Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ice Spikes on shoes

A footpath of icy death. Walk on it... or to the side?
As its still pretty ridiculously cold out at the moment, with quite a bit of freeze/thaw going on, this might be a bit pertinent to those of you who still want to go outside for amusement and recreation and still haven't quite worked out the best way of doing so when the ground is covered in sheet ice.

Low tech solution
This works for pavements that are covered in ice, black ice and general horribleness. Last year we lived in London and the area around where we lived was basically covered in a layer of about 3cms of glassy ice. There was no way you could get a grip on any of it without help.
The best way to deal with this is get a pair of old socks, and put them on outside of your shoes. Hey presto. Grip on ice. Works for walking, and for short distances. Your socks will also get trashed.

Walking on ice
Yaktrax were few and far between last year, no one was prepared for the ice and the waiting list for these in the shop was ridiculous. As soon as they came in, we were sold out. Craziness. They consist of a rubber skeleton which slips over the shoe, and has wire coils wrapped around the skeleton to enable the shoe to grip.
Yaktrax tread pattern
Great for walking, very good for walking over ice, but can occasionally slip on some of the more crazy slippy icy bits. Generally pretty damn good though. They are about £13, and for an extra fiver, you can get the "pro" version, which is basically exactly the same, but includes a velcro strap that goes over the top of the shoe to ensure that they stay on the shoe. Cheaper to use your own velcro strip, but there you go.

Issues with Yaktrax
The weak spot
Without the strap going over the top they do have a quite annoying tendency to ping off when you least expect it, and you end up spending all the time looking at your feet.
They are a nightmare to put on and take quite a while of scrabbling around on your knees.
If you run in them, or use them for prolonged periods of time, the rubber which you are treading on eventually wears through and they no longer retain shape.
However, they are great for occassional use, walking and generally getting about the place, especially in town. They can be used on the hill, but I'd prefer something a bit more gutsy.

Kahtoola Microspikes
Kahtoolas on water ice
A bit more expensive than Yaktrax (£45), but a lot more hard wearing. The rubber part goes over the top of the shoe and the metal part goes underneath. You don't have the worry that there is anything under the shoe that might give way because you stand on it funny, and the harness is very solid and secure- no concerns about them popping off your shoes mid stride at all. Also, because the rubber is a lot thicker and generally easier to handle, they are a lot easier to get on your shoes than the yaktrax.
Kahtoola tread pattern
The spikes protrude about 5mm, and are really quite chunky. I've used them on innumerable runs recently, pretty much from leaving the house to getting back in. Snow. Ice. Black ice. Nothing to worry about in any way shape or form. Ok, I'm not running at full pelt, but I don't tend to at night anyway. The great thing is, you don't need to worry about what you are running on, or what you are about to run on. The spikes seem to grip to anything, even the Pennine way, which, at the moment, is like an ice rink.
Spikes, and very secure attachments to the shoe
I can even run the last 500 metres on road back to my house without bothering to take them off. Its not totally comfortable, but I know that if I do happen to hit an icy patch on the road, I'm not going over.
These things just bite into anything
I really do love these things.
For racing, they may not be so practical, as you may need to take them off and put them back on again, however, for long days, and nights in the ice bound hills, I don't think you can get much better. Without these I would not have been out running the past few weeks. They are Brilliant. Actually. Brilliant.

Dobbed shoes
Oroc Studs
For racing, these are probably pretty damn good. Shoes with a grip, and with tungsten/carbide tipped studs that protrude as you run. Originally created (I think) by Icebug in sweden, a couple of companies have since used the same idea, most prominent in the UK being Inov8 with their Oroc range. I've never used a pair, and can't draw a direct comparison, but I have run with someone who was wearing a pair when I had my spikes on, and another friend just had a pair of normal fell shoes on. I was confident with every step, the guy with normal shoes on was all over the place, and the one with Orocs was relatively confident, but there were a few moments here and there where she was a bit less confident in her steps. Had I wanted to, I definitely could have gone faster, however, if we were racing, and I had to take the spikes off for a section, and then put them back on again, the time I made up in being more confident would have been eroded away by the fact she could just have run on through. So for racing, this kind of thing is probably better

Other things I've heard of but haven't managed to get hold of/use
Pogu spikes- much the same kind of thing as the Kahtoolas, but with an extra strap that goes over the top, a couple more spikes on the bottom, and a carry case. For the same price as the Kahtoolas, which isn't bad.

If you're out in the hills, or even just wandering around on the street- which is covered in ice, get something which stops you from falling over. If you're running, don't skimp, get something with some TEETH!


  1. re: Dobs: You've got your Oroc, Icebug (quite new I think?), Jalas, Olway and VJ. The latter 3 used to be quite old-school O shoes and not very comfy outside of a nice soft forest, but they're better now. Orocs and icebugs are comfy. The main problem with the Orocs over the other dobbed shoes is that the dobs don't protrude too far - hence the few sketchy moments, but you should catch yourself before going AOT. The Dobs on other makes tend to protrude more, so great in ice/forest, but not so great if you hit long road/no-ice sections. The advent of the Oroc as a comfy O shoe has made the other companies take notice however, and I believe their shoes now offer much more protection to your feet from the dobs when on hard surfaces.
    I'm going to be wearing my Orocs for tomorrow's race. If it's anything like today's run it'll be like running a small glacier!

  2. Icebug have been around for quite a while... I've been lusting after a pair of BUGrips (or similar) since about 2007.

    Sketchy moments in the middle of races are to be expected, I guess, its one of those sacrifices you make for speed. But on long icy days out, I'd rather have the knowledge that I'm going to stick to pretty much everything. (the difference between a racer and an adventurer, perhaps?!)
    Good luck in the race, mate.

  3. I can certainly vouch for the Kahtoolas. I just need to take them with me to benefit from their spikiness, though.

  4. Yeah, Thats the problem... same with emergency gear, its all good stuff, but pretty useless when you don't have it with you.