So you’re looking for a running watch, eh? Well, let me introduce you to these two: the Nike+ SportWatch GPS and the TomTom Runner.
Both watches were made by, or in part, by TomTom. The similarity of the screens are evident of this connection and both have a tap-on-screen-backlight, but I think that’s where the similarities end. At first look, you can see that the design of the clocks are different. I think Nike+ wins here. I’ve definitely gotten more compliments on how the clock is displayed than any watch I’ve had before. I’d definitely buy this watch even if it wasn’t a running watch. On the other hand, users have contacted TomTom so many times about the hour-digit-display and how faded it looks that they put the question in the FAQ section on their website. I wish there was a setting to change it because it’s hard to read without the backlight.
The SportWatch is definitely thicker and heavier than the slim and lighter TomTom Runner. Sometimes I do forget that I have the TomTom on. I never forgot if I had my SportWatch on. Both are some of the slimmest in the market of running watches, so if bulkiness is a concern, these watches are for you.
The bands are different as well. The TomTom Runner is a traditional watch band, while the Nike+ SportWatch is a buckle plus snap. I have really skinny arms and wrists, but I can get these watches to fit snug thanks to the adjustable buckles. The TomTom Runner has a very thin looper (the loop that keeps the end of the watch strap in place) and it feels like one good tug on the strap from my toddler will snap it in two. I’m scared. Also, since it is a non-locking looper, the strap does get caught on my arm sleeves or long-sleeve shirts. However, if ever it does break, I can purchase another interchangeable band in a handful of colors for about $30. The Nike+ SportWatch has a snap at the end of the strap and it keeps the strap from getting caught on anything. It also doubles as a cover for its USB port for charging/syncing. Despite TomTom’s ability to switch bands like my pants, I think Nike+ wins this one, too. All of TomTom’s bands are traditional so nothing will stop the straps from getting caught on my running sleeves!
Both the Runner and the SportWatch are rechargeable via USB. As said before, the SportWatch’s locking snap covers the USB port. Just flip it open, plug it in, and walla! You’re charging/syncing. The Runner pod requires the docking station. Just pop the pod out of the watchband, slide it into the dock, plug it into your USB port, and walla! Charging and synching. But hold up! The Runner can also wireless sync to your iPhone via Bluetooth as well. So after your run, you can do your post-run yoga routine while your watch secretly uploads your stats to MySports.TomTom.com AND MapMyRun.com. However if you lose your USB docking station, you can kiss your TomTom Runner goodbye. The Nike+ SportWatch does come with a USB extender cable, which I HIGHLY recommend. After two years of directly plugging my SportWatch into my laptop, the snap looper broke off. It was a sad day.
Okay. Okay. Let’s talk USING the watches…. Starting with the TomTom Runner.
Setting up your watch does not require you to plug it into your computer because everything can be accessed through the many menus, but it’s recommended. The TomTom Connect application isn’t pretty but it is an easy interface to learn. You can set up your new profiles on MySports.TomTom.com and on MapMyRun.com from this interface simultaneously. The Connect also comes with an exporter which lets you save the data from your watch to common file types used by other fitness analysis programs. Most importantly, Connect updates the GPS data on your watch.
First off, I expect a quick GPS link up with any GPS running watch. TomTom Runner is by far the fastest. The Runner has a directional thumbpad (which gets caught on ALL of my running sleeves and shirts) and you have to thumb through two screens to get to “RUN.” It’s quick, but ugh. Two screens?
The TomTom Runner has some cool options that you can pick for your run:
- Goals – set your distance, time, or calories (based on your weight from your TomTom MySports profile or on your watch)
- Intervals – you can set up warm up time, work time, rest times, number of sets, cool down time
- Laps – time, distance, or set to manual (tap the watch when you finish a lap)
- Zones – set your pace or your heart rate to stick to
- Race – race your recent pace times from your watch’s history or from your history from TomTom’s mysports.com.
Good stuff if you like coaching. During your run, you can toggle through different metrics screens with the thumbpad. Nice huh? It’s a lot of thumbing up and down and to the left and rights to get to the metrics screen you want. The TomTom Runner has so many menu screens that I have to thumb over in different directions because it’s difficult to remember where everything is. I don’t know about you, but I tend to slow my pace when I concentrate something other than running. Not good! When you’re finished with your run, thumb two times to the left and your run is recorded. What I don’t like is that there isn’t a confirmation screen that your run is complete. Nothing. Just the main clock screen.
The TomTom Runner has vibrate alerts for intervals and alerts. For example, it will buzz if you’re 50% done with your run. This is a nice feature because I usually wear headphones while I’m running.
As you can tell, navigating through this watch is like going around to the back door to enter the house when the front door is right there. The TomTom Runner does keep a history of your runs. To see them, you have to thumb over to the same screen you go to run, then thumb up. The Runner does not keep personal records on the watch. To see those, you have to go online and head to MapMyRun.com.
As said before, the TomTom Runner syncs to two websites, MySportsTomTom.com and MapMyRun.com. The Runner syncs to the TomTom site, and automatically syncs to MapMyRun.com. The TomTom site is very simple, too simple. Only your stats are visible, and there is no analysis so I don’t use it.
MapMyRuns. com is a widely used website, and the great thing about it is that if you can find an exporter for your Nike+ Runs, you can import that data here. You don’t lose a thing, but you do have to import each run individually. I have almost 800 runs on Nike+. Imagine my joy when it came to importing. Any way, it’s a nice clean website in which you can log your diet as well. Oh, did you forget your iPhone or watch for your run? You can manually add that run here. Did you actually run 5.6 miles but your Runner logged only 5.2? You can edit it on here, but it will remain incorrect on your Runner and on MySports. Did you accidentally post a run twice? You can delete it. I like the control you have over your data. Friends can also comment on your activity on the Activity Feed, but there isn’t a leaderboard posted any where. I’d like to see one because I like to measure myself to my athletic friends, you know.
Sharing your workouts easy. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (why?) are available for posting.
Running routes and race courses are easy to find, create and run. If you’re competitive like I am, I definitely recommend creating your running routes. After you run it, a leaderboard pops up. If you make the route public, you can measure up to other runners. This kind of stuff keeps me motivated. If he/she can do that, I’ll try it!
Local running groups also use MapMyRun.com for group runs and sometimes you can find race information and links to register.
You can attain achievements and set goals but I’m still trying to understand them. I know that I just ran my fastest mile yesterday, but I didn’t get a “stamp” and the goals are not very good. Actually, they’re quite lame. You can join a challenge which is usually sponsored by brand named company. However even if you complete the challenge, your name still has to be drawn to win the prize. I’m not liking it!
Battery life? If I leave the Runner on, and just use it as a watch, the battery lasts for about two weeks before I have to charge it. After running a half-marathon (about a little less than 2:30), I still have 3/4 of battery life left. Running on a treadmill today? No problem. The TomTom Runner doesn’t require a shoe pod. You have to thumb through and select the Treadmill mode. Need to watch your heart rate? You can purchase the Runner with a TomTom Bluetooth heart rate monitor. Waterproof? The TomTom Runner is waterproof to 5 ATM (suitable for showering or swimming in a max depth of 165 ft in water).
Next up… The Nike+ SportWatch GPS…
The Nike+ SportWatch doesn’t have those nice coaching and racing modes like the Runner does, but it does make up for it with positive messages and feedback. Setting up your watch requires you to plug it into your computer and configure it through the application. You can customize how your SportWatch behaves during your run by selecting your favorite stat. You can also choose which stats to show in a mini-window, which is just above your favorite stat. The mini-window can loop through all or just certain stats, or you can manually toggle through them while you run. The SportWatch can be set up for intervals. You can also enter your profile information and create your new Nike+ profile. Lastly, you can configure the background color… Do you like a black screen with white numbers/letters or vice versa?
Navigating through the SportWatch is simple with it’s two navigation buttons. Menus are clear and easy to read on the Nike+ SportWatch (clock, run, history, records, and stopwatch). I really like how your records are on hand to show off to your fellow runners.
Going for a run is quick and there’s no need to scroll through menus like the TomTom Runner. Press the third colored button and hold, and the SportWatch will sync to GPS, although it might not be an immediate sync. If you set up your watch for intervals, the SportWatch will beep and light up when it’s time to rest/run. That’s great for night runs, but difficult for daytime with headphones on. When you’ve finished your run, hold the colored button, and the SportWatch will give you a confirmation that it recorded your run with a messages like, “Great Run.” If a PR was broken, you’ll get fireworks and cute music. That’s my favorite part.
The Nike+ SportWatch syncs your runs, publicly or privately, to Nike’s Running website where you’ll “meet” others in the Nike community. Friendly leaderboards are displayed on your dashboard and are easy to read. I love seeing that I’ve ran the most miles this month! At the bottom, Nike+ compares your activity to runners your age. I love killing it! 🙂
You can also plan your next route and save them on Nike’s Running website. There are “heat maps” of widely used routes by Nike+ users that you can search for. Awards are given out for accomplishments and milestones, and records are easy to see. There are also running levels that you can reach. I tell you, it feels really good to be in the blue level!
You can keep a log with each run, and you can keep track of how many miles you have on each pair of shoes. That’s a cool feature. You can also share your run on social media, like Facebook and Twitter.
There are two things you can’t do on Nike+ Running: One, you can’t message your friends via the website. My friends and I discussed our runs on Facebook instead, via a shared post of my run. And the BIG thing you can’t do is manually add or edit a run on the Nike+ Running website. You have to contact Nike+ Support via Twitter. They have been very helpful to me, and quick.
Battery life? This is kinda funny. Most of the time, the SportWatch can go for a month in watch mode. But there will be that one day when the battery doesn’t last three days. I had about half of my battery left after running a half-marathon. Running on a treadmill today? Get a shoe pocket and place the Nike+ Shoe Pod (which comes with the SportWatch) inside, sync the SportWatch and you’re ready. Need to watch your heart rate? You need to purchase the Polar WearLink+ heart rate monitor. Sync your watch and you’re off. Waterproof? The SportWatch is only water resistant, so it’s great for running in a downpour but don’t you dare swim with it!
My final thoughts…
After my Nike+ SportWatch broke, I thought that I could easily find a better watch out there. I thought that’s what I did when I got my TomTom Runner, but as I kept running with it, I noticed more and more how much my SportWatch kept me inspired and kept me going. The TomTom Runner is a great diagnostic watch, but running is MORE than stats. It’s heart and passion. It’s community. The SportWatch, combined with the Nike+ Running website, kept me in the loop and gave me reinforcement that I was doing well. I could see how I measured up to the rest of the Nike+ community. The SportWatch also congratulated me after every run. It made a difference now that I don’t get that from TomTom’s Runner and its affiliated websites.
If you are the type to focus on yourself; you have that tunnel vision of pure running focus, then I would recommend the TomTom Runner. If you’re like me, a person who likes to hear that you’re doing great and that you’ve reached a certain milestone, then I’d definitely recommend the Nike+ SportWatch. Just be aware… the snapping looper is DELICATE! Treat it with care!
I hope that I helped you choose the best running watch for you. Now, get one, any of them and HAPPY RUNNING!