A really nice pair of running shoes, with some extra intelligence thrown in.
Under Armour is making a big push into connected fitness. Part of the strategy involves altogether new products like the Under Armour HealthBox in partnership with HTC, but another area is adding smarts to its existing products — like these, the Speedform Gemini 2 RE running shoes. If you're familiar with Under Armour's running shoe line you'll know that the Speedform Gemini 2s already exist — but the "RE" on the end of these stands for "Record Equipped."
That's the branding Under Armour uses around its connected fitness products, and it means that these shoes can track your runs with amazing accuracy, and when you're back home they can hook up to its dedicated running app, Map My Run, to give you all of the data. In a world where everything seems to be "connected" in some way or another we probably should've seen this coming, but that doesn't make it any less impressive.
The Speedform Gemini 2 RE running shoes aim to give you the most accurate tracking of your runs, whether you want to bring a phone along with you or not, and help you train harder to reach your running goals. It sounds like a great combination, and we're here to find out if that's the case in our full review.
About this review
I (Andrew Martonik) am writing this review after over three weeks using the Speedform Gemini 2 RE running shoes, with a Nexus 6P serving as the syncing device.
Speedform Gemini 2 RE Getting started
Just like the rest of Under Armour's new connected fitness products, the Speedform Gemini 2 RE shoes are extremely simple to set up. Interestingly, the branding of the shoes leads you astray a bit. Though these are "Record Equipped", you don't pair them with UA Record, and instead get started by pairing them with the Map My Run app. (Under Armour acquired Map My Run in 2013).
It's a one-time setup process, and it couldn't be simpler
Simply shake the right shoe around a little (or walk down a hallway for a minute) to get the motion sensor detecting your movements, and in seconds you'll pair the shoes over Bluetooth in Map My Run. And that's it. Going forward, the shoes will now auto-connect to your phone whenever they detect motion again, and if Map My Run is open they will sync up for completed or upcoming runs.
Of course this all requires that you're using Map My Run for your run tracking, which may be considered an issue for some, but as far as locking you into one app goes this is one of the better options. Map My Run is well-regarded as one of the top apps for runners, and the app as a whole offers tremendous value above and beyond just linking up with your new connected running shoes.
Extra data points
Speedform Gemini 2 RE Going on a run
So what's it like to put on connected running shoes and actually get out there for a jog? Well thankfully, it's no different than running with any other high-end running shoes. After the setup process, the electronics just get out of the way and let you get to your run. Though there's plenty of fitness technology that purports to make your workouts simpler, these shoes are one thing that actually accomplishes that goal.
For those who are used to firing up an app like Map My Run to track your running stats, moving over to the Speedform Gemini 2 REs is actually going to switch up your routine a bit. Instead of using the app to offer live run tracking as you go, as would be the case if you were tracking the run via your phone's GPS location, there's no need to keep Map My Run open while you're out.
It's going to change your running routine, but the features may be worth it to you
As soon as you're at a pace above walking the shoes will automatically start logging your run, including your distance, pace per mile and even split times (with detailed pace info for each) when it detects that you've slowed down to take a break or breather between different portions of the run. Once you've crossed back down to a walking pace for a sufficient amount of time, the shoes will conclude that run and store it locally. Open up Map My Run while the shoes are still active (for me, that's as I walked back up to my apartment after a run), and it will sync over the stats from that run — the completed runs will show up in your feed the same as if you had tracked it with the app on your phone.
If you do choose to track a run manually with Map My Run (as you would without connected shoes) when the Speedform Gemini 2 REs are connected, you'll simply get a couple extra data points, like speed and pace information, from the shoes — but the phone will still be the main data collector. If you choose to bring a phone along for the run, the shoes won't add much information to the wealth of data that the phone's already collecting.
Naturally, there are upsides and downsides to this approach. The fact that you can track a run without your phone is a huge bonus for those who prefer to run without yet another device strapped to their arm — particularly with how big phones are today — or prefer using a dedicated music device like an iPod while running.
And even if you don't mind running with a phone, the shoes are able to track even more accurately than GPS can when it comes to precise distance, speed and pace information. In cases where GPS isn't useful at all, such as running at an indoor track or on a treadmill, the shoes are dramatically more accurate than using a pedometer to track runs.
You can leave your phone at home, but you'll lose some advanced tracking features
On the other side of things, the extreme simplicity of the tech inside the Speedform Gemini 2 REs can leave you wanting more. For someone who wants the utmost control over their run, not knowing precisely when the shoes are starting and stopping runs can be worrisome — you can't explicitly start, stop or pause a run like you can on your phone.
It also means you don't get live tracking information from your phone, so those who want pace, time or distance updates fed into their headphones while running will be out of luck. Not having GPS from your phone also means you don't get a map showing the route you took on your run — something that can be particularly useful for sharing with friends or remembering routes.
Depending on your needs as a runner, those pros and cons may weigh differently on you. There's no doubt that the simplicity of the Speedform Gemini 2 REs will win over a lot of people who just want to track runs without extra equipment. But if you're a data junkie that wants to pull in as much information about your run as possible and don't mind having a phone on you, these may not fulfill your needs in that respect.
Comfort and design
For as cool as all of the tracking technology is, it isn't really worth much if these running shoes aren't actually comfortable for running. Thankfully the smarts in the Record Equipped version of the Speedform Gemini 2s don't lead to any changes in the actual shoe quality. With the caveat that I'm nowhere near a marathon-level runner, I was extremely comfortable running several miles a week in the Speedform Gemini 2s. They're snug in the right areas, very light and offer good cushion even when running through the city on concrete. It's good to know, but considering the high-end price of these shoes, I wouldn't expect any less.
The battery will outlast the shoes themselves, and you can work them as hard as you want
Beyond the accuracy of the data these shoes provide for run tracking, the biggest questions are about the battery life and durability of connected running shoes. In terms of battery life, Under Armour has designed the Speedform Gemini 2 REs' battery to last longer than the physical structure of the shoes. That means you'll be onto your next pair of shoes after a few hundred miles of running — as is the case with any nice pair of running shoes — well before the internal battery dies. For the most part that's due to the shoes' high threshold for activating with movement, but also because the shoes don't keep an active Bluetooth connection for runs — it's simply tracking everything to report at the end.
When it comes to durability, you'll be glad to know that you can treat these shoes like any others you may be eyeing — Under Armour provides a waterproof guarantee for 415 miles of running. All of the electronics are sealed inside of the shoes, meaning you don't have to worry about going for a run down a muddy trail or even tossing them in the washing machine when you get back home. The electronics are small and meant to take a beating — so anything you'd be willing to put your shoes (and feet) through, the electronics can keep up with.
If the connected shoe fits ...
Speedform Gemini 2 RE Bottom line
At first glance, it's easy to look at the Speedform Gemini 2 REs and think this is another case of adding connected equipment to something that doesn't really need it. Sure there are numerous ways to keep track of your runs, but there's still value to be seen in having your actual running shoes doing the collection of your running data.
The Speedform Gemini 2 REs are just another option for those who want to collect data on their runs, and the fact that the technology is paired with a downright solid pair of running shoes makes it even more useful. The shoes are easy to set up, even simpler to use for each run you want to track, and don't add any extra complication to your running routine.
At this point the technology inside just isn't powerful enough to completely duplicate the experience you get from tracking runs with a full-featured running app on a phone, but that doesn't mean there aren't still upsides to running with just a pair of shoes and getting really accurate and useful data at the end. Not everyone wants to run with a bunch of gadgets on them, and the Speedform Gemini 2 REs can free you from that.
Should you buy them? Not for everyone
Starting from the base line of ruling out anyone who isn't already (or planning to be) a runner, there's a sizable group of people who will find value in the tracking abilities of the Speedform Gemini 2 REs. If you're someone who is already willing to spend $130 on a great pair of high-end running shoes like the Speedform Gemini 2s, the extra $20 to get the $150 Record Equipped model of the same shoes isn't too much to ask.
That extra $20 lets you track your runs even without a phone on you, as well as in situations where a phone's GPS isn't a reliable way to track your run. The extra tracking choice is a nice-to-have feature, and it doesn't come with any decrease in the quality of the actual shoes. You can wear your Speedform Gemini 2 REs for every run, regardless of whether or not you're relying on the data gathered by the shoes.
If, on the other hand, you're someone who has a much lower budget for buying a pair of running shoes, bumping all the way up to the top-of-the-line in order to get these connected shoes probably isn't going to be worth it to you. Unless you will be relying on just the Speedform Gemini 2 REs for tracking a majority of your runs, chances are you'll feel better about saving $100 and simply using your phone or fitness band for tracking information. Further, if you plan on running with your phone anyway and do all of your running outside in clear view of GPS satellites, you may not care about the marginal improvement in tracking from the shoes considering how many other features you lose in the process.
Where and when you can buy them
The Speedform Gemini 2 RE running shoes aren't available in retail locations just yet, but will go on sale at the end of February starting with under Armour's own website at a price of $150. You'll also find them at specialty running equipment stores. While I've reviewed the men's version of the shoes here, you'll find the same designs and features in women's sizes as well.