I've recently jumped on the fitness tracking bandwagon, but not in the traditional sense. You won't see me running around constantly using my Garmin or wearing a tracker or anything like that, but during the course of my marathon training I started getting obsessed with the data my watch was giving me. I loved seeing how my pace changed mile by mile. I really liked watching how I progressed throughout the length of the training. I also really liked watching my stats change on Strava and even getting a course record locally for a segment. Sure, I live in a small town where hardly anyone runs, but I OWNED that CR! I recently heard about Milestone Pod through Twitter. It's a small device you can wear on your shoe while you're out running and it will give you not only your mileage, but also gives you feedback on your gait, stride, and even your leg swing! When I heard about the fact that it didn't use GPS at all I knew I wanted to try it for hiking. Here's my review of Milestone Pod and how it works for me.
The first thing I had to do when my Milestone Pod arrived was download the free app and set it up. The app was easy to find and set up and I could use either an email address or my Facebook account to set it up. Easy peasy! After answering a few questions about my height and weight, my Pod was ready to sync up and use. The first thing that appealed to me about this device was the fact that it didn't need to be charged every day and could hold 20 hours of data. It also connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth so I thought that meant it didn't need internet connection to get the data. Unfortunately, the phone does need some sort of internet connection for the device to sync to your phone so that's a strike for me. I work out in the woods and 20 hours of data is only about 1.5 days' worth for me. The good news was that it doesn't need to be charged (the battery can last as long as six months depending on your usage) and it can stand up to harsh conditions due to the pod being waterproof.
How Did it Work for Hiking?
The Milestone Pod does work for walkers, but you need to be walking at a decent pace for it to register that you're actually doing a longer walk. The Milestone Pod actually doesn't register you're walking unless you're taking 100 steps per minute for six minutes or longer. If you do keep your gait above 100 steps per minute, it will stop recording the data when you fall below that range for six minutes or longer. I used the pod a few times walking my dog around the neighborhood and at the Greenway in our town and it worked well in measuring my distance. It was also pretty close to accurate for mileage despite not using GPS. I usually walk at a 3 mph pace with my dog, or pretty close to that, with few stops. Leading hikes as a guide, however, is a different story. Since I am walking at closer to a 1 mph pace on guided hikes with lots of stopping for interpretation and storytelling it didn't really register much of my hike. In fact, I lead a 6-mile hike and the pod only registered two short segments, both under 1 mile. I repeated the experiment several times on shorter hikes to see it didn't register any of my activity at all. In the defense of the pod, I was moving INCREDIBLY slowly. So, it didn't quite pick up all the data I was hoping for but it did perform well otherwise. I wore it out on a day when it was pouring rain and the pod didn't short out. It also went through some mud that day as well and cleaned up very nicely.
How Does it Work for Running?
So, in true data nerd fashion I tested the pod out on a run recently and I was much, MUCH more impressed. I ran a 5.1 mile route I run quite frequently to see how much information I could get from the device. Even though it was laced up on my shoe, it stayed in place just fine and was light enough to not change my gait. I didn't even notice the pod after the first quarter mile. When I got home I was excited to sync it up and see what the pod could tell me about my running. Since my pace was faster now that it was with a hike, it could give me more accurate information about how well I did. It turns out I was toe striking 100% of the time leading to a 100% low-impact run. It let me know my cadence was approximately 171 steps per minute, which I know to be true because I've actually done manual cadence work before and I this is close to what I've gotten when I counted myself. The pod also let me know I've got a 40-inch stride and that my leg swing is always low, which is apparently the opposite of what I want to be doing! Now that I have the feedback I can work on this.
NoKey is now training for the Millinocket Half Marathon and since he hasn't been running in a while I thought it would be fun to let him try the pod. Since he's in the beginning stages of running now he's doing a walk/run method to build up a base. Since his speed isn't consistent enough for specific analytics yet we can't get much info about his form, but we can get info about his speed, cadence, and even his "efficiency" score. With this information, as well as using feedback from me during our training, he's finding that running is much more comfortable for him than it was in the past. I know he has a history of severe foot pain when running and making a few microadjustments during his runs has really helped him a lot!
So, while Milestone Pod didn't work out as well as I had hoped for guided hiking, I'm super impressed with the stats it gave me for running and I'm sure it would work well for trail/ultra running as well! I think for a beginner runner or someone who is ready to up their mileage and aim for a bigger goal this device could help you learn from your form and improve your running.
Have you ever tried a device that can give you stats about your running form? Would you be interested in trying one out? Do you love data and competing with your friends on social media?
Disclaimer: I was provided the Milestone Pod for free in exchange for some feedback about how well this device performed out on the trails. I was not compensated any other way.