Archive for the ‘Running Gear’ Category

Nike+ offers an iPhone app.

Measuring your runs has come a long way from the stopwatch days. Running watches can now map your location, determine your pace, heart rate, distance and split times as well as the amount of calories you burn. If you’re an iPhone addict, an Android fanatic or simply want an easily accessible, inexpensive (or in some cases, free) method to track your runs, mobile run apps offer GPS systems that can determine your speed, distance, location and calories burned during workouts.

There are a variety of running apps for smartphones to choose from. The apps often include their own social networks if you want to share your workouts with friends and cheer each other on. Most apps also allow you to send your results to your Twitter and Facebook networks.

  • Cardio Trainer is a free fitness app for Android phones which includes a GPS system that maps your runs, as well as a pedometer that measures your run distance. The app includes a voice notification system that gives you updates while running. Cardio Trainer also calculates how many calories you burn each workout and can be synced to share your results on Facebook.
  • Nike+ offers a GPS running app that can be synced with your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The app is $1.99 from iTunes. The system can map your run, determine your pace, offer voice feedback and allow you to hear cheers from your friends on Nike+. Nike+ has its own social network which you can sync with Twitter and Facebook if you want to broadcast your runs to a wider audience.
  • MapMyRun is a mobile app for iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones. The app uses your phone’s GPS technology to determine your run location, distance and pace, as well as calculate the amount of calories you burn. The app includes access to an online community to compete with and encourage other runners. You can sync MapMyRun with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. MapMyRun can also connect with Nike+ systems and Garmin running watches.

MSRP: $249.99

The Garmin 405 offers a sleeker version of the Garmin 305 with additional features, such as a bezel touch-screen and a USB stick for easily transporting your run data to a computer

Star rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Pros: The Garmin 405 functions well, contours to the wrist and is less bulky than many Garmin models. It is easy to snyc with your computer with the USB stick — no wires required. The watch offers detailed training information on anything you can think of that pertains to your run — including your running pace, location, lap pace, calories burned and heart rate. The Forerunner 405 comes with a chest strap to take heart rate readings.

Cons: As with many Garmin watches, the 405 has so many options that it can be confusing the navigate the interface.

Runner: Marcel Walker

They say first impressions are everything. After first taking my Garmin Forerunner 405 out of the box, the first thing I thought was “Where are all the buttons?” It seemed strange that a device that promised so much would only have two buttons. But, upon further examination, I realized that the 405’s first impression didn’t reveal the entire picture. I learned more the further I tumbled down the rabbit hole.

Instead of having the device cluttered with tons of buttons, the people at Garmin had the ingenious sense to make the rim of the watch act as a touch-sensitive bezel – much like an iPod. And while this definitely saves a lot of space, it can get complicated with many functions relying on you to “press & hold” here and “click and move” there.

For anyone that’s owned the Forerunner 305, you’d immediately notice how much smaller this new design looks. While it certainly seems smaller, the 305 and 405 both weigh about the same and share the same thickness. It’s only the 405’s circular design that makes it look less bulky. And for me, that’s good enough. One of my biggest apprehensions about getting the 305 was its brick-like look.

Now for the features. There’s plenty to talk about here but I’ll start with the reason that many would want to use the device in the first place: Tracking and logging your runs. Like the previous models, the 405 is equipped with GPS to track your location, speed and distance while you pound the pavement. Locking on to the satellites hasn’t been a problem either; it’s been picking up the signal fairly quick. It also gives you the option to monitor your heart rate if you wear the heart rate strap. One clever new feature is the Virtual Partner function, which allows you to “race” yourself based on information logged from a previous run. This feature is great on those days you want to push yourself a little bit harder.

Another new feature to the 405 unit is its wireless syncing mechanism. Instead of the old plug-in method, the 405 comes with what looks like a small USB storage stick. They call it the ANT+ and all you do is plug it into your computer. You don’t even have to take the watch off, it just needs to remain within range and all your info is synced. Once you register on Garmin’s website (yup, it’s free), you can track your runs on either a desktop or web-based interface.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 isn’t perfect; the operating system could be a little more user-friendly. Also, just like the bezel on an iPod, if you get even a drop of moisture on it, it’ll do its own version of a seizure and become uncontrollable. But the battery life is great and once you’re used to the interface, getting it to perform any of its many functions is a snap. After a week with it, you’ll wonder how you ever ran without it

Related post: Garmin Forerunner 305 Review

MSRP: $199.99

The Garmin 305 comes chock full of features.

Star rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Pros: The watch offers detailed training information on anything you can think of that pertains to your run — including your running pace, location, lap pace, calories burned and heart rate — and you can connect the Garmin to your computer to record and chart all of your data. The watch also tracks your information for cross training activities such as cycling or walking. The Forerunner 305 comes with a chest strap to take heart rate readings.

Cons: This watch has so many features and options that it can be overwhelming and take a while to navigate the programs. Also, because of the GPS system, the battery runs down pretty fast so you will need to charge the watch every few days and turn it off shortly after running. Sometimes the GPS feature is slow at picking up your location, especially on cloudy days, and the GPS does not work indoors.

Runner: Marnie Kunz

It took a while, but my Garmin and I have finally become one. I have been using the watch for months, but only for the basic timer, pace and distance readings.

I was excited to get the watch for Christmas and learn about everything it could do, but the options were almost too overwhelming at first. After a few runs with the watch in winter’s bitter cold, I had to put my Garmin away for a while and pound out my runs on the treadmill. I got along pretty well, as I’d been running with just a basic timer watch for years. I tried the Nike+ Sportband a few months prior to the Garmin, which was my first experience with a device that measured my mile pace.

Coming from a youth spent running with the old-school method of using a stop watch to clock my runs, and often estimating my mileage based on my total running times, having a pace feature on a watch is a delightful concept to me. So for a while, I was content just to know my speed for each run with my Garmin.

I did play around with the features and created a workout to follow, but when it came time to run, I could not find the workout to implement. But this is probably partly due to my bad memory and sometimes sluggish tech skills. I do, however, think the average person would also have some trouble navigating all of the Garmin features, especially at first.

Besides using the Garmin to record my run pace and mileage, I have begun using the lap feature. The lap button is very helpful when training people or for running intervals or tempo runs, as well as checking the calories burned reading.

I tried running with the heart rate monitor around my chest but found it unflattering — shallow, I know — as well as confusing, because I did not know my maximum or target heart rates, so the numbers meant nothing to me. So I ditched the chest strap. I’m sure the heart rate monitor is a helpful feature if you train using your target heart rate or if you have a health condition to monitor.

You can sync the Garmin with social networking sites such as the Dailymile, which I have done. I often do not have my wire handy to connect my watch to my laptop, however, and usually just manually enter my Garmin reading on Dailymile.

The Garmin 305 still has many more options that I haven’t used — from offering a virtual trainer to compete with and keep you on track to mapping your runs — but I will continue to try them as I get more coaching clients and begin marathon training.

Overall, I would recommend the Garmin Forerunner 305 for tech lovers, serious runners concerned with their detailed stats and runners who want a comprehensive watch with a heart rate monitor system. Also, if you are already a Garmin user and accustomed to the Garmin system, the 305 should be a smooth transition. If you are easily overwhelmed by new technology, a treadmill runner, unconcerned with your pace details or interested in saving money, I would recommend getting a basic sports watch instead, or trying the Nike+ Sportband for a cheaper, more streamlined pace watch. I plan to continue using my Garmin and consider purchasing a new one when this one dies. Once you have access to all the features the Garmin offers, it would be hard to go back to a simpler watch. R.I.P. stopwatch.

Jockey doesn't just have plain white, flattening sports bras anymore.

MSRP: $32

Star rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Fabric: 67 percent nylon, 27 percent polyester

Pros: Fashionable, non-flattening sports bra with cute striped pattern, moisture-wicking fabric, lined underwire cups for extra shape

Cons: Jockey rates this sports bra as “medium impact” and it indeed does not seem ideal for heavy use, i.e. long runs or marathons, as it is not extremely supportive. Also, does not offer extra support for larger-busted women.

Runner: Marnie Kunz

Luckily, sports bras have come a long way from the flattening, solid-colored blocks that made women feel not only like boys but unfashionable ones at that.

I picked up this cute sports bra at Marshall’s (for $14.99 – Marshall’s has great discounts on Nike, Puma, Jockey, New Balance and other brands of running clothes) and gave it a spin on my next run.

I found this sports bra generally comfortable and fun to run in for a change from my usual solid-colored bras. The sports bra has underwire cups that counteract the usual flattening effect of sports bras, offering a nice silhouette while still feeling comfortable because of the seamless, stretchy material. The lining in the sports bra also made me feel comfortable running shirtless on hot days because no one can see through the bra, unlike some sports bras, which only offer one or two thin layers of fabric.

I felt the bra was supportive enough for me, offering a decent amount of motion control. But maybe I went too far for form over function because the underwire cups may have given me too much of a boost, because I felt like my boobs were almost popping out the top sometimes, making me hesitant to run shirtless again with it on hot days. I would not advise the bra for long runs or if you have a large chest, because the support is adequate but not sufficient for any extra strain.

Overall, I would recommend this sports bra if you want to try a cute, moisture-wicking sports bra that gives you a little extra boost in the bust. But for marathon running or women who do not need a boost, I’d go for a more stable, supportive bra.

Runners are lucky we picked a sport that requires little to no equipment. But the equipment you do have — whether it’s a reliable watch or a well-fitting sports bra — should work well. But running shoes, a running watch and running clothes can add up to more than most of us want to spend on things we’ll be sweating in and wear out.

Name brand running clothes don't have to be expensive.

Here are a few tips to help find  functional and fashionable running clothes:

  • Buy pre-owned or wholesale electronics. Whether you want an iPod to run with or a running watch that tells your pace and splits, check out sites like eBay, Amazon and craigslist for used, refurbished or discount electronics.
  • For clothes, try your local thrift shops, the Salvation Army and Goodwill for cute, retro running tees, tanks, shorts and pants. Also check out outlet stores for brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma. Discount stores like Nordstrom Rack offer designer label sportswear for a fraction of the regular cost.
  • Shop the clearance racks. Go to large sports store chains, running stores, mall sports stores and department stores and check out the sale items. Often times the only difference between running shoes on clearance and the rest of the running shoes is the clearance shoes have colors from last season. But most colors never go out of style so you can save and still look good.
  • Don’t forget to check out our reviews for the latest information on the best electronics and running gear.

MSRP: $85

Star rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pros: Lightweight, fashionable, comes with Nike+ Sportband sensor space in bottom of shoe

Cons: Light on support for long distance running or heavy use, no motion control for runners with pronation issues

Runner: Marnie Kunz

Mens light blue and black Nike Free Run+ shoes.

The Nike Free Run+ is a sleek-looking running shoe with a wide variety of color combinations for men and women. The lightweight shoe offers an ode to “natural” training methods, which rely on little restriction and minimal guidance for foot movement, with the intention of allowing the body to move more closely to its natural form. In contrast with high-stability shoes or motion control models, the Free Run+ is more flexible and less rigid.

I was pleased with the aesthetics of my Nike Free Run+ shoes, as they appear more stylish and modern than a lot of the heavier, chunky-looking running shoes I normally trudge around in. In addition, there are so many color options to choose from, so you can go as bright or muted as you want with your kicks.

The shoe’s flexible, breathable nature made breaking them in quick and painless, and I felt comfortable running in them right away. As a longtime Nike Air Max wearer, I wasn’t sure how quickly my feet would adapt to the new model of shoes, but they seemed to fit like a second skin.

I was happily logging in miles – on the road, tracks and trails – for a few months before hitting a snag in my Free Run+ relationship. I started training for longer distances and, after completing my first 12-mile run in the shoes, my ankles and knees felt like they’d been beat with a hammer. After several days to recover and refrain from running – which seemed like eons in runner’s time, I was able to ease back into a training program, clad in new shoes, this time with much more support, and yes, some added bulk.

I still use my Nike Free Run+ shoes for short treadmill or outdoor runs, but since I began training for half-marathons and beyond, I have not regularly used the shoes. I’ve talked to other runners and done some research, and come to conclude that the Nike Free Run+ shoes can be useful for training, but are not ideal for long distances or uneven, rough terrain. Individual foot type also comes into play, as some runners need more support than others. I have neutral arches and no significant history of injuries. If you are injury-prone, training for long-distance races or have pronation problems, I would recommend shoes with more support.

The Nike Free Run+ is a stylish shoe for beginning runners with no special requirements, or for fitness runners who log in a few miles a day on the treadmill, but I would not recommend the shoe for long distance runners or those with flat feet, high arches or a history of injuries.

MSRP: $59.00

Star rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pros: Easy to use, extra motivation for runs

Cons: Limited display, durability concerns

Runner: Jason Crawford

The Nike+ SportBand comes in a variety of colors.

Runners are always looking for new ways to stay on the cutting edge and keep track of their mileage. The Nike+ SportBand is an attempt by Nike to attract runners who are looking to maintain a mileage log without breaking the bank. The Nike+ SportBand allows runners to track distance, time, pace and calories burned on their runs without having to rely on GPS technology or a smart phone.

The Nike+ SportBand comes out of the box ready to use and is especially easy to set up if you are using Nike+ ready running shoes. You simply place the sensor in your shoe in the handy pouch and put on the SportBand. Press “hold” – the large button on the face of the band – and the small screen will instruct you to begin walking. After a few strides, the monitor will give you the prompt to press the button again to run. While running, the SportBand defaults to total distance but the runner can easily switch the display to show time, pace or calories burned by pressing the button on the side. Upon completion of your run, you simply press and hold the top button again and your stats will flash across the screen.

Once the runner has returned to their home computer, the Nike+ easily connects to a USB port and data is uploaded to a personalized Nike running profile. The Nike+ site offers a fun, easy-to-use way to record your results and connect with other runners. The site can be very motivating for new runners. The Nike+ site tracks simple statistics such as longest run and fastest mile, as well as long-term goals. A novice runner could easily spend hours exploring the different training coach options community bulletin boards available at Nike running.

Overall, the Nike+ system offers an affordable way for runners to track mileage and goals. The system does leave much to be desired for the more experienced runner. The Nike+ system does not manage split times and the lack of a multi-line display forces the runner to toggle between screens if they want to track distance and total time or any of the other  combinations that a runner might be interested in. The system offers no backlighting, which makes training at night challenging. There are also no audio notifications for milestones – a beep notification on each mile completed would be useful. Calibration can also be a drawback, which can range from dead accurate and easy to calibrate to over a quarter mile off per mile and extremely difficult to lock in. Calibration and accuracy may vary greatly depending on several factors, which I have found to be the most frustrating part of owning a Nike+ system. Despite these issues, I found the Nike+ to be a reliable enough system, especially for new or developing runners. More advanced runners might want to look for a system that offers more of the detailed features that would compliment a serious training program.

Give yourself a running boost with the right running shoes for your foot type.

Running is one of the few sports that requires no equipment, beyond a pair of running shoes and some exercise clothes. The beauty of running, besides the many health benefits, is that runners can practice for free outside almost anywhere, any time. Lacing up with the right running shoes will help you enjoy your runs more and prevent injuries.

Once you know what your foot type is and identify your training habits and needs, you can find the best shoes for you. After lacing up with your new kicks, you’ll be hitting the ground running strong for many miles to come.

Foot Type Test

In order to find the best running shoes for you, you should first determine your foot type – whether you have high, neutral  or low arches. Your foot type will influence what features to look for in running shoes.

To figure out your level of foot arch, wet your feet and step on a paper towel or cement slab. Observe your footprints.

  • If your footprints show the complete outline and inner section of your feet, you have low arches, or flat feet.
  • If your footprints have a section missing in the inner, center part of the prints, you have neutral arches.
  • If your footprints show just a line running from your heel to your toes, you have high arches.

Pronation

The degree of arch in your feet influences your running gait. Pronation is the inward motion that naturally occurs when your foot strikes the ground and rolls from your heels to your toes. If you have low arches or flat feet, you most likely will overpronate when running, which means your feet will roll inwards more than average. If you have high arches, you probably underpronate, meaning your feet do not roll enough when you run.

Runners with pronation problems should look for running shoes that are high in stability, which helps support your feet while running. In addition, if you have high or low arches, look for shoes with motion control features, as they help correct running gait problems. If you have neutral arches, your feet most likely have an ideal level of pronation, and you will not need motion control features. Runners with neutral arches should choose stability shoes, which offer support but do not hinder your natural foot motion.

Other Considerations

Your running training program should also influence the shoes you choose. Consider how far you run each week and what type of terrain you run on, as well as your body type and any history of injuries you may have.

If you are a long distance runner – such as a marathon or half marathon runner – choose shoes that have plenty of cushioning and support, as well as stability features. Likewise, if you normally run on hard surfaces such as cement or asphalt, you should choose shoes with extra cushioning. If you run a few miles a day on a treadmill, on the other hand, you will probably do well with a more lightweight shoe, as the treadmill offers some cushioning and your shorter run durations will not pound your legs as much. For trail runners, choose a heavier shoe designed for trail running, to offer extra support and traction for uneven terrain. If you are a heavier runner or injury prone, find running shoes with extra cushioning to help protect your joints from the pounding of running.

Once you identify your individual body’s needs, you’ll be able to arm yourself with a runner’s best friend and constant companion- a great pair of running shoes.