You may think of running as a low-tech endeavor: All you need to do is lace up a pair of sneakers and go. But if you want to improve your performance, train for an event or simply get into better shape a little faster, technology is your friend.
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Here are 10 high-tech tools that can help runners of all speeds:
1. Garmin Forerunner 630 Watch
There’s no shortage of GPS-enabled running watches on the market, but Garmin’s Forerunner 630 is one that frequently earns rave reviews. That’s thanks in large part to an attractive design, 1.2-inch color touchscreen and a slew of features. These include: built-in GPS, the ability to see your pace, speed, timing and elevation and advanced metrics like a threshold measurement, which shows your overall effort.
The Forerunner 630 is waterproof to 50 meters, so you can wear it swimming, and includes a cycling mode that runners. One major flaw is the lack of a built-in heart-rate monitor, but it can pair easily with a chest strap (though a $50 accessory may seem pricey after shelling out $399 for the watch alone). PRICE: $399
2. Aftershokz Headphones
Music is often the runner’s dilemma: The right tunes can keep you motivated, but running with headphones can be dangerous if you’re cut off from sounds you need to hear to be safe. That’s where Aftershokz comes in: These headphones use bone-conduction technology — they sit right on your cheekbones (near your ears) and conduct sounds through your eardrums and bones. This leaves your ears uncovered, keeping you connected to your environment.
The Trekz Titanium features a titanium frame that’s durable but flexible and resistant to sweat, moisture and dust. AfterShokz uses what it calls PremiumPitch+™ technology to optimize sound quality, something that's been considered a weakness of bone-conduction audio. They also include noise-canceling microphones for making calls and voice prompts. PRICE: $130
3. Caseco Bluetooth Beanies
When it’s cold outside, the idea of putting on headphones and a hat may have you feeling bogged down. Enter Caseco’s Blu-Toque Bluetooth Beanies, comfortable knit hats with Bluetooth headphones built right in. That means you can listen to your tunes and take phone calls right from your favorite hat. The hats are water-resistant and washable — just take the speakers out of the zipped inner pouch before tossing it in the washer. Batteries can be charged in two hours and last for about six hours of music playback. There are more than 55 styles, so finding your perfect look is easy. PRICE: $50
4. Mino Sole
Worn-out running shoes can mean sore feet and foot injuries — something no runner wants. High-tech Mino soles monitor the life left in your favorite running shoes. The Mino insert is 2.5 millimeters thick, 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, and it sticks to the bottom of one shoe beneath the existing insole. (It’s thin enough so you shouldn’t feel it, but Mino does offer a spacer for the other shoe to make sure your feet are perfectly aligned.)
The sole counts compressions to the midsole of the shoe and features light-up LEDs that you can view to see how close you are to 400 miles' worth of compressions — which is about when manufacturers recommended to get new shoes. PRICE: $15
5. Under Armour SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record-Equipped Sneakers
Go truly high-tech with Under Armour’s new SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record-Equipped running sneakers. These shoes feature a built-in chip that tracks and stores your running metrics, including cadence, time, duration, distance and splits. The chip — which uses a long-lasting battery designed to outlast the sneakers — connects to UA’s MapMyRun app for GPS and data analysis. You don’t need to run with your phone for the sneakers to track data, though, as they can go up to five workouts between syncing. PRICE: $150
6. Sensoria Fitness Running System
If you really want to dive deep into analyzing your form and performance, the Fitness Running System from Sensoria may be just what you need. This System includes two pairs of Sensoria fitness socks, two anklets, one heart-rate monitor, and one sports bra (for women) or one T-shirt (for men). The fitness socks track steps, calories, pace, cadence and foot-landing technique.
The socks connect to the lightweight anklets, which connect wirelessly to Sensoria’s mobile app. The heart-rate monitor fits inside either the sports bra or T-shirt so you don't have to wear a bulky strap. Overall, the Fitness Running System is designed to offer real-time feedback on your fitness and form, while reducing your chances of injury and boosting your performance. PRICE: men $399, women $389
7. Pear Personal Coach App
You love the idea of a personal trainer creating workouts based on your fitness level and goals, right? But you probably hate the idea of a paying the big bucks that most trainers charge. The Pear Personal Coach — a mobile app (Android and iOS) that delivers a virtual trainer directly to you — is free. Pear tracks your exercise data and suggests workouts that can help you reach your goals.
Many of the workouts have been designed by well-known athletes, such as marathoner Deena Kastor and Kirk Olson, who oversees strength and conditioning training for the Minnesota Wild hockey team. The optional Pear+ membership ($4 per month or $30 per year) gives you unlimited access to its library of workouts. PRICE: Free
8. Emfit QS Sleep Monitor & App
Resting and recovering from your workouts is an important part of training, but it’s something that’s too often overlooked. Emfit’s QS Sleep Monitor helps make sleep — and, specifically, sleep quality — a priority. The noncontact sleep monitor — meaning it doesn’t have to touch your body — fits under your mattress, where it measures heart-rate variability as one indicator of fitness level and your body’s recovery. Information on your sleep, including data about tossing and turning, movement and overall sleep quality, is sent to Emfit’s mobile app, where you can view detailed data and trends over time. PRICE: $299
9. Wahoo App & TICKR Run Workout Tracker
A heart-rate monitor is a valuable tool for any runner, but monitoring just your heart rate may leave you wondering about other aspects of your running. Wahoo’s TICKR Run Workout Tracker, in conjunction with Wahoo’s mobile app, delivers personalized workouts that help you get fitter and run faster by making sure your heart rate is in the right zone for reaching your goals.
And the TICKR isn’t limited to measuring just your heart rate: It analyzes your cadence and form with a built-in accelerometer to make sure you’re running smoothly and efficiently. There's also includes a treadmill mode to make sure your indoor runs are tracked accurately. PRICE: $80
10. Mio Personal Activity Intelligence App
The heart rate is an important metric for any type of athlete. But understanding that number and the implications isn’t always easy. That’s where Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) comes in: This app measures your heart rate and reports the results to you as an easy-to-understand score. Your PAI score goes up as you engage in more activities that increase your heart rate.
Your score is continuously calculated day after day, and your goal is to keep it at 100 or higher. Mio says that it has research that shows that people who keep their PAI score at 100 or higher live up to a decade longer than those who don’t. Mio’s PAI app works only with Mio wearables (which start at $79). PRICE: Free
Looking for more information on the above products? LIVESTRONG.COM’s sister site Techwalla.com can help you research these and many other health and fitness gadgets. At Techwalla.com you can directly compare all the top fitness bands, smartwatches and more.