Okay, so there is a small raft of foot pod sensors available for runners out there in order to gain additional metrics with regard to cadence and pace when you’re out pummelling the tarmac. Some of those senses can be used for Zwift running. Now we are beginning to see devices that are clearly intended specifically for Zwift running. The Nort Pole Engineering Runn Treadmill Sensor is one of those devices. So let’s a take a closer look
Zwift Running With The North Pole Runn Treadmill Sensor Review
So cards on the table, the Runn treadmill sensor not actually a Zwift specific device, it is designed for anybody who might want to run and train on a treadmill whilst taking a greater role in tracking their metrics in terms of speed and cadence incline also surprisingly power via apps such as Sufferfest, NPE’s own GymTrakre, however, we all know that in reality, the NPE Runn is directly targetting Zwift Running users
NPE or North Pole engineering maybe a name that comes to mind from there Zwift sphere generally, as they were a company who got involved with additional products for Zwift very early on. NPE producing the WASP CABLE bridge device, allowing users with an ANT+ sensor to connect to the CABLE and rebroadcast that data over Bluetooth.
Whilst this might sound a VERY niche device – it is, however, the WASP CABLE is still exceptionally useful for many Zwift riders trying to use Apple TV / mobile versions of Zwift requiring BlueTooth, but who have perfectly serviceable sensor units, for example, older power meters, which are only single-channel ANT+ communication units, and thus are not directly compatible
With the Runn, NPE has managed to capitalise on the fact that this device will be mounted to a treadmill semi-permanently, as a result, the unit is colossal, by comparison to the raft of other foot pods on the market.
In some ways, Zwift is the inverse of the classic running treadmill. Many people well versed in the horrors facing a wall, running on a treadmill brings but there has been less of a movement in his left running, then there was wind with cycling came on the scene, possibly because it is so much easier to go for a run outside than it is for a bike ride. Nevertheless, in the last few years, given the Zwift push into running, and the influx of low-cost treadmills it makes sense that peripherals companies would be attempting to engage with users and facilitate their access to apps to improve their treadmill sessions. That said, I do think it is interesting that we are not seeing the development of smart treadmill is connected to Zwift, in the same way that we have smart trainers – particularly so, as the average treadmill, is a particularly poor device when it comes to quantifying anything beyond simple distance and duration of exercise.
Improving metrics taken from a standard treadmill is often very difficult and NPE with the Runn, aims to make that a thing of the past. Just to fix the device to the treadmill, do a brief calibration within Zwift, and off you go. Really is that simple! So before we dive any deeper into using the NPE Runn, let’s just have a look what actually comes in the box
North Pole Runn Treadmill Sensor Review – Design
The Runn comes in a very nondescript white box. There isn’t even any NPE branding on the top which seems a little odd. Inside, you get a brief introductory statement and note that the run is seemingly packaged upside down. Maybe it’s just me, these are the things that I notice. I would normally open the box upwards rather than down.
When you remove the NPE Runn and have a look inside there are 3x 3M VHB stickers for attaching the units the treadmill. There are a series of silver reflectors which are used by the sensor to detect the speed at which the treadmill is running. The plastic cradle into which to seat the Runn, and a USB charge cable
The Runn is itself relatively non-descriptive. Carrying its own branding on the top, there are three status dots all showing blue – what indicating charging, the other indicating power on, on the other indicating that the unit is detecting the treadmill passing by
On the bottom left of the unit, there is a white power button, to well, I’m sure you can work that one out!
Beside the power button, is the Flip down rubber seal which covers the micro USB port. It’s worthwhile noting that there is quite a long rubber bung, that goes inside the port in order to prevent any issues with sweat, into the unit
Staying on the other side, there is a raised section at the front of the unit, which houses the lasers, used to monitor the treadmill belt going by, with is achieved by sticking the silver markers to the belt.
Within the clip that holds the units the treadmill, or a series of ridges, that allow you to adjust the height of the run from the actual treadmill itself.
As mentioned, the end user does have to do a calibration, before they are able to go running, but you do need to be installed on the treadmill for that. The only element of installation required by the user before putting onto the treadmill, is the application of the 3M tape to the base
As a side note, as I don’t have my own treadmill, use it, I found it much easier to apply some double sided nano tape rather than the 3M, which meant that the Runn unit attached firmly to the treadmill, but I was also able to pull it off without any issues afterwards and reaffix it on another day
Thankfully only need to use a single silver marker on the belt of the trainer, so given the 16 within the box, I wouldn’t have any concerns about swapping from treadmill to treadmill – although I’m pretty certain that this is nothing more than a light marker, as a result you get a similar permanent effect by using a blob of Tippex, just make sure you have a chat with the owner of the treadmill first!
Using the North Pole Runn Treadmill Sensor
The NPE RUNN is simultaneously a very smart bit of kit, and also an exceptionally simple device. By doing a simple calibration run, which can be done within Zwift, the unit will detect how often at the silver markers are flashing by, and will be able to calibrate its speed sensor
I’d suggest giving the treadmill a brief spin first to make sure that you are getting a connection with the unit. If there is any doubt, then it’s always worthwhile to reposition the Runn unit perfectly parallel to the track.
Whilst you can connect to your watches such as your Garmin or Polar running watch, you will also need to then utilise NPE’s GYMtracker app to calibrate. Frankly, it is much easier simply to connect to Zwift, and calibrate within there
I think it’s worthwhile highlighting, weatherwise it’s a large battery pack, or large antenna, the NPE run, connected straight away to the swift. I always have a modicum of difficulty with either the Zwift RunPod, or the Stryd unit getting a connection. Not a major issue, but just an occasional night that I was glad, not have to deal with with the Runn – I did have the faff about getting the Zwift pod to connect of course.
Calibration involves doing a timed run at slow normal and fast passes. Zwift will tell you the speed which is your treadmill to be set out, so in this case 11.5 km/h and then you run, until Zwift asks you to move to the next speed setting
From there, you’re pretty much set to go off to the races! As the NPE Runn is able to effectively record data from the treadmill travelling up to 15 mph – as in the belt, not that somebody has just thrown a treadmill at you at 15MPH – although either is still an impressive feat of physical exertion, I don’t think anybody is going to bump into the limits of the technology here!!
North Pole Runn Treadmill Sensor Accuracy
It’s all well and good doing calibrations, and saying that it runs along nicely if the unit is not actually in any way recording correct data! There is always some variation in the accuracy of a treadmill, so rather than testing against the treadmill itself, I put the run sensor to the test against my Fenix 6, and Zwift’s own run pod
Let’s not forget, that the NPE Runn, is able to measure speed, cadence, and incline. I don’t really have a way of measuring and confirming incline, this I focused on speed and cadence for this test
So for cadence, you can see that the graph is very nice between all three units. No major variation, but a brief drop out where the Runn sensor came lose – entirely my fault. As this being a gym unit, I had stuck the NPE Runn down only lightly rather than firmly
What’s the graph is nice, it’s always useful to have some analytics data and here are the averages for the cadence across that same run
Frankly, when it comes to cadence, I’m not sure what more you could want more from those numbers! (I excluded the data where the Runn fell off!)
OK, Running quickly onwards – see what I did there 😉 let’s see how the speed lines up with the three units. What’s the average is of good between all three models, the run unit certainly seems to be reading slightly faster. Given that the Fenix and the Zwift foot pod are actually attached to me, flailing around as I run, I’m actually inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the NPE Runn sensor here as it fixed in place, and not at the mercy of the vagaries of my gait pattern
North Pole Runn Treadmill Sensor Accuracy
That’s £99, initially, the NPE Runn can seem to be quite an expensive device. But if you are already, then I’m pretty confident that upgrading that to one of the latest generation unit is going to be much more impactful on the wallet. If you want to get into as with running in the cheapest possible way, the footpath will suffice, but I will highlight there are a few irritations with it.
The stride, has the benefit of commenting about your running characteristics but is nearly double the price. The real benefit of the NPE Runn, is it’s fire and forget nature. You don’t have to worry about the device running down when you are using your trainers anything other than a run. Even if you do consider a nano tape approach, then you have the ability to easily upgrade any treadmill when you’re travelling.
If cycling isn’t your thing, and you want to get additional data from your treadmill workouts, not least increase accuracy, I would certainly consider the North Pole Engineering Runn Treadmill sensor something to invest in as we wait for spring to finally arrive
This review has been made possible by a loaner NPE Runn from CyclingPowermeters.com – who have kindly offered TitaniumGeek readers a 10% discount with the code “titaniumgeek10”