Adidas competes with Nike+ training gadgets

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There's a new challenger in town when it comes to funky fitness aids. The Nike+ system has been king of the hill for four uninterrupted years but Adidas's miCoach is going to give it a run for its money by bringing more science and less MP3-player discrimination to the table.

Granted, the miCoach's recommended retail price is over four times as much as the basic Nike+ package. However, it does include a nifty miniature heart rate monitor that's discreetly wrapped around the runner's chest, a pedometer to calculate stride length and speed, and a little pacer unit that straps onto the arm.

The pacer unit receives data from both the heart monitor and pedometer via wireless signals, and also plugs into any portable media player (not just limiting itself to iPods).

Not only that, but the pedometer is also non-exclusive in its preferences - instead of tucking into a manufactured pouch, it pairs with any shoe, regardless of origin. Budding runners won't need to shell out for a new pair of kicks once they've got the tech.

Another small but appreciable difference is that a flat stride sensor battery can simply be replaced, rather than requiring a whole new pedometer unit purchase.

In common, both systems monitor speed, distance, calorific burn rates and can prompt runners during a training session. Both also have companion websites to which data can be uploaded, and come with computer programs that track and plot fitness graphs.

However, the major and immediate difference is the price point. Adidas will need to convince consumers that miCoach offers the most complete personal training system and the €120 / $139 price tag is a hurdle worth overcoming, as compared to the €29 / $29 it costs for the Nike+ Sport Kit.