Truth be told, there’s not too much I can add to the Yaktrax conversation in general: simply put, they work and people like them. In fact, when people come into our store, they often say “Yaktrax” for ice cleats like most people say Kleenex for tissue. That’s why when I got tired of spinning out on the snow and ice, I decided to try the Yaktrax Pro (picked them up at the Fingerlakes Running Company for around $30; you can get them cheaper online, but I like to go local when I can, especially at this place). As the owner, Ian, helped size me up with a set, I quickly realized: Huh, these probably aren’t designed with minimalist shoes in mind (by “minimalist shoes” I mean my New Balance Minimus MT110′s, which I swear by in colder, wetter conditions).
So, the next day I decided to take them for a seven mile spin along Six Mile Creek here in Ithaca and see how they worked. Six Mile, for those of you who don’t know, is a great trail: it can be as easy or technical, flat or hilly, long or short as you’d like–all of which made it perfect for this test-run. The snow along the main path had settled in and hardened and been churned up pretty well, so it was rock-hard, slippery, and really uneven; off the path and on the little side trails, it was pretty flat, but still hard and slippery.
You can still see the dry dirt on my shoes from a sunny, 50-degree trail run just two days before. Two mornings later there’s an inch of snow on the ground–that’s Ithaca for you.
-They kept me on my feet. Not only that, but I felt solid on my feet; none of that skittering, scrambling around business, which is a godsend on those insanely steep graded hills–especially downhill.
-They handled well in loose, soft snow and hard-packed slippery snow, both uphill and downhill.
-They didn’t affect the forefoot/midfoot-landing gait which we barefooters love so much.
-Because of all of this, I got more forward motion with less effort–instead of spinning in place on the uphills or even the straightaways, I actually moved. This made the run significantly more satisfying, and you can’t really put a price on that (and if you could, I think $20-30 is a fair price).
You’ll probably see some snow getting packed into the cleats during your run, but you’d only notice it if you stopped to check, as it doesn’t seem to affect performance noticeably.
-They don’t fit perfectly with minimalist shoe-shapes. As I had first thought, they don’t fit inherently well onto the minimalist shoe. However, if you spend a couple of minutes adjusting them, you’ll get them to fit fine. It’s just a minor inconvenience.
-They slip over the toe. Another effect of not being made for the minimal shoe-shape is that they slide up over the wider, more rounded toe of my Minimus’. On training runs, it’s really not that big a deal to stop and re-adjust them for a few seconds, but it does mean you’re going to have your fingers down in the snow for a couple of seconds, which can mean cold, wet fingers. Now, in a race-scenario, I think I’d be a lot less lenient about stopping to fix my cleats.
This happened at least three times on a seven mile run. It’s not the end of the world, but it got pretty annoying.
-They can hurt a bit. Due to the obvious minimal padding in a minimal running-shoe, you could definitely feel the metal coils underneath your feet after a while. It was entirely bearable, and my feet were fine, but I think for longer distances (maybe 10 miles and up) you could start to see some bruises.
For whatever bad there was, the good definitely outweighs it. While the toe-piece slipping up was annoying, and my feet got a little sore, I was able to run in the snow in the manner and style I like to run safely, and thus I had fun, and that’s the real reason I run. If I knew I was going to be running significantly longer distances, the impact from the coils might make me turn to a shoe with some more padding, but on your training runs, they’re well worth the price.