It has been a snowy winter here in New York, with a couple of moderate sized storms dumping the white stuff on us within a couple of weeks. Not as bad as Boston, for sure, but it has put a damper on cycling. I haven’t commuted in several weeks and I’ve been feeling my fitness slipping away lately. The roads are a mess. Between the snow banks occupying the right lane and the endless potholes and craters, it just hasn’t made sense to venture out on the bike for more than a few miles.
I hate sitting around, though I do a lot of it. My kids are old enough now that I feel comfortable letting them run around in the woods, so a few weeks ago I bought them snow shoes and we’ve been getting out for hikes in the afternoon. I’ve had snow shoes for many years and enjoy winter hiking more than summer hiking. Fewer bugs to contend with. It’s been fun watching the kids find their “snow shoe legs,” learning how to not trip over themselves and navigates slopes.
About a month ago, I got it in my head that I could be out running instead of cycling. As a life-long non-runner, this is probably a stupid idea. I took a run last week in 0 degree night air and quickly realized that running is a lot tougher on the knees, hips and cardiovascular system than cycling. I ran about a mile (0.9 loop around my neighborhood), and did not die or break anything. I’ve subsequently learned that I’m doing it wrong by just opening the door and jogging; that I should be speed walking or doing some other activity to ease into running. Anyhow, after that first night run I realized I’d rather not run on the road. It’s boring and there are cars trying to run you over, just like cycling!
So my interest turned back to hiking with my eye on trying some trail running. Last weekend I tried jogging a bit in my snow shoes and found it a bit cumbersome. I tripped a few times and snow shoes are overkill when the path is already trampled down. Then I learned about Microspikes.
The Kahtoola Microspikes pictured above are like crampons for running or trail hiking when full-on crampons or snow shoes are not necessary. They consist of a rubber-ish (it might be silicone) band that wraps around the base of the shoe, with a set of chains and spikes underneath to provide traction. The spikes are pretty aggressive. I don’t think you’d want to use these on paved surfaces.
I hiked with them yesterday and they are terrific. Went on in twenty seconds and I didn’t know they were there except for the extra traction they provided. On a packed-down trail, they were much nicer than hiking in snow shoes because they allowed me to wear light trail shoes, and did not require the slightly wider stance needed when walking in snow shoes. And I didn’t get tripped by my kids when they inevitably step on the backs of my snow shoes!
I ran a few yards in them and can see their appeal to trail runners: good traction in a lightweight package. And the best part, when it was time to get in the car and go home, they came off in two seconds.
If you hike or run in the snow and ice, these are highly recommended particularly if your trip takes you onto a trail. For road running there are other solutions with less aggressive spikes.