A few years ago, I purchased a set of Yaktrax Pro traction devices. It was after a painful bounce on an ice cover sidewalk that I decided to break down and do something about my lack of friction on frozen running surfaces.
I’m no noob to running on ice and snow. I had run year-round in Wisconsin for all of high school and college. The frustrations of uncleared sidewalks and refrozen roads were all too familiar. However, my aching backside convinced me to try out one of the traction devices the 21st century has brough us.
Despite growing up in Wisconsin, the ice conditions in Kansas City were a surprise to me. In a particular January a few years ago, we had a large amount of freezing rain, snow, melting and freezing, and therefore ice. I strapped on my new Yaktrax and went for a spin. As I ran along, I was skeptical of the traction capability of the wire-wrapped rubber web stretched across the soles of my shoes. It wasn’t until my dog, with claws out, slid off the sidewalk that I realized I was running on ice. Literally, my lab/Shepard mix slid off the sidewalk.
So, that was settled. Yaktrax do offer outstanding traction on ice and packed snow. The catch ended up being the durability of the devices. After a week, I had worn flat spots on certain areas of the wire tread: mostly the ball/toe area. Within two weeks the steel tread had been worn through. That wouldn’t have been a big deal. I would gladly pay $20 or so a season for good traction, but the rubber framework of the Yaktrax then broke. In about two weeks, I had killed a set on mostly ice and snow covered sidewalks and roads. And for the curious folks, I was running about 25 miles a week.
I’m still hoping to find an optimal solution for traction issues on frozen running surfaces. It looks like durability will be the biggest issue with this kind of traction device. The Kako ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip (pictured) or Chains look like they may fill the role. but the durability would still possibly be an issue. I would also rather not spend $40 per season for this, but I would be happy if they could last at least a couple of seasons.
Then there is dedicated winter running shoe such as the Asics Gel-Arctic 2 . The Asics has 10 replaceable spikes in the base of each shoe. Having run in a number of cross-country and track shoes with these type of spikes, I know they can be a pain when they get stuck. The spikes should be easy enough to acquire, but would they be durable enough for a season or two (or ten) of winter running?
Another more versatile winter shoe is the Salomon Speedcross 2 GTX. It doesn’t have spikes but has a specialized rubber outsole claimed to “supply superior traction on snow, slush and mud”.
Finally, there’s the “screw your shoes” option. I have a hard time convincing myself to put screws in the bottom of a pair of shoes, but that may be a paradigm that I need to change. It’s been recommended by several experienced winter trail runners.
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on what I choose and how it goes. I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat.