Nike + iPod Sport Kit Review

Pluses and Minuses for Nike + iPod Sport Kit and Shoe Sensor

Nike + iPod Sport Kit
Nike + iPod Sport Kit. Courtesy of

Why carry both your iPod and a pedometer? The Nike + iPod Sport Kit includes a pedometer that fits inside Nike+ ready shoes and communicates wirelessly with your iPod nano, iPod touch or iPhone 3GS or later. A receiver is included to be used with the iPod nano, but it isn't needed with the iPod touch or iPhone. Get audible and visual readouts of your time, speed, and distance while listening to tunes or podcast workouts.

This system is meant to be used for walking or running workouts rather than total daily steps.

Nike + iPod Sport Kit

The kit comes with a sensor meant to fit in a special pocket under the sock liner of a Nike+ ready shoe. It includes the receiver which plugs into an iPod nano or can transmit to the Nike+ Sportband. You don't need the receiver with the iPod touch or iPhone, as that is built-in. It is ready to rock right from the box, after you ensure your Apple device is fully updated.

The shoe sensor can be attached to other shoes, with some experimentation. You will still need the following: an iPod nano or Nike+ Sportband, iPod touch, or iPhone 3GS or later, a computer, preferably a pair of Nike+ ready shoes, and you may want the specially designed armband that fits the iPod once you attach the receiver. Altogether, your investment is going to bump up to $300 or more for the full system, not including the computer.

But if you already have the iPod or iPhone you are ahead of the game and only need to invest in the inexpensive Sport Kit and the $100 shoes. Your regular iPod nano armbands and holders may not fit with the receiver plugged into the bottom, so you may want the new Nike+ iPod armband.

    The Sensor

    The sensor is meant to fit inside a pocket under the sockliner of Nike+ ready shoes. But while awaiting the arrival of my pair of Nike + Air Zoom Moire shoes, I used packaging tape to secure it between the tongue and shoelaces of my regular walking shoes. This held it just fine, although you run the risk of it falling off unnoticed.

    The sensor is a piezoelectric accelerometer pedometer, waterproof and shock resistant. This type of pedometer is more accurate and less picky about being at an angle. It senses steps and estimates distance. I found it to work fairly accurately right out of the box, attached in the forbidden fashion. It estimated my distance within 10% of what my route showed on the Google Map Pedometer. Use the calibration mode for the Nike+iPod sensor to set it to match your walking and running strides.

    The sensor does not have a replaceable battery. When the battery dies in a year or less, you will need to buy another sensor.

    You shouldn't wear it in the shoe when you aren't doing a workout, and may want to turn it off between uses to save battery life.

    Workout with the iPod nano

    To begin your walking or running workout, put on the shoes and iPod nano and select the Nike+iPod option (you may need to update your software). Update the settings with your weight to get the calories burned. Set your workout: basic (just tell it when you are done), time, distance, or calories. Select your playlist or shuffle or no music and start walking or running. You can download workouts and playlists from iTunes. You can also select a Powersong for quick access when you really need motivation.

    When you want an audible update of your time, distance, and speed, press the center select button. You can also view this same data on the screen at any time.

    Pause the workout at any time and resume it, or just pause the music. Press Menu to end your workout. You get a summary of your workout for time, average speed, distance, and calories burned, but no step total. Running celebrity voices congratulate you for your workout. The iPod will save 1000 workouts in memory until downloaded, or you can manually delete them. You can also see your full historical totals.

    Upload Your Data to

    The Nike + iPod Sport Kit includes free access to the website. Simply plug your iPod nano into your computer and it will download to the website. The iPod touch and iPhone will sync the data automatically. There, you can view graphs and totals of your workouts. You can set goals, challenge your friends to virtual races and goals, and buy workouts via iTunes. I love uploading and tracking my data online. You can also view the data of your past workouts on the iPod nano, although without the graphs.

    Nike+ Ready Shoes

    The sensor will work most accurately when tucked safely and securely in the pocket under the sockliner of Nike+ ready shoes. When you shop for Nike shoes, look for the Plus designation.

    Nike + iPod is Only for Dedicated Workouts

    The sensor has a limited battery life and should only be worn in the shoe when you are going to track your workout. That means removing it from the shoes if you are wearing them when not going for a walk or run. You can turn the sensor on and off by using a point to poke the switch on the bottom of the sensor.

    This is annoying if you plan to wear your shoes other than for dedicated walks and runs. I wondered at first what I would do with the receiver unit when I wasn't using it, as well as the sensor if I took it out of the shoe to save battery life. I decided that the Nike+ armband makes a good storage unit for these small parts.

    The Nike+ FuelBand that debuted in 2012 is built for tracking only daily steps and not tracking workouts. The FuelBand SE will also track workouts.

    Doesn't Give Step Totals

    If you are tracking your daily steps or even your workout steps, you won't find it here. All you get is distance in miles or kilometers, time and calories burned.

    Speed and Distance Accuracy

    The distance and speed will only be as accurate as your calibration for your walking and running strides. It is great to get a speed readout, but it pays to calibrate the unit so you can trust it a bit more. It should be more accurate when used with the Nike+ ready shoes rather than just taped under the laces such as I did in a pinch. The plus is that the speedometer function works indoors or outdoors, while the most-accurate GPS units (such as the Garmin Forerunner or Timex Speed + Distance) work only outdoors, and even then don't work in canyons, forests, or when surrounded by tall buildings.

    Easy to Use

    I bought the full system - iPod nano, sport kit, armband, and the Nike+ ready shoes. I found the iPod nano to be super easy to set up and use. The sensor and receiver were also no-brainers. There was practically no setup at all other than installing and updating the software for the iPod nano and iTunes. I use my own headphones rather than the earbuds provided. The only drawback I found on first use was that it was hard to adjust the volume when the iPod nano is in the armband.

    I'm an audiobook listener rather than a music listener, so I was a stranger to using a playlist and ripping songs from my CDs. This was extremely easy to do with iTunes, as you probably know well. You can also download workouts from iTunes, including playlists by athletes.

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