A running shoe that tells you when to take it easy — or push your pace — sounds very space-age. But it’s actually available now. Recovery monitoring is all part of the smart shoe technology that comes in a pretty attractive package, and is user-friendly enough that even a tech-hating runner could appreciate Under Armour’s Gemini 3 Record Equipped shoe.
In addition to monitoring your readiness to work out , you can also track your run while being unplugged from your smartphone. Imagine getting out on the trails and running in blissful, meditative silence … Priceless.
Confession: I was initially leery of the smart-shoe concept. Coming from a cycling background, I’m used to monitoring my every pedal stroke while leaving my runs largely to my intuition. But, a data nerd is a data nerd, and when I realized there was a way to track my distance without my phone, I was sold.
The setup was ridiculously easy, so it was no problem to get out the door. If you already use MapMyRun, it’s wicked easy and can be done in less than a minute. You can even set your shoes to auto-record so you never miss a step, since they only recognize a run once you hit an 11-minute mile pace.
Having previously tried the Gemini 3 running shoes without the Record-equipped feature, I was surprised that even with the devices embedded, they still felt the same and performed just as well as the originals. Despite regularly testing different shoes, I still don’t have the easiest time breaking in most running shoes, but the mesh used in the toebox of these made the break-in much less painful, and much faster. As running shoes go — with or without the Record-equipped feature — I found the shoes comfortable enough to make it into my regular running shoe lineup.
SMARTSHOE SANS SMARTPHONE
It takes time to get used to the idea of recording a run without a smartphone or GPS watch — so much so that I felt anxiety heading out for a run without my phone. It felt like I was forgetting something very important. But I quickly got used to the sense of freedom, and every time I came back home and synced my shoes, I felt a smug sense of accomplishment: “I was out in nature, meditating on life, and I still have my mileage tracked.”
Of course, there were also days when the phone tagged along because a girl’s gotta keep up on her podcasts, but the fact that I didn’t need to drain my phone’s battery with tracking was a major plus.
The shoe tests your recovery and readiness to work out through what Under Armour calls the Jump-Around test. (I dare you to read that and not get this song stuck in your head.) It’s one of the coolest features, but it does take a few days to get used to. Since it involves lacing up at the start of the day and literally jumping around, it’s a habit that takes time to remember. But I did notice that, once I had done it for a few days, it really was able to predict how recovered I was, and my runs reflected it. I did better running and feeling human the next day when I heeded its advice to go easy — and the day I ignored the advice and went hard when it told me not to, I paid for it.
At $160, they’re only $30 more expensive than the low-tech version of the same shoe — and since they come with a year of premium membership for UA MapMyRun MVP (a $30 value), the argument can be made that you’re not paying extra. MVP features include live-tracking via the app so loved ones know your whereabouts, cadence analysis, training plans and mobile coaching.
Considering the cost of a fitness tracker or pedometer that can read cadence or recovery rate, a shoe that turns your free phone app into a full-service training log is worth the price. For some newer runners, that $160 price tag may seem daunting at first, but on average, a good running shoe is easily in the $100–$130 range, so it’s really only a slight jump.
To me, the no-touch tracking for runs when I didn’t feel like bringing a phone but still wanted proof-of-workout, was the coolest feature. There’s something great about being able to use technology to actually live more simply, and just lace up and head out. Because I’m meditating when I run. (She said, with a clearly zen-like and not-at-all superior tone. Just ask her shoes. They’ll tell you.)
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN