yak-ety trax, the ice talks back

When snow hits the ground and normal people reach for snow boots, you reach for running shoes. It is obviously ridiculous—to run through waist-high snow in a pair of mesh running shoes when the world, the actual rest of the world, is wearing water-proof, knee high winter boots. And yet you are running.

This is the antithesis of sense.

So about one third of the way through the epic 2014-15 Boston snowpocolypse (never forget), I needed a solution. Particularly for this one sidewalk: at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, there was a point where the shoulder disappeared and the only options were to either turn around, or try and run through a shoddily patted down trail of snow that covered the sidewalk like thick icing. Trusting the bottoms of my Mizuno Wave Riders and my careful balance to work through the snow; I chose the latter. About three steps in, I ended up walking—angrily—until the shoulder reemerged. I ran as far as I could on the shoulder if only to buy some time before turning back into the fray. But I had no choice.

Thankfully, Heartbreak Hill Running Company, a beacon of shiny windows and showroom light, sits at the mouth of that treacherous sidewalk on the opposite side of Beacon. I prayed they would have some magic solution to save me from these elements.

Yaktrax. Everyone is using them.”

Skeptically, I looked down at the jumble of rubber and metal my shop floor savior brought out from behind the counter. He explained that they were coiled springs to increase traction—even on ice. He sat me down and fitted them around my slushy sneakers so that the rubber toe and heel pieces lined up with my shoes and two Xs of springs lined up flat with my sole. It felt like a little hug around my foot. I paid my $35 and hurled myself back into the snow, eager to find the iciest terrain to test these things out.

And they work.

They are so light that I feel like I am wearing nothing, but when my heel strikes the snow, it feels like I am running on pavement. It is an entirely different surface. The thin, criss-cross spring design is genius, and they come in size ranges to fit every foot. A Velcro strap tightens over the top of the running shoe so that they are adjustable and so that you couldn’t lose them if you tried. I used them over and over again in the salt and muck and sludge as the winter got worse. They only require a rinse and towel-off and storage indoors so that they don’t rust. And no running with them when there is no snow; that could ruin the springs or ruin your knees. A few times, when the snow was melted in some places but was still thick in others, I had to take them off and strap them around my hands, which (because they are so light) wasn’t even that annoying given how badly I needed them in the snowy stretches. Otherwise that $35 will carry your feet for years.


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