Saturday, February 21, 2009

GEAR REVIEW: Yaktrax - Walker

Okay, first and foremost I want to state that I am a runner, and furthermore, I am a trail runner, hence the title of this blog.

So a couple months ago I got an email from a marketing company asking me if I'd like a free pair of Yaktrax to wear test and review. Being a fan of free stuff, and in desperate need of something to help me negotiate the ice, snow, and everything in between that occurs over a New England winter, I took them up on the opportunity.

So the package of Yaktrax and other goodis arrive and I open the box to find the Yaktrax, only they are the Walkers. Bummer.

In the interest of making lemonade when life provides lemons, I decided that I would wear test this style of Yaktrax
based on my daily commuting and running needs and they proved to be a sweet find.


Let there be no mistake about it, these Yaktrax are more for the commuter or everyday pedestrian, and are not engineered for masochistic trail runners bent on beating the feathers out of a piece of gear.

The design of the Yaktrax Walkers is simple and stylish - composed of polyelastomer material wrapped in abrasive resistant 1.2 mm steel coils, providing traction in icy conditions.

They are EXTREMELY easy to get on and off one's shoes, and each individual Yaktrak can be folded over in half to minimize the amount of space it takes to store. In fact, on a training run where I tested the Yaktrax on snowy and icy trails, the Yaks were easily stored in the two side pockets of my running vest.

Additionally, because they are not designed like cleats I found that when I removed theYaktraks any debris like salt, sand, or snow was easily remove with a couple shakes, and made no marks or scars on my dress shoes.

On The Move:
First, when used as they are intend, the Yaktrax Walkers provided superior traction when I was walking to and from my office, as well as when I had to head to other buildings. They fit snugly to my dress shoes, were secure with no shifting, and provided confidence crossing patches of ice, or going through shallow snow.

They are simple, easy to use, and effective. So as an investment for the commuter that has to deal with icy sidewalks or parking lots these are definitely a must!

Second, I threw these Yaktrax on my road running shoes and took them for a few training runs over snow covered roads and they worked extremely well in this capacity. Over years of training on roads in New England I was always hampered by snow and ice on the shoulder of the roads. This resulted in injuries from slips and falls, and zeros in the training log because the roads just don't seem clear enough to get in a few miles. Some people swear by putting steel screws in old trainers for traction, while I have tried using old cross country spikes with small pyramid spikes for traction, but they are brutal to the bottom of my feet.

On numerous training runs of 2 to 4 miles, where there was anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of snow on the roads, I found great confidence based on the traction the Yaks provided. They were effective on ascents, descents, and flats. They didn't limit my pace or ability to sprint when needed. Up here in New England, where snow can come even into April, having these Yaktrax provided great incentive to get out and run when there is a few inches of snow and ice on the roads. An additional plus was the lack of shifting on my foot during the course of a run, which was an initial concern. One thought about the lack of shifting is that I have a size 10.5 foot, and the medium size gives a bit more of a tight fit for my foot. So I cannot unequivocally say this would be the same for those with Yaks that have a more loose fit.

After beating them up on snow covered roads, there were, and still are, no visible signs of wear to thePolyelastomer or the steel coils. A+ so far in the durability department.

The greatest caution and detraction for using these is to stay off of clean pavement. I never wore the Yaks in a situation where there were a couple patches of slush or snow amng mostly clean pavement. They are definitely not to be worn for a 3 mile run where you think you might encounter a couple icy patches.

Finally, I took theseYaktrax on a trail run in some deeper snow. They seemed to work well for the first section of trails that resembled slightly snow covered roads, but eventually they began to shift and get beaten up by the snow covered trail. The last couple miles were filled with stops to re-adjust the Yaktraks on my heel and toe. Oddly enough, the shifting was really the only problem. They were very, very durable considering the punishment I was applying.

Bottom Line:

A person interested in Yaktrax Walkers for pedestrian usage to and from work, the train station, or the car, will find these to be a great addition. At $15-$20 they are affordable. For the runner who is looking for a little more traction out on the roads during or after snow, before the plows have cleared the roads, I would say the Yaktrax Walker could be used with confidence, but one might also look at the Yaktrax Pro model, which are only a few dollars more and provide a little more security with a strap that goes over the top of the foot, allegedly keeping the ice grippers secure.

Trail runners might do well to look at other cleated traction systems for those adventures over snowy trails. I just recently tried a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes and they were excellent on the trails, but what they have in trail traction, they lack in versatility as they are only for use on the trails. Versatility, Value and Effectiveness: Why I really have enjoyed the Yaks and would recommend them.

Until Next Time.


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