Yaktrax Pro size XL. © Brian Hancock
by Brian Hancock
As most cyclocross enthusiasts can relate to, after the last race of the season is over I go through a mix of emotions. Half of me is ready to hang up the bike after a long season, but the other half misses racing and seeing all of my friends that appear for the months of September through December.
But there are advantages to hanging up the bike for a few weeks in what can be cold, snowy, icy months in the upper Midwest. Yes, the beer and ice cream season is something that calls to me every year, but I also enjoy breaking out the cross-country skis to flop around on the corduroy for a few kilometers on weekends. But after last winter I vowed my off-season would be used to try and help a few weak spots that always show up around ’cross season. Running is one that has been on my radar for a few years now, and I decided this time around I’d do something about it.So after my last race of 2010 I sprung for a set of Yaktrax Pro running/walking shoe grips, which attach to running shoes and keep them from slipping in icy conditions. Before I get into them, however, let’s get one thing straight – I am not a runner. Running is not enjoyable to me. At no point before heading outside do I think happy thoughts to myself about how good it is to go for a run. No, it is a piece of the puzzle that I need to work on in order to try and help better close the gaps between me and everyone else in front of me. There are many, many other things that need to happen in order for those gaps to close, but running is one small piece I can work on during the off-season.
Full coverage traction from toe to heel. © Brian Hancock
And that is where the $30 Yaktrax Pros fit in. Winters in the upper Midwest can be many things, but warm and sunny is usually not one of them. Mid-January melts followed by subzero temps make sidewalks treacherous for walking, let along running. Add onto that my running partner is a 55-lb Vizsla named Kona, who sometimes has a mind of her own on our runs. Wearing the Yaktrax Pros keeps my buns off the ground in the event a rogue squirrel crosses our path.
The Yaktrax are simple and straightforward. I wear size 14 running shoes, and the extra-large size Yaktrax fits perfectly over my runners. The Pros feature a mid-foot security strap which keeps the metal-wound tread from shifting too much on your shoe. As an added bonus it is a nice way to secure excess length in your shoelaces.
According to my scale, a pair weighs in at 190 grams. For me, after layering up for the cold and wind, the last thing I’m thinking about is how much my Yaktrax weigh when I’m out on a run. To be honest I’m more likely to think about the weight I put on from last night’s chocolate moose-tracks ice-cream sundae than about the Yaktrax.
Everyone gets foot protection when it's this cold out. © Brian Hancock
These work so well that running over slick, ice-covered driveways and sidewalks will no longer cause you to slow up and tip toe for safety. The wound metal tread grips into the iciest of surfaces but still allows a natural, free running motion. Occasionally, if it is especially snowy, you may notice a bit of snow tracks into your house when you’re done running, but for the most part these shed snow like a classic green Michelin Mud. Of course you could always screw small metal studs into an old pair of running shoes, but those won’t help much if the snow starts to get chunky.
If you’re looking for a way to help supplement trainer or roller hours during the long winter months, look no farther than the Yaktrax Pros. And with the national championships moved to January in Madison, odds are you may do yourself some good this off-season by keeping up your running stride in the snow and ice.
The downside? They don’t convert your running shoes into warm winter boots, and so those airy ventilated-shoes will still cause your toes to turn blue, and if you really hit your runner’s high, they’ll have to be amputated. And if you’re a weight weenie running in thin-soled, racing flats? You’ll feel the tread under your foot.
Staying on top of your aerobic fitness by cross training during the winter is a great way to jump-start your off-season training, so if you’re super-motivated to avoid next year’s national champion running away from you in the snow and ice of Madison, check out the Yaktrax Pros at your local store or online.
Yaktrax Pro winter traction system
For more info: Yaktrax.com