One of the keys to being a successful runner is following a training plan. And, unless you’ve hired a coach, to follow that training plan you’re going to need to track your runs. There is a lot of equipment out there to help you track your runs. One of these is the Nike Plus system. It is a cost-effective alternative to a true GPS watch. It uses a chip that you place in your Nike shoe, which links to the SportBand. Instead of measuring your location from a satellite, the chip measures the length of time and force your foot strikes the ground with to determine how fast and far you’re moving.
When you first use the Nike SportBand, you need to calibrate it with your running and walking pace. If you do not calibrate it correctly don’t expect it to work properly, as it is not a GPS watch. For me, a treadmill did the best job of calibrating it to my pace. A track did not work as well, because of the small difference between 1600 meters and 1 mile. If you have SportBand calibrated improperly, the small amount of error will add up over long distances, giving you an inaccurate measurements. It’s absolutely necessary to calibrate properly and if you’re not willing to do that, it’s not worth buying. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the accuracy, but once I took the time to calibrate it properly, it works shockingly well.
The watch itself is a very slim, thin band which was designed to be worn on the inside of your wrist. It’s very fashion conscious, and its minimal design highlights how big some GPS watches are. There are two buttons. The large round button on the face starts, pauses, and stops your runs. The smaller button on the side of the face allows you to rotate through displays. The displays allow you to alternate between the time, the distance you’ve run, the pace you’re running, and the amount of calories you’ve burned.
One of the neatest things about the SportBand is that it works on treadmills. Because it measures the length of time your foot strikes the ground and relies on calibration, it will still work indoors. You don’t have to worry about linking to a satellite to track your run.
The SportBand is available in several different colors.
There is no watch battery in the SportBand. The display disconnects from the band plus into the USB port of a computer. It automatically charges your computer and uploads your runs to your account on nikeplus.com. It takes only an hour or so to charge the watch and the battery lasts for weeks. It’s officially gives you 14 hours of running on a 2 hour full charge. I’ve never come close to 14 hours before plugging it in.
The chip that comes with the watch has a one year warranty. I’ve had two, the first lasting about 18 months and the second one has been kicking for over two years (I only wear my running shoes when I’m actually running. I never wear them for recreation.). You need to recalibrate if you get a new chip.
Nike has built a robust website for tracking your runs (it’s been announced that it will soon be updated to include the new Nike Fuel).
It’s very easy to use. You can track your runs, set goals, and challenge other runners to competitions. The best part about the site is that your runs are automatically uploaded each time you charge your watch in a USB port.
My first SportBand broke. The seal around the face of the watch was not tight and sweat leaked inside and ruined the display. I called Nike, they let me know it was a known issue and they replaced the watch free of charge. The replacement has lasted me nearly three years without issue.
There are a few other things to note. You need to have Nike shoes that have a small hole in the heel below the insole to place the chip in. Clever entrepreneurs have designed small pouches that are laced into the laces of other shoes so you use the chip on any shoe. I use the one linked above, as I do not currently run in Nike shoes.
I don’t think it’s quite as accurate as some GPS watches I’ve used, but it’s accurate to about a percent (1%) of them when I have it calibrated well. To me, that’s good enough for competitive training. A professional probably doesn’t want to use it because of the high volume of running they do (1% can make a big difference over thousands of miles), but the ease-of-use and compatibility with the Nike Plus website makes it an easy, painless way to track your runs. Plus, it works inside and is much cheaper than GPS watches.
For price, style, ease-of-use, good enough accuracy and information it makes available, I rank this watch an A, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to keep track of their runs. You can purchase it from Amazon here.