By Vince Sherry
I wince every time I see more than a couple inches of snow in the forecast. It’s ironic, considering one of my favorite Bill Bowerman quotes is “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only soft people.”
This is a relatively new qualm of mine. I grew up in Rochester, NY. Since Rochester rarely sees the sun in the winter (and the winter is very long), the snow sticks around much longer. But I never missed a day of running due to snow in Rochester, and the fresh white powder made the otherwise dismal winter landscape a little more pleasing to the eye. I actually enjoyed running on snowy days. So what happened? At first, I thought living in North Carolina for several years made me one of those “soft people” Bowerman spoke of. I quickly dismissed this theory and moved on to find something less bruising to my ego. I would find my answer one snowy morning in Flagstaff while running with my friends and fellow Run SMART coaches Mike Smith and Alicia Shay.
We left Mike’s house, headed south on Beaver Street and hung a right onto “Chevron Hill.” Shortly into our descent Mike went flying into the air and Supermanned his way down a good portion of the hill. Concerned, I quickly looked over to ask if he was OK. Before I could finish the sentence I was looking at my feet in the air out in front of me and bracing myself for a hard landing.
It suddenly hit me. I hated running on snowy days in Flagstaff because it was very, very slick. Traction was the difference between the road conditions in Rochester (where they use salt), and Flagstaff (where they don’t). Alicia was standing there laughing at us, instead of on the ground with us, because she was wearing Yaktrax (think snow chains for your shoes).
There are a few options for winter traction. Look for shoes with fairly aggressive tread and soft rubber. Soft rubber (referred to as “blown rubber”) stays more supple in cold temperatures, putting more surface area in contact with the ground, providing better traction on slick surfaces. Trail shoes usually have these attributes, so start there. If you’re looking to keep your feet comfortable and dry as well you will find many trail shoes offer a weather proof upper. Saucony takes it a step further with the Razor, by incorporating the waterproof upper with a type of built in gator that seals the shoe off just above the ankle.
If you’re really determined to run during the worst winter storms, you’ll need Yaktrax, or Kahtoola’s Microspikes. Yaktrax are light and will do the job most days, but the Microspikes give the ultimate snow and ice traction. Both products are not size specific and will fit over any shoe. If you’re on a budget, you can drill very short hex screws into the bottom of an old pair of running shoes.
If you’ve been stuck on the treadmill this winter, try one of these options and get back outside. Getting out on a snowy morning is one of the most beautiful running experiences you can have, as long as you can stay on your feet.