Update: RUNN can now be purchased directly from the Zwift Store.
Last week saw the announcement of the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor from North Pole Engineering. With a strong feature set, expected release date of December 13th, and very competitive price point ($99USD, on sale for $89) this is an exciting product for Zwift runners.
NPE are well-known in the Zwift world for their small CABLE device which is not actually a cable, but a pod converting ANT+ signals into Bluetooth signals. It’s very useful for people who own the Garmin footpod for example but who want to run Zwift on an iOS device, which only accepts a Bluetooth signal. Connect your footpod to the CABLE and connect the CABLE as a speed source in Zwift. It’s a really good device.)
Now, NPE have worked in collaboration with Zwift to develop the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor. It is a small device which sits on the edge of your treadmill and looks over at the belt with an optical sensor, two in fact. The idea is that you affix three or four strips of white 3M tape at approximately equal distances apart on the belt and from this, the sensors can measure the speed at which the belt is traveling.
This way of measuring the speed of the belt may remind you of the Run Social Treadtracker which is no longer available but well regarded by those who purchased it. Using a rather more mechanical method, the Treadtracker used a wheel placed under but in contact with the belt to measure speed and then send that data via Bluetooth to Zwift. Many have bemoaned the loss of the Treadtracker and have been waiting for a replacement.
Not only does the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor send the speed of the belt via Bluetooth and ANT+, it also sends cadence and incline data. Unless you have a Smart Treadmill there is no other device that will do this. In fact, many Smart Treadmills won’t record cadence, requiring you to use a footpod. The only other way to get incline data recorded on the Zwift FIT file is to manually input any changes into apps like Runcline or TSS which can be paired with Zwift. Obviously this is particularly cumbersome and not ideal by any means.
If you currently use one of the cheaper Bluetooth footpods and you are not happy about the accuracy of the data you’re getting, you may well want to have a look at the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor. If you currently use a Stryd however, you may need to consider things a little more carefully.
The Stryd is a power meter for runners. Power is something the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor does not offer (although, watch this space for future firmware updates.) Also, Gus Nelson and the rest of the Stryd team will argue that their footpod gives a more realistic interpretation of a runner’s speed.
Let me explain. The Stryd is measuring the movement of your foot. The Runn is measuring the speed of the treadmill belt. The two will not necessarily match. When your foot impacts the treadmill belt the belt slows. It then speeds up to compensate when you are in mid-air. So your speed will, in fact, be marginally slower than that of the treadmill belt. The Stryd footpod reflects this. However, is it a more satisfying experience to see the numbers in Zwift matching the display of your treadmill more closely? Furthermore, are you happy to forgo incline data by sticking with the Stryd?
So if you’re using the Stryd, you need to have a few conversations with yourself. But if you are using one of the cheaper footpods, or the TickrX , UA shoes or the various EarPods which broadcast speed to Zwift, it is definitely worth considering the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor.
If you already own a smart treadmill there is very little reason to consider the Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor other than for travel purposes. You can’t take your treadmill on a plane, but you now have the choice of the Runn or a footpod to use when you are away from home.
The advertised price is half that of the Stryd and around twice that of the most budget footpods. But for the potential accuracy improvements, it may well be worth it.
Plus points for the new Runn Smart Treadmill Sensor:
- Greater accuracy
- Incline data