Over the years we’ve slipped across packed snow or ice on winter runs enough to be completely frustrated. So we decided to take a set of Yaktrax Pro over-the-shoe traction devices on a trip to wintery southern Germany where much of the slip-and-slide has happened over the years.
We chose the Yaktrax since they balled up pretty small and they had steel coils instead of blades or other sharp edges that wouldn’t fare so well in our suitcase. Plus, this meant we could stick them safely in a pocket if we carried them on a run.
We found they slipped easily over the waist belt of a bottle pack without bulk or annoyance during a run. Vanity kept us from wanting to appear too goofy as we made our way along river paths toward more forested areas. For a few miles heading out of town, the snow was soft enough and spotty enough that we felt safe and not in danger of losing our upright position. Then everything changed. We were suddenly on a mix of ice and snow and some exposed rocks and roots along a less-traveled forest path. Although we’d tried on the Yaktrax in the safety of our home, here came the true test: With cold hands standing in the snow, it was time to put them on.
Surprisingly, it was pretty easy -- you just hook the front part over your toe and stretch it back over your heel. Though we were wearing bulkier trail shoes with relatively thick heels and soles, the Yaktrax devices stretched well and sat firmly. However, we caution people to carefully consider not only the size of their feet but also the bulk of the shoes they’ll be wearing when determining what size Yaktrax to purchase. Our feet fell midway in the size range for our pairs of Yaktrax, but we suspect that if our feet were two sizes larger, we might not have been able to pull them over the shoe.
We started out slowly, not sure if the 1.4 mm steel coils or rubber ribs would bust on the rocks that were exposed here and there -- or if we’d slip when we hit them. But we soon gained confidence -- and flying feet -- and nearly forgot we had them on (each only weighs about 2.2 ounces). In fact, it was truly amazing how we could suddenly go from slipping, sliding and mincing to literally opening up our stride and truly running without a thought to slipping and without having to change stride or feel impeded in any way. We were ecstatic! Now, that said, we tried to avoid a lot of rocky areas since we’ve heard plenty of stories of breakage, and once we returned to softer snow and patchier snow-asphalt mixes, we took them off and re-stowed them on our waist belt. No need to thumb our nose at potential breakage.
But for the rest of that first week, we used them and, boy, were they our best friend on early morning icy, snowy runs. We learned how to put them on and take them off more efficiently while in the snow. We also discovered by trial and error how tight to make the hook-and-loop straps that went over the instep to secure them on your foot -- when they were too tight, we felt as if our feet were losing circulation.
We wear them only on occasional runs or outings in the mountains or when we head to wintery places (and aren’t about to give up our runs). Many folks, runners included, have found that the coils and rubber straps can eventually snap from regular wear. We have not experienced that ourselves, but it may be something to watch out for. The Pro model is beefier for more athletic use, while the Walker model is intended for very light use.
All in all, they have become pretty good friends. And, even if there were breakage, we’d be very willing to invest in a pair every couple of years to keep us happily running along.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $29.95/Yaktrax Pro; $20/Yaktrax Walker