runScribe: Can This Gadget Prevent Running Injuries?

runScribe

Photo: runScribe

Whether you’re a weekend jogger or a competitive marathoner, odds are good that you’ll get hurt at some point. Data suggests that up to 80 percent of runners will be sidelined by injury in a given year. So while we may be “born to run,” we also have a tendency to overdo it on the trail, track or pavement. RunScribe, an ambitious new wearable gadget, aspires to help runners train better and avoid overtaxing their bodies. How? By empowering athletes and coaches with sophisticated information on how much stress the body sustains during training runs on various types of terrain and in different footwear. But can mounting an eraser-sized device on the back of your shoe really help you run smarter?

Make Meaning of Your Miles 

The idea is to give athletes a quick way to evaluate how much stress the body withstands on a given training day.

The secret to this small but mighty device is found within its nine-axis sensor. It automatically turns on when you start moving and will wirelessly upload mileage, pace and stride length data via Bluetooth to its accompanying mobile app (iOS and Android) when your sweat session is over. In addition to tracking those statistics, runScribe collects detailed intel on foot strike, pronation, exposure to g-forces and more. The app will calculate 13 different kinematic metrics in total.

Based on the collected data, users will receive a “runScore” for every short jog or long run. But higher or lower is not necessarily better or worse. It’s supposed to be an “intensity metric,” explains Tim Clark, one of runScribe’s co-founders. “You’ll get a big [runScore] number if you go out today and do a crazy hill workout — hard effort, really high impact G’s,” he says. The idea is to give athletes and coaches a quick way to evaluate how a runner’s body is reacting and how much stress it withstands on a given training day. Plus, the app will prompt users to rate levels of pain and discomfort in different parts of the body.

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Another advantage of knowing these stats after a training run? You can compare different sneakers, so you’ll finally know exactly how your body performs in each pair. For example, you can examine the tradeoffs like shock absorption, foot strike and contact time of more supportive shoes versus lighter, minimalist kicks. Plus, the numbers won’t lie when it’s time to buy a new pair. “If your shoes are wearing out and your impact G’s are going up, you’ll know,” says Clark.

runscribe shoe comparison

No Pain, More Gain 

Perhaps best of all, Clark and cofounder John Litschert, a biomechanist, intend to create a large database from runScribe’s crowdsourced metrics in hopes that it will provide insight into how and why runners get hurt. Researchers still don’t know which combination of factors — be it shoe technology, training errors or bad running form — put runners at risk most. But the potential for analyzing thousands of real-world runs could reveal some patterns and also inspire Clark and Litschert to develop new runScribe innovations that could help runners even more. 

Thanks to the roaring success of runScribe’s Kickstarter campaign, it appears that even more exciting features could be en route. The campaign, which began August 21, 2014, has raised almost $200,000, roughly 400 percent of its original goal. If runScribe production continues according to schedule, the units will ship just in time for those turkey trots in late-November.

Want to get in on the action? One runScribe and a starter pack are currently priced at $99, and you can head to the Kickstarter page to pledge your support.