Yaktrax Pro Review - Getting a grip on winter running
I'll spoil the suspense for you; they worked awesome for me and I'll tell you about it. I got the perfect storm, so to speak, of new toys and awful weather. Couldn't ask for better weather to test out traction devices in.
Ironically my new YakTrax Pros showed up while I was out running in the woods last week in 4 inches of thick slush. I was thinking to myself that they might come in handy before I left. Then there they were, leaning against my garage door in the freezing rain when Buddy the Wonder Dog and I got back from our sloppy 10k.
I was yet to know that Old Man Winter would provide me with the industrial strength proving ground I was looking for before the week was out!
It started as snow, turned into rain and left 4 inches of slush like you get out of the Slushy Machine at 7-11. Brutal stuff. After it stopped raining the temperature dropped. This is the worst scenario. If you don't get the slush up it freezes into a wonderful layer of hard snow and ice that cannot be moved at a later date without the use of dynamite or blow torches.
Once you have the slush storm followed by a freeze it creates the worst winter running conditions. These are icy conditions that are downright treacherous even for a sure footed hobbit-like trail runner. Well - actually, I'm not too surefooted, but I am quite hairy like a hobbit.
As the weekend approached the forecast was for another snow storm on top of the hardened slush ice. I decided I should move my 12 mile long run to Saturday and try out my new YakTrax. I'm the master of dual tasking. Test the YakTrax and get a long run in...seemed to make perfect sense to me. Yes, I know, never try out your new footwear on a long run or a race, but that doesn't apply to me? Right?
I thought about what the appropriate shoes to strap them to would be? I decided on my old trail shoes. They only have a couple hundred miles on them and only one ultra-trail-mountain-marathon but they've started to fall apart. It turned out to be a good choice.
I got the "large" version of the YakTrax Pro. They fit my size 12D very well, snug and comfortable. Like a glove.... They didn't pull on my toes or feel loose. They have a Velcro strap across the top like sandal to keep them on your feet, but mine fit so well I think the strap was superfluous.
Conditions Saturday afternoon as Buddy the Wonder Dog and I headed out for two loops of our woods 10k were cold and icy. The snow/slush had hardened to 2 inches of snow with a 2 inch ice crust on top. It's a real pain because sometimes you fall through the crust on your foot plant and sometimes you don't. The crust was pure smooth ice. If you dropped a hockey puck it would slide away towards the horizon with no impedance.
Some jerk with a dog had gone out and run the trails while the slush was still wet and left large, frozen, fossilized footprints on my trail! 4 inch deep size 12 bomb craters right down the middle of the trail! Heffalumps! Woozles! Usually if I leave footprints I can use them as toe-holds on subsequent trips, but these were so deep and icy as to be dangerous trail hazards. Can you say "ankle-snapper"?
The YakTrax were awesome on the ice. The coils bite well on both the heel and the forefoot. That's where the coils form large diamond patterns that provide maximum surface area for grip. They are not so good on the mid-foot and I'll touch on that later. I started out cautiously, but quickly go the feel of them and was able to run my normal mechanics and stride.
At one point I run a section of asphalt road to get to the next trail head. I thought this would be terrible but the ride wasn't that bad. For short distances the YakTrax felt fine on the road. Indeed for one uphill section that was heavily sanded they provided extra traction in the grit. The trail shoes I put them on had nice big lugs and a soft ride and I think this absorbed much of the hardness of the coils. I didn't try it, but I'm thinking my road shoes, being stiffer and thinner would not ride as comfortably on the hard surfaces.
The best traction is on the forefoot. It's pretty good on the heel too, so that covers most runners. The blind spot is in the midsole where the coils cross. The only time I fell was when I planted my foot on an slanted icy corner - the midsole coils caught, but not enough to keep me upright and I couldn't recover. It was a sideways slip and fall which are typically better than the high-impact head over heels falls you get when you heel strike on a patch of ice.
I routinely run in less than perfect surface conditions and I tend to adjust my stride to be more flat-footed to maximize tread-to-trail surface area. That's not a great strategy with the YakTrax. They work much better if you can maintain a good high turn forefoot churn. Perfect for you Chi-Runners.
The next day I had some very light leg fatigue but no leg or knee pain. There was no weird fatigue or discomfort. This tells me that the YakTrax didn't change my running mechanics.
Over the following days I have run in deep snow, both on the trail and on the road with them. They aren't really designed for deep snow, but will give you some extra toe-off ability even in the deep stuff. On the road in the ‘marshmallow' snow along the side they were ok - not perfect, but better than road shoes.
Late in runs they started to slide off the toe - mostly because one of the cross strap lined up with a trench in my trail shoe. Overall a quick tug and they're back into place and good again. Buddy was sliding on the ice - I was gripping!
- Good fit
- Normal running mechanics
- Great on ice
- Added value in deeper or softer snow
- Not horrible on the road
- Recommend trail shoes with them
Two thumbs up. I'll keep running in them and let you know if the great stress of my high-mileage Clydesdale training causes them to prematurely deconstruct.
In the meantime - I'll see you out there!
Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy. Chris is the author of , and short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack. Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at http://www.runnerati.com/. Chris' Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at http://www.runrunlive.com/. Chris also writes for CoolRunning.com (Active.com) and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners. ChrisRunner@runrunlive.com