Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter running traction

Most people around here head for the ski resorts after a few inches of fresh snow...not me.  I head for the trails.  Running a silent snowy trail- framed with snow-covered trees and deep blue skies- may be one of my favorite, most spiritual, experiences.  It may only be 10F, but the trail awaits.  Don't let cold, snow or ice keep you from what makes you feel most alive.  You can be warm and safe with the right gear selection.

 1.  YakTrax Pro is a removable traction device.  Borrowed.  Retails for approximately $30.
To wear, secure the YakTrax to the front of your shoe and stretch it back around the heel of your shoe.  It has a center Velcro strap to keep it secure over the top of your shoe.  Wearing YakTrax, I feel very confident on the uphill and slightly less confident on the downhill.  As we climbed and got into deeper, untracked snow, I experienced some slipping.  Overall, good option.
 2.  LaSportiva A.T. Hobnail Kit.  Gift from a friend.  Retails for approximately $50.
These removable threaded hobnails are like adding studded tires to your vehicle in the winter.  Using the provided tool, the hobnails screw into the bottom of any rubber-soled shoe for instant traction control.  Want more traction?  Screw in more hobnails.  I was given this set by a friend who reviews running gear.  Since he lives in a mostly warm climate (lacking review-able snowy conditions) he passed them along to me.  I keep the hobnails screwed into this particular pair of trail running shoes and feel comfortable walking from dry pavement to snowpacked terrain.  The hobnails have the right amount of bite to grip the ice, but don't provide very much traction in heavy snow.
3.  Kahtoola Microspikes.  Purchased from 6pm.com for $45 + $10 coupon off & free shipping = $35 deal!  Retails for approximately $60.
I knew my more serious trail running friends were partial to Kahtoolas, but a year ago when I looked up the price I decided I could do without them and make due with my hobnails for icy conditions and snowshoes for snowy conditions.  Have you run in snowshoes?  Not my favorite.
The Kahtoola Microspikes?  My favorite.  Center the front of the Microspike over the front of your shoe and stretch around and over the heel to secure to the shoe.  By secure, I mean secure.  These bad boys aren't going anywhere.  I've heard of, experienced, and seen bailed traction devices on the trail. It's a pain to have to stop and fix/reposition gear when you're all geared up.
Check out the profile shot below.  Looks like shark teeth.  I have 100% confidence on fluff snow, packed snow, ice, uphill, downhill, slippery rocks, etc. wearing these.  I would pay full price for these any day.  I'm not sure I'll even wear my snowshoes anymore.  They are great in even deep powder.
 4.  SEIRUS® STORMSOCK Sock.  Purchased from rei.com for $28.  Retails for approximately $28.
These fleece-lined, moisture-wicking socks are a must have for cold, wet winter activity.  The nylon/lycra outter layer is windproof and water resistant.
I've had a pair of these socks for about 12 years.  They go in my snow boots, ski boots, various running shoes, etc.  I recently ordered a new pair and was surprised when I received them.  I thought I must have ordered the wrong item because this new pair was super thin.  I ordered hyperlites.  I was afraid the new pair wouldn't keep my foot as warm and dry as the thicker pair I've worn for so long.  When I tried to pull them on over my base layer sock, I couldn't get the Stormsock to budge.  I finally removed the base layer sock and just went with the Stormsock.  During my 1:15 run in my soaking wet trail shoes, my feet were warm and dry.  Stepping out of my wet shoe with my Stocksock still on, my foot left a wet print on the ground, but my foot still felt dry and warm (15F-20F conditions).
 Get out there!  No excuses.
 Imagine yourself on an empty trail with just your thoughts...
 ...or with no thoughts at all.
 Solid traction frees your mind for other things...
...like enjoying the pre-dawn full moon...
You don't have to be a trail runner or winter runner to need extra traction.  Think about dusk/dawn dog walks, taking the garbage out, or shoveling snow.  No more worries about black ice.  
I'm off for an afternoon run in my Kahtoolas!

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