Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trouble running outside in the winter?

This time of year can be very difficult to run if you live in an area that gets snow or ice. It really can interfere and discourage running. Around here we have had close to 70 inches of snow. it seems that every route that I have is at least partially covered in ice. Last winter I went to my local running store, Fast Feet, to see what I could get for spikes.

The clerk at the running store suggested I try Stabilicers. They are a durable rubber design that slips over any running shoe and has metal cleats on the bottom to provide traction on the ice. The package actually has a picture of a guy running on what looks like a frozen lake. I immediately thought there is no way that any product could provide that much traction on the ice. The guy on the package was taking long strides and it looked he was not concerned at all about slipping. Since Fast Feet has never let me down on their recommendations I figured I would give them a try. They cost about $35-40 (I don't remember exactly how much I paid for them last year.

Anyway i went for a run with them and they really did make a huge difference. I was mostly running on mixed terrain like sidewalks, roads, ice and some trails. While the Stabilicers added weight to my shoes they really did work with keeping me from sliding. They essentially look like the bottom rubber part of the sole of a running shoe with 9 metal cleats. I couldn't say enough about how good they work.

If you were only running on sidewalks and roads, I would probably suggest not wearing these while running, unless much of those sidewalks and roads are covered in snow. If you only had a little ice to worry about then leave these at home. If there is a snow storm and everything in coated then Stabilicers would be perfect.

What I didn't realize when i bought the Stabilicers was that the cleats are replaceable. It makes sense that they would be, but I just didn't realize it until I wore out the cleats to the point that the rubber started to wear through.

I happened to be on Twitter and I posted a question to my runner friends asking if anyone had tried Yak Tracks or Stabilicers and which ones they liked better. Yak tracks are a different technology that provides traction with coiled wires around rubber. I understand they do work, but the biggest complaint was that they break and I don't believe you can replace the wires.

Anyway, one of the responses I got was from a woman named Heather who worked for the company. Stabilicers are made in Biddeford, Maine (Near Portland) by a company called 32North. The woman who administers their twitter account was shocked to hear I thought I had worn out my Stabilicers and she asked that I post some pictures of them on their Facebook account, because apparently they are not used to having people wear them out. She also told me I could get replacement cleats if not completely worn.

I went done to Fast Feet and got some replacement cleats, and attempted to change them. I was able to replace about half of them. Two cleats were so worn I couldn't get a wrench on them and several were stuck. I think they may have seized in place after sitting unused over the summer.

I let Heather know what trouble I had with replacing the cleats and asked if there was a trick to it. She indicated they should come right off with a wrench. What she didn't know was that I ran on them with only the 9 new spikes and they worked fantastic. Not as good as new but substantially better than sneakers alone.

Anyway, the customer service of this company is so good that as soon as I had a problem they responded immediately even through I hadn't gone to them directly. Then they replaced my Stabilicers that I wore out from overuse without me asking. I am so happy that if i wear out this pair I will go out and purchase another. These are so good for running in snow and ice that for the amount of running I do it is worth $40 a year to not slip.

Now that I know I can replace the cleats I will be more careful to inspect and replace them before wearing through them. I have used my new Stabilicers a bunch already and I inspected them and replaced a few cleats already. These work so good for traction on slippery surfaces that there is no excuse to avoid running outside in the winter.

I speak so highly about Stabilicers that I know two of my runner friends who bought them on my advise. What I plan to do this year when it warms up and I put them away until next year is to remove all the cleats so they will not freeze in place again. I can replace the cleats again next winter. I think that will increase the longevity of this pair of Stabilicers.

There are not too many companies that I know of that have such a wonderful level of customer service. I bought the Stabilicers Sport model. They also have several other models. Check out their website for more information by clicking here . Be sure to let them know how you feel about their product. You can follow them on Twitter @32northSTABIL

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