A foot pod (pictured above in cradle) is a little gadget that you attach to your running shoe to get more real time stats about your run. If you’re serious about improving your running and/or just need more running data, then you should probably get one.
At time of writing I’ve been running with a foot pod for several months and I’ve covered a few hundred miles with it.
Foot pod basics:
- two parts, the main plastic accelerometer pod and a separate plastic cradle
- powered by a battery, typically a CR2032
- there’s no on/off button – once the battery is in, it’s on
- you can’t tell by looking if the pod is on or the battery is flat or missing (there’s no flashing LED on current models, the older, bigger Garmin SDM3 did blink)
- the pod snaps into a plastic cradle that’s held on your shoe by the laces – don’t worry it won’t fall off.
- it’s waterproof and doesn’t mind getting a bit wet (but maybe don’t submerge it too much)
- it “talks” wirelessly to your watch (like a garmin forerunner) or even a small number of mobile phones
- most use the Ant+ protocol but some connect via bluetooth to a mobile phone
- a lot of them look the same because they’re made by the same manufacturer (Dynastream – now owned by Garmin)
- your watch needs to support Ant+ (what is ant+ ?)
Foot pod setup
Out of the box and without calibration you’ll get about 90-95% accuracy. Not bad, though 10% out on an 8min/mile pace is +/- 48 seconds, which is really quite a lot. But if you calibrate your foot pod, you should get about 98-99% accuracy… that’s not too shabby. [link – how to calibrate a foot pod coming soon!].
You’ll want the cradle under the lace of one of your running shoes (see photo, right). I don’t believe it matters which foot, though I go left to match my watch being on my left wrist. It does matter where you position the cradle on your shoe in so much as you’ll need to keep it in the same position. When you tighten and tie your lace the cradle won’t be able to slip about much at all (hopefully).
I haven’t tried it yet but I’m thinking of fixing my cradle a bit more securely by using a couple of those little wire cable ties you get when you buy a new gadget that has a cable. The cradle can move up and down even when you’ve tied your lace.You might be able to find a velcro pouch for your pod, though I’ve been unable to buy one anywhere. Correct me if I’m wrong, but with these button-style pods I don’t believe it makes any difference which way (up/down) they point. And just for clarification, fitting it sideways will stop the accelerometer from working effectively.
The accelerometer pod just snaps into the cradle and in my experience it’ll need a firm push. Mine has never fallen off my shoe and I don’t notice it whatsoever.
Want pods on more than one pair of running shoes? Well, yes, that’s a bit of pain because you either buy multiple pods and pair (and maybe calibrate) your watch each time to pod A or pod B or, you get another cradle and swap the pod over. Again, for calibration accuracy you’ll need to try and get cradles on different shoes in the same position.
Once your watch has paired with your pod for the first time, it’ll automatically detect it from then on. And if you’re running next to somebody else who’s also got a pod, your watch won’t try and connect with theirs. Though, when you pair-up for the first time, don’t do that in the vicinity of someone else who’s also wearing a pod.
Running with a foot pod
So, you’ve got it on your shoe, calibrated it (or not, you don’t absolutely have to though it’s more accurate if you do) and paired it to your sports watch… it’s time to go running. My pod is picture below left and it’s an Adidas micoach speedcell. It supports the ant+ protocol and works with my Garmin just fine. The fact that’s green and matches my current running shoe is purely coincidence. I don’t have a colour theme for my running kit!
By the way, I find that when wearing my trainers my watch detects the foot pod even when I’m stood still, but you might find you need to take a few steps before your watch detects your pod. Maybe the accelerometer has made the pod activate and transmit an ant+ signal when I put my shoes on, so even when I’m stood still my watch can still pair-up with it?
It depends upon your watch of course, but you’ll be able to get some useful data displayed on your watch while out running. For me, I’ve got a Garmin Forerunner 310XT and I have one of the four available data screen configured to just display current pace per mile. That’s all I need a lot of the time, a reading that says 7:20 or 6:05 (I wish… a pace of 6:05 min/mile isn’t something I can maintain for too long!). Accurate current pace info was why I got myself a foot pod in the first place.
Here’s a blurry photo of my Garmin (right) just displaying the current pace with data coming from my foot pod. It’s a blurry photo because it’s difficult running up and down our road on a cold, wet day while trying to take a photo of my running watch! When it comes to distance I’m an imperial type of chap, so my watch is displaying current pace per mile (mm:ss/mile).
I’d been following the Jack Daniel’s 2Q training programme for the 2016 Chester Marathon (race report) and that requires to you run at set paces (the VDOT system). Now, you can just rely on the Garmin calculating current pace based upon GPS data, but at any point in time that displayed pace could be way out. But with a foot pod, you’ll get a far more accurate and consistent current pace reading. So, run faster or slower and watch the current pace displayed on your Garmin go up or down, though there’s a slight lag I must admit.
Lots of runners who regularly rack up their training miles on a treadmill will be aware of the big limitation of GPS… running on the spot means GPS says you’ve stood still. But by using a foot pod, you can accurately record the distance covered as well as speed, pace, etc. Simply switch off GPS on your watch or activate ‘indoors’ mode and fire up your treadmill. You’ll get hot and sweaty like you always do on a treadmill, but now your foot pod will record how far you’ve actually ran.
Likewise, you could run outdoors with your watch GPS off and you’ll get distance recorded via the pod. The old Garmin Forerunner 60 didn’t have GPS but did support ant+ so you could still record distance covered. You won’t get a route recorded though of course because the foot pod does not have GPS and is not location aware.
Aside from helping you find out how far and fast you’ve ran the other really useful piece of data you’ll get from your foot pod is your running cadence (not pedalling cadence, you’ll need other kit for that). Cadence, or strike rate as some people call it, is the rate at which your legs are running (turning over). In other words, how many times your feet hit the ground each minute. You’ll see it frequently suggested that a cadence/strike-rate of 180 per minute is the optimum figure.
You’ll be running with just the one foot pod (you don’t need one for each shoe) and the cadence reported on your watch will just be for one leg. So simply double the number to see what your cadence is. Currently I’m typically seeing a figure of around 86 giving me a cadence of 172, or a few below the optimum rate. I’ve not tried to improve upon this yet but I’ve read that getting a cheap, clip-on digital metronome and running to it’s beat is the way to improve cadence.