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.