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

Posted on December 22 2009

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:

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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