Product Review: SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach

Written by Jesse Vondracek, Professional Triathlete and TriSports Elite Team Member

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The company SHFT was born in 2013 and started as an idea to help runners run faster and stay injury free. In 2014, this idea started to become reality as the idea of running power was able to be measured. Later that year, the first food pod prototype was created, providing the company enough leverage to secure financial backing. Through SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach a runner is able to measure several  landing position, steps per minute, ground contact time, time in air, landing angle, toe off angle, steps length, G-landing (landing force), watt, running efficiency, brake effect, body bounce, and body angle. A year later, all the kinks had been worked out, along with a final system design consisting of two pods, one for the chest and the other for the right shoe. The Intelligent Virtual Running Coach hit the market and has taken the running community by storm.

How is SHFT Different?
SHFT analyzes your running form and tracks your development. It determines your weakest area, then it tells you how to work on improving your weakness in real time. This immediate feedback and assistance as you go sets this power meter apart, and earns SHFT the title of a coach. In an age of instant everything, SHFT nailed what consumers want, real-time feedback while training. Gone are the days of having to do your run first, come back and upload your data to be able to analyze your running efficiency. SHFT does all the work for you with instant feedback.

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How Does it Coach? 
My first question was, how does a power meter call itself a coach? Sure…it gives you a tremendous amount of data, but a coach? So, I took it for a spin. SHFT analyzed my run form and gave me all kinds of data. But the best part is that it immediately told me what to do with the data in order to make each body movement more efficient. It turns out I have an extremely high ground contact time. The virtual coach then led me through three rounds of six minutes training where I focused on my ground contact. During each six-minute segment, the coach gave me updates on my average ground contact time, as well as gave me parts of my stride to think about in order to encourage a shorter ground contact time. The coach told me to do things like focus on getting my heel closer to my hips, shortening my stride, and think about running barefoot in hot sand. These tools helped me to decrease my ground contact time during my three six-minute segments. The constant feedback and praise was oddly helpful. It was helpful enough to overlook the extremely robotic voice that could not seem to pronounce “successful” for the life of it.
This would be a great tool to begin using in the off-season. I could work on my ground contact time in the off-season, much like in cycling people tend to work on cadence. SHFT collects a variety of running metrics, with the SHFT Coach turned on, you will not only get the the information about a metric, but also instructions on how to improve any areas of weakness. One of these running variables will be your weakness, and you will want to work on it at some point in your season. SHFT helps you identify that weakness.

Like any new tool in your tool box, I would advise you to take some time to use it appropriately. For example, I have done a few test runs, but I am three weeks out from an IRONMAN. I am very curious about the data SHFT has given me, but I need to wait until after the race before I try to make a series of adjustments to my stride.

Added Benefit for Triathletes
On the same note, I am curious to test my stand alone running form to how I run off of the bike. This could be an extremely good use of SHFT for triathletes. The program stores data from each run you do. I am excited to see how my numbers from a fresh tempo run compare to a run off the bike. Exploring these differences is hard to do on your own, but could help reduce the gap between your open half time and your 70.3 run split.

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Ease of Use
Out of the box, this product was extremely self-explanatory. It was so easy, I second guessed myself while using it because of how simple it was. You simply charge the pods, download the app, pair the pods with blue tooth on your phone, place them on your chest and shoe, and you’re off and running.

Seven minutes into the first run, SHFT has your first data points set. It then gives you guided instruction while running to work on your weakness. This continued guidance helps athletes stay engaged in what they are doing while they are working on it. Six minutes is a short enough time to focus on something and short enough for mostly all runners to be able to run for the entire time. This is a great tool to have in the shed to improve run economy and efficiency for all runners. I hope that as time goes on, this technology can be paired with a GPS watch so that you do not need to carry your phone. My other hope is that SHFT will help you understand the rest of the data it provides. It gives you a ton of great feedback, but it doesn’t tell you much about it. I don’t know if 114cm is a good step length, or if my 9 watt break effect is high. It does a great job illustrating what the terms mean, but I would like a range of values for each metric.

All in all, after seven minutes of running I learned something new about my own form that I had not discussed with my coach over six years of competitive racing. The SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach is a great tool to help unlock your running potential.

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shft-3About the Author: Jesse has been racing professionally for seven years. His career highlights include an IRONMAN PR of 8:44, 7th place at 2016 IRONMAN Vineman, 70.3 PR of 4:05 at 2016 Eagleman for 5th place and 0 DNFs. Jesse is a coach at http://www.topsteptraining.com and USAT certified. He’s been coaching athletes for the past six years. Besides coaching triathletes, he has coached high school cross country and track, as well as club swimming. Jesse spent ten years teaching and has a Master’s Degree in Education.