By Kim Fuller
What an epiphany when I realized that running on snow in the winter was not only accessible, but also more physically sustainable than running on roads, or even trail running in the summer. Accessible because of new advances in foot traction, and sustainable because of the cushion snow gives the ankles, knees and hips, while making your stabilizer muscles work (helpful for long-term injury prevention).
I live in Vail, Colorado, and this time of year, running on snow is readily available, and ideal — certainly preferred over running on ice, or even mud (we’ll leave that until May). The training I do on groomed ski runs (no snowshoes needed) consists of quick interval bouts, as well as extended endurance sessions. Sometimes the snow is soft, and sometimes it’s very firm. Firm days are great on the feet, but cold on the cheeks.
Until recently, I have used the standard Yaktrax sole covers to keep my feet beneath me while snow running or hiking on firmly packed trails. They do the trick, but when I saw others out there with Kahtoola’s new MICROspikes, I knew I had to try them.
The ice traction system is easy to slip on to running shoes or hikers. I have not tried them on the bigger boots I use for snowshoeing, put the stretch fit of each spiked shoe slip seems it would adapt well to most shoes.
I decided to try the spikes for the recent Vail Mountain Winter Uphill race. It’s a rigorous on-snow mountain run/hike, that climbs from the Lionshead base area to the top of the Eagle’s Nest gondola. I didn’t train with my new spikes, because I didn’t get them in time, but I was definitely impressed with their tight response to each step I took as I made my way up the ski runs.
The ice traction system is meant to work on scree, ice, snow, wet rocks, and event slick sidewalks. From my experience, the spikes are definitely a top-notch way to run and hike on corduroy. If the snow is slightly soft or has a fresh layer of powder on top of the base, the spikes cut through the snow to find traction quickly and securely.
Granted, if the snow is more than a few inches deep, snowshoes are always needed to stay up on the surface.
It took me 55 minutes to get to the top of Vail Mountain for the Uphill. It was a full 20 minutes behind the elite athletes, but my time was fast enough to secure a second-place finish in the 18-29 age group.
Knowing that I didn’t slip back on the snow, not even once, I am sure that Kahtoola’s simple yet effective spikes were a huge asset to a successful race. Next year, I’ll work to improve my time, but there’s no doubt that I’ll be wearing the MICROspikes again.
For more information on Kahtoola and the MICROspikes, visit http://www.kahtoola.com.