Review: RunScribe PRO

RunscribeSummary: Wow !

Scribe Labs was formed in 2012 and had a working product a year or so later. The RunScribe PRO for 2016 is the next generation of running metric-awesomeness.

What is it?

It is a shoe-based running gait system that delivers deep running mechanics information through a smartphone app and online platform.

It’s transferable between shoes and works independently of whichever sports watch you currently use.

You get a RunScribe pod for each shoe (ie 2) enabling you to see the symmetry of your running metrics.

What is it NOT?

Dispel Garmin’s Running Dynamics from your mind. RunScribe is a WHOLE step change above that.

Who is it for?

Scribe Labs market it as being for the “data-driven athlete”. I’d go with that and clearly you will see that it is great for coaches too.

runscribe-garmin-footpod-mizuno-waverider

Just like a Garmin footpod in size

Why Is It Different?

There are a few running gait products out on the market; some are super-expensive, lab-based systems and others broadly sit in the consumer-space alongside, or below, RunScribe. Scribe Labs have learnt from their v1.0 product and put together an extremely well thought-through offering.

  • Positioning – It can be on the heel or on the laces.
  • Transferability – My box came with 2x sets of heel mounts and, in any case, is transferable between shoes. The clips are secure.
  • Unobtrusive – When on your heel, you can neither see it nor feel it. During your run there is zero interaction with it. (A positive thing in this instance, IMO). It turns itself off and on at a certain cadence (about 70/140). All you have to do is charge it  after every 16 hours or so of usage and wear it..
  • Colour-coded – customisable LED colours to help you put it on the right foot
  • It works in a real-world scenario – On your shoes, in the field, in the rain, in a race, on a treadmill.
  • A forgettable iOS/Android app – forgettable in a nice way. You perform the initial pairing and setup with the app. You sync with the app after each run. But that’s it. you leave the app at home when you run! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CARRY THE SMARTPHONE WHEN YOU RUN.
Runscribe

Contents: 2x pods, clips, cradle, charger and cable.

Typical Usage

RunScribe DashboardOK. It really is this simple.

  • Put shoes on. Check they are the shoes with the RunScribe already attached!
  • Go for a run!
  • Take shoes off 🙂
  • (Optionally) put pods on charge for next time.
  • Synchronise via Bluetooth with the RunScribe app on your iOS/Android phone
  • Luxuriate in the stats on your RunScribe dashboard. They appear to have very similar scope either on the app or online.

Pretty much every detail of the user experience with the RunScribe has been thought through AND delivered upon. Here is the SmartPhone app sync page, it tells you exactly what is happening. Synchronisation to the app is fairly slow though, taking several minutes to upload the data from an hour run.

That is one of those tasks best performed whilst showering and I don’t think is an issue per se. The following is worth waiting for…

RunScribe Dashboard

The first, optional, task to complete in the dashboard is assigning various ‘tags’ to your run. You can assign: specific shoes; terrain; pain points, such as Achilles; and workout types. It is worth assigning your shoes to the run as you can, for example, later go on to look at how you perform in each shoe type.

For the first few runs you also need to edit the total distance of the workout in order to calibrate how the pods interpret distance-based metrics.

For analysis, the dashboard provides a straightforward overview of cadences, pace and volume

runscribe dashboard1

Clickable

All fairly basic stuff that you’ve probably seen before.

runscribe dashboard1

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But the interesting stuff follows this pretty quickly. Looking at the stats from a ‘shoe’ perspective, below, I get a neat summary of my performance over 3 runs in my somewhat ancient Mizuno Waverider 16s. I was pleasantly surprised that recent work on my form seems to have put me within the realms of being symmetrical. Then there is also the community comparison features where, in the case below, you can see I am efficient compared to the community but have a higher than average impact shock. Such community comparisons and specific trends of the metrics (further below) are where you can REALLY start to nail down problem areas both to highlight injury-causing concerns as well as metrics that might reflect efficiency improvements over time.

runscribe pro

Clickable

Here are some of the detailed metrics from the same 3 runs with that shoe. With more runs over more of my shoe-types the trends will make more actionable sense.

runscribe pro

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Pretty good huh?

Well. it is. But in Mike Myers QVC style speak  “wait there’s more…”

There are more detailed stats breaking down the data for each leg like this:

Clickable

Clickable

There are explanations of the data

clickable

clickable

The ‘Compare Your Runs’ analysis is also interesting, below. The following chart can get very complicated, very quickly, as you load metrics and runs on top of each other. So I’ve kept it simple by just displaying one metric, step rate, for two runs. One is an interval and one a steady run. More than two runs can be overlain as can more than just one on RunScribe’s metrics.

RunScribe Pro

Clickable

I won’t delve into explaining RunScribe’s metrics too much more. But issues like BRAKING are of obvious concern to you if you want to go faster and it would not be unreasonable to assume that BRAKING=BAD, NOT BREAKING=GOOD 🙂 RunScribe also place some weight on ‘FLIGHT RATIO’ which essentially looks at how much time you spend in the air. I’m not sure how that will pan out as I look into it some more. Hopefully it is more than just one of those metrics that tells you that the faster you run the better it gets!

‘Pronation Excursion’ could also be of interest in looking at the susceptibility to some injuries – it’s a measurement of outward tilt of your foot but it is also tempered with pronation playing a part in shock absorption. For example if you wear orthotics to correct pronation you could see how this impacts you with or without wearing the orthotics and/or with different orthotics and/or with different shoe types – sure all that might take quite a bit of time but having 4 weeks off running from injury is a lot of time too. It might also be interesting to look at Pronation Excursion over different terrain types.

Problemettes

I didn’t have any issues of particular concern and I only mention these for completeness:

  • Changing from shoe to shoe is easy providing you have a clip on the other shoe. The clip CAN be taken off but spikes hold it firmly in place when in use. It will not come off by accident. If you changed the metal clip from shoe to shoe daily then you would, over time, cause damage to the material on the inner rear heels of your shoes.
  • Changing from a heel location to a lace location requires the app to unpair/forget the RunScribes and then to re-pair them both. When I first tried this the new position (laces) had wildly inaccurate results but I had forgotten to recalibrate the distance in a test run!
  • I got some very strange readings on one other occasion, probably because the pod may not have been on correctly or knocked. After I run I stretch my hamstrings by putting my heel on a wall – without thinking this bangs the RunScribe. Perhaps I moved the location that time prior to the strange readings the following time?
  • Edit: With some later upgrades to the Android app I have found syncing more difficult. It might boil down to apps like Garmin Conenct that persistently try to keep Bluetooth-smart enabled and that might interfere with Runscribe use of Bluetooth…or not!

runscribeTHOUGHTS:

This is a powerful tool which takes basic pod/shoe-based gait metrics and moves them to the next level (or two) up.

To me some of the strengths of RunScribe include:

  • Ability to compare the effect of differing shoes/insoles across a wide range of run metrics
  • Ability to compare yourself to the RunScribe population
  • Ease of use with virtually no intervention required – as simple as wearing a HRM.

I have heard others argue that RunScribe would be a perfect product for an app for Garmin’s Connect IQ (CIQ). Why? Firstly there would be a very good overlap in the RunScribe user base with high-end Garmin watch owners. Secondly a free CIQ app would work alongside the hardware allowing the vendor still to make money. CIQ certainly does have the technical capacity to display/record RunScribe’s metrics should Scribe Labs be inclined to develop a CIQ app.

I’m not so convinced though. To me RunScribe looks pretty well thought through as it is. I’m not really sure that I would want that level of running detail in the stats instantly on my wrist. Some of these stats would be best looked at at the end of an interval or at the end of a period where you were experimenting with some element of technique/kit. I don’t think it would be appropriate for a runner, for example, to be constantly looking at his/her watch for every stride to see what the braking force was. Indeed the act of looking at the watch may change how s/he runs. But, I’d agree that there might still be a place for that level of instant detail somewhere.

I would be interested to see how the metrics varied over various flat-paces. For example over one or several runs I will run at various paces (let’s assume the run is on an indoor track). Let’s take various pace ranges across all runs and look at the metrics at those different paces. (NB Shock IS looked at over the whole population at different pace levels).

My next thought would be “So what?”. The interpretation of these metrics and then precisely what to do about them requires some research or specialist knowledge. If RunScribe identifies specific outliers in your performance it would be nice to be guided in some way towards how to correct your technique. Having said that, there are detailed resources on RunScribe’s dashboard explaining exactly what the metrics mean AND normal ranges of the data.

Clearly RunScribe is only part of the gait analysis picture. Running biomechanics are highly complex and involve areas other than analysing footstrike events. Others’ products are going to play the part in analysing all of that. RunScribe v3…the body pod? 🙂 We will see! Although for Vertical Oscillation of the body you might just have heard of Garmin’s HRM-RUN and its Running Dynamics. Could Garmin and Scribe Labs work together to come up with common running biometric measures? I’m not sure that would work. Garmin Connect is unlikely to accommodate RunScibe’s metrics to the same level of depth and flexibility as RunScribe’s dashboard. A more holistic picture could be obtained the ‘other way’ ie if Garmin’s POD metrics were brought in over the net from Garmin Connect into RunScribe’s expanded dashboard. But all that data integration looks a bit messy to me. Now, if Garmin bought STRYD and Scribe Labs then something very interesting could happen in the running world. I’m not sure if the cost of the acquisition and the cost of all that post-merger(s) integration work would ever pay itself back though.

In summary then: If you are a coach or data-driven runner and you want to look a bit more at some of the causes of (in)efficiency or injury then RunScribe fits the bill very nicely indeed. BUY.

Alternatives: Kinematix TUNE, Runteq ZOI, Garmin (Advanced) Running Dynamics and Sensoria, new STRYD

Buying: You can only buy directly from the manufacturer <here> AFAIK.

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