Nike+ Collected wisdom

Another post of limited appeal. Regular readers may want to scroll down. Readers who are curious may want to read about the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit first, and then come back here.

I’ve spent sometime hunting the web for ways to hack the Nike+ system, and thought I’d post my findings here. From hacks, to moans to gear, there is already a lot of info about the Nike+ system out there, some on running sites, some on iPod sites, spread out all over the place. This post is an effort to try and pull some of that info into one place and hopefully be of use to others (ok ok, it’s mainly because my memory is awful and if I don’t post this stuff here I’ll never remember it).

First things first

One very common misconception, one that I’ve read many many times in a variety of different places, is that you need to buy a new set of trainers for the Nike+ system to work.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY THE NIKE TRAINERS.

Yes, despite what is suggested on the Nike website, you DO NOT need to buy the Nike trainers that ‘go with’ the system. If you already own a Nano, and have a pair of running shoes, all you need to buy is the Nike+ Sport Kit (£20 in the UK). The Sport Kit includes the receiver you plugin into your iPod and a sensor. The Nike+ trainer has a special cutout in the sole of the shoe that holds the sensor, but there are several ways of attaching it to your current running shoes. I’ll cover this in more detail later, but for now I repeat:

YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY THE NIKE TRAINERS.

Minor caveat: Some people are suggesting that the position of the Nike+ sensor (whether embedded in the sole of the shoe, or attached to the top) makes a difference to the measurements it records. If you really want a “to the metre” measurement of how far you’ve run buy a proper GPS system. I’d say that for most amateur runners who really only need an idea of roughly how far and how fast they are running, the Nike+ system is fine.

Official stuff

Kinda obvious but it’s worth checking the official Nike+ FAQ, as well as the Apple Support website, for any updates to either the Nike+ website (for new features) or the software (in the form of updates to your Nano).

Top Tip: If you already have a login, and are outside the US, login to the Nike+ site and change your country to “United States” (Country Selector option, bottom left of window) to get the latest homescreen and more functionality. Currently includes Map It, which allows you to map your run route using Google Maps, and a couple of downloadable desktop widgets, more on those later.

Gear

Anyone who has an iPod knows that there are numerous 3rd party add-ons that compete with the official Apple products. It’s the same with the Nike+ system. Nike offer a custom top, with built in controls for your iPod, as well as the trainers you don’t need to buy.

There are a large variety of products for attaching the sensor to your shoe, and several cases for the Nano itself, I’ve not bought any of the official products and have had no hassles at all with the Nike+ system.

I use the Marware pouch for the sensor and an XtremeMac SportWrap for the Nano with the bottom sliced open to accomodate the Nike+ addon. Works like a charm. Total cost is around £18.

Limitations

As I touched on above, I do not consider the Nike+ system to be as accurate as a proper GPS system as it just doesn’t process the same kind of data. Those limitations aside, there are other frustrations, largely centred around the lack of accessibility of the run data the Nike+ system collects. Like many others, I think Nike/Apple have missed the boat here. There are a huge number of possible “social” and “mashup” applications that could easily be supported if they opened the format a little. Hell, even the ability to share my run data with others would be a start.

A list of the common frustrations:

  • Why can’t anyone else see my run data?
  • Why is there no RSS feed of my run data?
  • Why can’t I republish my run data on my own site?
  • Why can’t add custom data to each run?

Hopefully the following section will help answer some of those questions.

Hack this

The internet is full of geeks and it seems a lot of those geeks go running. So it’s no surprise to see a few 3rd party hacks springing up around the Nike+ system. Whether you want to hack the data from your iPod, or manipulate the data directly from the Nike+ website, the following links may be of interest:

  • OFFICIAL – Yahoo desktop widgets – Nike offer two a Challenges Widget (download for PC or Mac) and a Goals Widget (download for PC or Mac)
  • JustDoing.it – a nice play on the well known Nike slogan, this site offers an RSS feed and a simple badge that displays recent run stats.
  • Nike+ Stats Plugin for WordPress – displays your run stats on your WordPress blog
  • Apparently you can hack run data directly.
  • And you can now name runs, giving you the ability to use that field to store some brief notes: “Wet, muddy, brilliant”.

The support forums are quite a good source of info as well, so keep an eye on them for any new developments.

And finally

The industry that has sprung up around the Nike+ system is still maturing, as is the product itself. Nike are not a technology company, although I’d have expected Apple to give them a little more guidance than they SEEM to have, but I’m hopeful that the product offering will continue to improve.

However, given Apple’s record of working with other companies, there is a fear that they will ditch the Nike+ system in the future. Leverage the 3rd party gear that cuts out the need for Nike products, Apple could easily take the Sport Kit system forward. Remember, they ditched Motorola then created the iPhone. Only time will tell on that front.

I’m still not convinced

The Nike+ system is not for everyone. There are more accurate tools out there, and if you don’t already have a Nano (and old one at that as the new ones might have a few issues with the Nike+ system. As ever with these things YMMV), then have a look for the Polar Running Watch which records more information for around the same price as a Nano.

But, for a lot of people, the added bonus of the Nike+ system is only really found when you tap into the Nike+ website. You can set yourself goals, easily see your progress and there are many many challenges out there, for all levels of runner, which just add to the whole experience IMHO.

No, it’s not for everyone, but if you are a jogger and enjoying running, if you don’t take things too seriously, and you are looking for a way to track some basic run info, then I’d thoroughly recommend you give the Nike+ Sport Kit at try. And if you do, let me know… I’m always up for a challenge!

6 comments

  1. You might want to amend that final parapgraph to “If you are a jogger and enjoy running, if you don’t take things too seriously and you are looking for a way to track some basic run info and you own or about to become an owner of an iPod nano the I’d thoroughly recommend…”

    But definitely a useful post. Cheers Gordon.

  2. ‘mutually inclusive’ methinks? or is it one of these things which means the same as the opposite exclusive/inclusive? sorry I’ve irritated myself now!

  3. I have to say the Polar also gives you heart rate & altitude so not only do you know how far you’ve been but how much you’ve climbed and how much “work” you were doing at the time. It makes it much easier to track personal progress over time and also to compare different routes.

    I guess there’s a discussion to be had about “the right tool for the job” – I don’t use the phone or media player in my phone, when I want to take pictures I use my DSLR, when I want music I plug in my shuffle (even then I don’t use the generic apple phones but specific sports phone better suited to my needs)

  4. I agree that the web site is the key, like the brilliance of the Itunes software itself. I am in awe of the way you plug the nano into your usb and it downloads your latest podcasts, charges, and uploads your latest runs – it’s proper useful software!
    The goals and linking up with a “virtual” running club are excellent concepts.

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