Monday, January 11, 2010

Running on snow

Yesterday I was bound and determined to go to the gym for a swim/run workout.  Unfortunately, my gym is under new management and the hours have changed since I last checked them.  So I missed my opportunity to swim.

I decided to attempt a run outside instead.  I haven't tried running on the snow yet this year, but I've done it in the past, so I knew the ease of running depended on how the snow had been treated on a given road or sidewalk.  There are several possibilities:
  • Untouched, virgin accumulation.  This is a rare and beautiful thing in the urban/sub-urban world.  I also try to avoid running in it because it's a recipe for getting snow inside your shoes.  A cold, wet, cringe-inducing experience.
  • If the snow piles up without being shoveled or plowed and people walk through it infrequently, you end up with a set of awkward, ankle twisting tracks frozen into the snow two or three inches deep.  I feel like a football player high stepping through a row of old car tires traversing this type of snow. 
  • If snow melts a little then re-freezes, it turns into a thick layer of ice over the pavement.  Not a good surface for any kind of traction.  On this stuff, I'm reduced to a slow ice skate in my running shoes.
  • If a home owner or business shovels their stretch of sidewalk consistently - and even better, salts it - the snow is likely to melt off completely leaving a clear path.  This is obviously the most ideal surface for running. 
  • If the top layers of snow get plowed off of a road or path and then cars or people travers over the remaining stuff regularly, the snow gets packed down but doesn't get icy on top.  This is a very acceptable running surface.  I don't get the same traction as I would on clear pavement, so I sometimes feel like I'm running slower than usual.  But I also don't feel like I'm going to slip and fall.
I encountered some of each of these surfaces on my 3 mile run yesterday.  Fortunately, I took a chance on the nearby bike path, and it turned out to offer the plowed-and-packed snow variety.  So most of my route was very runnable.  I really forgot that it's not so bad running outside in the winter most days.

While I was running, I noticed several sets of tracks from people that were wearing YakTrax cleats on their shoes. 

I tried a similar product only once, so I haven't had a chance to decide how well they work.  Does anyone have experience with products that you strap to your shoes for increased traction?  What do you think of them?  Do they really give you more grip?  Do you feel them through your shoes with each step?  Are they comfortable?  Does snow get stuck to the wires reducing their effectiveness?


  1. My husband swears by Yak Traks for traction in snow and ice, when running or just walking. He's done a few triathlons, tons of road races and a few marathons, including the Boston. He's never complained about discomfort--he's just been happy to have the extra traction. I can get a more complete review from him, though.

  2. I like your new header!

    I bought my husband Yak Trax for Christmas, but he has not had to pull them out yet. I guess people in our neighborhood are too good at shoveling their sidewalks.