You may remember a little ways back when I did a review of the MilestonePod — a small device you attach to your shoe when you’re running that gives you data on your foot strike patterns, cadence, etc.
I enjoyed using the MilestonePod and ran with it for a while on several pairs of shoes (and then forgot to replace the battery when it died). My friend Stripes (who you might remember from when I spectated his Ironman) read my review and talked to me about the device, and then decided to buy one of his own.
He recently emailed me his thoughts on the MilestonePod, and I thought it was really informative so I asked him if I could share his email here and he agreed. As a warning, Stripes is a super smart data nerd, so he goes kind of deep into the data you get from MilestonePod. If that will make your eyes bleed, you can skim those parts!
So without further ado, here are his thoughts:
TL;DR – Amazing value, not super accurate, but amazing value; Worthwhile buy
So I finally got a MilestonePod after inquiring about it over a year ago. I actually waited so long that I got the 3rd generation hardware which made me happy because newer is always better right? (1st gen was a prototype that never hit the market)
So let’s note the differences: easier set-up (no more un-lacing), faster syncing, longer battery life, 4% increase in accuracy, waterproof, and a notification reminder to sync. In my opinion of all those, the big one is water proofing; everything else is meh. There is nothing to really entice you to buy the upgraded model if you already have one. I will say the notifications are nice though, if data is on the pod that has not been sync’d yet it will send a push notification to your phone. This doesn’t happen frequently though since you quickly get in the habit of syncing it immediately after your run because you want to see the data!
So overall I really like this thing. For $25 it’s a no brainer for the extra metrics you get. It is actually pushing me to be a better runner. Personally my focus is on cadence and rate of impact; everything else I have down pat. I always knew my cadence was bad and this device gives me tangible evidence of that. If all this pod did was cadence I still might have bought it for $25.
Before I go on I realize that I am going to neg this thing for the rest of the review. I guess it is because it is so close to “elite-ness” that I want it to be there and judge it as so. But I still have to emphasize – great value – would buy it again in a heart beat. So let’s delve into all its little shortcomings.
The BIGGEST drawback is no real time data. That sucks… I want to know as I am running how my form looks. For example usually as I am going up a long hill I catch myself in bad form so I try to correct it. It would be great to be able to just look at my watch and go, “Oh man my cadence and leg swing really suck right now, I need to straighten up.” I can do this currently with tracking my pace metrics (current v overall v goal); I want to be able to do it with other metrics.
Real time data would be very hard for this thing to pull off so I can’t really knock it for that, but it’s accuracy is still something that needs to be improved dramatically. I did some calibrating runs on a high school track and noticed VERY different results. First off, any runs less than 1 mile it will not pick up as a workout. So if you have dreams of interval workouts or want to track segments individually you are out of luck. After one mile sometimes it was dead on, others it was off by a quarter mile (an entire lap!). Distance matters! Especially when it comes to calculating pace.
This leads me to my other big gripe. This pod kind of ruins my warmup and cool down. Since I can’t manually start or stop the tracking, my before and after routines usually get caught in the metrics and they ruin my averages. My warmup is not even proper running, between shuffles, skips, kicks, karaoke, etc… this kills my runficiency score. And my cool down ruins my average pace since of course I am going slower. To get around this I have found myself taking a break between my dynamic warmup and actual run by doing stationary warm up activities (toe raises, squats, arm rotations) in hopes of resetting the pod start time. For my cool down I take off my shoes immediately after running and then do the cool down run.
This is really the big thing they need to fix for v4. A simple double tap on top of the pod to start and stop the thing would be perfect. It would make the pod way more accurate and actually let me do proper runs. The whole idea of just getting out of a car, go for a run, and finishing with static stretching is for the recreation runner. And that is what this marketing feature is trying to sell to: “No buttons, no hassle. Just clip and go.” BUT THE PROBLEM IS their actual market is the more advance runner who knows you need proper warmup and cool down. So its mixed messaging, the death of any marketing campaign for a product. I think internally they know they are having accuracy problems so they don’t view these faulty metrics as a big concern for now. Honestly, the thing is too cheap to be super accurate; I understand that as an informed consumer. But it is going to be hard for them to sell me an upgrade, because they have lost my trust in their algorithms.
So let’s dive into this accuracy problem a bit more. We know the time and distance are off. That’s fine. I just use my watch and calibrate the pod afterwards. I am using this pod for the other measurements. Rate of impact and cadence seem dead on. Personally I cannot even get close to 200ms, but then again I am not elite. My best is a 239 average for a 2 mile run. I am suspect of the leg swing and strike metrics. I usually end my runs with an average of 85% high swing and I know I am not “high.” High is when you are pushing off with so much power that you are basically kicking your butt. If you want to see high leg swing watch the Olympics. How they keep that form for so long is AMAZING! So I know I am not high for that long. I think they have lowered the bar for what “high” means and the sensor measures accordingly.
Second inaccuracy is the foot-strike. It says I am 99% toe strike! Maybe I define toe strike differently from them. Toe strike to me is when you are sprinting or reaching with your toe out. For long endurance runs this is not great form. I run with a forward mid-strike, so it gets interpreted as a toe strike which frustrates me. Mainly because I do not think toe strikes or heel strikes are good and count as dings against my runficiency.
I have looked EVERYWHERE and they don’t tell you how they calculate their score. I understand this is their secret sauce, but then I do not know how to improve my score. They need to let you know! Maybe cadence is weighted 50% and strike is only 5%. That means don’t waste your time improving your strike until you get cadence down. But they don’t tell you that. They also do not give you goals for strike or stride length, but hint that they are both part of the run score. Once again mixed messaging. If this is for the runner trying to get better, you have to let them know HOW. I feel like I am running in the dark and have no idea on what to do. So right now I am focusing on cadence and rate of impact. Hopefully that is good…
As a side note the app UI SUCKS. Like, its really bad. Worse than my writing skills 😉 To be honest, the main reason I held out for so long is I downloaded the app and thought “this hurts my eyes.” I don’t want to get too geeky about it, but the design actually gets in the way of the features. In August they did this “big redesign” and the “refreshed look” is still awful, so I figured I was just going to have to suck it up. But come on Milestone… The app is not clean, visually distracting, confusing to use, and poorly laid out. I mean this thing thing is UGLY… But so is the app for the company I work for. Making a good app is hard. And I have high expectations as a developer myself.
So there you go. MilestonePod, so much unrealized, untapped potential, but for its price I would still buy it again.