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Runblogger Runcast #3 – Running on Snow and Ice with La Sportiva Hobnails

La Sportiva LogoRunning through the winter in New Hampshire naturally means that I have to deal with snow and ice – there’s really no alternative aside from toiling away inside on the treadmill. Until this year, I’ve simply avoided running in nasty conditions, but even on good days the sidewalks in my area usually have a layer of crusty ice coating them, so finding traction is always an issue. Trails are even worse, as cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and snow mobilers tend to pack snow down into a slippery hard-pack.  There are a number of traction devices out there to help with footing in winter, ranging from YakTrax (haven’t tried these yet) to “Screw Shoes,” which are a do-it-yourself solution to the winter traction problem.

Recently, a marketing representative for La Sportiva sent me a set of Hobnails, which are like little screws that you drill into the sole of a shoe for traction on snow and ice (Disclaimer: I should point out that I received no payment for this review other than the sample of the product). What I like about the Hobnails is that they seem less obtrusive than YakTrax, and there’s less a chance that they might puncture your shoe and hit your foot like the “Screw Shoes” (I have no idea if this could actually happen).  The Hobnails are designed with a relatively flat, wide top, so they screw in without any kind of point aiming at your foot (see pictures below the video clip). This design also ensures that they’ll stay put while embedded in your shoe. They are made from a “wear resistant, corrosion resistant high temper widia tungsten alloy,” and the design was apparently taken from studs used on rally car tires – that might explain their relatively high price of $45.00 (for me, this is the only real drawback if I was looking to buy a traction device). I decided to embed the Hobnails into an old pair of Brooks Adrenaline 8′s (my shoes from my first marathon! – here’s a link to the newest Brooks Adrenaline model) and take them for a spin to see if they might help me with my winter running woes. To find out how they worked for me, check out the video below:

Runblogger Runcast #3 – Running on Snow and Ice with La Sportiva Hobnails from Pete Larson on Vimeo.
I outfitted an old pair of Brooks Adrenaline 8′s with a set of La Sportiva Hobnails and took them for 4+ miles on crusty snow and ice. Take a look to see how it went!

Video of the second run of the day that I refer to in this video (the Vibram Fivefingers portion) can be viewed here: http://www.runblogger.com/2009/12/runblogger-runcast-2-winter-running-in.html.


La Sportiva Hobnails
These are the La Sportiva Hobnails prior to being inserted into the shoe. Notice how the is no distinct point on the screw-in side, and the threads are wide to ensure that they stay put.

La Sportiva Hobnail Tool
 Above is the Hobnail tool with one of the Hobnails attached. The threads are on the left.

La Sportiva Hobnails
Above is a view of the soles of my Brooks Adrenaline 8′s with the Hobnails inserted. Not yet sure of optimal placement – must experiment a bit more.

La Sportiva Hobnails
Closeup view of the heel of the Brooks Adrenaline 8′s with the La Sportiva Hobnails sticking out. The pointed tips give great traction.

I was overall very impressed with how the Hobnails performed on this run. No slippage at all on any of the types of terrain I ran on (road, icy sidewalk, crusty trail), and contrary to my expectations, they didn’t feel uncomfortable when running on dry asphalt. At most, it felt like I was running on a gravel road, so a mixed terrain run (road/trail) would work fine in these. There was also no noticeable wear on the Hobnail tips after the run, which suggests that they won’t wear down on the roads (which makes sense if the design and material are derived from car tire studs). I forsee myself using these frequently this winter, and will update later on if I have any additional thoughts.

For more information, visit the Hobnail product page on the La Sportiva website.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Thomas Neuberger says:

    Would you use the hobnails to run on the street during icy conditions?

  2. Pete…

    Having lived in NH for many, many years… I always used screws in my shoes. #8X1/2″ hex heads, about 10 per shoe 5 around the outside edge of the front and 5 around the rear. They always worked great, just if you ran on roads much, you had to replace them several times during a winter.

    Last year I got turned onto a pair of Yaktrax pros and now these are my go to devices for snow and or ice running. Slip them on for running in the snow (I ran in ankle deep this morning in a state park) and slip them off if you come to a road.

    Steve

  3. $45?!?! You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me! You could buy 10 lbs. of 1/4″ machine screws for that price, which would be more than a lifetime supply. For that kind of money, I would want Hobnail-equipped shoes to actually do the running for me!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Jim,

      Yeah, the price is steep for the Hobnails – probably enough to deter most
      people from trying them out I would suspect. Have you had good luck with
      the machine screw method?

      Pete

  4. I’ll buy the VFF’s as soon as I can try them on, as I did not trust the sizing online. That said, I’ve done just fine with a barefoot mile or two a week, but easing into more barefoot mileage may be a good thing. Can’t wait for JK’s to receive their first shipment. Vibram is having trouble keeping pace with demand. -R

  5. Pete,

    Last winter I splurged on a pair of IceBug shoes, made/distributed by Garmont. They are high quality, waterproof trail shoes with small carbide tips built right into the soles. They are fantastic on ice, and allow one to run on bare pavement without too much interruption/discomfort. They have certain styles on sale at Joe Kings right now, FYI.

    Happy Holidays, and let’s run sometime soon.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Ron,

      Thanks for the suggestion – I’ll check those out. I thought about you on
      my long run last Sunday, did 20 miles in the bitter cold, and passed through
      St. Paul’s campus around 3:30-4:00. Saw on Facebook that you did 2 hours as
      well that day – you and I are among the only crazies in Concord I guess! I
      thought to myself as I ran down Clinton St. in the near dark that I might be
      slightly insane for being that far from home on foot in those conditions,
      but glad I got it done.

      Curious – have you tried out the Vibrams? I talked to a guy at Joe King’s
      the other day and he mentioned that they will be stocking them in 2010 due
      to the number of people asking about them.

      Pete

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