Hex nuts vs Hobnails


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Today was the day. Christmas Eve morning, a loop around Pickerel Lake with 16 of my WMTR family, and plenty of fresh midwestern powder on top of even more midwestern ice. I loaded up my left Patagonia Forerunner with LaSportiva AT/Hob Nails, and I loaded up my right one with #6, 3/8 in. steel hex nuts from Modern Hardware. The question is, which option performed better?

First thing, the conditions weren't great. The snow and ice made it difficult to take two identical steps or to feel even remotely coordinated. Though the optimist would say that these were in fact the perfect conditions to test winter running traction options. In the interest of full disclosure, it was really a snowshoe day.

So how do we examine the contestants here. Price? Easy of use? Performance? Adaptability? Sounds good!

Price wise, the hardware store hex nuts win hands down. I spent $3.99 for a box of 100, and another $4.00 for a driver for my drill. The LaSportiva Hob Nails are over $50 if you buy the kit with the special tool to put them into your shoe.
When it comes to putting them it, the hex nuts win again because the electric drill did all the work. No sweat and no strain. The Hob Nails are a little more difficult as the business end of the spike is an auger that winds into your outsole. I suspect there is a way to adapt a drill to put these in too but that is beyond my hardware expertise.
So how did they perform? Honestly, I feel like my left foot was more stable on both loops today, so the LaSportivas win here. The real question is did they perform $42 dollars but than the hex nuts? The answer to that is sadly, no. They did better, but not that much better.
When it comes to adaptability, the hex nuts win hands down. When I got home I did a quick lap around my block and there is no way that I could run on the roads in my LaSportiva Hob Nails, they are strictly for off-road use only. The hex nuts did well though. I think I was more cautious/nervous than actually unstable, but I would certainly take the hex nuts out for another test run, after removing the Hob Nails from my left shoe!

So while I can definitely imagine circumstances where I would prefer the Hob Nails over the hex nuts, when it comes to running in the winter in Michigan, I'm going with the hex nuts. Round two will pit the hex nuts against the up and coming Ice Spikes.


dan royer's picture

Thanks for all of this Rob. I went to Lowes and bought some #6 and #8 half-inch hex-head screws. I got a nut driver for $8 which made it very easy to screw them into the bottom of my shoes. I'm amazed at how much it helps provide traction. It's like having a little bit of gravel or something under your feet when you run. Very nice.
Brad Patterson's picture

Great job on the comparo Rob!! I think you are the first one I have ever seen that did a true left-right comparison of standard sheet metal screws to all of the "fancy spike screw" devices that are sold these days. Now the next thing to figure out will be what is the optimal size sheet metal screw to use. ;-) I put #6 screws in my first set of test shoes, just because that is what kind of screws I had laying around in my garage. I just purchased some #10 screws from Menards the other day, and am hoping that the slightly larger head might offer a tiny bit better traction in the snow. My one concern though is that the #10 might be more uncomfortable on the clear sections of pavement compared to the #6s, which are not bad at all.