If all your training runs focus on cardio fitness you could be missing a trick. Fine tuning your form and improving your running efficiency could have just as much impact on your mile splits as those tempos, fartleks and 4 x 800m.
However, monitoring the intricacies of technique without a coach to watch every step is tricky. The only time you get to see yourself run are when you flash by a shop window and realise that you’re not really moving as much like Eliud Kipchoge as you thought. But this is where technology comes in.
A growing crop of sensor-laden form trackers are available to monitor everything from your cadence and how long your feet hit the ground, right through to how much your hips rotate with every step. Some of these wearables even crunch your data in real-time and fire coaching tips via Bluetooth headphones to help you work on your technique as you run.
We strapped our resident running techy, Kieran Alger, into five of the best form-fixing wearables and here’s what he found.
Soul Run Free Bio
Most running form trackers come in the shape of pods that you either clip to your shoes or the belt of your shorts. The Soul Run Free Bio bucks this trend, opting to analyse your gait through motion sensors built into a pair of lightweight (17g) Bluetooth headphones.
If you run with music it makes a certain amount of sense to invest in a 2-for-1 that pumps out your power songs and monitors your running style. Provided does both things well. And these headphones do.
There’s good balanced sound of a level you’d expect from most sports headphones. Meanwhile the range of metrics they track is impressive. It includes: speed, distance, cadence, step length, step width, vertical oscillation (the bounce of your body up and down), head tilt angle, stance/flight time, shock, maximum leg force, balance and consistency.
There’s no GPS so you’ll have to pair it with a smartphone but once that’s done the headphones crunch all your data and turn it into real time coaching tips to help you refine your technique as you run. The kind of advice includes spotting if you’re landing with more force on one foot, or if you’re hitting the ground with too much force. One of the advantages of being a head-worn device is that it can also spot head tilt, a sign of good running posture.
We found the advice could get a bit naggy but on the whole what you get here is a really interesting window into the finer points of your running technique.
You’ll get 11 hours of run time on a single charge There’s a reflective cable and built in LED lights with flash settings for extra night run safety too. And it’ll handle indoor and outdoor running. They’re also competitively priced.
BUY HERE - £99.00, uk.soulelectronics.com
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod
Garmin’s form-tracking pod is tiny. At just 12g and not much bigger than chunk of Dairy Milk, it’s almost too easy to forget it’s clipped onto the belt of your shorts. Garmin kind of admits this by giving you an alert on your watch after you run to remind you not to put it in the wash with your shorts!
You’ll need to pair the pod to a Garmin watch – it’s not compatible with other watches or apps. But if you’re Forerunner, Fenix or Vivoactive owner then once you do, you unlock some very useful extra data that you can’t get just from a watch alone. This includes cadence, stride length, ground contact time, ground contact balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio.
These stats sent to your wrist though you’ll need to customise your sports screens to show the information. And because it works with your watch, you can run phone-free. Sadly, however, there’s no audio updates or real time coaching like you get with some of the other products on the list.
Likewise in the app you get to review all your run data for each metric but there’s no guidance as to what you can do to improve – which feels like a bit of gap.
The battery will chug along happily for year which is a big plus and it’s waterproof to 10 metres just in case you fall into a pond. If you own a Garmin and you want to get deeper into your form, then this feels like a no-brainer. Thought it’s also worth checking out the HRM-Run if you don’t mind wearing a chest strap.
BUY HERE - £59.99, garmin.com
ARION smart soles
Over the past decade, smart shoes have come and gone – we’re looking at you Nike+ and Adidas MiCoach – as connected footwear has struggled to catch on. But one newcomer to the world of running tech wants to change that. The sensor-loaded ARION smart soles track every footstep and reveal a range of running metrics to rival any form tracker we’ve tested.
The inserts sit fairly invisibly under the normal soles of your running shoes and have two pods that clip less invisibly onto the cuff. Altogether it adds around 30g in weight and so if you’ve bought a pair of shoes based on weight this could be a big deal.
There’s a lot more hardware to contend with here than the other products on this list and there’s the obvious faff that comes with having to move the soles between shoes if you’re the kind of runner who switches out footwear for different runs.
The idea with ARION is that once you’ve done some baseline runs for the system to evaluate your running and get to know you. The intelligent smart coach then recommends an area for you to work on for each run, for example a cadence run.
Other metrics tracked include step length, balance, contact time, pace, impulse, stability and flight time. Though you don’t currently get coached runs for all of these metrics. In the partner smartphone app there’s a very cool live heatmap visualisation of exactly where you’re feet strike the ground too. On a run this builds out a picture of whether you’re a forefoot, midfoot or heel striker.
On the run there’s real-time audio coaching in for the form of alerts when you stray in and out of the target zone. The reality with these is that they’re a little too frequent and interruptive. There’s a fine line between useful guidance and pestering and this definitely creeps towards the latter.
There is GPS on board, and though phone-free running isn’t currently an option, we’re told it will be coming soon.
You get around 7 hours of runtime on a single charge along with up to 48-hours of space to store your sessions. They’re waterproof enough to withstand sweat, rain and the odd splash through a puddle.
BUY HERE - £226.00, arion.run
A 10g foot pod that clips easily to your shoelaces just like some race timing chips, Stryd is first and foremost a power meter that tells you just how much work you’re doing, measured in Watts.
But because Stryd is footworn its also well placed to reveal other important aspects of your running technique too. These include form power, leg stiffness, ground time, vertical oscillation, cadence, pace, distance.
The sensor can be hooked up directly to most popular running watches so you can run phone-free, with your power metrics displayed on screen with a little bit of customisation. Apple Watch owners can make use of a dedicated Stryd app too.
There’s no real-time audio coaching, though do get split-based readouts of your current pace and power provided you’re using the pod with the Stryd smartphone app. However, if you want to dive into the more intricate metrics, you’ll have to sync with the Powercentre and/or app and do your digging post-run.
It’s waterproof, works indoors and outdoors and supports Bluetooth and ANT+ making it nicely compatible with platforms like Zwift Running. There’s also built-in storage for 20-hours of run recording between sync and a single battery charge will get you 1 month of run time
BUY HERE - £199.00, amazon.com
One to watch
RunVi smart soles
Another set of pressure sensor stuffed smart soles, RunVi hasn’t launched in the UK yet and we haven’t got our feet on them but they’re worth a mention.
Almost a mash-up of Stryd and ARION in a set of smart soles, RunVi’s 100g inserts feature 30 advanced pressure sensors and two motion-sensing accelerometers. Unlike ARION there are no chunky pods to clip to your shoes, those slot into two holes in the soles, much like the old MiCoach and Nike+ sensors used to. And like Stryd, they crucially also measure power.
Other stats tracked include distance, pace, foot strike pattern, cadence and impact.
As you’d expect there’s real-time coaching and alongside that you also get adaptive training plans that evolve based on your recent sessions. RunVi recommends what you should work on and there’s a detailed smartphone app to let you review all your data post run. There’s also a snazzy heatmap of your footstrike in real time.
There’s no GPS so you’ll need to have your phone with you for some key stats