Gear Box: Nike+iPod Review

I’ve mentioned a few times already that I purchased an 8 GB iPod Nano recently, and along with it the Nike+ system. I’ve had the two for several weeks now, and have used them both a number of times on training runs, and finally feel comfortable posting some thoughts and impressions. In short, the Nano and the Nike+ are a match made in heaven.

I won’t comment much on the iPod itself. By now everyone knows what the device can do, and it’s widely considered the best music player on the market. It’s certainly the most iconic and well known. The new Nano is small, light, and easy to use. It sounds great, and can store plenty of music. It’s flash memory based, so it makes for the perfect workout companion, unlike the hard drive models that can skip or be damaged by moving while running or doing other exercises. The Nano is so small and light in fact, that when coupled with a good armband, you can put it on, and almost forget that it’s even there, while it happily pumps out tunes for you to listen to.

The real product of interest here is the Nike+ system, which consists of a sensor unit that goes in your shoe and a wireless receiver that collects data from it. The new Nike+ line of shoes have a special slot in the sole of the shoe, under the footpad, that you can place the sensor in, but since I don’t own a pair of those shoes, I had to come up with something different. There are various suggestions floating around the web on how to use the sensor on non-Nike+ shoes, but I decided to invest $10 on this, the Marware Sportsuit Sensor+, which allows me to move the sensor quickly and easily from different pairs of shoes, no matter who makes them. It was well worth buying in my opinion.

Once you’ve got the sensor secured in (or on) your shoe, you plug the receiver into the docking port on your Nano (it should be noted that the system only works with iPod Nanos) and turn the iPod on. After powering up, you’ll see a new option on your main menu that says “Nike+”. If you select this option, you’ll find various sub-menus that will allow you to select different types of workouts, configuring various options, like selecting your Power Song, and calibrating the system. Calibration consists of running or walking, over a set distance, so the system learns your stride and running pattern. I found that the unit was fairly accurate out of the box, without any calibration, but worked better after you’ve completed calibrating it. To do so, you simply select the option to calibrate over a distance of your choosing, then run that distance at a normal pace. When you’re done, you tell the Nike+ that you’ve finished and it then has a more accurate understand of how you move while running. There are seperate calibration settings for both running and walking, and I took the time to do both. It’s also very important to be sure that the distance you select for the calibration process is the actual distance you run. The more accurate the better.

Once you’ve finished the calibration process, you’re ready to go. Now when you set off on your run, you simply select the type of workout you want, and get started. You can choose workouts that are a set distance, time, or calories burned. The iPod will then inform you when you’ve reached your set goal of say 3 miles or 20 mintues, or what ever. Alternatively you can select an “Open” workout, which simply allows you to run and at the end, it tells you how far and how fast you went. I generally select the open workout right now, as I’m never too sure how far or fast I feel like going, especially as I continue to struggle with shin splints.

While running, the system will inform you regularly about your progress, both on the Nano screen and through auditory updates. It comes with two built in voices, male and female, that inform you of your progress throughout the workout. The voices sound very natural and pleasant and are not at all jarring while you are concentrating on your run. You can also get an update on your progress at any time by pushing the center button on the Nano. The voice will then tell you how far you’ve run, how long you’ve been running, and what your current time for running a mile is. It’s slick and easy, and actually does help to keep you informed about how well you’re doing. It’s also interesting to see how your workouts can vary from day to day based on other factors, such as what you ate, how stressed or tired you are, etc. The goal is to be able to workout consistently, but we all know we have some days that are better than orthers. When you’ve completed your workout, you simply tell the system that you’re done, and it saves the record of your run for later review. The record includes, time, distance, speed, and calories burned.

The next element of the Nike+ system is the Nike Plus Website. When you plug your Nano into your computer, either to recharge it or sync with iTunes to add music or podcasts or what ever, the system automatically uploads all your workout data to the website. You create a personal account, and all your data is then stored for review on your computer. You can use it to track your progress over time and compare different workouts. It even allows you to set goals and track progress to those goals, or if you have a friend who has the Nike+ you can challenge each other to various types of runs for distance or speed. It’s an excellent way to see all of your cumulative data, and stay motivated. The website is free, and included with the device, but is also very well designed and integrated. Of course, it’s also a place to sell you more Nike gear as well.

There are a couple of other fun features to the Nike+ system as well. I mentioned that allows you to select a Power Song, which is one song in your library that you can designate at a “pick-me up” while running. You can hear that song at any time by pressing, and holding, the center button on the Nano. The song will kick in and play, and once it’s over, you’ll return to the play list that was already in progress. The Power Song can give you a lift (I highly recommend Eye of the Tiger by Survivor), but I can’t help but wish you could choose more than one, and have the system randomly pick one for you. The other cool little feature I didn’t know about until I had used the system was the surprise celebrity athlete messages you get from time to time. For instance, after one of my runs, I got a congratulatory message from Lance Armstrong telling me that I had completed my longest workout yet. It wasn’t anything major, but it was still fun and unexpected.

If you enjoy running, walking, or hiking, I highly recommend the Nike+iPod system. It’s a very well designed product that is easy to use, offers great value, and should be a benefit to anyone into fitness. It’s online portion should also help you track your data over time, set goals, and make progress in increasing your distance and speed. The system itself costs $29, but of course you’ll need the iPod as well, which ranges from $149-$249 depending on the storage capacity. I added the $10 Marware sensor pouch as well, but that’s optional and you may find other ways to attach the sensor if you don’t own the Nike+ shoes. If you have any comments or questions, drop me an e-mail or post a comment to this review. I’ll be happy to respond or post updates here. But just in case you couldn’t tell, I love the Nike+ system and feel like anyone who is a runner, or thinking about starting to run, will enjoy it as well.

Kraig Becker

12 thoughts on “Gear Box: Nike+iPod Review”

  1. apple has, in my opinion still flalen short on the mark of offering a truly athlete friendly model for the mass market. Offering an arm band as an aftermarket accessory is is just an afterthought and Apple should consider incorporating more exercise firendly options into their models. Examples could include a pedometer, altimeter, heart rate monitor, shock absorbent casing, and a ready to wear model that requires no aftermarket accessories. That said, Apple has made significant improvements as of late…following the 2007 release of Apple’s new iPod Nano, the new iPhone, and iPod Touch, Apple has sucessfully diversified its digital music and video players to offer more options than any other single company today and positioned itself for what promises to be a banner holiday sales season. Steve jobs addressed many of the criticisms of previous generations of iPods though some mp3 manufacturers continue to offer more bleeding edge technology. Long and short is that while iPods will not offer the absolute latest in technoloigical options, Apple products do offer the best and most reliable options available for DRM (digital rights managed) media players on the market today.


  2. Actually, I can’t think of anyone who offers a player that I would truly consider to be “athlete friendly” out of the box.

    I use to own a Nike Sport MP3 player back in the day, and it came with an armband and was shock and water resistant, but it has only 128MB of storage and no screen, with limited ability to upgrade. For it’s day it was fine, but it has long since been surpassed.

    The Nano probably is the best option out there thanks to it’s size, flash memory, and myriad of options with the accessories. Adding some of the features you suggest, while great for those of us who can take advantage of them, would also add to the price, and would move it out of the mainstream consumer market. Better that Apple offers something for everyone, and has plenty of accessories to fill in the gap.

    Heck, it’s been nearly a year since I wrote this review, and the Nike+ kit is still a bargain at $30, although it would be nice if they upgraded it to include some more features.

  3. I think its a really good idea for nike to integrate with Apple this way, it increases nikes sales and has the spin-off benefit of helping people to commit to a healthier lifestyle.

  4. Yep, it seems like Apple and Nike seem like a perfect fit for one another . I guess that’s why Nike has made a couple of more iPod compatible devices recently.

  5. The kit is relatively inexpensive here in the States, but the battery in my sensor recently died, and now I have to replace it. It’s $19 just to buy the sensor and so far I’ve only been able to find them online. Still the battery lasted quite a long time, and it’s still a reasonable deal over all.

  6. My friend and I were recently talking about how involved with technology our daily lives have become. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

    I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside… I just hope that as memory becomes less expensive, the possibility of transferring our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could see in my lifetime.

    (Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i SDHC[/url] DS OperaMod)

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