I haven't relied on a footpod sensor to track my running since the time I first started getting more serious about my training, which was quite a few years ago. It was cheaper than a running watch, I didn't have to worry about charging it and I had more faith that a tracker worn down on my feet would deliver more reliable data.
Things have changed though. Now I want to see my data during a run, which is a major limitation of footpods. Wearables like the MilestonePod want to change that. The gadget you wear on your running shoes has no screen or buttons fits and can record a whole host of metrics including cadence, ground contact, stride length and more. It can even go as far as to tell you when you need to change up your running shoes while providing more detailed insights into your running sessions from within the companion app.
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There are other footpod sensors out there from the likes of Garmin and relative newcomers Stryd but there's a couple of things that sets the MilestonePod apart from its closest rivals. The first is price; it costs just $29.95, making it a more affordable option than its closest competitors. It's now also compatible with apps like Strava, Zwift Run and GPS running watches like the Polar M430 and the Garmin Fenix 5 to show metrics in real-time while outdoors and on the treadmill.
I've been using the MilestonePod for a few months now, leaving it on my shoes during training runs and races to see if the budget running wearable does a few things. The first is whether it can deliver accurate data. Secondly, does the data it record offer more useful insights than my running watch, helping me make better sense of my strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, does it deliver those real-time metrics as promised without issue. Here's what life was like living with the MilestonePod running wearable.
Like most footpods, there's not a lot to the MilestonePod. In the box you'll find the small, black plastic tracker that comes in two parts. The core of the device is where the motion sensors are packed in and where you'll find the battery compartment. If you've ever used a heart rate monitoring chest strap before, then this setup will feel very familiar.
All you need to do is grab a suitably sized coin to wedge in and unlock where you can drop in a standard CR 2032 coin cell battery (one comes included), the same that powers most chest straps. This should mean you get around six months of tracking and maybe even more depending how much running you do with it. Once that battery is in, you might then notice a small LED light on the front of the tracker. That's there to indicate battery life status and to indicate the amount of mileage you've put in with your shoes.
Getting the Pod clipped onto your shoes is the next step and thankfully it's a pretty easy process. There's no need to thread it through your laces with the wearable locked around the laces using the holder that clips onto the back of the Pod to hold it in place. Inevitably, there's going to be concerns whether the something so tiny is robust enough to withstand tougher terrain and those muddy trails and we definitely put it to the test. Thankfully, we can report that it did stay put and the waterproof design means it'll handle running through those big puddles as well.
While I had no issues, my colleague James who tested the Pod out as well did have on instance where it did fall off from his trainers. Fortunately, he was able to retrieve it, but it's really important to make sure that you hear a click when putting the holder in place to ensure it does remain secure on your running shoes.
Once the hardware is in place, it's time to venture into the Milestone Sports app (iOS and Android), which is free to download. Here is where you'll need to go through the pretty standard practice of pairing the sensor with the app as well as adding in some details about your shoes that can help determine how much mileage you should be covering in them. It makes the whole experience feel more personal. One problem I did have was working out exactly how many miles I'd already covered with my shoes, which I know is a lot, but have no idea how much precisely. That ultimately skews the concept of the wearable knowing exactly when I need to invest in a new pair of shoes.
The main dashboard in the app does look a bit cluttered but there's some nice ideas in place here. Like the illustration up top to show how much distance your pod has covered, detailing the last synced run and displaying your Runficiency score. There's also the all important Tap to Sync button, which is your signal that data is not automatically synced to the app. It's not a big issue, and thankfully once the app has picked up the Pod, it'll sync data pretty rapidly, even if it's a few sessions.
Away from the dashboard, you can also check in on your run log and gain further insights into one of three core running metrics that the footpod sensor records (more on that later). For those that really like to dig deeper into their data, you can also export run sessions to Excel to pore over that information.
Let's get running
The MilestonePod is solely focused on business of tracking, while you go about the running part. So it's simply a case of lacing up and going. The big new feature is the ability to view data recorded in real-time through a host of GPS sports watches. So the idea is that once it's paired to the watch, you'll be able to see data like cadence on the watch. Unfortunately, we didn't have much luck making that happen. We tried it out with the Garmin Forerunner 935 on numerous occasions and despite successfully connecting the two devices, we struggled to get that real-time data hit.
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So it was really down to hoping that post run the tracker, which uses an accelerometer to track motion (not GPS) was recording accurate data. We put it through its paces with a variety of runs from slow, long runs, interval sessions, track runs and races to see how it fared from an accuracy point of view. I've pulled out some of the data and how it compared to Garmin's watch as well as the race chips used during a couple of races.
This 5k race data is taken from the Milestone Sports app (left and middle) and the data recorded by my Garmin Forerunner 935 (right). While the duration of the run was near identical, the distance was off a little with the Pod recording 3.48 miles as opposed to 3.25 miles the 935 recorded. When you look at the split times as well, there's a disparity between the times recorded. This was a regular occurrence for a lot of my runs, which means making use of the calibrating feature to tighten things up on the accuracy front. Things do improve on the cadence front, where there was a 1-2 difference in the data.
One of the most appealing features of something like the MilestonePod is the ability to accurately track indoor running. Without GPS, most watches rely on accelerometer motion sensors to measure distance, which has a tendency to be a bit off on the accuracy front. This is data taken from a sample treadmill run (left) against the Forerunner 935 (middle and right), which also uses accelerometer-based tracking.
The Garmin watch recorded a distance of 4.14 miles in comparison to the 3.64 miles, and I'm more inclined to agree with the data from the footpod sensor based on my average, gentle 30 minute treadmill sessions. Again, cadence was pretty much on the money. The foot strike data also emphasises the fact that I run in barefoot running shoes, which promotes striking predominantly with your heel as opposed to the middle of the foot or the toe.
10 mile race
The last data I wanted to pull out was from a 10 mile race so I could compare data with a GPS running watch and a race chip. You can see split times (above and below) recorded by all three devices. While none of the lap times appear identical, there's definitely a bit more consistency with what the Forerunner 935 and the race chip served up. Also, this was the first time that the Milestone Pod failed to record the entire race, having seemingly stopped around the 7th mile. I should say this was the only time it did this.
Helping me get better
So I've dug into the accuracy, now it's time to turn to how well the MilestonePod helps me understand what I'm doing well and not so well. Each run logged gives me a breakdown of the key metrics and I can quickly establish whether I'm hitting a good cadence or scoring good in the ground contact department.
There's also a host of graphs comparing metrics like pace versus cadence and illustrating how a quicker cadence can typically result in a faster pace. There's also further graphs breaking down aspects of foot strike giving you a better sense of how your body mechanics change throughout a run. There's still a degree of knowledge required here and having that ability to interpret what much of this data means. But I found the snapshot insights into the individual metrics the most useful here and definitely helped to see if I'd dropped off from my last session.
The other aspect are the dedicated insights for improving cadence, ground contact or stride length. You can only choose one of the three metrics to work on at a time, which fires over an email to give you an insight of the day. While it's definitely interesting to see your progress alongside a fun fact related to your metric, I was really hoping for more in the way of tips on how I could make improvements.
So after a few months of wearing the MileStonePod, the question is, will it remain on my running shoes? Right now, I'd say yes based on the additional metrics and the insights it does offer on top of my running watch. I do definitely have some concerns about the accuracy with the pace and distance it captures, so calibrating and adjusting is pretty necessary, which I do believe will help improve matters. The issue of getting the data to show on my watch was disappointing too but hopefully some more playing around and chatting with the MileStone team will get it up and running properly.
What I did really value was being able to run, sync the data with ease and quickly get a better sense of the metrics that go beyond distance, pace and time. There's no escaping the price is good as well and for beginners who are entertaining the idea of having access to more run data, the MilestonePod will certainly have appeal.