Running has been a saving grace for me throughout the pandemic. While a year of sweating out stress by pounding the pavement has undoubtedly made me a better and more dedicated runner, I am always down to fine-tune my training. So when I heard about NURVV smart running insoles, comprehensive data-tracking wearables that work to optimize your run, I was eager to put them to the test.
NURVV Run is a system that uses a combo of a unique coaching technology and sensor-filled sneaker insoles that transform your kicks into smart shoes: It tracks all aspects of your running game, from your miles, form, training load, footstrike, and so, so much more. And, based on all the data it collects, it gives you personalized recommendations about your run — for example, it can suggest a recovery day after consecutive long runs.
NURVV’s insoles join the ranks of other trending fitness gadgets, like Yoganotch and smart exercise mirrors, which harness smart machine learning technology to optimize data tracking and performance insights for a more efficient, personalized workout routine and give you the tools you need to exercise to the best of your ability — which comes at a prime time, as people are still predominately working out from home without access to a personal trainer or instructor.
Intrigued, I put these insoles to the test for several weeks of regular runs. Here’s how the NURVV insoles work, how they fared in my miles, and what they taught me about my running skills.
How NURVV Run Works
NURVV’s trackers ($300/pair) look a lot like futuristic versions of your run-of-the-mill sneaker insoles, only they’re filled with 16 sensors each that record data like stride length, footstrike, foot pronation, balance, and more for both indoor and outdoor runs. The insoles connect to small GPS devices that clip to the side of your shoes to record your distance and location (they’re about the size of one of those big erasers you used in middle school). And everything is totally weather-proof (take it from me — I slogged through the remnants of a Chicago blizzard).
Data from the sensors and GPS devices are automatically transported to the free NURVV Run app, which gives you detailed info about your run and visualization charts that break down your workout and form right after you’re finished. Then, it’ll give you customized recommendations on how to improve your running game based on that data: If your left foot rotates to its outer edge with every step, for example, the app will give you tips for how to avoid that potentially injurious pronation.
After you’ve logged a handful of jogs, NURVV calculates your “Running Health Score,” which is a comprehensive look at your training that lets you see where you’re shining and where there’s room for improvement. My score went down after I skipped a few runs, so I could see that I was taking too many days off to maintain my usual pace. The app also includes special features like Pace Coach, which uses feedback from the sensors to give you real-time alerts about how to optimize your run, like reminding you to take longer, shorter, or faster steps so that your stride is in tip-top shape.
What It’s Like
Once I slipped the insoles into my sneaks and attached the GPS gadgets, I was happy to learn the inserts are super-thin, so they didn’t make the inside of my shoes feel tight, and the GPS devices are light enough to not weigh down my feet. The GPS will automatically sync with the app from afar or to your smart watch and still give you audio notifications that alert you whenever you’ve completed a mile, making these insoles truly hands-free (though I opted to bring my phone with me so I could listen to music).
I was surprised by how much the insoles can help monitor signs of fatigue or injury
I started with a five-miler per NURVV’s suggestion to log a test run that’s representative of your usual workouts. Over the next two weeks, I logged five more runs between three and five miles, plus an eight-mile long run to see how my insights changed after a variety of distances. After logging several workouts, I learned one pretty important lesson: I needed to space out my running days to avoid overuse. The app also told me — blessedly — that my footstrike, pronation, and balance are all consistently great, which is welcome news after rehabbing a string of sprained ankles that forced me to relearn my stride. I was surprised by how much the insoles can help monitor signs of fatigue or injury: Now I can instantly detect if my form starts to go south because my ankle is acting up, and respond accordingly before I feel any discomfort.
I loved that NURVV Run doesn’t just collect a bunch of data and throw random numbers at you — the app provides detailed, understandable reports about what the data means for your form and training, and where you should go from there. For example, the app sends me daily suggestions for how far to run that day based on changes in my form and how many miles I logged earlier in the week.
Should You Try It?
Short answer: a resounding yes. If you’re a regular runner, NURVV’s insoles deliver tons of data about your running health and custom suggestions for how to be the best runner you can be. It’s easy to use, too, which is a huge perk if you’re looking for detailed specs but don’t want to have to do the analysis yourself. If you’re a casual jogger, though, this may be a data overload, and sparse runs might not allow you to make the most of some of the best features the app has to offer. Personally, I’m keeping these babies nestled in my sneakers.
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Fokkema, T. (2017). Preventing running-related injuries using evidence-based online advice: the design of a randomised-controlled trial. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5530119/
Schubert, A. (2014). Influence of Stride Frequency and Length on Running Mechanics. Sports Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4000471/