Tracking indoor runs on Android phones with foot pod

It’s not a problem to find an app for runners on Android based device that uses GPS for calculating speed, distance and route. We have: Endomond, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Spotrstracklive, miCoach, Wahoo, Nike+ etc. But how to keep record of indoor trainings on the treadmill? Especially now when the winter is coming:).

At this moment the best option is to use an external foot pod. A brief explanation for those, who don’t know what foot pod is:

Foot pod is an external device with accelerometer that can be attached to the shoe (normally to the lances or inside shoe if they have the Nike+ or miCoach system). The accelerometer then by measuring our step length can estimate the distance, speed and cadence (number of steps per minute).

Short and trivial explanation but it think for now that’s enough.

About foot pods

Foot pods are well known in the industry since those were in use in sports watches before the GPS era so the technology is mature and quite accurate (usually 95% if not calibrated, and about 99% if calibrated – at least that’s the story with Garmin foot pod that I use). My personal experience is that after calculation with GPS the accuracy could even more (sometimes even 99,8% comparing to GPS data).

Technologies

So we have the foot pod and we have android phone. How the device sends data to the mobile phone? Well, we have 2 transmission technologies:

Technology Supported devices Notes
ANT+ Phones with build in ANT+ radio – list available here. Or with external ANT+ adapter connected through OTG cable (e.g. the ANT+ stick from Garmin that is included for some watches like 310XT). ANT+ technology is well known standard that was introduced by Garmin – all garmin foot pods are ANT+ compatible. There are also other companies that are producing ANT+ foot pods like adidas, Suunto, Timex.
Bluetooth 4.0 (also known as Bluetooth Smart, BTLE, BLE) Any android phone with stock firmware equal or higher than 4.3. Bluetooth Smart technology is relatively new so there are not many foot pods available on the market – the most popular are Adidas Speed_Cell Bluetooth Smart and Polar Stride Sensor Bluetooth Smart

What is the difference between those 2 technologies from the customer perspective? Well for me there is one that is quite important – ANT+ devices can transmit to many devices simultaneously and BTLE to only 1. Example:

– ANT+: Both Forerunner 310XT and Garmin Fit app can use the data from foot pod at the same time

– BTLE: after the device connects with foot pod, it is locked for all others

Hardware

Hardware I used for tests:

Hardware Description Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Android based phone. I used intentionally this model since it has both ANT+ and BTLE connectivity   galaxy s4
Garmin ANT+ Foot Pod SDM4 Latest Garmin foot pod in ANT+ technology.
Adidas Bluetooth Smart Speed_cell The adidas BTLE based foot pod that is released mainly to use with the miCoach mobile application and Smart Run watch. Watch out – on the market there is the same looking foot pod that is ANT+ – if not sure look on the back and look for the Bluetooth symbol.

adidas speed cell btle

20141101_185936

Software

Ok we have the hardware so let’s go to the apps. Here in general app supports either ANT+ foot pod, or BTLE foot pod.

Let’s start with apps that supports ANT+ foot pod.

Garmin Fit (discontinued)

It’s an app from Garmin. It’s very simple once compared to e.g. Endomondo or SportsTracker. It supports both ANT+ heart rate monitors and foot pods for indoor trainings. It automatically uploads the data to Garmin Connect. It’s a simple app that does it’s job done

The process of pairing the foot pod (and heart rate monitor) and start of the training looks as follows:

We have to tap Start New Activity and select Sensors. Then, once the sensors are activated, press Scan and wait a little bit. Next time the pairing is not needed.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-08-53-54 Screenshot_2014-11-02-08-53-59 Screenshot_2014-11-01-19-03-01 Screenshot_2014-11-01-19-03-45

And here is how the running screen looks like:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-08-55-37 Screenshot_2014-11-02-08-55-32

And after the training we can add name and some notes. After clicking save the training will be stored in Garmin Connect.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-08-55-54

The only disadvantage I see in this app is the fact that the training data fields cannot be configured – I would rather see the heart rate on the first screen rather than calories.

The app costs $0,99 and is available in Google Play store here.

Important update. Garmin Fit was removed by Garmin from the Google Play Store. So it’s no longer available.

SportsTracker, SportsTracker Pro, FitCloud

Those are all apps from the same publisher that looks and works almost the same. SportsTrack and SportsTracker Pro are the same apps but the first one is free and the second one have some additional functionalities but is paid. They both use Sportstrackerlive as the online platform for storing the trainings.

FitCloud on the other hand does not use the online functionalities but rather stores the trainings locally on SD card or phone internal memory. Those can be later uploaded to various run logs.

Interesting fact: The reason why FitCloud was created is simple – there was a big chance that the the company will run out of business. Since the app is pretty good developed they have decided to publish a version that will be independent from the online services that they are providing – without it the first two apps will be useless since there is no other way to get the trainings out of it.

The process of pairing looks as follows:

We go to Settings and under the Foot Pod select ANT+ Connection.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-10-00 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-10-03

Then select SCAN and Connect on our foot pod.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-10-12 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-10-16

On the end just select Enable.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-10-42

To start the training we have to select the SENSOR ONLY option in the main screen. Then just GO.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-09-55 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-11-05

The run main screen looks as follows. It fully customizable.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-11-15 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-11-22 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-11-29 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-11-32 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-12-38 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-12-44

The only disadvantage that I have experienced while using those application swas the lack of the ability to pause the training. If that doesn’t bother you then I think it’s those are the best apps for ANT+ foot pod.

Links to the apps:

SportsTracker (free)

SportsTracker Pro ($5,99)

FitCloud ($7,98)

SelfLoops

It’s a free app that is available on Google Play here. If we put away the fact that it’s interface is just ugly and clunky then this one also does the job done pretty well.

This is how it looks:):

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-16-48

The configuration of the foot pod:

Just go to SENSORS and select SDM and wait a little bit. That’s all. There are also some additional options for entering the foot pod device id.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-16-59 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-17-10 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-17-33 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-17-42

This app also doesn’t allow to modify the data fields on the screens. Here how it looks like:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-18-11 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-18-28 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-18-34

And we have the following sports:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-18-15

The trainings can be uploaded to Selfloops but also stored on SD/Phone memory and then published wherever we want.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-19-28 Screenshot_2014-11-02-09-19-32

That’s all – simple and for free.

ANT+ applications summary

I must admit that from all the mobile apps I liked the most the SportsTracker. It’s free, has the ability to customize the data fields screens and has many more cools features like voice feedback, training plans, online run log.

One important thing to say about all of the apps above – none of them have the functionality to calibrate the foot pod. They just use the foot pod default calibration factor and that’s all. You have to remember that the fact that the foot pod is calibrated e.g. on the watch doesn’t mean it’s calibrated because the calibration is a setting that is stored on the watch/app, not on the foot pod itself.

Those are sadly all Android apps that supports ANT+ foot pods (at least the one that I know). Where is Endomondo you may ask? Endomondo supports ANT+ heart rate monitor (and BTLE of course) but it doesn’t support any foot pod (both ANT+ and BTLE) so it’s impossible to record indoor training with speed, distance and cadence data in Endomondo. Recently Endomondo has introduced and Pedometer functionality (that uses internal phone accelerometer) but it’s disabled for use during running because it’s inaccuracy.

All of the above applications supports also ANT+ heart rate monitors. And additionally the SportsTracker family apps supports BLE heart rate monitors.

Let’s go to apps that supports BTLE foot pods.

miCoach

It’s the running app from Adidas. It’s free and besides the indoor training option is has many cool features like training plans, voice coaching, great online run log and access to it from mobile app. It officially supports only BTLE foot pods and heart rate monitors from adidas (but I am using it with Viiiiva HR monitor so some other ones are also supported – on the miCoach forum I also read that the polar BLE foot pod pod also works).

But let’s focus on the app and indoor trainings:).

The process of pairing the devices looks as follows:

We go to Devices and select the SPEED_CELL and PAIR.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-56-34 Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-56-43

The app will look for the foot pod. Once found select it and it will be added to the list.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-56-50 Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-56-37

Start of indoor training:

Select training from the list or just start free training. When the app search for sensors just click Edit and uncheck GPS.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-58-16 Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-58-06

During the run we see the following screen:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-58-32

It’s not customizable but personally it fit’s my need perfectly.

After the training we can also change the distance and calibrate the sensor – that’s the only app that supports foot pod calibration:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-58-55

And save to micoach log, store locally or discard. From miCoach website we can export the training and store in different run log.

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-59-11

Personally at this moment it’s my favorite running app. It was the only reason to buy the BLE foot pod because I am using it at daily basis (currently I follow miCoach training plan for half marathon).

And one important thing about miCoach. The fact that it supports BLE foot pod doesn’t mean it will support all of them. Oficially only the Adidas speed_cell is supported. And in fact I have tried:

– bridge the Garmin ANT+ foot pod with Viiiiva (it has the feature to retransmit ANT+ foot pod to BLE) – it doesn’t work with miCoach

– I bought Typhoon StepIt– it’s BLE foot pod with official support only on iOS dedicated app. I was hoping it will work with miCoach and sadly I was wrong:/

So for now I cannot officially confirm any other foot pod that works on miCoach than speed_cell. If you know please share this information in comment.

BLE applications summary

And that’s the end of story with BTLE foot pods and Android. There are no other apps that supports those sensors (at least for my knowledge).

I have tried many more like: Strava, Runtastic, RunKeeper, iCardio, Wahoo – none of them have BLE foot pod support. Strangly in Wahoo Fitness I was able to pair the sensor but there was no option to use it for measuring speed/distance:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-49-24 Screenshot_2014-11-02-10-49-26

The reason of this situation is that BTE was introduced on Android platform quite late (Android 4.3) so I assume not all developers have published updates to the applications. The situation is much better on iOS (but that’s a story on another article). Let’s hope we will have more of them in near future.

[Update 2014-11-18: Wahoo Fitness has just introduced foot pod support in the latest update. I can confirm it works fine with the Adidas speed_cell.

I have however some problems to make it work – I had to reinstall and repair the foot pod because it doesn’t worked immediately after update.]

General summary

All of those apps are working fine and it’s a matter of preference which one to use. I personally use SportsTracker Pro for ANT+ foot pod. Because of the fact that BLE foot pods doesn’t have much application there I use miCoach which is at this moment my favorite running app on the market – especially because of the great training plans and premium voice coaching.

So in summary now I have 2 foot pods on my shoes (it may look silly I know:)) – one for miCoach and one for Forerunner 310XT and SportsTracker. This allows me to follow my miCoach training plan on treadmill and have backup device (Forerunner 310XT) that also stores the training in case something happens with my phone.

If you have any comments feel free to share.

As always thanks for reading.

22 comments

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  • Thank you for sharing your experience with different Foot Pods.

    It really helped me alot to get my new Polar Bluetooth Stride Sensor working on an Android Phone.

    So far only the Wahoo Fitness App seems to be able to utilize it.

  • The Garmin Fit app is no longer available. Garmin pulled it from the market over the summer.

  • MiCoach is now discontinued. I came across your page looking for a replacement for my SpeedCell Ant+

  • Fredrik Fyksen Lund

    What is the status on footpods with bluetooth apps now?

    • Hi, I’ve done a quick check right now and it appears that on Android the situation didn’t changed much. It’s still train & run (old miCoach) and Wahoo Fitness. From which I can recommend the train & run with the Adidas speed_cell (I’ve tested it a while ago with the Polar Stride Sensor and they were not compatible).

      The Wahoo Fitness works with both but I didn’t find the option to calibrate the foot pods. In train & run it can be done after every run.

      • I downloaded the latest Wahoo app onto my Samsung Note 4 with Android 6.0.1 and the Polar BLE stride sensor worked 1st time when added to the app.

        Needless to say: The Polar BLE sensor DOESN’T work on Polar Beat app.
        Pathetic Polar! your own devices doesn’t work with your own software apps!

        • Hi! Indeed the Polar Stride sensor now works with the Wahoo App on android. Thanks for checking! For the Polar Beat it’s indeed a big shame. Probably they don’t want to give the functionality that’s reserved to their watches (like M400 or V800).

          • Polar Beat for Android doesn’t support their own Stride Sensor either. Polar Stride Sensor can only be used with Beat for IOS. Reason for that (as suggested by DC Rainmaker) is the variety of hardware (phones) they have to support. So, no reservation to their own devices here.

          • That’s very fuzzy explanation that they don’t want to support it because of the variety of Android phones. Since android 4.3 the Bluetooth Smart it natively supported through Android API so for me it’s just developer laziness.

  • Furthermore, Adidas Speedcell BTLE can be used with Polar M400 and V800. At least, that’s what I’ve read. Not tried it yet, but I will soon.

    • Hi! Yes, the Adidas Speedcell BTLE can be used with Polar M400 and V800. The problem is that it cannot be calibrated. The pace, distance and cadence works fine but you cannot set the calibration factor or calibrate it automatically against GPS distance. The problem is that after pairing the non polar foot pod the Stride sensor menu is not active. So it kinda works but not completely.

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  • Hi!

    Thanks for good overviews and comments!

    Do you know if ADIDAS miCoach or POLAR Bluetooth foot pods can be paired with Runkeeper and accurately calibrated?

    Thanks in advance!

    • I’ve tested it on Android version of Runkeeper. There is no possibility to pair the app with a foot pod. The only option there is to start the app in stopwatch mode and at the end add the distance from the treadmill.

  • Thanks to everyone that contributed information on using the Polar Stride sensor with Wahoo Fitness. I was able to use Wahoo Fitness (ver 1.9.2.0) with a Polar Polar Stride Sensor Bluetooth® Smart and Polar H7 Heart Rate monitor. It’s similar to setting them up on IOS in that the stride sensor does not pair in the usual Bluetooth setup at the OS level, just within Wahoo Fitness. My use might be a bit weird because I use an old NordicTrak Skier. The stride sensor won’t work attached to the shoe in the normal manor, but if pressed pointed end first into one of the hand grips (fasten with a few wraps of black electric tape) and the logo is up facing to the user palm it does work. Use the Treadmill setting. I’ve been using it that way for a few years with iPhone 6 and Beat, but needed to switch to an Android device.

  • Hi thanks for sharing this blog. I really love it.

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