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The Best Gadgets for Runners

From shoes that coach you to brain-zapping headphones, technology abounds for runners.

Running is a wonderfully simple activity where little to no technology is ever required. And though many see running as a way to unplug, others rely on select items and advanced designs to inspire and augment their experience. Wherever you land on the integration of technology into your routine, it’s hard to deny how much it can help improve your running form and fitness. And if you’re someone who’s motivated by data, music, and tech of any sort, then gadgets can be well-worth the money spent. Here’s a look at some of the various devices available to runners.

Heart Rate Monitors

These simple monitoring devices typically employ a chest strap, though some wearable gadgets track heart rate through the wrist or forearm. Tracking your heart rate while you run allows you to optimize your workouts by emphasizing various heart-rate zones and letting you know if you’re within certain target ranges. Monitors can also help you know if you’re well-rested, based on variations in your resting heart rate.

GPS-Enabled Watches 

These tech-packed wrist computers track your running pace and distance by signals to and from satellites in orbit to produce Global Positioning System (GPS) maps. Many models also provide all sorts of additional data, such as tracking your heart rate and other biometrics. They can pair with a smartphone to unlock a multitude of apps that offer training plans, coaching, connection to virtual running communities, and more. 

Fitness Trackers 

Smart fitness trackers also collect and monitor various biometrics. Some are simple wrist straps that pair with wellness apps and services on separate devices; others are full-featured smartwatches that offer a suite of tracking capabilities directly integrated with apps, plus connection to music as well as text, email and phone communication on the run. Like GPS-enabled watches and heart-rate monitors, these trackers offer data meant to both motivate you and keep you on pace with your training goals. They can measure sleep, remind you to breathe, and even tell you when to stop exercising. 

Power Meters

Cyclists have used power meters for decades, but the concept is relatively new for runners. A running power meter uses small, wearable accelerator and gyroscope units to measure the path of your foot and calculate how many watts you generate with each step. The information can be used to help you adjust your stride to become a more efficient runner.

Shoes That Coach You

High-tech shoes have sensors embedded underneath the insole that, when paired with an app on your phone, provide data like your cadence, pace, distance, and stride length. This setup also allows you to receive coaching during your run via connected headphones.

Smart Insoles

Runners now have access to advanced insoles that gather data like how much you pronate, your style of foot strike (if you land on your heel, midfoot, or forefoot), stride length, cadence, speed, time, and distance. The insole also has the ability to sync with apps through your phone.

Coaching Headphones

Bio-sensing earbuds keep track of data such as your distance, speed, heart rate, and cadence. A voice then instructs you on what pace to run, and offers input on how much time you should take to recover between runs. With location services enabled, the headphones can offer tips on how to run in upcoming weather conditions.   

Coaching Apps

A multitude of apps exist that offer virtual coaching, training plans, virtual competition, route-finding, and much, much more. Many of the above tech devices pair with any number of these types of apps.

Running Pods

Clipped to a waistband, running pods measure up-and-down and side-to-side movement to offer data like cadence, and if you’re generating excessive movement or favoring one side of your body, to encourage improved form for efficiency. These can be paired with a smartwatch and headphones for real-time coaching. A running pod clipped to your shoes connects to the Zwift app to create an avatar that runs virtually on various courses with other avatar friends.

Massage Guns With Bluetooth

A massage gun paired with an app brings guided self-massage sessions to runners.  

Innovative Earbuds

From “regular” wireless, Bluetooth-enabled headphones, to wireless headphones activated by touch, to bone-conduction headphones that send sound waves through your cheekbones and allow you to still hear traffic, in-ear audio technology is constantly evolving. Some work with voice-assistance programs like Siri, Google, Alexa, and Bixby.

There’s even headphones meant to be worn for 20 minutes before a run, purely to prepare your brain with “neuropriming.” The headphones send signals to wake up movement-controlling neurons and encourage them to reach the fine-tuning state of muscle control quickly for an optimal workout.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.