Posts Tagged ‘winter running; spikes; microspikes; kahtoola’

Winter running – review of Microspikes and suggested alternatives

In this post I’ll share my experience with Kahtoola Microspikes ($69.95) for running on snow packed trails.

You are ready to go for a run but the roads look like this:

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Normally that means your view for the next hour or so would be this:

Treadmill

Microspikes to the rescue? Time to find out…

I live and run in Ottawa, Canada. We get all four running seasons. In spring, I run through puddles and grumble about winter dog walkers who didn’t scoop the poop. In summer, I lose about 3 pounds a run in sweat. Fall is a magical 3 week window for setting personal bests, it’s cooled off and the footing is great. In winter, I check the weather forecast obsessively trying to find a running window between snowfalls and freezing rain, and trying to convince myself -28 C windchill won’t freeze my eyelashes shut.

I am a road runner, but I enjoy running on trails through the woods. I don’t notice the mileage because I am too busy trying to make sure I don’t trip on that rock or log. Most of my “trail” running is on local walking trails. I am NOT a trail runner, but I am happy to do a 5 km trail race or to join a friend for a 10-15 km trail run, because it might be fun!

Once the snow falls, I am driven to the roads and the treadmill. My local trails are a mix of snow and ice. Trail shoes can get you through the snow, but the ice can be a problem especially on the hills.

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On a recent run, my friend Chris told me he and his wife, Karen, trail run in winter with Microspikes .I was intrigued. My sister (a fellow runner) picked me up a pair from Bushtukah as a Christmas gift. I went out two days later to try them out with Chris & Karen. We ran 14 km on a partly groomed trail (Trails #66 #67 #68 from P1 in the Gatineau Park) designed for snowshoers and fat bikers (the tires are fat not the bikers 😉). The trail was packed snow with occasional patches of ice.

MicrospikesOldAndNewI wore my Goretex running shoes (Asics GT 2000) to keep my feet warm and dry. I did not wear Gaiters (essential accessory for running snowshoes). When we got to the parking lot, I took out the Microspikes and put them over my shoes. Chris & Karen have a slightly older pair with a metal rod across the front instead of rubber. They said the metal rod occasionally digs into the top of their toes. I did not have that problem with the current design which has replaced that metal rod with rubber. We started to run, and after 500 meters or so I basically forgot the spikes were there. I ran normally, confident on my footing regardless of whether it was snow or ice, uphill or downhill. I had some fun on the dowIMG_20190101_151215nhills letting gravity take over with complete confidence the spikes would give me the traction I needed. (This run was in the Gatineau Hills of Ottawa, so it was an actual trail run). You occasionally hear a bit of a jingle from the chains, and they add a little bit of weight (169 g each according to my kitchen scale), but all in all I just trusted the spikes to give me a good footing. I was pleasantly surprised.

Now as awesome as they were, they are not the magic solution for all winter runs.

When Microspikes are the right option

  • You have a snow packed or groomed trail, dirt patches on the trail are fine
  • You have a light snowfall over the top of a snow packed or groomed trail

When Microspikes are the wrong option

  • Trail has a lot of rocks  – the spikes are long enough to be awkward on rock
  • Trail has a lot of mud – the spikes are slim so don’t help as much in mud
  • 2-6 inches of fresh snow – time to break out the running snowshoes
  • 6+ inches of fresh snow – time to go cross country skiing
  • You are going for a road run and some of the roads or sidewalks are snowcovered and slippery. The spikes are too long for road use. Time to find a route that is well sanded and salted, or hit the dreaded treadmill! If you are going to be road running and the sidewalks are a mess check out my post evaluating different products designed for road runners on icy roads.

Sizing Microspikes

If you do purchase a pair, you do need to get the right size for your shoe (or boots, they can be used over winter boots as well). My Winter runners are a women’s size 10. I have the Medium Microspikes (recommended for Women’s size 9-12). I don’t have any trouble pulling them onto the shoe. Its a little harder taking them off after the run.

SizingChart

So if you have a favorite trail that is walkable with good boots, but not runnable in the winter, it might be time to splurge on a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes and take back the trail!

FYI – those pictures at the start of the post were from this morning. Today was one of *those* days. It was beautiful and sunny, but the roads are an icy, snowy mess! I broke out the Microspikes and ran on a neighborhood walking trail which is I’ve never been able to run in winter before because it’s too slippery with just my runners. I won’t use them every day, but today the Microspikes came to the rescue! I’ll take this view over the treadmill every time!

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Happy winter running! Stay warm out there!

If you found this helpful, I have other running related posts