garmin fr60 review: part 1

Run speed

For my running program, this has been a year of firsts: In January, I bought my first MP3 player since 1999 and started running with music. Music! But music doesn’t make you faster. My inner engineer decided that more data was needed. A few months ago, Garmin released the FR60, the first product that correlates foot-pod accelerometer and heart rate data in an agreeable-looking digital watch. I know several people who are fans of the similar Nike+ system, and I’ve often wondered about these foot pods—are they at all accurate? Garmin’s literature promised “98% accuracy,” which is good enough for me, so I bought one.

Turns out, Garmin lies. My first run with the watch was a huge letdown: the instantaneous pace readout, the main feature that led me to purchase the product, was indicating more than 1 minute slower (per mile) than I believed I was running based on old-fashioned estimation. That would represent an error of more than 12%. To check my sanity, I borrowed a fancier watch that uses GPS, not accelerometer data, to calculate speed. I did a quick jog/walk with both products and correlated the data shown here: GPS speed (Forerunner 305) in blue, foot-pod speed (FR60) in red. Sure enough, my speed estimates were more accurate than the watch readout! But I was surprised to see the correlation improve dramatically during walking.

While Garmin makes no effort to call out its necessity, the FR60 offers a calibration procedure to improve the foot-pod accuracy. Will calibration improve running-speed accuracy at the expense of walking? We’ll find out in part two.

10 Comments

  1. Jacktar December 30, 2009

    Polar is another option for foot pod accelerometer based watches & heart rate monitors. I have RS400 SD, and a friend has the RS800, both recommend initial calibration, and even reference it when changing shoes. I find accuracy is much subject to my energy level/pace. My wife has the Nike  and even after simultanious calibration after running identical distance at the same pace, the very next mile, Nike  always thinks is longer by between 50 and 300 feet.

  2. Karen December 30, 2009

    Sooo…  I actually got one of these for Christmas and just happened to see this – did you ever complete part 2?

  3. Simon Lewis January 24, 2010

    I also want to know if you did part 2.  I have an FR60 but no foot pod.  I was thinking of getting one so I am interested to know if it got more accurate.

  4. Scott January 25, 2010

    Yes, I did eventually calibrate my FR60 foot pod on a running track and I am happy to say it seems very accurate now–at least at normal running speeds.  I have not yet checked it against the GPS at walking speeds.  I will have to do another comparison.

    Unfortunately my FR60 is now back in Garmin’s hands to repair a problem in which the lap button does not work at cold temperatures.

  5. Miguel February 9, 2010

    I was explained that the gps systems are actually less accurate than the foot pod, especially around curved routes.  The reason is that the gps takes points periodically.  If you are on a curve when it calculates the distance it is a straight line so it doesn’t take into account the arc.  So on long runs with and curvy roads if your gps is not taking many points/readings it may not be as accurate as you want.

  6. Miguel February 10, 2010

    I got the watch yesterday and unfortunately it broke all ready.  I was running in the dark and needed to use the backlight a lot.  I unfortunately noticed that the light button had fallen off!  I am on my way to take it back to the store shortly. 

    The setup and ease of use was much easier than I expected.  I had read that it was difficult to navigate and there was not start stop functionality.  I found it to be very easy.  I set things up very quickly with no previous experience on a device like this. 

    The foot pod was pretty accurate without any calibration.  It seemed to be very close to what I expected for the route I took. I will measure it on a real track over the weekend. 

    I hope the store will replace it with on that the button will stay on!

  7. mhar012003 February 27, 2011

    Garmin FR60 …..THIS PRODUCT REALLY IS A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY!
    I bought this product yesterday from Sam’s Club.
    Setting the time was easy, but that was the only thing, setting up this device is rediculously complex and unintuitive.
    There are many more than a few things you have to do before you are ready to go.
    This device does not make your workout simple…. and you will hate the complexity of this device, the discomfort, and the quick setup guide is anything but quick and it refers you to a manual which you have to access on the web. It is clear that this is a quick to market device to steal money from impulive buyers who will put it in a drawer never to be used again.
    The setup video on the Garmin site is misleading, this device is not simple.
    After following Garmin instructions, I strapped on the heart rate monitor, and started thru the screen menus trying to get it to work,
    after about 30 minutes of back and forth, screen to screen, I finally got the heart rate to showup, but I don’t know how I got it to work, as as soon as I changed screens it quit working.
    The screen menu is complex and unintuitive.
    Next I tried the virtual partner, it was just as confusing and frustrating.
    Ok I moved on the footpod. It was easier to setup but still complex.
    I went running with the footpod and it measured time and distance, but I could never monitor heart rate at the same time.
    Afer comming back from running, I downloaded the GarminConnect which is required to get information into your computer. The download took too much time but finally came through.
    Next.. get the Ant  stick to pair with the FR60…after an hour of loading, reloading, rebooting…etc…. the ANT stick could not find the FR60 for pairing.
    I returned the device to SAM’S FOR A REFUND.

    SAVE YOUR MONEY, YOUR TIME, AND FRUSTRATION, FORGET THE
    FR60 WITH ANT  communiction.

  8. Joe April 3, 2011

    mhar012003 is obviously a retard. You bought a device, use the manual – I got one with mine I suspect this is the same for most and I don’t see the validity in your complaint regarding the online version (you seem to have managed to go online and post that testament to your stupidity) it should be directed at the store you bought the item from. Evidently you don’t mix well with technology so here’s a bit of advice get yourself a watch and a map.

    In any case the accuracy of the foot pod can be questionable but I have found that if calibrated on a running track it should average out correctly that or a new battery may be needed for the foot pod. Overall I have found this to be a good product for the money.

  9. Runner April 19, 2011

    The FR60 is an excellent watch.  It’s this “review” that is worthless.  It’s like trying to watch a monkey start a car with a banana.  Look for other reviews with real information and read the manual. Jeez.

  10. Chris July 5, 2011

    I was using a Garmin 305 and found it to be a great watch but too bulky for my preference. I did a ton of research before settling on the Garmin FR60. I liked the reports, the ease of use and most importantly the size. Like most, I was concernced about the accuracy as compared to the GPS. I wore both wathches for several runs and found them to be off by more than 10%. I recalibrated the FR60 at a track and after that the watches were never more than 1% to 2% off. The battery life is something that I did not consider because all I knew was the 305.
    It is a bonus feature. I have not had to change the batteries in over 1 year with the watch. As a side note, I only use it outdoors and I live in Florida so trees are not a concern for GPS.
    I don’t have to charge it. I don’t have to wait for a signal. It is small. It is accurate. There are many good watches out there and I only have experience with these two. I would recommend either one but love the size of the FR60, which is nothing more than a preference.

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