Here we have a detailed RunScribe Plus Review, looking at the latest iteration (v3) of this live gait analysis tool and running power meter.
RunScribe Plus Review
The RunScribe Plus version marks a significantly different new product when compared to the previous RunScribe Pro version (v2) – often the older, Pro version is simply referred to as RunScribe.
Published: December 2017.
Summary: It’s cool !
Scribe Labs was formed in 2012 and had a working product a year or so later. The RunScribe Plus version in this review takes gait metric awesomeness to whole new level. First up you can now look at RunScribe’s gait metrics in real time on many mid- to high-end sports watches and, second-up, you now have a running power meter to go head-to-head with the competing STRYD and Garmin Running Power products.
If you are a geeky, gait-metric kinda guy/gal then you will go for the Plus over any other product.
If you are a triathlete or a runner looking to get in on the running with power game then RunScribe is certainly worth close consideration against the other 2 products in that space.
What is it?
It is a shoe-based running gait system with 2 pods that delivers deep running mechanics information to a proprietary app and online platform, synchronising through a smartphone. Essentially this is the carry-over ‘old’ RunScribe platform. It’s good, but…
RunScribe is ALSO a shoe-based running gait system that delivers deep, LIVE, running mechanics information through Garmin CIQ apps and onto Garmin Connect itself. Further analysis-awesomeness will see you take your data further afield to, perhaps, the equally awesome (and free) Golden Cheetah software.
So it’s kinda like the RunScribe System and the Garmin CIQ system work alongside each other, essentially independently. You can use both or either of them
The pods are transferable between pairs of shoes and are worn either on the laces or on the heel (as shown).
Uniquely, you get a RunScribe pod for each shoe (ie 2) enabling you to see the symmetry of your running metrics.
And the other BIGGIE for 2018 is that you get running power and most metrics from BOTH SIDES of your body. No-one else does that.
What is it NOT?
It’s not just a pod that produces cadence, distance, stride length and speed/pace. RunScribe is a WHOLE step change above that.
Who is it for?
Scribe Labs market RunScribe as being for the “data-driven athlete”. I’d go with that and clearly you will see that RunScribe’s gait metrics are great for coaches too.
RunScribe is also great for those of you who want to run with power – initially triathletes but this will gradually encompass more and more runners as time passes.
RunScribe is for athletes who own most watch types. Not just Garmin.
If you want to be voice-coached on your running style via the metrics your gait system collects then you might be better to look at SHFT.
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 and v2.0 products and put together another well thought-through offering with compelling features.
- Positioning – It can be on the heel or on the laces (latter recommended by RunScribe).
- 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. 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.
- An iOS/Android app. You perform the initial setup with the app.
- Optionally 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.
- Optionally you can view RunScribe’s metrics LIVE with a Garmin CIQ app on your sports watch or natively on other sports watch platforms.
OK. It really is this simple.
- Put shoes on. Check they are the shoes with the RunScribe already attached!
- Go for a run!
- Optionally look at the RunScribe live stats on your Garmin CIQ-enabled watch
- Take shoes off 🙂
- (Optionally) put pods on charge for next time.
- Synchronise the pods via Bluetooth with the RunScribe app on your iOS/Android phone and enjoy the stats on your RunScribe dashboard. They have a similar scope either on the app or online.
- Or you could perhaps sync your Garmin watch’s data through to Garmin Connect and you can view your RunScribe data in Garmin Connect.
Smile as you make subtle changes to your running gait and see the stats change in real time on your high-end Garmin 935 (probably the best triathlon watch). See the smile broaden further as you chose between one of several platforms on which to bathe in your run data. (TP, ST3, GC will provide support either now or soon)
OK the geek is probably a pro too. But you will be luxuriating in running your marathon focussing totally on your power output in the certainty that you will achieve your planned time whilst simultaneously not caring about any errant hills that come your way because you are running up them targeting power, not pace.
Garmin & Garmin Connect
Let’s cut to the chase. Many of you are going to be using RunScribe in the Garmin environment. I’ll discuss compatibility later but, unlike Garmin’s Running Power app (GRP), the RunScribe app IS compatible with most Garmin watches that support either the old CIQ 1.x or new CIQ2.x formats eg 920XT and 935 respectively. Just to be clear: More Garmin watches support RunScribe than Garmin watches supporting GRP.
Once the Runscibe app or a datafield is installed, your data naturally becomes part of the Garmin CIQ environment: you can see the metrics live on the watch; the metrics get saved to the FIT file; they get synchronised with Garmin Express; and then can be viewed like any other data in Garmin Connect. Like this…
- Positives – slick & seamless transfer of data. Nice live view of data on Garmin watches. Ability to re-use data stored in Garmin’s FIT file elsewhere.
- Negatives – Garmin Connect only allows a rudamentary overview of your data. For those of you interested in detailed running gait analysis, you will NOT use Garmin Connect. Garmin Connect does not automatically pass the RunScribe ‘special’ data to other platforms you have authenticated with; many of whom would have no ability to display it in any case.
RunScribe’s app synchronises your pod data to the online RunScribe dashboard. That’s where all the gait awesomeness can be seen. You can also see MUCH of the special data on the app.
Dashboard // Home
The dashboard summarises your runs with RunScribe in a couple of normal calendar- and day-based ways. Not especially noteworthy.
This is where you will find the meat of your run. For each run you are presented with 4 main sections of information
- Community Comparison – Your efficiency, shock and motion characteristics compared to the wider community.
- Run Summary – A summary of the key highlights like distance and time. You change DISTANCE here to the correct value to calibrate your pods.
- Tags – By optionally adding a few tags or markers to each workout you can then analyse all workouts as a whole with the same tags eg ‘all interval workouts’ or eg ‘all workouts in shoe X’
- Graph & Metrics – This is a nice graphical summary of your workout where you can overlay several gait metrics and then further break out L/R balance, splits and symmetry.
This data is all great stuff.
Let’s look in a bit more detail at those sections
My typical shock varies between Average and High. This is my area of concern and I know that certain shoes ALWAYS lead to high shock. I also have learnt that some pairs of shoes deliver average shock and seem to be the ones I don’t get injured in. Strange that.
I have a not-too-major stablity issue on my right leg which may go some way to explaining the HIGH pronation velocity. As well as stability I also have right foot mobility isues and also hip flexibility limitations too.
RunScribe places the marker in the sand. There’s a problem. RunScribe won’t tell me how to solve it but if I try a few things then i can watch to see if they start to change (or not) the imbalances that RunScribe sees.
Unsurprisingly a high level summary.
RunScribe are working on auto-calibrating their distance algorithm. For now (Q1.2018), after your first few runs you should edit the distance of selected workouts which then calibrates how the pods interpret distance-based metrics. It is possible to trim parts of workouts and enter distances that correspond to selected parts of the workout rather than the workout as a whole (just do that online).
Distance calibration factors are sync’d back to the pods via the app
Tagging & Calibration
Both the app and dashboard OPTIONALLY allow you to assign various ‘tags’ to your run. You can assign these ‘tags’: specific shoes; terrain; pain points, such as Achilles; and workout types. This sounds like more work and a potential waste of time. BUT It is worth taking a minute to do this as you can, for example, later go on to look at your performances/injuries(!) in relation to these tagged factors.
Graph & Metrics
You can overlay PACE plus one of the RunScribe metrics over the duration of your run
On the right hand side of the image below, you can see the small vertical orange bars representing imbalances. In this particular example there is nothing too much of concern other than the RIGHT PRONATION VELOCITY imbalance at the bottom of the image.
It gets cooler.
The following slide show contains the 4 graph types at the top of the previous image. You toggle through; RUN, SPLITS, SYMMETRY and L/R. Like this…
So, for example, here you could easily look at different splits where you are running at different speeds. Within those splits you could look at the power from each, you could then delve deeper to see leg L/R Stride Length and the L/R Ground Contact time and the Step Rate symmetry.
Here are the metrics which are displayed on the dashboard for you to analyse:
- Summary Metrics: Steps, Distance, Pace, Time (Running, Walking, Stationary) and Stride Length
- Efficiency Indicators: Stride Rate, Contact Time , Flight Ratio and Power
- Motion Profile: Footstrike Type, Pronation Excursion and Pronation Velocity
- Shock: Shock Gs (by footstrike and cumulative), Impact Gs and Braking Gs
- Symmetry: Symmetry snapshot and simultaneous R v L metrics
Moving on to comparisons in this RunScribe Plus Review. Comparisons aggregate the data up for each tag that you have chosen to look at. In the following example I am looking at all the runs with one shoe (Zante) vs all the runs with another shoe (Wave Rider). I could further refine it down to LONG RUNs with each shoe… and so on.
The Zante feels like a faster shoe, maybe I just wear it on faster runs? The chart doesn’t help there (although I could narrow the Workout Type to INTERVALS). But it does say that the contact time for both shoes is the same. Strange, you’d have thought it would be lower when I run faster with a lighter shoe.
Also the Zante has a higher SHOCK and that too is strange as I get less injury with them. But then look at the PRONATION EXCURSION; the WAVE RIDER is higher there, maybe that is the source of my injury problem?
Hopefully you get the general thrust, that this is a wonderful tool to delve into MANY aspects of your running. You need time to do that – as well as having correctly tagged the data in the first place.
The SHOES view of your data in this RunScribe Plus Review provides a bit more detail of the type of runs you perform, the aggregate motion/efficiency/shock stats AND the trend in the stats.
As an example, here the WAVERIDER 17 seems to be associated more with LEFT CALF pain and, in this case, there doesn’t appear to be any particular trend in the metrics over time.
The remainder of the DASHBOARD covers your profile where you can also list injuries. Otherwise there are links to various RunScribe-related information resources such as explanations of the metrics they use, their blog and a community forum.
All good stuff.
You use the Runscribe app for updating the firmware and synchronizing the scaling factors back to the RunScribe Pods. There are also various troubleshooting tools on the app.
You also get the dashboard view and ability to drill down into data from an individual workout. The dashboard view is similar to the online dashboard but slightly reduced in overall scope. Here is a slideshow showing the dashboard and then the extended detail for a single workout as I swipe down the screen.
Compatibility RunScribe Plus Review
App compatibility is given as any Bluetooth SMART Android device plus
- iPhone 4s and above
- iPad 2 and above
- iPad mini
- iPod Touch 5th gen
In terms of watch compatibility this might interest you
Whilst running with power might be one trend for the running world, then ZWIFT is another trend for 2018 and beyond. As of December 2017: RunScribe works with Zwift in beta.
Image Source: RunScribe Forum
This section is left intentionally incomplete at this stage. Pace and power accuracy will be added to this RunScribe Plus Review at some point in 2018.
There are not many other tools that I have access to that can compare the motion, shock and efficiency metrics with the comparable RunScribe metrics.
However, here is an example of a comparison of Ground Contact Time when compared to Garmin’s HRM-TRI chest strap and STRYD’s footpod. You’ll see that RunScribe visually tallies to STRYD quite well. I can’t say for sure if the numbers are correct but it is always a good sign when two agree with each other..
Several of the other RunScribe metrics have no direct comparisons available anywhere else in a consumer tool. So a comparison is simply not possible.
However two KEY metrics that need to be compared are PACE and POWER. As of September 2018 the pace/distance metric is finalised it looks accurate once calibrated.
The accuracy of RunScribe’s RUNNING POWER calculation seems as unknowable as everyone elses. The following linnk to some work I did with the Polar Vantage, Garmin Running Power and STRYD shwos that they are all quite different an uncomparable.
Other Tidbits + Miscellanea
I didn’t have any issues of particular concern in the production of this RunScribe Plus Review and I only mention these out of general interest or for the sake of completeness:
- Sometimes the upload of data from the pod to the app does not complete. Rather than reboot the nefarious pod by pressing the little button on the back instead use the app to reboot the pod. Then synchronise again.
- There’s a little button on the back of each pod. Holding for 8-10 seconds is needed for it to reboot – fiddly.
- If pairing is tricky then reboot your phone and RunScribe pods. The old solutions are often best.
- If you have an old V2 charger do NOT use it with the V3 (RunScribe PLUS) pods and vice-versa
- If you have an active Garmain CIQ data field then you do not need to pair the pods. It sort of does it automatically and seems to find your pods even if somebody else is nearby with pods, presumably signal strength is used.
- Pair it as a footpod if you want RunScribe to be the source of pace (or cadence). You will need to specify that RunScribe is always the source of speed & distance in your sensor settings on the Garmin.
- If present, Garmins use a pod as the primary cadence source, so you don’t have to set that.
- I never tested lace mounting in any detail, although I have shown RunScribe mounted that way in several pictures. If you plan to use LOTS of shoes the lace location is probably best as it is more easily moved from lace to lace. The heel location strikes me as being a generally more fixed/secure location and swapping pods between two pairs of shoes on the heel was no problem – providing you have the metal clips permanently attched to both pairs of shoes.
- I always configure the Right pod to have the Red light. Red=Right. 2x R. Tap the pod before you insert it on the cradle on the shoe and the coloured light comes on. If you are not English I guess that mnemonic might not work.
- RunScribe Plus automatically starts recording at 70/140 cadence. Although how you know precisely where it starts for calibration over a set distance is a bit of a dark art.
- Apparently the app will notify you if a special calibration is required. I never received that notification.
- Changing from shoe to shoe is easy providing you have a clip on the other shoe. The clip CAN be taken off but downward pointing 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 each 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.
- Mounting on the lace is recommended
- Two elements of calibration should be performed via the app: FLAT calibration (on a table) and MOUNT calibration (on the shoes) – this takes a few seconds and needs to be done once attached to new shoes.
- Syncing with an old iPAD is near perfect for me but much less than perfect with my Android smartphone. Performance will vary considerably between Android phone types.
THOUGHTS, PROs & CONs
Scribe Labs (RunScribe) started out in 2014, raising funds on Kickstarter. I would NOT class them as a Kickstarter company any longer.
I want to put what I’m about to say in context in this RunScribe Plus Review: My understanding, after conversations with RunScirbe’s founder Tim, is that he has a significant personal stake in the success of RunScribe. I think this is a massively important distinction to make when you might compare a small company like RunScribe to some Kickstarter companies and their products. A Kickstarter company could well take your money and run, leaving you with nothing. RunScribe have a VERY REAL product and deserve to do well but if they don’t then the owners will take a much bigger hit than you. You can also look at their online forum where issues and methods are being discussed more openly than in many other companies. Take reassurance from the fact that RunScribe has been continually developed and improved over several years and is now on Version 3; there IS work still to be undertaken to improve the product and, AFAIK, that work is being done (edit: September 2018- Sensor Fusion is now live)
Basically: All the right things seem to be happening within the constraints of what a small company can feasbly accomplish.
RunScribe is a powerful tool which takes live pod/shoe-based gait metrics and moves them to the next level. The addition of RUNNING POWER and GARMIN INTEGRATION puts RunScribe nicely on-trend with developments in the wider running-tech world.
There are many strengths and nice features inherent to RunScribe. To me some of the strengths of RunScribe that particularly stand out include:
- Ability to view LIVE gait data (on selected watches), perhaps as you tweak your running style.
- Ability to compare the effect of differing shoes/insoles across a wide range of run metrics on the RunScribe dashboard
- Ability to compare yourself to the RunScribe population
- Support for running with power
- Ease of use with virtually no intervention required – as simple as wearing a HRM.
I would like to see some detailed 3rd party validation of RunScribe’s metrics. The metrics I got all seem plausible enough to me and, at this stage with no evidence to the contrary, I work on the assumption that they are ‘correct enough’ to be actionable.
Bear in mind that there are various industry-wide issues with the definition of Garmin’s Running Dynamics data standards (or lack thereof). That is beyond RunScribe’s control. Criticisms that can be made against RunScribe in that regard would equally apply to Garmin.
In summary then: If you are a coach, sports physio or data-driven runner and you want to look more at some of the causes of (in)efficiency or injury then RunScribe fits the bill very nicely indeed. BUY.
If you want accurate running pace and/or dual-sided running power then RunScribe MIGHT be for you, once we have all validated that the data is actionable.
Alternatives to RunScribe Plus Review
Kinematix TUNE, Runteq ZOI, SHFT, Garmin (Advanced) Running Dynamics, new STRYD and Sensoria are alternatives and there are new ones popping up all the time. Whilst an insole is probably a better location for a sensor I would caution you that such a sensor needs to be super durable even when placed under a regular insole.
NB: Kinematix ceased trading (2017).
The following chart compares the characteristics of the 3 main Running Power contenders:
Alternative data sources: Vertical Oscillation (VO) is defined, I believe, as the bounce of the TORSO. STRYD and Garmin’s HRM-RUN get quite different results for VO but as STRYD measure VO from the foot, that might explain the difference, or not. Either way RunScribe does not produce a VO measure. So if you want VO you might want to use a HRM-RUN in addition to RunScribe – even an older HRM-RUN might do the trick.
One of the great things with CIQ is that data from multiple sensors will be combined into one FIT file for later analysis. Whether or not your analysis package can then read and display all that data is another matter entirely. But the data IS there, all stored separately by each manufacturer.
PRICE, AVAILABILITY & DISCOUNT
V3 RunScribe Plus Pricing: USA $250, UK/EU GBP250
DISCOUNT CODE: SCtfk10 (UK, USA and EU)
If you want to get a pair of RunScribe pods now you can buy direct from RunScribe in the USA using the image links below. It might find its way onto Amazon from time to time.
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