A tidal wave of apps and digital fitness products — loaded with practical data and often inexpensive (or even free) — is making tech-free running a thing of the past. A survey from Freescale Semiconductor, the chip supplier behind Fitbit and other wearable devices, found that 88% of runners training for marathons used wearable technology. Here's a sample of some data-tracking apps and gear we found useful.
Pumatrac: The free iPhone running app tracks and audibly informs you of your distance traveled, speed, calories burned and weather, ultimately producing a real-time map, elevation profile of your route and an overall score for the workout (arrived at by a mysterious algorithm that combines all the variables). It also includes a social leader board that shows you how other Pumatrac users are doing.
Likes: Simple, effective and motivating. I liked hearing my time shouted out by the female British voice every kilometer and found the overall score function quite motivational. The Pumatrac also can help you figure out how weather conditions, music and days of the week affect your workout.
Dislikes: An irritating glitch occurred three times during my 45-minute run: The data collection function paused, even though I didn't stop running. But heck, it's free.
Price: Free. puma.com/pumatrac.
Runtastic Adventure app: This app's concept is "story running," found in four 38-minute dramatic narrated stories that have a protagonist running to or away from something: the fantasy story "Journey of Iomluath: The Tribes' Saviour," the motivational story "Toward the Finish Line," the travel story "The Globerunner: Rio's Marvels of Life" and the adventure story "The Carrier of Truth: Beyond the Walls of Alcatraz." Runtastic also includes normal workout and social features.
Likes: Enthralling. I got so caught up in the protagonist's escape from Alcatraz that I sometimes lost my sense of doing a workout at all. It was like being immersed in "War of the Worlds" or another 1930s radio show, where the character's experience becomes your own, forcing you to speed up in moments of anxiety, then slow down in moments of calm. Time flies. Great workout.
Dislikes: You must wear ear buds while you run.
Price: 99 cents for each story or the four-story bundle for $2.99. runtastic.com.
Window-free phone holder
Pure Move iPhone armband: It holds your phone in place without a clear plastic screen over it.
Likes: While comfortably keeping your iPhone 5, 5s or 5c secure on your arm, the screen remains uncovered for easy access and interaction. This makes it easier to use than the windowed pocket armbands that envelope the phone. Pure Move includes a cord keeper that prevents ear bud cords from getting tangled as you run.
Dislikes: The phone is not protected from the elements or 100% secure. I got up off the ground after a high-speed wipeout on my Trikke to find my iPhone missing. It was five feet away in the bushes. The rest of the ride, I kept glancing over at my left biceps every 30 seconds to see if it was still there. Finally, $50 is rather expensive for this type of product.
Price: $49.99. pure-gear.com.
Milestone Fitness Tracker: The small, light (1-inch diameter, 10 grams) mileage and data collection device has a built-in USB connector that laces onto one of your running shoes via a silicone jacket. Actuated by movement, it displays cumulative mileage and lets you know when to replace your shoes.
Likes: It's a no-hassle way to track your running mileage, since it stays on your shoe and has no buttons to push, batteries to recharge or need to carry a smartphone. Like a car odometer, it starts working automatically when you run, displaying the current total miles on the screen and providing an alert when you reach personal targets and shoe lifespan milestones. (The conventional wisdom is that running in the same shoes beyond 400 or 500 miles can lead to injuries from shoe wear, so knowing the mileage on them is a good idea). Bluetooth-enabled, Milestone stores 20 hours of data covering mileage, pace, cadence, distance, number of runs, steps per minutes and time, which can be loaded onto your computer via USB. Week and month views let you track long-term trends. Also, you can input your blood type and medical data, which is useful for emergency responders. Note: In June, a new app will allow the device to track your stance time and whether you're landing on your heel or your toe.
Price: $19.95. App is free. milestonepod.com.
Wallack is the author of "Run for Life." firstname.lastname@example.org