In the long-gone days before fitness trackers, smartwatches and GPS smartphones, the nascent field of wearable tech had something called "foot pods." These small devices attached to your sneakers and were used to track a variety of running metrics. Some sport watches displayed this data in real time, but in most cases you had to sync the pod up to your computer, iPod-style. No wonder that have since fallen into obscurity.
But as mass market wearables grow in popularity, foot pods targeted to a new generation of runners are seeing a resurgence of sorts. Case in point is the MilestonePod: It can measure running pace, distance, duration, cadence (steps per minute) and more -- and it's surprisingly accurate. This information is then synced to the Android or iOS app, where you can analyze the data and receive insights to help improve your running form.
The MilestonePod is available now for $25 (about £20, AU$30). That's a small price to pay for a device that transform your current sneakers into a pair of smart shoes, especially when you consider Under Armours' smart shoes go for $150 and will only last 350 miles.
I didn't think I would like the MilestonePod as much as I do. It's a good device for indoor running or when GPS isn't available. The low price also makes it appealing to new runners who may not want to spend $100-plus on a full fledged running watch.
The pod is small and out of the way. It's a little larger than a quarter and weighs only 9 grams. It clips into a small dock, which is woven through the laces on your sneakers. I doubt you will even notice it -- I never did.
The accelerometer and other sensors in the pod will automatically recognize when you begin running and start recording. It can automatically pause the recording when stopped, such as when you are waiting to cross the street. It's also waterproof, so you are safe to run in the rain or even jump in a puddle. If the pod isn't low enough (about ¾ down) on the lace, however, it won't record runs properly.
The pod can measure all the running basics: duration, pace, distance and cadence. While it measures steps taken during a run, it doesn't do it throughout the day. This isn't an activity tracker and isn't designed for all-day wear.
More advanced measurements include foot strike, ground contact, rate of impact, stride length and leg swing. You may not initially understand why these are useful, but that's what the app is for.
The pod is equipped with Bluetooth for syncing with your Android or iOS device. It doesn't' sync automatically, though. You have to instead open the app and tap a button to start the syncing process, which is mildly annoying.
The app does a good job at explaining all of the metrics the pod can record. For example, it notes that a high rate of impact can lead to injury, a higher leg swing is considered more efficient, and that 180 steps per minute is thought to be ideal for most runners.
You can sign up to receive insights to help improve your cadence, ground contact or stride length, although oddly they are only viewable through email and not the actual app. You can also sign up for only one insight at a time, so I wasn't able to get help on both cadence and stride length.
The other downside with the app is there's no third-party support. It doesn't sync with Strava, Runkeeper or any other running apps. The only option to export the data is through a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
The question on everyone's mind is accuracy. How does something like this compare to using GPS? Surprisingly, very well.
Out of the box, the distance calculation is said to be 93 percent accurate or better. There is also the option to calibrate the sensor to increase accuracy (if needed). All you do is enter the actual amount you ran, which can be mapped out online or measured by your phone, watch or treadmill.
The pod performed better than expected. The first run measured my distance only 0.02-mile off from my GPS watch, a second one differed by 0.11 and a third run by 0.18-mile. These results were all out of the box and precalibration. GPS also isn't perfect (especially in large cities like New York City). The results of the pod are within the error margin of the GPS's accuracy.
Overall, I was impressed.
The pod never has be charged. It uses a traditional coin battery that will last between six and eight months. You will eventually need to manually replace the battery, but they're incredibly cheap -- you can get a 10-pack at Amazon for less than $5.
The MilestonePod is a solid choice for anyone that is new to running and doesn't want to spend a lot of money. It's half the price of foot pods from Garmin, Polar, Suunto and other companies. While it won't provide real-time and glanceable data like a GPS running watch will, it does provide amble post-run information for cheap.
If you find the MilestonePod to be a worthy addition to your regimen, stepping up to a full-blown running watch like the Garmin Forerunner 25 or Forerunner 230/235 could well be the logical next step.