Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Traction Review

I hear many people say that they avoid running in the winter due to the cold temperatures and slippery surfaces. With the right clothing, the cold has never been much of a problem for me. But icy pavement can be hazardous and frustrating.

This winter, I’ve been trying a few different inexpensive products that strap on to the bottom of my running shoes to provide more traction on the snow and ice. None of these are perfect, and they certainly aren’t meant for extreme conditions like climbing. No matter what type of traction aid you use, you should still be careful when walking and running on slippery surfaces. But products like these do make me feel more confident on my feet and more efficient as I push off the ground.

The first product that I tried is a set of Magic Spikers by Eisen. These are made of rubber with a set of metal spikes (AKA crampons) concentrated at the ball of each foot. I picked these up on clearance at a shoe store a couple years ago for about $10-15.

Pros: The ¼ inch spikes are robust and dig in to thick snow (fresh or packed down) really well. They offer good grip on ice, too (though I don’t trust them to do all the work – I’m still careful). They fit snuggly on my shoes, and the spikes have lasted well without any bending.

Cons: Since the spikes are inflexible and concentrated at the ball of the foot, they can be a little uncomfortable on clear sections of pavement. They would be better if there were some spikes on the heel, too, to even things out.

The second product that I’ve tried is a set of YakTrax Pro. Instead of spikes, the YakTrax use sets of crisscrossing rubber straps wrapped in wire coils. You basically get a diamond of coils under the forefoot and one under the heel. They cost me about $18 online.

Pros: Since the coils cover the whole length of the foot, my footfalls feel even on both snow and clear pavement. I like that I get some traction on the heel of my foot as well as at my toes. The YakTrax fit around my shoe with an additional Velcro strap across the top of the foot for extra security and adjustable fit.

Cons: The coils provide traction all over the foot, but they don’t dig in very deep. I miss the feeling that crampons provide when they grab pavement under the snow.

My hubby was actually the guinea pig for the third product in my review – a set of STABILicers Lite. While running together, he saw that I could stride more easily wearing my various types of spikes and asked for a set of his own. STABILicers Lite are made of rubber with traction pads (like on the bottom of snow boots) and small metal spikes at the balls of the feet and on the heels. They cost me about $15 online. There are other versions of the STABILicer with more robust spikes, so if they interest you, check out their website.

Pros: The STABILicers Lite seem to offer a little of both worlds. They provide spike traction both at the toes and heels and are comfortable on clear pavement. They fit snuggly on shoes. Note: After reading online reviews of the product, I decided to buy a size larger than what was recommended on the website. I’m glad I did, because they don’t stretch a ton.

Cons: The small spikes on these don’t dig in super deep, but they still make a difference in traction.

Overall, my preference is torn on these products. I have ended up choosing either the Magic Spikers or the YakTrax depending on the conditions that I plan to run on. That has worked well for me.

A whole array of similar products exist in stores and online, and I’d recommend giving one of them a try if you want a little more confidence running on slippery surfaces in the winter. Very few obstacles truly have to stop you from running. Low traction is certainly an easy and inexpensive one to overcome.

What solutions have you found for increased traction in the winter? Have you come up with any home-made options? I’d love to hear about them!

And if all else fails…you can always try a set of these...which I plan to do today, by the way. ;)

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