Winter has come!
If you were thinking about how to keep on running through upcoming winter snows without slipping and skidding with every step there are several options that you can choose from:
1) You can buy expensive specialized winter shoes with spikes, like Salomon Spikecross:
2) you can use various snow cleats with spikes like Yaktrax:
3) or you can use your old shoes and put screws in them:
Let’s consider those options:
1) If you live in the mountains or in a place that is usually covered with ice and you simply don’t mind spending some 150-200 dollars on winter shoes, then the first option would seem to be reasonable.
2) If you want to wear different shoes in winter conditions, the snow cleats provide you with this option. The drawbacks in my opinion are that they are better suited for walking than running, they give you less control than specialized shoes or shoes with screws and they are still a couple of times more expensive than the last option.
3) This is the option that I use on my daily/winter basis. The screws are the cheapest option and, depending on their kind and placement, they can give as good road feel and control as specialized winter shoes. What is even better, if you damage or loose a screw you can replace it easily. If you decide to change your winter shoes, you can unscrew your spikes and place your screws on your next choice of shoes.
The last thing before I show how to put screws on a running shoe: be reasonable – you don’t need any of those during your easy runs on city pavements. This is usable on ice or packed snow especially when you plan to run faster than in your easy pace.
Ok. Let’s get to business.
First, you need to decide on what shoes to use. My advice is to use either trail shoes with aggressive outsole (thick rubber) or well-cushioned shoes with thick midsole. The other important thing is that you cannot use shoes with any air/liquid/gel systems, as the screws could damage those and make the shoe unusable. So look for any shoes with soles made from foam – any kind of foam.
When I first started to think about better traction on ice I had a used pair of Brooks Glycerin 7 that I was about to throw away after 1200km – and that was how I gave them a second life 🙂
The second thing is to choose the screws. If you are uncertain about this, you can first use any kind of screws that you can find in your house. Just bear in mind that anything longer than half an inch is risky for your feet – especially in the front of a shoe. On the other hand, anything shorter than a quarter of an inch will be getting loose pretty often, so if you don’t want to replace the screws after every run – try to stick with the ½” or 3/8” screws. (my scale is in centimeters)
First I used regular screws myself, as I wanted to test how it felt to run with screws, but three years ago I bought screws meant for motorcycle tires. There are many screws designed for running shoes on the market now, but in most cases they are just more expensive and give you no advantage over those.
The main advantage of such screws (either kind) is that they have a hollow point heads that cut into ice easily and give you superior traction and control.
The other thing is that they don’t get rusty easily. On the picture below, there are two of my screws. The one on the left was used for three seasons and the one on the right for one. (I run in those shoes for about 100-150km during any winter season.) As you can see, even after few hundred kilometers and few seasons the screw on the left looks pretty good and is still usable.
The screws I use you can get for 10 cents a piece, so the whole thing will cost you around three dollars, though they are usually sold in hundred pieces boxes so for ten bucks you have enough for three pairs of shoes and a few spares or enough for ten years of winter running 🙂
The only equipment you need to do the job is a screwdriver. If you have an electric one it will make the whole thing much easier, but any will do the job.
I like to put more screws on the front part of the shoe as I run from the mid-foot, but your choice should depend on your style of running. The screws on the back end of the shoe are important too, as they provide you with traction on downhill parts of the run. Three rows in the front part do the job for me and give the even impression when running (for the first to seasons I used only two outer rows, but a year ago I added the third one). On the back I use just four screws, two on either side of a shoe.
The thing to remember is to put the screws through rubber part of the outsole, and not directly into the foam as it will not be able to hold the screw.
Also do not over tighten the screw, as you may damage the rubber and the foam and end up with a loose screw.
If you are afraid of the length of a screw you can use a washer that will shorten the thread and stop the head of the screw from being pressed in towards your foot. This also give a more even feel when running and lessens the effect of “running on rocky terrain” that you get when using any spikes or screws.
Here we are. Those shoes are perfect for ice. It is almost impossible to slip in those things.
When on snow they also do a great job, however you can experience some amount of skid, as the snow does not give this kind of grab that ice does to the screws, but the difference between them and normal shoes is tremendous. You can actually run your intervals in snow without much difference in pace.
You can’t expect miracles when running in melting snow and mud, as for such conditions an aggressive outsole will do a better job than spikes or screws, but apart from such conditions the screws work miracles.
Lastly, some people fear to run with screws on pavements and roads. I wouldn’t call it pleasant experience, but both traction and comfort are acceptable during running on bare pavements and roads. If you have to run for several hundred meters to reach your favorite icy or snowy paths 🙂 the screws will do this job great.
All of above mentioned solutions share one threat, especially for men. When, after a heavy and fast workout you are back at home, dead-tired and breathless, and you accidentally step on your wooden flor wearing your shoes with spikes/screws, depending on your Lady of the house’s fitness, you may end up with severe injury and a long ban from running with anything metal under your shoes… You really need to take care of yourself… 🙂
Well, that’s it. If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask. See you on ice and snow 🙂