Best Fitness Tracker & Foot Pods For Running On a Treadmill

In case you are looking for a fitness tracker or a foot pod to track your treadmill running or to use it with Zwift, this article will help you with it.

While researching to find the best fitness tracker for running on a treadmill, I stumbled upon an experiment conducted in 2019 in the UK in which runners wore various fitness trackers in the form of smartwatches and bands from the biggest names in the industry and been asked to run on treadmills until the watch/band showed that they had completed a marathon.
Then it was checked how much they actually ran.
The result: most of the watches were very inaccurate!

Apple Watch Series 1 – was found as the most accurate smartwatch on the treadmill marathon test

The study, whose findings were published on the BBC website, was conducted on 118 people. The subjects ran on treadmills, each wearing a fitness tracker smartwatch/band of a different company, with the goal of checking whether the data on the fitness tracker matched the distance the runners actually performed. The answer, in general, is not.



Best Fitness Tracker For Running On a Treadmill In 2020

When each of the fitness trackers showed that the subject had passed a marathon distance of 42.2 kilometers, he got off the treadmill and checked how much he actually ran.

According to the findings, the least reliable fitness tracker was Garmin Vivosmart 4 by Garmin.

The participants who wore the smart band actually ran more than 59 kilometers when the band showed only 42.2 kilometers.

What about Apple watches?

Of all the watches tested, the Apple Watch series 1 was the most accurate. The watch showed an inaccuracy of just 1%.

Surprisingly, The watches from the newer series, Apple Watch 3, were much inaccurate and informed the person that he had completed a marathon even though he actually ran only 36.7 kilometers.

Regarding the Apple watch series 4, I have no information for how it works on a treadmill and haven’t used it on a treadmill yet, however, if you have any experiences with that, please share it with us in the comments below.

Samsung’s Samsung Gear S2 also gave a depressing picture: It informed participants that they had completed a marathon only after sinking 58.2 kilometers.
  
The Xiaomi Amazfit Bip watch reported a target of 57.4 kilometers. In contrast, Huawei Watch 2 Sport reported that the target was reached only after 30.4 kilometers.

“Our tests have found that several models of big brands cannot be trusted when it comes to measuring distance on a treadmill,” the researchers said. “Before you buy, be sure to do the tests to find a model you can count on.”

It is important to note that this is only one part of the ability of fitness bands and smartwatches. These devices know how to count steps, measure heart rate, calculate the number of calories you burned in practice, measure the distance you traveled, and report on other parameters.
They just don’t do it so well on a treadmill…

best fitness trackers for running on treadmill

What features should you seek in a fitness tracker for a treadmill?

It is true that tracking a treadmill run is less accurate than an outdoor run with a GPS since you are not really moving any distance on the treadmill.

However, most of the fitness trackers are able to track your treadmill’s runs. By using the motion and accelerometers sensors, they are able to track your hand’s movement and by using an algorithm they are able to track your run stats on a treadmill.

Some will do it better than the others and some will require manual updating and others will do it automatically.

As for HR measurement – all of the fitness trackers that track heart rate from the wrist will not provide a very accurate HR tracking while doing intervals or when the pace is very high, however, they are able to be quite accurate when the pace is constant and not too high.

Want to know more how accurate and reliable fitness trackers are? read about the accuracy tests of the premium sport watches here!

So, in case you are running in intervals or in a high pace, you will have to add a chest strap – you can check out my article on the best fitness trackers with chest strap and why you need them.

Required features:

  1. An accurate cadence and speed tracker using an accelerometer
  2. An accurate heart rate measurement(for a more accurate measurement you should use a chest strap)
  3. A good dedicated app where you can store all your stats
  4. If you love running with music than a device that is capable of playing music or enables you to control the music on your phone from it.

Most of Fitbit devices and lots of Garmin’s uses a built-in accelerometer.
An accelerometer is basically a sensor that can track cadence, speed, and distance without the need for a GPS.

In order for the accelerometer and motion sensors in your fitness tracker to work properly on the treadmill you have to do the followings:

  • First, you have to calibrate it, usually, the best way to calibrate your fitness tracker is by running a few runs with the GPS(if your fitness tracker has one) will help to calibrate it, you check out with the manufacturer whether calibration is needed and how to do it.
  • Secondly, since the accelerometer and motion sensors are measuring by using your hand’s movement, try not to walk or run with your hands on the grip bar of the treadmill.
    Some people are using it on their ankle(if it fits there) and reporting an accurate tracking this way, though, it isn’t the official use for these trackers (I have written a related article on the best fitness tracker for the ankle that you can view here on my website).
  • According to Garmin’s suggestion, The treadmill should be at a 1% incline for best measurements.

If you have a Garmin device that doesn’t have a built-in accelerometer than you should check out Garmin’s Foot Pod which is a sensor that you put in your shoe and can sync with many Garmin devices(Check out its compatible Garmin devices on Garmin’s website) and according to Garmin it can achieve 98 percent accuracy for speed and distance.

You can check out the Garmin Foot Pod here on Amazon.

I will elaborate more on foot pods and their pros later in the article.

*A small tip – I recommend to manually change your stride lengths in order for it to track your run on the treadmill correctly – you can do so in your App’s settings.

A GPS is not required while running indoor, however, if you, like me, like to run both indoor and outdoor than a good fitness tracker with a built-in GPS might be a great idea(you can leave it turned off while on a treadmill)

How accurate is the treadmill’s distance HR, and speed tracking?

The built-in speed and distance tracker in the treadmill is very accurate when it comes to distance and speed.
The treadmill tracker reads the number of rounds that the belt is making. Since the belt comes with a certain length it is very easy for the treadmill’s tracker to track the distance accurately.

As for the HR tracking on the treadmills – it differs between one brand to another, most of the fitness trackers will do a better job with that.

Best Solution For Running On A Treadmill In 2020 – The Zwift Platform

So we already understand that Fitness trackers are not so accurate on a treadmill on top of that many of us find running on a Treadmill very boring.

What’s the solution? Meet “Zwift”.

What is Zwift?

Zwift was invented by a guy who was bored to ride alone in 2014. It’s a social platform that acts like a computer game where every rider connects from his trainer at home, gets an avatar and simulates riding in tracks, teams, and competitions.

Currently, there are more than 350,000 subscribers, the subscription cost is $ 15 a month and just recently it has raised the second raise of $ 120 million, a third of which for producing esports competitions.

The record of users at the same time was 13,000 riders, says Alex Wolfson, who founded the Smart Trainers group on Facebook (at the event of the Tacx importer).

About a year ago, Zwift decided to enter the world of running and needed a solution to transfer the runner’s movement on the track and speed to his virtual figure in Zwift’s world.

So they acquired Milestone – an Israeli startup founded by Zach Goren and Meir Mechlin.

Milestone has developed a pod for running shoes that measure distance and parameters related to running style – The Zwift Run Pod

Basically, you will have to attach the Zwift run pod to your shoe, once you attached it you then have to calibrate it to your Zwift account and that’s it.

Here is a video demonstration of how to calibrate your run pod to Zwift:

My recommendation For The Best Fitness Trackers For Runners On Treadmill

Since there are many variables(mentioned above) that you have to pay attention to when running with a fitness tracker on your wrist, I cannot recommend one fitness tracker that will do a perfect job for everyone on a treadmill.

In fact, most of the fitness trackers, even the fanciest ones with a built-in accelerometer will not give you accurate data on a treadmill and any changes in hand movement will increase the accuracy dramatically.

A wrist-based accelerometer is not the most accurate for measuring pace since it tracks by using your hand’s gestures.

For these reasons, my best recommendation for a fitness tracker for a treadmill is to use a Foot Pod with your devices.

Best Foot Pod for Zwift and treadmill running

Benefits of Using Foot Pod

Foot Pod is a device that you can attach to your shoes and it offers much better accuracy than the smartwatch especially if you are running on the treadmill. The following are some of the benefits of using foot pod.

  • The biggest advantage of using the foot pod is that you will get the accurate data. Especially when you run on the treadmill, your smartwatch can’t use the GPS and it will be using the accelerometer for measuring pace which can be compromised in many cases. For example, if you are just walking on the treadmill but if you are moving your arms fast then your smartwatch will consider the speed of your arm as actual speed because its reference point is your arm, not your body. Instead, if you use the foot pod, it will be attached to your foot and you will get a much more accurate rate.
  • Foot pods are also very small in size and they are easily portable. You can simply carry them in your pocket to the gym for treadmill running.
  • Some Foot Pods also come with many advanced sensors that offer deep insight on running metrics such as ground time, cadence, pace, distance, form power, and many more.
  • Some Garmin watches also come with the Virtual Run feature which comes very handy for treadmill running. However, Garmin watches still not very accurate and you will need to use the Garmin Foot Pod to get the accurate data on running metrics.

These are some of the benefits of using Foot Pod. Zwift only supports the Bluetooth connection so if you pick a foot pod which only supports the ANT+ connection then you use your smartwatch as a bridge between Zwift and the foot pod.

Best Foot Pods for Treadmill

Foot pods are considered the ideal choice for treadmill runners because they offer very precise data without any compromise. When you use the foot pod, it will record the data accurately and then transfer it to the fitness tracker app.

There are different types of foot pods available that work well for the various devices. So, if you want to pick the best food pod for you then you will have to consider the smartwatch you use and the features you want to get.

Best Foot Pod for Apple Watch – STRYD

STRYD is the premium foot pod which comes with the top of the line features and build quality. STRYD is also very accurate and it uses the advanced sensors to ensure that you get accurate data.

It also provide information on other metrics such as Power, Form Power, leg spring stiffness, ground time, vertical oscillation, cadence, pace and distance which can be very helpful. STRYD also has seamless integration with Apple watch which makes an ideal Foot Pod for Apple Watch.

Pros

  • Seamless Integration with Apple Watch
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate
  • Tons of great features
  • Splash Proof

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t work well with Garmin Watches

Best Foot Pod for Garmin Watch

Garmin is a popular fitness brand and the company offers its own versions of the Pods: Garmin Foot Pod and Garmin Running Dynamics Pod.

Garmin Foot Pod is a simple foot pod that can help you calculate the running cadence and pace when it is connected to your smartwatch. It uses the MEMS Inertial-sensor Technology which helps you measure speed and distance with 98% accuracy.

On the other hand, Garmin Running Dynamic Pod is an advanced pod that can help you calculate 6 running metrics such as Cadence, Ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical oscillation, vertical ratio, and ground contact time.

Best Budget Foot Pod – Zwift RunPod

If you are on a budget and looking for an affordable foot pod then you can’t go wrong with Zwift RunPod. It is a basic Foot Pod but it works really well. It can help you measure the speed, cadence, and distance.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great Value for Money
  • Can measure speed, cadence, and distance

Cons

  • No Advanced running metrics
  • Some users complained about compatibility issues with Apple Devices

The Best Foot Pods for Zwift

Not every foot pod works well with the Zwift and that’s why I will share the Best Foot Pods which are compatible with the Zwift.

Zwift RunPod

Zwift RunPod is one of the best Foot Pods for Zwift. It is designed by the Zwift so you will get much better integration with the Zwift. It is not an advanced foot pod but it can measure some basic running metrics such as speed, cadence, and distance very accurately. If you are looking for the best foot pod for Zwift in the budget section then Zwift RunPod is an ideal option for you.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great Value for Money
  • Can measure speed, cadence, and distance
  • Bluetooth Connectivity

Cons

  • No Advanced running metrics
  • Some users complained about compatibility issues with Apple Devices

STRYD Footpod

STRYD FootPod is an advanced foot pod that is designed for the runners. It can accurately provide data on many running metrics such as Power, Form Power, leg spring stiffness, ground time, vertical oscillation, cadence, pace, and distance. It is also splash-proof and you can use it for Zwift as well as for outdoor running.

Pros

  • Seamless Integration with Apple Watch, Polar, Sunnto, Android and IOS
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate running metrics
  • Splash Proof
  • STRYD Insights

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Integration issues with Garmin Watches

STRYD Live Footpod

STRYD Live Footpod is the tone down version of the regular STRYD Footpod. It is specifically designed for the Zwift users and it comes with limited features. SYRYD Live can accurately measure the running metrics such as Pace, Distance, Cadence, Vertical oscillation, and ground time. It also doesn’t come with STRYD Insights which you get in the STRYD Footpod.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good Build Quality
  • Designed for Zwift users

Cons

  • No Advanced features
  • No STRYD Insights

Polar Stride Sensor

Polar Stride Sensor is another foot pod which is compatible with the Zwift. It can accurately measure the running metrics such as speed, distance, cadence, and stride length. The overall build quality of the Polar Stride Sensor is also good but the problem with it is that it has a large size which can be a deal-breaker for some people.

Pros

  • Accurate
  • Good Build Quality
  • Easy to use
  • Bluetooth Connectivity

Cons

  • Large size
  • Expensive

Garmin Foot Pod

Garmin Foot Pod is a very capable foot pod that works really well with the Zwift. It is not as advanced as the other food pods but it can accurately measure the running metrics such as speed, distance, and cadence. The problem with Garmin Food Pod is that it only supports the ANT+ so if you want to use it with Zwift then you will be using your Garmin Watch as the bridge between the Zwift and Foot Pod.

Also, Zwift is compatible with a few Garmin watches and can sync directly with them using the “virtual Run” option, however as I mentioned the wrist-based accelerometer is not accurate and I don’t recommend doing it.

Here is a video explanation

Pros

  • Great Build Quality
  • Measure Speed, Distance, and Cadence
  • Accurate

Cons

  • ANT+ Only
  • Relatively Expensive

Conclusion

A final word from me as a personal trainer – the most important thing is that you will pay attention to how you feel while doing sports activities, yes, gadgets can help but don’t count on them! you first have to exercise by feeling!

I hope that I helped you with finding the best fitness tracker and foot pods for running on a treadmill in 2020.

I will be very happy to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments section below!