NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

NURVV Run

8.4

Design

8.5/10

Ease of use

8.0/10

Use of information

9.0/10

Value for money

8.0/10

Pros

  • Unprecedented insights into running technique
  • Actionable information
  • Pace Coach
  • You really can't feel them
  • No phone or smartwatch is needed to record a run

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Can take a while to secure GPS signal
  • On/off button can be hard to press if already attached to the insoles

 

UK-based NURVV has recently announced retail availability of their intelligent run insoles. The advantage of purchasing trackers that are located on your feet are that they are uniquely positioned to monitor not just how fast you run, but also how well you run.

A typical runner these days will probably have a fitness tracker or sports watch strapped to their wrist. Some of these devices dish out a wealth of performance data. Most of us look at these statistics with a passing interest, but don’t really know what to do with them. NURVV set out in 2015 to solve this problem.

The promise of their smart insoles are actionable insights into running technique that you can’t really get anywhere else. I spent the last few weeks training with NURVV Run. It has been an eye opening experience.

Design
How to use
Lots of data
Technique Workouts

The verdict


NURVV Run review: Design

NURVV Run arrives with two lightweight insoles, one for each foot. In addition, you get a couple of GPS tracking pods and a charger. Finally, there’s also a small Clip Adapter in case you need it to secure the gear onto thin-walled shoes.

When purchasing it is very important to make sure you get the correct size. There are six to choose from for both men and women: XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL. A useful chart can be found on NURVV’s website that helps you make the right decision. I opted for L and was very happy when they arrived to find the size was a perfect fit for my 43 EU sneaker.

The insoles have a rubbery feel. In addition to being lightweight they are very thin (1.2mm). Nevertheless they seem like they could take quite a beating.

NURVV says the smart insoles will last for around 1,500 miles or 2,400 km of running. This means, if you run around 20km a week every week, they should be good for up to three years. Not bad.

Embedded in the insoles are 32 precession sensors, 16 on each one. This where all the important metrics are captured. You can actually see the sensors imprinted on the surface, from the back heel to the toes evenly spaced out to capture all the important areas.

nurvv run review smart insoles that teach you how to be a better runner 1 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

To fit them into your shoes doesn’t take very long. It’s a three step process that takes 5 minutes per shoe.

First remove your original insoles and replace them with intelligent ones. Then carefully slip the not-so-clever insoles back into your shoes on top of NURVV.

The second step consists of securing the insole tab that peeks out to the external sidewall of your sneakers. A clip-on mechanism helps keep this in place.

The last step involves snapping the rechargeable GPS pods onto the insole clip enclosure. There’s a pod for each shoe and the right one has the addition of a big Activity button. You can use this to start and stop an activity.

There’s also power-on/off button on the back of each pod. This one can be a bit tricky to locate but it is there.

Once attached, the pods stay very securely in place. At no time while running did I feel they were in any danger of falling off. Removing them takes a bit of trial and error. Instead of pulling hard you are meant to hold the top while gently easing them out. It has more to do with technique than force as I found out after a few tries.

nurvv run review smart insoles that teach you how to be a better runner 2 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

The big surprise for me was that the shoes really didn’t feel any different with everything in place. I was sure that I would notice some sort of difference. This is, no doubt, helped by the fact that the whole NURVV Run system (insoles + trackers) weighs less than 150 grams. Everything is designed to be comfortable and unnoticeable.

The only thing I did feel very slightly is the velcro tab that stuck out of my right sneaker. I would equate this to the feeling when you buy a new pair of shoes. It takes a few days to break them in. But in no way did it impede my running or leave any sort of mark.

Along the top of each pod is a pair of LED lights that can shine in combinations of blue, yellow, red and green. I won’t go into detail on what each of these means but you should take a few minutes to educate yourself. Otherwise you might be left confused out on the track.

I am not a fan of studying instructions in detail so just armed myself with basic knowledge. The important thing to remember is that a slow green pulse means the GPS connection has been established and you can commence your run. Red and yellow means the pod is searching for the signal.

If you are using the smartphone app to start your run, there’s nothing to remember. The software will walk you through everything.

nurvv run review smart insoles that teach you how to be a better runner 3 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

For someone that lives London like I do, having water-proof gear is important. Thankfully, NURVV Run are “rain, mud and puddle proof”. This means you should be ok in pretty much all conditions.

But make sure not to submerge them in water for extended periods. If NURVV Run is wet following your run, allow everything to dry before next use.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

As far as battery life, you can squeeze out about 5 hours on a full charge. For most people that should get them through more than a few training sessions. You can even run a marathon in that time.

I typically run between 20 and 25 km per week so only needed to charge them once during the couple of weeks of testing. Both trackers need to be topped up, but the unique design of the charger allows you to perform this on both at the same time.


NURVV Run review: How to use

The setup procedure is pretty standard stuff. Download the NURVV smartphone app, charge the pods, create an account and pair the smartphone and trackers. It all went pretty seamless for me. You will probably be asked to update the firmware at this point, and it’s a good idea to do so.

nurvv run review these smart insoles will help you become a better runner - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

Now it was time to head out for a run. At this point I should mention there’s more than one way to track your session.

The easiest way is through the smartphone app. Power on the trackers and allow them to connect to the NURVV Run app. Then simply choose between an Outdoor run, Indoor run or a Technique Workout. Once the GPS signal is secured, use the smartphone app to start and stop the session.

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The other option is to use NURVV without a phone, something that will appeal to those who are used to running unencumbered. This can be done for outdoor runs only and all the controls can be accessed by tapping on the Action button located on the right pod. Don’t worry – you will still get full credit for the session. The data is memorized so is synced post-run to the smartphone app.

I also did a couple of runs with NURVV connected via ANT+ to my Garmin Forerunner 935. This allowed me to control everything from my wrist. Plus you can set up display fields on the Garmin screen for metrics such as distance, pace, speed, cadence and more. NURVV says you can also link the smart insoles to an Apple Watch but I did not try this.

Eventually I found that I kept circling back to my original choice – using the smartphone app. It just seemed a much simpler and cleaner way to use the system. As I typically run with a Garmin watch, this meant that I would get the usual stats in Garmin Connect. With the addition of much deeper insights on “running health” provided by the NURVV app. The two wearables work well together as there is little overlap.

The negative with starting NURVV independently from your watch is that you need to wait for both devices to find a GPS signal. I typically found that Garmin was slightly quicker at securing this, but the wait for NURVV was never longer than one or two additional minutes.

If you link the two, then both devices tap into NURVV’s satellite signal which I found was pretty good quality. Comparing the maps after a few runs, revealed that Garmin’s GPS tracking strayed a bit more from the actual route than NURVV’s.


NURVV Run review: Lots of data

I am relatively new runner with about three years of experience. Typically I try to run 3-4 times per week mostly 5Ks. The Garmin Forerunner 935 is what I use to monitor my sessions. I trained for the Paris Marathon earlier this year but the COVID situation spoiled these plans. The race has been postponed for March 2021 – coronavirus-permitting, of course.

When you prepare for a marathon you just hope for the best as some sessions can be very grueling. Ahead of the big day you are meant to do at least one run over 30K , preferably more. Needless to say, this can lead to injuries. This is where a device such as NURVV Run can be very helpful.

The gizmo spits out metrics you have probably not come across before. The sort of stuff reserved for specialty shoe stores and athletic labs.

These offer unprecedented insights into your running technique allowing you to understand problem areas before it’s too late. Even if your running technique is fine, NURVV Run identifies areas for improvement.

At first it might be over-whelming how much information you can get. Allow yourself some time to digest everything, dig into the data and make use of it.

nurvv run review these smart insoles will help you become a better runner 4 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

In order to get the full benefit, you’ll need to do at least four runs. This is how long it takes for NURVV to establish an initial Running Health Score. But even before there are lots of statistics to sink your teeth into.

I did a few short 3-5K runs in a matter of days to get to the Health Score as soon as possible. Data is captured 1,000 times per second (per insole) and includes info on cadence, step length, training load, foot-strike, pronation and balance.

Do you know if your running technique is doing more damage than good? Probably not. I didn’t so had no idea what to expect.

Pronation, foot-strike

Cadence and step length are pretty standard stuff so I’ll skip over those. It was mostly in line with data provided by my Garmin. Where there were differences, I tended to trust NURVV more than Garmin. Common sense says something that lives in your shoe is going to be better at counting steps than something sitting on your wrist.

But it’s the foot-strike, pronation and balance where the real added value comes from. This is info that paints a picture of your running technique.

I must admit, it was a bit of a relief to find that I scored pretty high on the scale. It has given me a lot of confidence when it comes to further running. My worry was that I tend to walk slightly on the outsides of my feet. I put the fact that I never got injured running down to pure luck.

But it seems my situation is not bad at all. For example, I was near-perfect on pronation. This is the inward rolling motion of the foot as it hits the ground and progresses to full foot contact. The stat quantifies how your body absorbs running impacts and you want to aim for neutral. You get info on each foot, and this revealed my technique is slightly better on my right foot.

nurvv run review these smart insoles will help you become a better runner 6 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

Then there is Footstrike. This tells you whether your main foot strike pattern is with the rearfoot, midfoot or forefoot. As everything else, all of this is also displayed in splits, for each kilometre. That way you can study if your technique deteriorates over longer runs.

The science is a little fuzzy here. It turns out, I tend to use my rear foot 99% of the time when initially hitting the ground. There is common belief that you might benefit from moving away from rearfoot striking but this is not universally agreed.

More important here is the left-right foot asymmetry, i.e. whether you are striking the ground the same way with both feet. In my case it was only a few percentages below 100%, which is considered pretty good.

nurvv run review these smart insoles will help you become a better runner 7 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

Running Health Score

As mentioned, after four sessions you also get a Running Health score. This is an important figure as it shows your overall injury risk in an easy to understand way.

This takes into account everything from above and throws Training Load into the mix. Together with cadence, pronation and balance (of pronation, foot strike, cadence and step length), these four metrics constitute your overall score which fluctuates on a scale from 0 to 100. You can then monitor how it changes from day to day.

nurvv run review these smart insoles will help you become a better runner 8 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

The discrepancies in my case were small so overall my technique is pretty good. This allowed me to keep the Health Score pretty high. However, because Training Load constitutes part of the figure, the overall score will start to come down pretty rapidly if you miss a few days of training.

And this is my slight issue, the fact that Training Load only takes running into account. For example, I played 3 hours of tennis a few days ago. As far as NURVV is concerned that was a rest day! But this is an inherent problem with all such technology, including smartwatches and fitness trackers. They can’t take everything into account. At least not yet.

You can also pair NURVV to an external heart rate monitor for even richer data. I did a few sessions with the Polar OH1+ and this worked well. Initial pairing is done via the smartphone app but once the settings are in, the two should pair automatically on subsequent runs. This allows you to create some interesting graphs cross referencing your heart rate with other metrics.

Insights

Another part of the system that I really liked are the insights. Rather than just flinging a bunch of statistics your way, the smartphone app has been carefully designed to explain what everything means. The i (information) mark is dotted throughout the app and clicking it opens detailed descriptions.

There are quite a few charts which illustrate the data in interesting and easy to understand ways. Most importantly, the app spits out actual real-world advice and actionable insights in plain English on how to be a better runner. Find me a wrist watch that can do that!

NURVV Run also provides suggestions on optimal training distances based on your Training Load. This is done both on a daily and weekly basis. It helps you understand if you are overtraining or under training. I actually found the recommendations motivated me to head out to the track, even when I was feeling a bit lazy. You know at a glance if you are overtraining, undertraining or in the optimal zone.


NURVV Run review: Technique Workouts

The final part of the system is something called Technique Workouts. This is coaching that helps keep you to your chosen pace, whether your goal is to run faster, run intervals or do a recovery run.

For example, to set up a session to help you run faster – you’ll need to choose a base run from your history. The app will assign a score for that particular run. Next to it you’ll see a sliding scale which allows you to set a Target Sore. In my case I chose a 5K base run which was assigned a score of 51.

I felt quite optimistic that morning so chose a target of 55. This would put me on schedule for a sub 24:45 minutes for the distance. I had been frustratingly close to a sub 25:00 for about a month now.

Put a pair of bluetooth headphones on and NURVV will give you instructions during the run to ensure you stay on target. Two metrics are important here, step length and cadence. In my case I was fine on cadence but my step length was not up to scratch.

NURVV tried to motivate me, telling me repeatedly to increase my step length but I ended the run at 25:00. Close again, but no cigar!

The session is assigned a score after you’ve finished and instead of 55 I ended up at 52. The metric is used next time around so you can aim to improve on it. The app will also show a couple of illustrations that reveal why you missed (or achieved) your target.

nurvv run review these smart insoles will help you become a better runner 9 - NURVV Run review: these smart insoles will make you a better runner

I would equate Technique Workouts to having a running coach who knows everything about your technique. But advice from a person can be subjective. NURVV is based on quantifiable information so can guide you to your target in an entirely objective, scientific way.

Whether you actually manage to achieve your particular goal might depend how you felt on that particular day. But even if you fail, at least you’ll know exactly why. Was your cadence too low, were your steps too short, was your technique poor? NURVV has the answer.

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NURVV Run review: The verdict

Since I started using NURVV Run I’ve received unprecedented insights into my running technique. It’s the type of data you only get in athletic laboratories. The smart insoles are probably the coolest running tech I’ve used!

This has given me confidence to continue training in the knowledge that I can do more to avoid injuries. Rather than a replacement, I consider NURVV Run to be a supplement to my sports watch.

The smart insoles are lightweight and durable – you really don’t feel them at all. The whole system is very easy to use and you can connect it to your Garmin or Apple Watch. Or simply use the insoles on their own or with the smartphone app.

If you’re looking for something to take your training up a notch, the Technique Workouts are there to guide you with live audio coaching. And all this will be done taking into account your unique running style.

I can recommend NURVV Run to any level of runner. These smart insoles are the ultimate tool if you’ve struggled with injuries or just want to become a better runner.

NURVV Run is available to buy on amazon and www.nurvv.com. The insoles can be used with all types of running shoes and can even help you decide which shoes work best for you.


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