Runners think in miles, but sometimes devices think in steps. If you’re wondering how to calculate steps and convert that into a mile, this article is for you! By the end, you’ll be a pro at taking the raw data of steps and turning it into miles.
Estimate of Steps to Miles (Very General Basis)
Typically, it takes around 2,000 to 2,500 steps to walk one mile, but this varies by person. Running strides are usually longer than walking strides, so even fewer steps to run a mile—typically between 1,400 and 1,700.
While this general basis can give you a good estimate of how far you’ve walked, it could be wildly inaccurate, especially if you’re trying to use it for long distances. For example, let’s say that you’re someone who takes 2,500 steps to walk a mile, but your estimation is closer to 2,000.
That means that if you think you’ve walked a mile at 2,000 steps, you’ve only walked 0.8 miles. Not too big of a difference for one mile, but a very big difference for 5 miles because you’ve actually walked a whole mile shorter!
Why It Varies by Speed and Leg Length
Your pace per mile is dependent on two variables: your stride length, and your cadence. If you multiply your stride length by the number of steps you take per minute, you will arrive at your distance traveled per minute. A couple math manipulations and you have your minutes per mile. If you lengthen your stride and keep the same cadence, you will go faster. If you keep the same stride length but increase cadence, you will likewise go faster.
The number of steps it takes for you to cover a mile varies by person due to speed and leg length. If an individual has longer legs, they can cover more ground than someone who has shorter legs. That means that the taller individual will take fewer steps than the shorter person. But this does not necessarily translate into being faster. Most elite marathoners are actually fairly short. Longer legs sound like an advantage, but longer legs also equals longer strides, and that makes higher cadences more challenging.
As a result, how many steps it takes you to walk a mile will also vary by gender, as women tend to have to take more steps to reach a mile than men. However, speed also plays a role. As we saw earlier, it takes fewer steps to run a mile than to walk a mile.
That’s because of the stride length. If you’re going faster, you’re going to lengthen your stride, meaning that you need to get in fewer steps to hit that mile.
How to Determine Steps Per Mile Accurately
If you want to know how many steps you take in a mile, you can do so in a variety of different ways. But it will involve counting steps with a pedometer, on a step tracking app on your phone, or even out loud to yourself if you want to be super accurate.
On a Track
Because four laps around an outdoor track are almost exactly one mile (you’ll want to walk an extra nine meters to get to the full mile), it’s an easy and accurate way to figure out how many steps you take.
Simply walk or run at whatever pace you’re trying to figure out how many steps you take with a pedometer, a step-tracking app, or counting to yourself. Voila! The number of steps at the end of those four laps plus nine extra meters is how many steps it takes you to walk or run a mile.
If you don’t have time for a full mile, you can always walk one lap plus two meters and multiply by four to get your number of steps in a mile.
Using a Phone App
If it’s hard for you to get to a track, you can always track distance with a mobile app or fitness tracker. Walk one mile and see how many steps it took you to get there. Most people know a landmark that is roughly a mile away from their homes, so just walk there.
With a Pre-Measured Mile
Finally, you can always use a pre-measured mile, using a map app like plotaroute.com, measuring with a car, or using markers on bike/walking paths. If you’re fortunate enough to have a bike/walking path nearby with markers, that is definitely the best option.
Simply walk from one mile marker to another and use your pedometer, step tracking app, or merely counting out loud to figure out what your magic number is and how close it comes to 2,000!
How to Find Your Stride Length
A stride length is how much distance you cover with one step. It’s very simple to figure it out: simply take two steps. The distance between the toe of one foot to the toe of the other foot is your stride length.
This can’t really be measured taking only one step. First off, there will be slight variations step-to-step for a variety of reasons. If you want the most accurate calculation, walk 50 steps, counting the number of strides, figure out the distance in feet between your starting and ending point, and then divide distance by the number of strides. The result is your stride length. If you repeat this several times and average the results, you’ll have a more accurate stride length.
If you add your stride length on your FitBit (many FitBits allow you to personalize your information) or pedometer, you will increase accuracy because it won’t be overcalculating steps if you have a long stride or undercalculating if you have a shorter stride.
Ways to Count Your Steps
You can count steps in a number of ways, and you can choose the option that is best for you. Hint: you don’t have to spend tons of money on a FitBit if you don’t want to.
You can use an activity tracker like a FitBit, Apple Watch, or even a GPS watch to count steps, although for the latter, you’ll get an accurate number of miles too. These devices can be fairly expensive, but if you’ve been thinking about getting an Apple Watch, it definitely can help you in reaching fitness goals.
If you’re able to personalize your activity tracker by inputting your stride length, this will make it even more accurate, and you can feel pretty confident about your steps-to-mile conversions.
A pedometer is what people used before technology like FitBit came around. They are typically inexpensive, and they often attach to your shoe.
My brother-in-law purchased a $5 pedometer for a walking competition we had one summer, and it met the need he had. It would sometimes calculate if he did push ups, which isn’t exactly walking, but it gave him a good general idea.
Finally, you can always use something I almost guarantee that you already have—a phone. Whether you use the Health app on an iPhone or another step tracking app for Android, your phone can help you meet your fitness goals.
What’s cool about the iPhone Health app is that it does all these calculations for you. It will compare how far you walked today versus yesterday, how much you’ve walked this year compared to last year, and so forth.
Seeing progress is always a great way to keep you pushing toward goals like being physically fit and healthy, and that’s one extra benefit of an app: it will collect the data for you so that you can see improvement. With a pedometer, you’d have to do it by hand.
Now that you’ve figured out how many steps are in a mile, maybe you want to challenge some of your family and friends to a walking competition. Summer is the best time for that because you already want to get out!
While it’s typical to do a certain number of steps (10,000, for example), you might want to suggest a distance like five miles. This means that people with shorter strides (typically women) will have a more equal playing field if competing against people with longer strides (typically men).
Otherwise, one family member will walk five miles to reach 10,000 steps while it might take another only four miles. Not exactly fair!
I’ve done this over several summers with my family, and we’ve always had a good time. People have had all different devices—pedometers, phone apps, and FitBits—but it was a way to bring everyone together, even if we lived in different states, to do something healthy.
It’s great to get outside, on the treadmill, or on the track and get some physical exercise every day, whether that’s walking or running.
Especially if you’re someone who tends to walk and wants to know how to translate steps to miles (in case you have a daughter who loves to run and talks in miles like my mom!), I hope this article has been helpful!
Having accurate data can help you achieve your fitness goals and have some to work toward. For example, maybe you’ve been walking seven miles a day, and you never realized it. By converting your steps to miles, now you know, and it’s something to celebrate!