look, you really don’t have to pay for it. I run a little south of 1,000 miles a year, and spent two years running on Strava’s free membership. It still accurately charts your runs, it still allows you to follow friends, it still syncs with gizmos like the Apple Watch to keep track of heart rate data. Some of the deeper features are impressive, but if you’re not using them, don’t pay for them.

Ultimately, it’s a shame that what many of us perceive as our sole healthy relationship with a psuedo-social media platform needs to veer combative. But with Strava being this uncommunicative, for once they haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt.

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