I, like a lot of runners, enjoy the gadgets that are available to help us be runners. I can easily be sold on the latest and greatest gear to make my running more tech savvy. When I first started running I had no gear, no gadgets, and a lot of fun. I remember asking my coach if I could use my Walkman in practice, and she said no because it was not safe. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, a Walkman was a portable cassette player! I had a portable CD player, but it skipped too much. That note aside, she said it was not safe to run with music because you could not hear the cars or anything else around you. Fast-forward to today, and you are hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t run with music playing in his or her ears. Times have changed, and so have the gadgets. Did you know that you don’t have to drive your running route to see how long it is? It’s true, you don’t, and that is what this post is about.
Nike+. I have used the Nike+ for about two years now, and I have to say I find it an invaluable tool. It is a very simple set up that has a lot of options, and that makes it nice. The basic design is a small, oval-shaped pod that is inserted into a Nike+ shoe. That little pod sends information about your run to your iPod, iPhone, or Nike+ sport band. It will tell you your time, distance, pace, calories, and if you want, the time of day! It’s ingenious. If it’s being used with an iPod or iPhone then you can get little messages of encouragement from famous athletes as you go. They will let you know when you pass milestones like fastest or longest run, or when you’ve covered a specific number of miles. These little messages are really fun to get and quite encouraging.
I have used the Nike+ in several Nike shoes, and for the most part I had no problems with its accuracy. From time to time it got a little off in its calculations about my distance run, but that is somewhat expected. The pod is basically a pedometer, which makes it somewhat inaccurate automatically. The problem with a pedometer is that it measures vibrations – in this case, the vibrations created from footfalls. If your stride changes any then the pod will read incorrectly, and as most runners do not hold the same form over the course of a run, this product will often give an inaccurate reading. Different pairs of shoes will also throw it off, as the shoes can cause changes in your stride form as well. It can be calibrated by going at a steady pace at a distance greater than ¼ mile. It can be tiresome to wonder about the accuracy and having to calibrate, but neither of these issues is too great. Does this mean it’s not worth it?
Hardly. A Nike+ kit will cost you about $25 dollars plus a pair of Nike+ shoes. If your shoes are $100 then you are below the average cost of a GPS unit that will do the same thing only a little more accurate, most times. So for something that is fairly cost effective it is a great tool to have in your running arsenal. It is also very computer friendly. You can download your workouts to Nike’s website and keep track of everything as well as set goals for yourself and see how you stack up against all the other Nike+ users in the world.
You might be saying that this is a barefoot website, and this tool is used with shoes. Well that is somewhat true. I cater more to the barefoot world because it is my passion, but above all my passion is running, and most runners still wear shoes. That does not mean that I have forgotten about my barefoot brethren – I have a lot of ways to use the Nike+ setup in the minimalist world.
At first, I was not a fan of the selection of Nike+ shoes and sought out a way to use this pod on any shoe I wanted. It is basically just a sensor that picks up vibrations so why couldn’t I use it some other way? Just about the time I was getting ready to create something I got the idea to get online. What I found was the Tune Belt Sensor Pouch for Nike+ iPod Sport Kit Sensor on Amazon. I have tried other designs similar to this one, but I have found the Tune Belt pouch to be the best. It is durable, well crafted, and very easy to use as it can be put on any pair of shoes in a matter of seconds. Back to the point of cost effectiveness, if you purchase the sport band kit ($59) and the Tune Belt holder ($9) then you are getting a great tool for roughly $70! Load the sensor into the pouch, slide it through the laces, warp it around, and Velcro it down. That’s all you have to do and you are running off in any pair of shoes you want. I have found that it is more accurate the farther down the laces you place it and the tighter you can make it. If it is loose then it will bounce around too much, and it will read the extra vibrations as extra steps. Also the farther down the shoe it is, the flatter it is, which is its designed orientation so the accuracy will be higher down by the toes.
For my minimalist friends I offer these suggestions. I have used the Tune Belt setup on my Vibram KSO’s and Sprints with great success. I have found the sensor to be more accurate on these two shoes than any others I have used, and that includes the Nike+ shoes with the built in sensor hole in the sole. For those of you who like to use the Vibram Classics or just go completely barefoot, well there are some options for you too. I have tried a few things along the way. The easiest is to just tape it to your foot. Take some athletic tape and run it around your mid-foot with the Tune Belt holder in it like a strap on a shoe. I have also seen some people use little wristbands like a Livestrong armband to hold it to their foot. My feet were too wide for that trick, and the band cut off my circulation. If none of these options appeal to you or you run in shoes that have no laces, then Nike+ might not be for you. I am now at the point where I want to try GPS because I am doing more and more running sans any kind of shoe so the Nike+ is just sitting around. Still, I use it every time my footwear allows it, and I am very satisfied.
I have pitted my Nike+ against mapmyrun.com, and the most I have had it be off was a couple of miles. This was due to the sensor being too loose one time, and the other time was in a race, and I was forced back and forth across the road for nearly the entire course to work around walkers. I believe the extra steps that day caused the error in reading.
The average inaccuracy is about a quarter mile, which on longer runs is negligible, but if that is too much for you then you should look into other options for tracking.
The pods have a limited life span and will need to be replaced when the battery dies. Replacements cost $15-20 but aren’t needed a lot as the sensors will last for quite a while if they are taken off the shoe when not in use for tracking.
My favorite combo is the sport band and Tune Belt holder on my Five Fingers. The sport band is small and light, making it a great running accessory. Plus it is a really cool looking watch.
Sport Band is also very easy to hook up to the computer, as the watch itself is a USB flash drive that slides off the band and into the computer, where it automatically links to Nike.com