RW Test: Nike+ SportBand

See your distance, pace, time and calories burned during your run

Move over iPod Nano compatibility, celebrity motivational mantras and Power Song options, it’s time to reveal Nike’s latest electronic gadget. The Nike+ SportBand is a speed-and-distance monitor designed for those who prefer to run without their favourite tunes pounding in their ears.

Can the Nike+ SportBand do for running purists what the original Nike+ kit did for the die-hard music fans? We put it through its paces to find out.

How does it work?

The Nike+ SportBand pairs a slimline wristwatch with a motion sensor (both included within the RRP £40) in your shoe to track distance, pace and calorie data while you run. The watch’s detachable USB SportBand Link can then be plugged into your computer to relay information to nikeplus.com, allowing you to analyse your progress, set yourself training goals, and even access personalised programs from Nike+ Coach.

Will I need any other kit?

Nike+ enabled shoes (from £65) come especially adapted with a pocket in the left insole to house the motion sensor, making them by far the best choice of footwear to use with the watch. That said, it is possible to fasten the sensor to non-Nike trainers by other means, albeit much less securely.

Before you get started, you’ll also need to download the free Nike+ Utility software - a 10.1MB file, compatible with both Windows XP/Vista and Mac OSX operating systems.

Once you’ve installed the program, it will then automatically scan the SportBand Link for new data and upload this to the nikeplus.com site when you connect it to your computer. The software also enables you to customise your watch settings (for example, specify unit preferences and/or input a weight to track calories burned) and set the watch time.


A tiny wireless footpod relays data back to the wrist unit (Actual size: 24mm x 34mm)

How easy is it to get started?

You’ll need to charge the SportBand Link for two hours (for a full battery life of 14 hours) but then you’re pretty much good to go. There’s no hefty instruction manual to scrutinise – with only two buttons to play with, operating the wrist unit is possible using intuition alone.

As with all footpod speed-and-distance monitors, calibration is recommended to improve the accuracy of the feedback but over short distances, the Nike+ SportBand proved surprisingly precise straight out of the box.

What data can I view when I run?

There are four available display options - mileage, pace, duration and calories burned – through which you can easily scroll using the button on the underside of the watch interface. Bear in mind though, that it isn’t possible to switch between miles or kilometres during a run (this has to be pre-set on your computer).

The bevelled buttons are easy to toggle while on the move, but don’t expect any audio feedback – the Nike+ SportBand is a completely sound-free model.

One of our testers suggests wearing the watch facing inward on your wrist for improved usability but this comes down to personal choice, since another member of the RW team found it perfectly usable in the conventional watch position. Either way, be prepared to take some time getting used to reading the vertical display.

One notable weakness however, was the visibility of the watch face. Though the polished black display definitely looks the part, one of our testers found the relatively pale figures (set against a dark background) hard to read while on the move. What’s more, even on a relatively cloudy day, there was substantial glare from the glossy screen.

The absence of a backlight option is also a potential drawback for those who prefer to run early in the morning or at night during the winter months.


Upload your data to nikeplus.com to keep tabs on your progress

Is it comfortable to wear?

There’s no denying this is a product designed with the fashion-conscious runner in mind and - when compared with the more bulky designs of some of its market rivals - the neat, slim-line interface of the Nike+ SportBand is sure to appeal to those looking for a unobtrusive fit.

The adjustable strap is tailored to sit snugly on even the most ladylike of wrists, and though the rubber-effect material has the potential to harbour sweat in hot weather, in general it makes for a flush fit.

How much data can I store on the watch?

The watch has the capacity to store 28 hours worth of data. Details of your most recent run, your weekly mileage and your total mileage can be accessed using the button on the underside of the watch interface but for more detailed information – such as your mile splits - you’ll need to connect the SportBand Link to your computer and upload your workouts to nikeplus.com.

Any other features I should know about?

Unlike its predecessor, the Nike+ SportBand can be linked to up to eight motion sensors, ideal if you use more than one pair of trainers in rotation.

So, is it worth it?

This entirely depends on what you are looking for in a speed-and-distance monitor. For the more statistic-conscious runner, its minimalist design, restricted display options and basic data capture are unlikely to satisfy.

The primary draw of the Nike+ SportBand is undoubtedly its simplicity – both the watch itself and the Nike+ Utility software are incredibly easy to set-up and use. Consider this together with its sleek, stylish design and pocket-friendly price tag and for someone venturing into the world of running watches for the first time, it certainly seems to tick all the right boxes.

Tell us what you think of the Nike+ SportBand by submitting a review in our Gear section.