There is nothing I hate more then a winter run and wondering if this will be the one where I slip, fall and injure myself. To this end I have taken many precautions in the past to up my traction game when running in the winter from custom shoe modification to off the shelf solutions.
In the later category I was very pleasantly surprised when I got my pair of Hillsound FreeSteps6 a shoe slip over traction system that is the sorta thing familiar to runners but in a quality and design that feels a lot more like a mountain climbers crampon then the kinda of flimsy shoe pull on devices you find at the average supermarket or running store.
The 6 points of contact on each foot made up of stainless steel spikes and chains held on by a durable feeling rubber band like retainer formed well around my shoe (when on my foot), was easy to pull on an off and begged for a better test then a little black ice on local sidewalks.
So I waited, I waited until this past weekend when a blisteringly cold week had delivered several inches of fresh powder all over my favourite running trails and decided to put the FreeSteps6 to the test.
That test would include running a bit of icy sidewalk, compressed snow and ice covered gravel pathways, and of course single track that in the summer is swamp and mud, so sure to be uneven, icy and hazardous this time of year.
Running on Ice Covered Roads & Sidewalks
I found running on clearer sections of roads with just ice very grippy. I was able to make quick turns, dart around people and giant boulders of ice from the shoulder of the road with far more ease and confidence then I would be in my bare trail shoes.
It should be noted however I could “feel” the backside of spike plates pushing in to the ball of my foot when landing on these more solid surfaces and over a prolonged duration this could prove annoying. This is where no doubt the quick on / off design is useful. If you found yourself needing to cover a large section of solid / clear cement or trail you should pop these off and leave em in your bag until your back in to the messy stuff.
Once I returned to compressed snow and slush the comfort returned leaving me not knowing they were even there.
Running on Compressed Snow, Powder & Slushy Ice
Once off the sidewalks I found myself running through the “official” trails of Taylor Creek that are not maintained in the winter leaving a great surface for cross country skiers, snow shoes and crazy wanna be adventure runners like myself.
I found that that chains / spikes on the FreeStep6 did a great job of getting me some solid footing on the hard stuff beneath all the fluffy snow, in a few cases ice breaking below the powder putting me in contact with the gravel trail below.
Getting in to those lovely wet spots you encounter where flowing water from somewhere soaks the trail leaving you wondering if your about to slide and fall in to coldest margarita mix of all time, the crampons held tough cutting the water and biting the ice.
I started getting pretty cocky running patches of trail I would normally walk around to ensure more sure footing and it felt good to have summer trail traction on a cold winters day.
Running on Uneven Frozen Swamp Land Trail (I Had No Business Being On In The Winter)
So the FreeSteps are letting me run my favourite summer trails in some pretty bad conditions, and I have not seen single track trails in about 2 months compliments of old man winter. So of course I had to give the these Hillsound crampons a test worthy of the brand name, and take on some hills and as messed up of terrain as I could find.
I was happy to report that running on compressed ice, that was super uneven hidden under a layer of fresh snow, with the added fun factor of logs, branches and other miscellaneous crud laying about the trail, I was was able to toss the FreeSteps6 spikes in to all of it ensuring solid runs, jumps and landing / launching from a number of objects and surfaces.
It should be noted that I did fall back on this stretch of trail, but only because I was having so much fun actually winter running that I forgot in the snow covered terrain where a small creek feeder had carved out a ditch I usually jump in the summer so I bit that hard as I stepped in to deep, soft, snow drift that had filled it.
Did I Mention These Are Basically Crampons For Running?
I would like to make a special note for those of you that like to run on trails, single track, woods or places that are generally kinda death traps with icy steep trail inclines in the winter.
These things really help you get a good solid toe in to steep icy hills, snow packed stairs and a number of other situations that usually have us cursing our running shoes for several months out of the year. JUST USE THESE and keep on exploring your favourite trails in the winter.
Bottom Line: Essential Winter Running Gear
Don’t let winter put a strangle hold on your winter running. You can run, hike, explore and adventure knowing you have sure footing with the 12 stainless steel crampons a pair of FreeSteps6 provide you.
I strongly suggest picking a pair up. I know mine are now winter kit that lives either on my feet or in my gear bag so I’m always ready for a fun winter run.
P.S. As a bonus running on stainless steel makes you sounds like a horse on hard surfaces.