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RunScribe shifts away from consumer focus, but also launches new features

Earlier this week RunScribe announced two news tidbits to the world. First, that they’re going to shift focus away from the direct to consumer market, and instead focus more on business to business interactions, such as clinics and related groups. And secondly, they rolled out a new feature for existing folks called ShoePrints.

Because it’s Friday we’ll keep this one kinda quick. But I wanted to touch on the RunScribe announcement for a few reasons.  The biggest reason being that I’ve watched founder Tim and his crew start from nothing more than an idea 5.5 years ago, iterate through numerous versions of the pods (and the ups and downs of that), and then ultimately figure out the best direction of the company going forward. But second, because I think it’s probably indicative of the challenge that all running efficiency related companies have in the space when focusing purely on consumers. There’s been far more companies in this space than I can count in the last 5 or so years, and RunScribe is and has been one of the best positioned of them all from a technology standpoint.

A Bit Of History:

It was originally at the ANT+ Symposium in 2013 that I first checked out RunScribe. At the time the pods looked a bit different than now, and initially were only on the heel. Here’s the first prototypes:

But more importantly than what they looked like was how they worked. Back then Garmin had just announced their Running Dynamics. But this was before the days of Connect IQ. So the entire concept of RunScribe going out and just developing their own app to work with Garmin wearables didn’t even exist yet.

Thus the viewability of the metrics was highly limited. There wasn’t a practical way to see them on your wrist, except via smartphone app – which wasn’t exactly ideal for the core audience of mostly higher end runners for RunScribe. While RunScribe did try and convince Garmin to open up some of the running dynamics metrics, that didn’t happen for another four years – far too late for RunScribe to leverage on their earlier products.

In fact, RunScribe would ultimately shift directions to Bluetooth Smart for the middle generation products. A decision that likely hurt everyone, but they honestly had little choice. It hurt RunScribe because overwhelmingly the GPS watch market is dominated by Garmin (who at the time was ANT+ only), it hurt ANT+ because they lost an innovative company, and it hurt consumers because it lessened the value of the device to not be able to see the data in real-time.

Fast forward 3-4 years and RunScribe was finally able to take advantage of Garmin’s Connect IQ platform, transmitting that data live to people’s wrists on Garmin watches. It also transmitted more detailed data to the company’s smartphone app, where you could do all sorts of fun analysis on your running stride and related efficiency metrics:

The company even started transmitting running power as well. Like other companies in the space though (including Garmin, Stryd, and Polar), I generally take running power with a grain of salt. Still, they were working on it and they trended in roughly the same directions as everyone else. They were also one of the few that actually backed up their numbers with the exact algorithms they were using.

But the company also suffered yet more setbacks, oddly enough – one again at Garmin’s sword. The Fenix 5 series should have been the best thing that ever happened to RunScribe, but in reality, it was a kick in the groin. The Fenix 5/5S were saddled with a poorly designed communications/antenna solution that caused dropouts on some ANT+ accessories, but especially those pushing the limits of signal range (the Fenix 5X was not impacted). This most severely impacted Stryd and RunScribe, where the pods are quite a distance from your wrist and would impact data on their Connect IQ apps. RunScribe ended up finding a home-grown hack of putting a thin strip of foil on existing pods would give them just the bump they needed. Still, it was a setback for the company. Stryd meanwhile simply recommended against usage with the Fenix 5/5S.

Either way, being Garmin’s best selling premium wearable and having premium ($200+) products for said wearable, it was a significant setback.  Still, most RunScribe users seem to appreciate the company’s never-ending visibility in their own forums and continued support of users, both through frequent app/firmware/Connect IQ apps, and even hardware updates.

In fact, one such feature was just released last weekend – called ShoePrints. This feature shows your footprint from a pressure standpoint on the shoe, by using the data gathered during your run. Here’s my ShoePrints from my run Monday night:

2019-02-05 10.07.20 2019-02-05 10.07.45

As one might imagine, this type of information, while interesting to consumers, would be fascinating to running shops and others looking to find the right shoe for a person, or figure out if a person might need some sort of foot bed or other tweak to their shoe situation.

The Future:

In the tech world it’s often said that products can be ‘ahead of their time’, and in some ways, that’s exactly what happened initially with RunScribe. It simply hit about 12 months too early to take advantage of Garmin’s Connect IQ platform – which would have been perfect for it (and likely accelerated it). Instead, from a consumer standpoint, it got caught in the cross-fire not once, but twice. Still, they chugged on.

And at this point the company is simply finding more success with universities, clinics, and labs that are looking for running gait/efficiency related information.  Founder Tim Clark outlined this reality in a recent post within the forums:

“I expect it won’t come as a surprise to any of you that RunScribe are a small team, that got a whole lot smaller starting in 2017. Most of you have interacted with me personally, either on the forums or via support, so you can probably do the math. Nor will it likely come as a surprise that support for a consumer product, particularly one with as much complexity as RunScribe, is non-trivial. Professional users on the other hand, represent a growing opportunity, as there are few products which capture as many metrics, and offer simultaneous L/R data. We’re already in hundreds of clinics, gait labs, and universities around the globe.”

As to how it might impact existing consumers, it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a change. The company is still developing the product (and still selling it), just that now it costs basically twice as much (Tim notes that the older pricing just doesn’t work at the scale they’re at right now), and it’s likely the features will be focused more on the professional setting – but you’ll continue to see updates to the product, including new features. Here’s what they had to say:

“If you’ve got RunScribe, honestly, not much. If anything, by spending less time dealing w/ FB’s ever-changing targeting algorithms and consumer support questions, I hope to find myself with more time to spend on product development/improvements. Even if you don’t need to see multiple runners in your account, there are plenty of other things in the pipeline that I believe will continue to increase the value of RunScribe [ShoePrints is just the first example]. You’ve already seen a lot of bug fixes and feature requests in the past month, so I hope it’s clear that I have no intention of abandoning the platform or my existing users anytime soon.”

In fact, it’s more than that. For example, they’ve also rolled out the ability for clinics to manage multiple runners as well, making it ideal in multi-user scenarios where as previously everything had to be dealt with on a one to one basis.

Despite all this – I’m looking forward to seeing where RunScribe goes from here. The company’s had what I see as by far the best visualization of the data out there, and I suspect the science probably backs it up quite a bit given the universities now leveraging the product for their own needs. I also wouldn’t be surprised if someone looks at RunScribe as a nice acquisition opportunity as well. It’s already well established with a fully functioning products/platform/app and partnerships. But who knows.

With that – thanks for reading, and have a great weekend ahead!

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28 Comments

  1. Tom in MN

    Autocorrect fun: heal->heel, groan->groin (although “kicked in the groan” sort of works too 😉

  2. Robert

    It is too bad that Runscribe does not at least offer the package with the older pricing to consumers until a certain end date? Perhaps they did and I missed it. Now it is switched to the Clinic package only.

    • Neil Jones

      Yeah, I was close to biting the bullet on RunScribe, but the new professional pricing model places it out of reach for me. I fully understand the move, it’s just a shame I missed the boat.

    • Roland

      This is so frustrating. I was going to buy it for myself for Christmas but over did it spending on the family so I waited a month and now the price almost doubled with only a minor change in features. I am passionate about running and tech but the price felt a little steep[ before almost doubling. I hope this doesn’t end badly for them – it seems to be an awesome product.

  3. Petr

    So I just bought them mid-January, was hesitant for a while due to the whole shipping from US to EU, going through customs… I really like them so far and with Fenix 5+ have no problem with connection. Hope they will support individual users (app + ConnectIQ) for some time.

  4. Crispin E.

    Having immersed myself in the RunScribe journey since I pre-ordered the RunScribe Plus pods back in summer 2017, it does seem like the consumer market has been a small group of ‘geeky’ running tech enthusiasts (like me). Which is why I understand RunScribe’s recent decision; they can’t keep selling the units at a mass consumer market rate, when the mass consumer market was simply not buying them. It took a few months after release for the RunScribe Plus firmware to mature (sensor fusion release was a seminal moment), but in the mean time there wasn’t the ‘Stryd like’ buzz growing about it. Sadly, that’s because people were comparing RunScribe plus with Stryd on a like for like basis (pace, distance and power) and for pace and distance on RunScribe was behind the curve when compared to Stryd (as an aside, since the ‘Sensor Fusion’ firmware release, I consistently get distance with less than a 1% error from physical measured distance). Sadly, none of the mainstream reviewers out there focused on what RunScribe does that Stryd doesn’t; the detailed gait metrics for each foot. Weirdly, I think the Shoe Prints finally add that instantly visual and accessible representation of gait metrics, that might actually get the mass consumer market mobilised. It’ll be interesting to see if enough consumers still buy the slightly more expensive professional package, that actually convinces RunScribe that the mass consumer market is worth another go. I also seriously hope RunScribe is not bought up by a big player, as I fear innovation and development will cease if Tim from RunScribe is bought out; Tim is a ridiculously hard working and enthusiastic genius inventor and RunScribe is him.

  5. Nudge

    No doubt you’re across this – but email received re software updates for Cycliq Fly12ce / Fly6ce. Interesting article, too!!

  6. Robert

    Tim: Since you are an avid reader of this forum and review site perhaps you will consider a channel (Clever Training, Amazon seller, etc.) where we that are interested may still be able to purchase the pods).

    If go to a gait analysis center it would be beneficial for me to use the pods in between training sessions and provide reports to my trainer. Otherwise I would just be using the pods when I am with the trainer and only have that 1-2 hour history. Are you suggesting centers purchase multiple sets and then have their clients use them in between sessions? I do not understand why you would not want to promote both. Runners who use professional services would have someone knowledgeable to interpret the data and put a change plan in place. They would become educators of the value of the analytics. One thing I’ve seen from Ray is all these companies provide all this data but do a poor job of how to use the information for an effective change.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      You can still buy Runscribe pods directly in http://www.runscribe.com , but unfortunately for you now the price is a bit higher (amazon.com and clevertraining.com finished their stock, I just checked).
      The big advantage for professionals is that with the new “clinic package” they can purchase just two pods but they can have multiple clients in the Runscribe Dashboard, so for them is much easier to store and compare data of their customers. For example, for them is now easier to show theicustomer how his gait data compare with the average data of the Runscribe Community.
      If you go to a gait analysis center and if you think that it’s beneficial for you to use the pods in between training sessions in order to provide reports to your trainer, the purchase of the Runscribe pods could be worth even at the new price point.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I agree with you that you don’t need so much the new multi-user feature. But it could be useful, for example sometimes I give my Runscribe pods to friends so they can see their running form.
      With the new feature, their activities wouldn’t disturb my running average.

    • Robert

      Valid points, but $150 more ($249 pods only previous price) is a lot to pay for the multiuser interface that’s not needed. I’m sure I’m not alone in this scenario.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      OK, but if we see it from a different point of view, the price difference is just one pair of shoes. The price difference would be easier to accept if also another member of your family is a runner. For example, a multi user scenario could be interesting if also your wife is running: it would be enough to buy just one pair of Runscribe for two users. Till now this was not an option, because it was not possible to set two user profiles in the pod settings.

    • RE: Pricing

      I think the key thing to understand is why the pricing change was made, which maybe the exact quote helps a bit:

      ////

      “Why not have a consumer offering? What if I don’t need these ‘Clinic’ features?”
      Well, technically, we still do. It’s just no longer 2 pods for the price of one.
      Since the early days, I’ve been keen to capture L/R data as I’ve always felt that there is substantial value, but the economics only work at scale, and that’s just not where we are right now.

      ///

      In short, financially it just wasn’t working out. Given this is a super small company, Tim had to find a way to change that direction.

  7. Very interesting! I wish I had these already from summer 2018 as I slowly adapt running mechanics while working with link to fredrikzillen.se to improve efficiency.

  8. gingerneil

    I’ve been with runscribe since the original Kickstarter, I remember buying strips of coin cells when the batteries only last a couple of runs at best, and I’ve got over 1000 runs logged on the dashboard… I’m a big fan of the concept, and Tim had worked tirelessly and passionately for years to make it work.
    But… I think 99.99% of runners don’t care about the advanced metrics, and a good chunk of the other 0.01% have struggled to fully understand the “so what” of having access to them. Stryd is simple – accurate footpod with ‘power’. Runscribe needs analysis, understanding and then a skilled runner or coach to use that to try and make a difference. That’s hard… Unless that’s your profession and/or you run a clinic. Focusing there makes perfect sense and i 100% support this move for the longevity of runscribe. However, I really hope the consumers who have runscribe now, or who do wish to spend the extra $$, are not left behind. Tim has reassured the community that this will not be the case. If anything, when he’s no longer spending massive time and effort supporting ‘consumer level’ queries, and the financials are strong, those of us who bought as consumers should benefit from the ongoing development of the whole platform.

    • snowfree52

      I think you hit the nail, I have the runscribe pods for a while now, I run with them but I’m thinking about selling them.
      I’m a geek and like all the data but clearly, when on the dashbord I’m like “yeahh but then what ?” I can’t make any decision out of this. It seems like it’s just too complicated.

      And the major problem with the pods is that (for me at least) the pace is absolutely not accurate and therefore, useless. Both outdoor and on a treadmill. And that’s really too bad because that should the the principal point of a footpod.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      With the new current firmware after calibration I find Runscribe very accurate for instant pace at all speeds.
      I use it mostly to pace myself correctly during intervals (my interval pace is about 4 min/km), but pace is correct also in my long runs (pace 5 – 5:30 min/km) .
      Calibration is very easy to do (I measured a road near my home with Google Maps and it’s enough to edit the distance of Runscribe with the know distance of that road).
      I usually calibrate my pods just once in a month.

    • snowfree52

      I did try to calibrate it and also to leave it on auto calibration. The problem is not the end result of the total run but the variations while running
      Both on the treadmill and outdoor while doing a long steady run I see variations from 5:30/Km to 7:30/km in 5 seconds and it goes up and down the whole time and I know I’m steady (on the treadmill it’s obvious)
      at the end of the run I have in garmin the average pace I know I maintained but it’s really annoying to not be able to use it for pacing.

    • Aaron

      My gut feel is that running form metrics are a diagnostic assessment tool. Unlike other metrics that quantify your volume, intensity, physiological response, or training specificity – form metrics are only used during a specific effort to make a deliberate change in your form, and infrequently at that. Outside of that specific training goal, it’s noise.

      If that’s the case a runner won’t have an ongoing need for these (at least, not on the daily). The value to a consumer drops significantly past an “oh, gee, that’s interesting” aspect, outside of a diagnostic testing environment. Added to this challenge is the reality that the vast majority of runners have much lower hanging fruit than form analysis to improve their performance, the target market is vanishingly small.

    • gingerneil

      Hi Aaron.
      I agree to some extent… But you need a consistent history to be able to analyse a trend or change from one. I think runscribe could do better there though – analytics per run are great, but they don’t currently point out trend changes.
      PS – I’m a big sporttracks fan… But can we have the ability to upload photos?!

  9. Hopefully this pivot works out well. We need more innovation in a sport dominated by old-school rituals and anecdotal claims. How big is RunScribe- seems like they only have 2 or 3 full time employees. Is that right?

  10. maxfrance

    Frankly my guess would be:

    1.) I bet 1$ Runscribe will be acquired by a major company in a 6 months span if not earlier on.
    2.) Stryd sales will boast

  11. Tim Grose

    Is this is an example of the need to explain what your metrics might mean more for you more so than the technology itself. I am probably more tech geeky with running gadgets than most runners and yet running dynamics type data is still rather of a “meh” most of the time.

  12. John A Galani

    I ordered RunScribe pods very early on and upgraded when the new in built battery version came out. Out of all the techie products I have purchased, I found RunScribe the best by far.

    The key thing that sells this is the comparison tool between shoes: you can actually compare how shoes behave and assist (or hinder) your strides and bio-dynamics (or whatever this is called), wow! For runners that get injured, you might not be aware of the small differences in impact this shoe or that should attenuates, nor the pronation element.

    This shoes data when aggregated (over 1 million km logged so far) should also be quite valuable to shoe designers.

    Good luck RunScribe !

  13. Giles Levy

    I find the pace to be accurate, but the best thing for me is the right/left real time info – I wasn’t pushing off left foot as strongly so the impact on my right foot was way higher. The real time part gave me feedback to correct it while running.

    It’s pricey now, but still may be worth it if you have a friend or group to share it with.

  14. Daniel Ribeiro

    Hello, the material published in relation to RS is very good.
    But I have a question about all of this: how can you transfer all this information to the athlete and make it improve your training and test performance?

    Daniel