This post is going to be a review of a bunch of technology I’ve bought and used while jogging. If that doesn’t interest you, well, move along.
Oh, and anyone who tells you that jogging is great because
it’s just you and the road is a damnable liar. You may not have to buy $1500 fitness equipment up front, but you’ll spend your money in bits and pieces, oh yes you will …
- CD players, $10-$30
Yes, I really have gone jogging with CD players strapped to my bicep … and it’s not pleasant. There’s not much to say here: you really need to have a solid-state (no moving parts) MP3 player. Hard drive based players might hold more data, but jogging will be the death of them. Your CD players will also meet untimely ends as the motivator for the laser arm tries to adjust for the bouncy-bouncy.
Good: It’s better than nothing.
Bad: It’s barely better than nothing.
Ugly: You look like a tool. A cheap, cheap tool.
- iPod Shuffle 2GB, $70
I jogged with a Shuffle for 6 months and never once had anything to complain about.
Good: It’s ultra-lightweight and it will clip just about anywhere.
Bad: Unless you really do listen to everything on shuffle mode, you need to put a bit more work into preparing your music and setting up play order. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s not quite
grab and go, either. Since there’s no screen, you have to have a good memory for what is on your Shuffle and where if you want to be able to navigate it while jogging.
Ugly: The bloated beast that is iTunes.
- iPod nano 16GB, $200
As far as I am concerned, the iPod nano is king when it comes to jogging. Now that the 4th-gen nanos are smart enough to change orientation when you tilt them, they are even better. I used a 3rd-gen nano for almost a year with no major complaints. My current 4th-gen nano is only about a month old, but has already impressed me above and beyond what I had been expecting.
Good: Small. Light. Easy to use. Cover Flow is very useful while jogging.
Bad: The orientation sensor can take a few seconds to catch up, but it’s still bettor than no sensor at all. Battery life doesn’t seem to be as good in the 4th-gen as it was in the 3rd-gen, but that’s completely anecdotal.
I’m not a huge Nike fan, but the fact is that their gear is well-targeted to integrate with the iPod line. And, none of it is horribly expensive. And none of it is horribly bad. So … they are the least worst option, really.
- Nike+ Sport Kit, $30
The little red sensor chip goes in your shoe, while the little white receiver plugs into the bottom of your iPod nano or Touch. (The iPhone has the receiver built-in.) Doesn’t get much simpler than that. For the price, I’d say it’s a better investment than a GPS watch for the average jogger.
Good: Once you calibrate it, it’s pretty accurate. Not GPS-accurate, but within 10%, which is close enough for most joggers. It’s dead simple to hook up and use. The menu setup on the iPod itself is easy to use, especially in recent versions on the 4th-gen nanos. The vocal feedback system is very nice.
Bad: If you don’t calibrate it, it’s worse than useless. I’ve had several sensors go bad within the first 20 miles, but I’ve also had sensors last more than 100 miles.
Ugly: Yet again … iTunes. Getting it to sync up with your nikeplus.com profile is far, far harder than it should be. And the only way to upload your workouts is through iTunes.
- Nike+ WatchRemote, $70
Yeah, I really did buy one of these things. I got it on a whim when I got my new 4th-gen nano because I had a bit of money left over to burn. While I don’t know that I’d say that it’s a great price at $70, as I think maybe $45 would be more reasonable, it doesn’t suck.
Good: Awesome for jogging in cold weather when your iPod is on your armband beneath a jacket. In fact, if you consistently jog in cold weather then it may very well be worth every penny of that $70. Or if you are clumsy and trip easily when fumbling on your arm. It’s also on the slim side, so if you don’t like bulky watches then it won’t turn you off.
Bad: Maybe not so good as an everyday watch, as it scuffs easily. Of course, if you’re only ever going to use it for jogging, then that’s not a problem, right?
Ugly: Nothing. It doesn’t suck.
- Nike Sport Armband, $30
I’ve owned several versions of this armband. They continue to make progress on them. I don’t know if they’ve got the tactile response quite right, though.
Good: The old top-loading style has been replaced with a bottom-loading style that helps prevent the sweat interference problems of the earlier ones. Visibility has also improved.
Bad: Using the wheel in any sort of circular capacity is tricky, both on current plastic-faced models and on older cloth-faced models. The tab on the bottom that is meant to cover the receiver also makes it tricky to get headphones in and out.
Ugly: Getting the nano out of the sleeve after a workout is always a complete pain.
I cannot count the number of headphones that I go through in a year. Here’s a small part of the list, just from the ones that I can remember. Note that I have a strong predilection for the over-the-ear-clip type headphones, as I can’t stand the buds or the old-school ones that sit on the top of your head.
- Sony MDR-J10, $10
Good: Cheap. Fairly reliable. Sold just about everywhere with an electronics department. Easy. Good for both jogging and everyday use. The in-ear design does a great job at passively blocking out external noise. Oh, and did I mention cheap?
Bad: They tend to tangle easily in your pocket. Also, Some batches are
pinchierthan others and can hurt when worn for long periods. But for $10 you can find a different store with a different batch.
Ugly: Not a thing. Maybe the color selection?
- Sony MDR-J11, $15
These are the upgraded version of the last ones: you’re essentially paying the extra $5 for a clip and a bit more plastic. That may seem excessive, but the clip that came with those headphones has lasted me over a year now with countless other headphones, long after the original set died.
Good: Clip! Other than that, pretty much the same list as the last pair.
Bad: They sometimes suffer from the same
pinchinessproblem that the J10s occasionally have.
Ugly: The design is goofy and ostentatious, so you may not want to use them as everyday headphones.
- Sony MDR-AS20J, $20
This set is much more of an upgrade than the last set was. They also come with a clip, but I think the clip from the J11s is better. If you can find these, snap them up!
Good: The loop around your ear is made of a soft rubber-like material, which means that you can wear them all day without them pinching or hurting. Since the loop is closed, they rarely ever tangle in your pocket. Great for both jogging and everyday use.
Bad: Nothing. I love these things.
Ugly: Not a thing.
- Philips SHS3200, $20
I wore these for exactly 2 days before I gave them away. I hated them. They sounded terrible and they pinched like mad.
Good: In theory the more flexible rubberized plastic should pinch less, but …
Bad: The sound was bad, and …
Ugly: In my experience these things pinched quite a bit. I couldn’t wear them for more than 30 minutes at a time.
- Nike Flight Headphones, $20
I got these on a whim when I was buying a few other things. One of my major pet-peeves while jogging is having the cords tugging on my ears—hence why I make such a big deal about having a clip.
Good: The cord-tugging problem is effectively eliminated, even without a clip. Surprisingly light on the ears, too.
Bad: Not very good for everyday use, as the rigid plastic hoop bumps into things like the backs of chairs. If you run with a collared jacket, this could also be a problem. They also suffer from the jack problem that I talk about in the Nike Flow review next, but it’s less of a problem here because you probably aren’t going to use them casually.
Ugly: Because the design uses buds instead of the in-ear parts like the Sony line, these are horrible about blocking out environmental noise such as wind and traffic. I generally have to keep the volume cranked 50% higher when using these headphones. Also, the bass response is horrible, so everything sounds tinny and thin.
- Nike Flow, $20
These are essentially an over-the-ear version of the Flight headphones, as they share the same form factor.
Good: The rubberized clips are comfortable for long use and don’t pinch at all.
Bad: The buds on this set are the same design as the buds on the Nike Flight set previously, so everything there also applies here.
Ugly: I have two glaring problems with these headphones.
First is the jack: it’s a frickin’ inch long on the external part alone. I know Nike did this on purpose for some attempted synergy with the armbands. Remember how I said that the deep tab on the bottom made headphones difficult to plug-in? There you go. Problem being, the long jack makes them bad for everyday use if you drop your iPod in your pocket or wear it on your belt—if your jack catches on stuff as regularly as mine does, this torques the innards of the iPod and will eventually lead to static-filled sound degradation.
The second problem is that they are difficult to put on. The rubberized flexibility of the clip is nice because it doesn’t pinch, but it also means that the clip doesn’t always do what you want it to while trying to tuck it behind your ear. The no-brainer single movement of putting on the Sony earphones (touch clip behind ear, drag forward and around to front) doesn’t apply here. There’s just a lot more fiddling, so if you are constantly taking your headphones off and on, it’s going to be an issue.