Gear Corner: Review of the Yaktrax Pro

While putting a lot more running miles in the snow, you can’t help but wish for more traction.  I used to have a pair of traction devices (the brand name of which I can’t remember now) that I could put on the soles of my shoes.  They were made of rubber which would hug the outline of your sole, and had little studs on the bottom for gripping snow and ice.  The problems were:

  • The studs felt funny when you weren’t on soft snow.  When you run in the suburbs, you’ll be running over cleared sidewalks sometimes too.  Whenever I was on harder surfaces, I could feel the little cleats pushing back into my feet, like some annoying acupuncture.  I’d actually take them off and carry them or strap them to my running belt if I could see there would be cement for an extended stretch.
  • The little studs could break off.
  • Besides the elasticity of the rubber hugging the outside of the shoe, there was nothing keeping them attached.  I eventually zoned out on a run, noticed one of them was missing, backtracked for nearly a kilometer, and gave up on trying to find it.  I threw the other one in the garbage.

Still, I don’t think I can keep running in the snow without a little help, and based on a little research, more people seem to swear by Yaktrax than any other.  I like the idea of Yaktrax, which puts steel spring coils running horizontally across the soles – I figured that would feel nicer than little pointy bits under my feet.

Yaktrax Run

I went to my local Running Room to buy a pair.  I saw they have a model called the Yaktrax Run, but that had the pesky studs under the ball of the feet, so I stuck with the more basic, classic Yaktrax Pro.
Yaktrax Pro

I was really happy to see that strap on top, which would prevent me from losing them on the run, but how would they feel?  Would they work?  I took them out on a 12km run.

What I noticed:

  • Running on cement or pavement did feel better than with the studs.  You do notice the coils, but they’re not wholly unpleasant, just different than running without.
  • If the snow has been packed down by other people walking/running/skiing on it, and the terrain is flat, IT FEELS LIKE THERE’S NO SNOW AT ALL.  The feeling of running on my usual trail was indistinguishable from when it’s dry.  I step and move forward without any sideways lateral slipping, or lack of traction.
  • Going uphill is still tricky.  As soon as the trail climbed a little, I had to step more carefully again and remember that running in the snow is still simply different, Yaktrax or not.  I do think they helped me get up the hill (and back down again), the difference just wasn’t as stark as on the flats.
  • They can give you a little overconfidence.  When the snow got deeper I simply carried on.  There, the problems go beyond slipperiness and beyond what the Yaktrax can help you with.  Deeper snow means wet shoes and feet, and the resistance of pushing snow aside as you stride.  Another rude reminder that the snow changes your run.

The way this particular run turned out, I hit the deep snow at the furthest point from the start, and having to slow down nearly ruined my schedule; I wanted to be back home in time to go to a haircut appointment.  In spite of the fact that it was supposed to be a long, slow distance run, I hauled it on the way back, and ran nearly a minute per kilometer faster.  The Yaktrax held up fine; that doesn’t mean that you can use them for speed work necessarily, but I got a reasonable variety of paces out of them.  If you’re going to run in snow and/or ice, these are the product I would recommend.

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