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TRICKS OF THE WINTER TRAIL: SPIKES!

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A lot of New York outdoor athletes train year round in super snowy and icy conditions. We’re out on the trails, up in the mountains, and one of the biggest questions we get asked is, “how do you keep from slipping?” The answer? Spikes!

Micro spikes. Traction devices. Sole spikes. Lots of different names, but if you’re out running or hiking in fresh snow and ice than the use of screws or some sort of traction device can be immensely helpful. When do you use spikes? If it’s slippery out, but not too deep to need snowshoes or not so steep you need crampons and an ice axe, than you use spikes. Here are some top picks.

SCREWS

Traction screws are, quite literally, short thread screws that you screw into the bottoms of your shoe. This works great if you don’t want to deal with the on/off of a traction device and if you have boots or shoes you don’t use for anything other than outdoor activity. (If your shoes do double-duty for the grocery store than this isn’t the best idea since you’d be putting in / removing screws all the time.) For obvious reasons, screws are NOT good for thin-soled minimalist running shoes. There isn’t a right/wrong way to configure them. Play with the configuration to sort out what works best for your footwear and terrain. These screws will cause very minimal damage to the rubber soles of your shoes. They may leave a pinhole, but we have yet to ruin any footwear by using them. And if one pops out (which occasionally happens depending on the terrain under foot), than just screw in another. Both of these products are wonderful, (but if you’re dirt broke you can make do with 3/8″ short thread hex head size #8 sheet metal screws from your local hardware store for under five bucks).

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Kold Kutter Motorcycle Ice Racing Screws (pictured above): Yes, you read that correctly. Motorcycle ice racing screws. We recently found out about this product through some fly fisherman who swear by the product. And we haven’t been disappointed! 3/8″ short thread fits well in the sole of my trail shoes. #8 hex head means they go in/out very easily with a hand ratchet tool. And those teeth bite the ice like nothing short of crampons. Super light. Super strong. (Plus, it sounds badass to tell people that you run trails using moto ice racing screws.) MSRP: $19.95 for bag of 250. Available through specialty motorcycle stores, or online at KoldKutter.com.

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Goad Head Gear Sole Spikes: Goad Head Sole Spikes is an awesome little company based out in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. They make machined, stainless steel, sole spikes specifically designed for fly fishing and trail running. And they work awesome. Plus, the company is run by some of the nicest folks around. MSRP $19.95 for a container of 30. Available through specialty outdoor/running stores, or online at SoleSpikes.com.

TRACTION DEVICES

There are a number of popular traction device brands on the market, but the ones listed below are used by more trail runners and winter hikers we know than any other brands. Traction devices are nice if you want a quick on/off. If you’re going to run on the treadmill one day and out on snowy trails the next in the same pair of shoes, than this is the way to go. Traction devices are also a good solution for those who use minimalist trail shoes.

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Kahtoola MICROspikes (pictured above): you’ll notice that Kahtoolas have crampon-like teeth. That’s because they also make crampons, so they include the traction technology in their running/hiking models as well. These things grip like crazy even on steep, icy trails. MSRP $64.95 for the pair. Available through specialty outdoor/running stores, or online at Kahtoola.com.

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Yaktrax Run (pictured above): Yaktrax is one of the original manufacturers of traction devices, and probably the biggest household name. Their Run-specific model uses steel coil + carbide spikes for traction and is well worth checking out. MSRP $40 for the pair. Available through speciality outdoor/running stores or online at Yaktrax.com.


Photos: Top two images © Ben Murphy, 2014. Bottom three images © each individual manufacturer. All Rights Reserved.

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