Running is one of the oldest and most instinctive forms of exercise around – just put one foot in front of the other, rinse and repeat in quick succession. Still, here at TechRadar we believe there’s nothing that can’t be improved with a bit of technology, and in 2020 we’ve been treated to even more products that promise to help us run better and enjoy the miles even more. And we’re not just talking about the amazing range of new running watches either.
One thing that will help streamline your run, maximize your efficiency and take you closer to that ever-elusive personal best, is the ability to reliably monitor your form. Running form trackers are extremely sophisticated and the data they provide could be the secret weapon in your running arsenal, identifying all the areas that you need to work on and showing you how to improve.
Of course, all of the best running gadgets become even more useful when they’re paired with the best fitness apps – to a point where this tech is fast becoming a habitual part of any runner’s running kit. That’s why we’ve created a list of all the best running gadgets that will transform you into a lean, mean running machine. Because why even run if you’re not going to try to maximize the results?
We could fill this entire list with devices that feature data tracking, stats and apps if we wanted to, but then we would be missing the brilliant FlipBelt. It’s one of the simplest pieces of running kit around, but seriously, this thing is indispensable.
All you have to do is simply pull the fabric tube up around your waist, fill it with anything and everything you may need on a run – credit card, phone, energy gels, emergency change – then flip it over. Just like that you have everything you need conveniently tucked around your waist.
The FlipBelt isn’t like a fanny pack with all its adjustable straps and buckles, it sits flush against your skin so that you don’t have to worry about it bouncing around. And the lack of zips or latches means there’s no chafing, and assuming you get the correct size – there are five to choose from, ranging from a 23- to 41-inch waist – it won’t ride up either.
You can even get water bottles designed to fit inside the belt, so it’s ‘goodbye’ to that sloshing lopsided gait.
Treadmill training is a great way to get some miles in your legs in adverse weather, but it can also be extremely dull putting in the miles with no changing scenery or clubmates to keep you company. That’s where the Zwift Runpod comes in.
Zwift might be best known for its exercise bikes and associated app (used to great effect in the Virtual Tour de France), but it also makes an excellent little cadence sensor that allows runners to hit the simulated roads alongside the cyclists. The Zwift Runpod simply clips onto your shoelaces before you hit the treadmill, and connects to the Zwift app on a phone or tablet.
You will have your own little avatar in the world, and can join group runs or just set out on your own, sticking to the track or making up your own route as you go along. It’s a great way to stave off the boredom that comes with indoor running, and get out with your friends if you’re unable to meet in person.
Any runner that is striving to be more efficient in their exercise needs one thing above any other, and it’s a space-saving two-in-one gadget like the Shapeheart Armband.
Carrying your phone on runs is often an unavoidable hassle and, while armbands aren’t everyone’s favorite, they’re regrettably necessary for most runners. And if that’s something you need, you may as well make it twice as useful.
Not only does the Shapeheart provide a convenient way to carry your phone, with a magnetic case that allows you to easily detach your phone from the strap to take calls, capture those necessary running selfies (or check Google Maps), it also monitors your heart rate.
A detachable optical heart rate (HR) sensor located in the neoprene armband sends your heart rate data to basically any running app you choose – Nike+, Strava and Runkeeper – so you can ensure you’re training in the right zone for your goals.
While it obviously won’t be as accurate as a HR chest strap, the armband should be more trustworthy than the data from a watch as you’re less likely to get that gap between sensor and wrist that can cause irregular HR stats.
The Garmin Dynamics Running Pod is an excellent alternative to the Lumo Run Sensor, which was one of our favorite running gadgets in years gone by but is sadly no longer available.
Another device to help you improve your running form, the Garmin Dynamics Running Pod, which clips onto your clothing and measures your cadence, stride length, ground contact time, balance, and how much you bounce and you run (Garmin provides a full breakdown of each of these on its site).
You can use this data yourself to learn more about your running technique, and work with your running coach to improve your form based on the findings.
The Running Dynamics Pod is compatible with the majority of Garmin’s premium fitness tracker ranges, including the D2, Forerunner (245 and up), Marq, Quatix and Tactix lines.
Designed exclusively for working out, the new generation of wireless AfterShokz IP55 sweat-resistant bone-conduction headphones weighs in at just 30g, that’s about 20% lighter than the original Trekz Titanium – because every gram counts when you’re shooting for a PB.
Ideal for running, no wires means no pulling your earbuds out with every arm swing, six hours of music and calls from a 90-minute full charge means they’ll see you through a marathon with time to spare.
The battery life is far from its most important feature, however, the open-ear design allows you to hear what’s going on around you at all times, particularly important on darker nights and misty mornings and makes them race legal in the UK for open-road running.
Other useful improvements include dual noise cancelling mics so you can actually take that call while you’re on the run (as long as you can breathe) and redesigned bone transducers that deliver more bass, one of our biggest bugbears with previous AfterShokz. The pause button has been overhauled to be easier to tap too… in short, this is a brilliant upgrade.
And because sport headphones tend to spend a lot of time kicking about in the bottom of a bag, they come with a durable premium titanium frame and wraparound band that can withstand a few knocks.
Read our full AfterShokz Trekz Air review
The Lifebeam Vi is an AI running coach contained in these specially designed headphones. This amazing AI technology will adapt to your training schedule and offer personalized advice and workout suggestions as you go.
The bio-sensing earbuds keep track of your distance, speed, elevation, heart rate, cadence and more. This way, the Vi can learn every aspect of your running game, encouraging you to keep going when you’re about to hit a new goal, instructing you to slow down if you have a tendency to set off too fast, offering pace-specific training and suggesting recovery days or harder sessions where necessary.
And, you might think this is kind of creepy, but the Vi will learn your name, where you’re at, and even the weather around you, in order to tailor her advice to the exact minute and location you are at. For instance, she’ll give you some tips for running in the rain if winter is coming.
The Vi is ambitious by design, and represents a future of intelligent fitness and running devices. We’ve spent a lot of time with her – the AI is female-voiced – and while right now she’s a great tool for casual and newer runners building fitness, she’s lacking some essential features that more serious runners, those chasing new PBs, are going to be looking for.
However, with the ability to support years of software upgrades, Vi can only get better as you do and for those who’d love real-time run coaching but can’t afford it, Vi could make for a good AI option.
There’s a reason these headphones look like they’re going to tweak your brain – they are.
Part of a rising trend for applying advanced neuroscience to sport and fitness, the Halo Sport 2 employs clever, and somewhat complex, brain science to make you run faster. Worn before your workout, Halo delivers a tingling electrical stimulation over a 20-minute warm up period known as ‘neuropriming’.
The idea is that electric signals help the movement-controlling neurons in your brain fire more easily.
Your brain learns to repeat movements such as the strides you make when running through a process called plasticity, but neuropriming is intended to get your brain into a state of ‘hyper-plasticity’ so it reaches its fine-tuning state more quickly and you get greater muscle control and better results from your workout.
Small-scale studies with baseball team San Francisco Giants showed improvements in speed and explosiveness and there’s a weight of scientific research to back up their effectiveness.
However, unless you really, really care about shaving that elusive minute off your Parkrun time, then this might be a trend to monitor rather than dive in to at this stage.
Cyclists have been measuring their performance using power for years so it’s strange it’s only just starting to enter the running world. While many of us are familiar with pace and distance stats, the makers of this lightweight little pod say there’s only one main metric we need to be looking at, and that’s one that cyclists are all too familiar with – watts.
Clip on your shoe and Stryd will measure a whole host of stats, much like the Garmin Dynamics Run Pod, but with a few extras. You get power, form power, leg spring stiffness (stiffer legs require less energy to move you forwards), ground time, vertical oscillation, cadence, pace, distance and your run stress score and crunch these into a watts number to follow while you’re on the move.
The advantage of using watts is that your power output is just one number. Stryd says power is the surefire way to hit a new PB as it can help you run more efficiently and pace yourself consistently as even on hilly courses, where it may be hard to know what pace to run at. With Stryd all you need to do is stick to a consistent power output.
Compatible with most smartphones, the Apple Watch, and some Garmin and Polar watches, the Stryd Sensor power meter may be particularly useful for triathletes and multi-sport athletes who want to use similar metrics for each sport.
Running with a watch or phone app that doesn’t show heart rate or unsure how accurate the data coming from your wrist-based tracker is? Maybe it’s time to look for another way to track your stats.
Enter the new TICKR Fit armband. More comfortable than a chest strap and with greater accuracy than a watch, the sensor is worn on your forearm (where you’re less likely to skew the data by getting air between your skin and the sensor) and uses optical heart rate technology to provide heart rate and calorie burn stats. Wahoo say the data is as accurate as that from a chest strap and there are two adjustable strap sizes to ensure it sits securely and flush to your skin when working out.
You can connect the TICKR Fit to Android and iOS devices as well as many GPS running watches and bike computers and view your data on compatible apps including Strava and Runkeeper.