I live in the Northeast, so this time of year I tend to think a lot about the tires on my car. That and the shoes on my feet. Lately, the two lines of thought have started to merge: I see the winter running shoe options as three types of snow tires for my feet:
- tire chains (strap-on traction devices)
- studded snow tires (shoes with built-in spikes or, to the Brits, “dobs”)
- snow tires (shoes with soles and other features to help out in the snow, but no metal parts)
iRunFar has already done a series on the tire chains of the running world: devices that attach to your shoe, put a lot of metal between you and the icy ground, and will get you through the gnarliest winter conditions. They’re not a great solution for mixed conditions, though, and they’re on the heavy side. So I’m beginning what I hope will be a similar series on the “studded snow tires” type of winter-running shoe: basically a standard shoe with built-in or removable metal spikes. Before reviewing the Asics Gel-Arctic WR 2 5/8″ monsters.
As you’d expect, the smallish standard-issue spikes mean less grip on ice and hard-packed snow than a screwshoe. But the Arctic is way closer to a screwshoe than a regular shoe is to the Arctic. I feel secure in the Arctics on all but the hardest ice, where I’d rather be in a pair of screwshoes with fresh screws. Today was a beautiful day for the Arctics here. I was at work, so I had to sneak in a lunchtime run, which means a mix of pavement and dirt roads or snowmobile trails. It rained all day yesterday, then was near zero last night with high winds. The ice on the roads this morning was everywhere and very hard, and the trails are all frozen solid. As I’ve noticed before, the little studs in the Arctic definitely feel way more secure than regular trail shoes, but on the hardest black ice they’re noticeably less grippy than a screwshoe. I can’t remember ever slipping with screwshoes, but I’ve definitely had some slippage with the Arctics.
So far it seems like the Arctic spikes are a bit more durable than the screws in my screwshoes, particularly if I spend a lot of time on pavement. And the Arctic’s spikes are removable, but I wouldn’t recommend running without the spikes in. The threaded “female” connectors in the spike plate are just bound to collect pebbles and the screw threads will strip the next time you try and reinsert the spikes, leaving you with a very heavy pair of regular old training shoes.
The major downside of the Arctics for me is that the spike plate makes them heavy (14.3 oz., as compared with 11.0 oz. for the GT-2140). It also makes them noticeably stiffer than your average shoe. I’m not a heavy-shoe guy, and it seems like some of the extra weight could be avoided simply by making the spikes non-removable. As noted above, I don’t see much benefit in removing the Arctic’s spikes anyway. Inov-8 uses non-removable “metal dobs” in the very intriguing Inov-8 Mudclaw 340 0+, which weighs in at 2.3 ounces less than the Arctic (and, lets be honest, looks a whole lot more rip-snortin’). There have been some complaints about the durability of the Mudclaw dobs, though. And that’s one thing that isn’t a problem so far with my Asics Arctic WRs – I’ve got a few hundred miles on them, much of it on icy pavement, and the studs are all intact and in pretty good shape (and, of course, I can always get more).
The bottom line is that if you’re happy with screwshoes but could do with a bit less of that golf-cleat feel on pavement, the Arctic is a very able pick at a very decent price. It provides much of the same traction as a screwshoe in a water-resistant package that provides good grip on ice and snow, and a bit less noise on pavement.
Like I said, we’re hoping get our hands on the other two “studded snow tires” of the winter running shoe world: the aforementioned Mudclaw 340 O+ and the IceBug range from Sweden. I’m especially looking forward to getting to know the “squish unit” and “bounce unit” in the Icebug PYTHO. Because mmmmm…..squishy! Like a donut.
And, readers, if you know of any other running-specific studded footwear (does anyone do any training in orienteering shoes?), do let us know and we’ll do our best to put ’em through their paces.
The Squish Unit (a/k/a Gavin)
- Great traction on snow and solid traction on ice
- More traction on pavement than screwshoes
- Durable and replaceable spikes
- Heavy and someone stiff due to the spike plate
- A very good value for winter running
[Disclaimer: Purchases made through the Amazon links in this article help support iRunFar.]