I’m a self confessed gadget freak and another close shave with ebay and a ridiculously expensive but absolutely essential running watch has triggered the creation of this page – my homage to sports gadgets (specifically running gadgets), gear and utilities that you can almost not afford to live without.
There is a link to all my running gadget reviews at the bottom of this page but here are my top picks for essential running equipment, software, books and resources.
Some of the product links are affiliate links, if you use these and then purchase a product it will help towards the upkeep of my blog and make me grateful. A lot of the products have been sent to me to review but I also spend a lot of my hard earned cash on gadgets, I try to indicate the source of the product in my blog gadget reviews but rest assured I will tell you the truth about product regardless of the source.
Running Sports Watches
The sports watch seems to be my running gadget of choice and to date I have tried and reviewed many from the likes of Garmin, Polar and Timex
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
This is my current GPS watch. The Garmin Forerunner 310XT (amazon link) is billed as the triathletes choice as it is waterproof enabling you to wear the watch on your wrist for all 3 events. It is however still not perfect for open water swims as it generates erratic GPS trails due to the movement the arm takes during it’s stroke pattern. To get an accurate result it’s recommended that you wear the watch under a swim cap which you could also do with the cheaper 305 version so long as you wrapped it safely in a sandwich bag.
Still, I’m particularly fond of this version as it’s orange. Top colour!
Garmin Forerunner 305
Although I currently own the Garmin Forerunner 310XT I find it hard to recommend it in place of the Forerunner 305 unless you specifically want to take the GPS unit in the water. The Forerunner 305 is so heavily discounted at places such as Amazon and other retailers that it’s not worth wasting your money on other options.
This is a dream machine, its like one of those tamagotchi pets that you have to look after. My tamagotchi forerunner requires exercise and it’s nutrients come in the form of data – it physically pushes me out of the door with my trainers and forces me to find new routes to entertain it. I haven’t started stroking it yet but its a close call.
The 05-series looks a little more attractive than its predecessor (01-series) but its still a shed of a computer to put on your wrist, its never going to become your everyday watch. The 305 also has added heart rate functionality unlike the 205 model.
The forerunner is first and foremost a gps unit so this means maps, lots of em, you’ll find this blog littered with images of my routes. If you do the same route day in and day out you are rewarded with the same image – here lies the motivator to get out and run new routes and further distances and so on.
It’s been designed with runners in mind so it provides the typical data fields such as pace, distance, time etc but you can also set the exercise mode to bike or other so then you can switch speed for pace if thats more appropriate. Back with running, I have mine set to beep at each km to tell me what my average pace has been which is really useful for hassle free pacing in a race. If you really want to be sure of hitting your target you can set up a virtual racing partner and chase a dot around the screen – just be aware of lampposts, rivers and other obstacles.
If you are even vaguely interested in stats, maps and gadgets I am sure you will love this running GPS.
I’m a sinner! Despite having proclaimed a serious commitment to the forerunner I appear to be shifting my affections towards another. So far I have been able to resist – it is after all, shockingly expensive – but ultimately resistance is futile, so I will attempt to rationalise my decision to have two all singing, all dancing running (and in this case cycling) gadgets.
The Polar RS800 (wiggle link) would be the absolute pinnacle of runners watches, if only it had gps functionality.
Polar have rightly chosen to stick with their speed sensor footpod to determine running distances and speed. I’ve mentioned before in my comparison of the Polar RS200SD and the Garmin Forerunner 305 (warriorwoman review), that the polar model actually provides more useful information when you are out on the run as its pace reading is stable and reliable. GPS on the other hand tends to jump around a bit as the signal strength wavers, even on apparently clear days I have to alter my route a little in sporttracks as it keeps suggesting that I was running along the riverside path and alternately jumping from path to the middle of the river and back again.
The downside of the speed sensor model is that it doesn’t enable you to plot glorious little route maps of where you’ve been and also the foot pod isn’t a great way of telling how fast you are travelling on a bike or skis for example. Now if it had a little gps add-on, it would be made! Well what do you know? Polar have announced that a little GPS add-on will shortly be available for the RS800 so all my dreams are about to come true.
One of the other super useful features present on the RS800SD is that it measures cadence and stride length, I could have hours of fun tripping myself up as I try to both reduce my stride length and increase my cadence.
Oh and its waterproof, so if I ever did jump into the middle of the Thames or move to the tri-side I could still collect data.
Right, I’m sold, I’m just off to Ebay again……
I’ve trialled a good many shoes over the years and always come back to Asics for sheer comfort and injury proofing properties. I’m not 100% faithfull to the Asics brand though and have three other faithfuls depending on the terrain or style of running that I am adopting.
Asics Gel Kayano
This is the latest incarnation of my favourite running shoe. The Asics Gel Kayano 17 (wiggle) is the high end offering in the asics stability range, and as such is designed for the mild overpronator. Like its predecessor the Kayano 16, it is one of the few shoes recommended for the heavier runner, which is perhaps why I am so attracted to it.
I wasn’t expecting a huge improvement between the Kayano 17 and the Kayano 16 but I have to say the new version is definitely more comfortable. I’ve had these two models under the spot light trying to find an explanation for the differences in the ride. There is an increased amount of gel around the rear foot and I’m pretty sure the foam at the heel has increased in thickness too. Apparently the foam is a new springier version and there is a new heel collar. Although I can’t tell the latter points by looking at the shoe I do get the sense that my foot is being held at the heel. It’s an odd sensation really, rather as though my foot is being guided onto the ground as I run. It makes me feel quite stable and sure footed.
These are sturdy shoes designed for the British countryside and all it has to offer in the form of mud, wet and tears. I particularly like the inov-8 roclite 315 (wiggle) which is a unisex model designed for all terrain types (except road).
I’ve also tried the inov-8 mudclaw but I found the shoe a little too narrow. The Roclite 295 (wiggle) is another great trail running shoe and has a softer upper and wider fit for a greater level of comfort with no need to break the shoe in.
I don’t recommend that the inexperienced barefoot runner throws away the standard running shoe in favour of either skin on tarmac or minimalist shoe running but there is a place for barefoot running in most peoples training routine. Just take it slowly to avoid injury and you should reap the benefits of increased foot mobility, strength and better running form.
The defacto standard barefoot running shoe is the Vibram Five Finger and my particular favourite is the Vibram Five Finger Speed (wiggle) with its cool laces – perfect for attaching a foot pod.
Softstar Run Amoc
Barefoot or minimal running can become almost a spiritual experience where you begin to feel part of the landscape and the track you are running along. It’s a much more involved and gentle way to interact with the trail.
To me, these RunAmoc moccassins (Sofstar link) from SoftStar are the perfect “at one with nature” style of barefoot running shoe. They are hand made in America and can be customised to your preferred colour scheme. I opted for the plain black version but asked for a slightly thicker sole (still only 5mm though) so that I could use it for trail running.
I really do enjoy running in these shoes, I may look a little bit crusty in them but I feel free.
The North Face Enduro Boa Rucksack
When I first bought it I went for the Men’s version of the Enduro Boa (better colour) but the stabilising yoke is extremely gender specific so I sent it back and opted for the North Face Enduro Boa – Ladies version. Despite the expense this rucksack oozes quality and is ideal for a long run and specifically the running commute. To give an example of its loading capabilities, I fill mine up with the full water bladder, large purse, windproof top and spare t-shirt which just about packs the main compartment. There are then two optional belt pockets which I use for keys and sweets.
There is a nifty dial feature on one of the shoulders that enables you to tighten a mesh supporting the water bladder, so as you drink the water you can tighten the dial to hold it firmly in place and prevent excessive sloshing.
It may seem like overkill but if you want a stable running pack – this is the best one out there.
Here’s the cheaper version for sensible runners. Asics have been designing running kit for years and they’ve got the art of running nailed. This Asics rucksac (wiggle) isn’t quite as accomplished as the North Face version but it is small, stable and about 10 times cheaper.
I’ve worked my way through a fair number of headphones in my running career, I’ve tried in-ear, over-ear, banded, wireless bluetooth and mp3 earpieces. For the last few years though I’ve always returned to the same manufacturer and have now settled on a specific model which I can happily declare to be the best running headphone ever!
I first came across the PMX680i when I was at an Adidas miCoach launch event. Adidas have paired up with Sennheiser to produce a branded product that offers significant improvements over the earlier Sennheiser models. Note that there are two Sennheiser PMX 680 models, the PMX 680 and the PMX 680i, the addition of the i does add nearly £14 to the product but with the addition of a microphone in the volume control it adds so much versatility. I use mine to take calls while out on a run, I can press the yellow button and chat away without breaking stride (admittedly I can be hard to understand while puffing away). I can press the yellow button for a little bit longer and trigger the voice control feature of the iPhone which then enables me to control the gadget remotely – “Play Amy MacDonald” and it usually does, “call Lynn cos I’m tired and need a lift home” usually results in the iPhone lady telling me “calling Charing Cross A&E Department”, which is sometimes more appropriate.
I was really upset last week when my first set of PMX680i headphones failed on me, it was hardly a product flaw though, I tend to leave them dangling from the treadmill and the cats can’t resist chewing on the cable. With visible gnaw marks and loose cabling the sound quality was somewhat impaired and it was time to buy another pair. There was no question of me buying a different set, these are the best I’ve ever come across, they fit extremely well, they don’t cause any discomfort, sound quality is excellent (so long as you keep them away from the cats) and they are waterproof. The volume control and mic unit is very light as well which means you don’t suffer too much with an irritating unit that bounces on your chest as you run.
The only downside that I can see about these headphones is that headband style does restrict your headwear options, so they aren’t any use under helmets or headbands.
I’m always on the look out for running inspiration and I devour running books at a blistering pace. Here’s a selection of my favourites but if you need more I usually have an Amazon recommends list on the sidebar where I add other books I’ve enjoyed.
Born to Run
In parts it’s a hugely exciting tale of ultrarunning adventure, in others it’s an evangelical barefoot bible.
Here’s the link to my review for a full synopsis of Born to Run.
Running on Empty
Running on Empty (amazon) is hot off the press and covers Marshall Ulrich – the 57 year old guy who surgically removed his toenails as they were getting in the way of his running – as he runs across America. 3063 miles in 53 days. Nuts!
It’s a fascinating story though and there’s a bonus at the end as its polished off with details from Ullrich’s training and nutrition diary. I love that sort of thing.
Run Less Run Faster
The Furman Institutes (FIRST) method is based on a 3+2 schedule called Run Less, Run faster(amazon), not to be mistaken with “Train Less, Run Faster” because although you only run 3 times a week you are supposed to take part in some fairly energetic cross training on 2 other days in the week.
The key to the success of the FIRST plan seems to be related to the nature of the 3 runs. Each one is very specific and targeted at improving a key element of your running fitness. Key Run 1 is a track repeat session, ideally suited to treadmill workouts, Key run 2 is a tempo workout and Key run 3 is the Long Run a familiar staple of any marathon plan.
I’ve put together a whizzy spreadsheet that will spit out personalised FIRST trainings schedules for full and half marathon distances and is based on 5km paces from 15 to 40 minutes, so even the slow runners are catered for here.
Running Software – PC, MAC and iPhone
If you’ve got a gps unit then you need SportTracks, don’t worry, this one is free so you definitely can afford it. Even it you don’t have a gps I reckon its still worthwhile having as your dedicated training log – it just won’t look so pretty without the route maps.
This screen shot just shows the basic activity screen but there is stacks more hidden away – weekly, monthly and yearly reports; splits; athlete stats including weight and injury/illness status. Again the blog is littered with examples.
Unfortunately it is not mac compatible so I’ve had to move away from the best training log available *weeps*.
Running Gadget Reviews
Here is the latest list of all my running and fitness related gadget and apparel reviews from the warriorwomen running blog:
Watches and Related Gizmos
KiFit Body Monitor
Garmin Forerunner 310 XT
Garmin Forerunner 405
Garmin Forerunner 305
Garmin Forerunner FR60
Nike + Sportband
Adidas miCoach Mobile iPhone App
Swimovate Swimming Watch
Shoes and footwear
Hoka One One Mafate 2
Nike Free Run
Nike Free 3.0
Vibram Five Fingers
Vibram Five Finger Speed
Asics Gel Kayano 14
Salomon XA pro GTX
Soft Star Run Amoc