How to avoid slipping on icy winter runs

icysidewalkIn this post I’ll share a few options to help you gain some traction on those winter runs on icy and snowy roads. So you can hopefully do a few less runs on the dreaded treadmill.

I wrote a blog post reviewing my Kahtoola Microspikes which are great for winter trail running on snow packed trails but not suitable for winter road running. I got a lot of great suggestions on solutions for winter road running when I wrote the post so wanted to expand on those suggestions and share what I learned, if only because this is helping me evaluate alternatives for my own use 🙂

I would not run in these every day in winter. But for those 5-10 runs each winter when the footing is slick due to ice or packed snow on the road these provide better traction than trail shoes.

I’ll share the solutions from cheapest to most expensive.

Sheet Metal Screws (< $5)

Take a pair of old running shoes, grab or borrow a drill and a nut driver and buy yourself some hex head sheet metal screws to make your own cleats. The lip on the head of the screws gives you traction. (Thank you Daisy for sharing this picture of the exact package you use for this purpose). There’s a wintersheetmetalscrewsgood video with tips on how and where to drill them into your shoe.  There is also a good article by Skyrunner on how to create a ScrewShoe. Expect between 100 to 150 miles of traction before the screw heads are too worn down to help anymore. When you go shopping you want:

  • Hex head screws
  • Size #8 or #6
  • Head width of 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, or 1/2 inch

Nordic Grip Mini Traction Aid ($15 USD)


If you are looking for something to just give you a little more grip without drilling holes in your shoes, check out the Nordic Grip Mini Traction Aid. It slips over the toe box of your running shoe.  This will not provide as much traction as any of the other solutions, as it only provides two studs on the toe. It has the advantage that you if you start the run on icy sidewalks and then reach a stretch of clear pavement you can take it off and put it in your pocket or you can carry it in your pocket and if you start on clear pavement and conditions worsen you can put them on as needed.

It comes in two sizes Small and Large:

  • Small Fits Shoe Size: 3-8
  • Large Fits Shoe Size: 8-14

Ice Spikes  ($30 USD)

wintericespikesSimilar to sheet metal screws, Ice spikes are also spikes you drill into an old pair of running shoes, but, they are designed specifically for drilling into shoes as traction. There’s a great article by Blaine Moore comparing Ice Spikes to Sheet Metal screws as a solution. The article concludes they both do a good job with traction, but the Ice Spikes do a better job if you actually run over ice, and the ice spikes are more durable (i.e. you will get more mileage out of them). The writer also recommends using a drill to insert the spikes not the hand held device provided when you order them.

YakTrax  ($40 USD) and NanoSpikes ($50 USD)

YakTrax and Nanospikes are rubber and metal traction devices you slipover your existing running shoes.

The advantage over spikes is you can use them on any pair of running shoes and you can take them on and off as needed. So if you wear Goretex shoes in winter to keep your feet dry you don’t have to drill holes in them for traction on those icy days.

The disadvantage vs spikes is they add weight, how much weight depends on the size.

Brand Weight Spikes
YakTrax 9.7 – 11.7 oz per pair Carbide Steel
Nanospikes 7.2 – 9.0 oz per pair Tungsten Carbide

Because you pull them over your shoe it’s important to order the correct size, if you put them on a pair of shoes too big, or try to pull them over winter boots which are generally larger they may snap and break.

YakTrax offers 4 sizes vs 5 sizes in the Nanospikes so there is a less precise fit but Yaktrax can handle bigger shoes than the Nanospikes

YakTrax sizing

SMALL – W 6.5-10 / M 5-8.5
MEDIUM – W 10.5-12.5 / M 9-11
LARGE – W 13-15 / M 11.5-13.5
X-LARGE – W 15.5+ / M 14+

Nanospikes sizing


Running shoes with built-in spikes ($80 USD +)

They aren’t cheap, but there are a number of brands who produce running shoes with built in metal spikes including: Inov-8, Solomon & Icebug.

This is the simplest and priciest solution. You only want to wear these shoes for slippery conditions. The click click click of the spikes on pavement does get a bit annoying. Not an issue if you have to cross a road, or hit a clear patch of wet pavement during a run, but if the roads are bare pavement, you won’t want to run in these shoes, any more than you would put Yaktrax on your shoes for a run of pavement.

I’ve compared a few models below. here’s a few things to consider when selecting a spiked winter shoe:

Warmth – if you will be running in temperatures around 0C/32 F you probably don’t need to worry about technology to keep your feet warm. If you will be running in -20 C/-4 F or lower you may want to invest in shoes that have something windproof to keep your toes warm.

Water proof vs water resistant – trail runners often prefer NOT to get a waterproof shoe, because if you do step in a creek and get water inside the shoe it does not drain. Road runners tend to prefer waterproof shoes because if you run in slush your feet stay dry. It is less likely for a road runner to step in water deep enough to get inside the shoe.

Fit – Check the size of the toe box, and check the heel to toe drop, ideally you want to try them on to make sure they fit well. But the challenge here is that not many running stores carry these shoes, so you may have to order online. So compare the technical specs of these shoes to your current running shoes.

Stiffness – Winter shoes designed for trail running often have very stiff soles.

Spikes – Most of the shoes I found use carbide for the spikes or at least for the tips of the spikes, and have similar numbers of spikes, Any of the shoes listed below is going to give you improved grip on snowy/icy roads and sidewalks. I would focus on the other factors when deciding which shoe is right for you.





All the Icebug shoes with BUGrip have built-in spikes. Models availability seems to vary from country to country and I couldn’t find a site listing prices in USD, so I used the price from the Icebugs Canada website. Generally $1 CDN is about .80 USD, but exchange rates fluctuate.

Shoe Price Weight Spikes Notes
Inov-8 Oroc 280 $104 USD 9.9 oz/ 280 g 18 Carbide Metal Spikes Orienteering/ Off trail shoe

Water resistant

Narrow toe box

Inov-8 Arctic Talon 275 $80 USD 9.625 oz/ 275 g 14 tungsten carbide Spikes Winter trail running shoe

Narrow (a touch wider than Oroc 280)

Inov-8 Arctic Claw $120 USD 10.5 oz/ 300 g 16 tungsten carbide spikes winter trail running shoe

wider toe box than Oroc series

Solomon Speedspike $126 USD 10.8 oz/ 305 g 15 carbide spikes Training and racing shoe for winter conditions

Stiffer than the Inov-8 shoes

Waterproof Climashield membrane over forefoot

Icebug Anima 3 BUGrip $150 Canadian Not Specified 19 carbide tip steel studs lightweight all terrain shoe
Icebug Pytho 4 BUGrip $199 Canadian 325 g 17 carbide tip steel studs designed for long distance running (wider toe box)
Icebug Oribi3 BUGrip GTX $230 Canadian 261 g 14 carbide tip steel studs Lightweight winter running shoe

Goretex (i.e. waterproof)


Be safe out there. I think most of us who train through winter conditions have had at least one run or fall which made us aware of the risk of injury. My worst fall I had reached a smooth wet icy patch on a trail. It was a warm day and the ice patch was melting. The water on top of the ice made it especially slippery. I had stopped running and was carefully walking over the ice and suddenly I found myself lying on my back having just hit the back of my head on the ice. I was very lucky to not have a concussion, only huge bruises on my elbows which caught the brunt of my fall.

There are solutions for every price range, I have met at least one runner who has successfully used every solution listed above (that’s how I found out about all these options). Thank you to each of the runners who shared their stories with me (David, Randy, Mary, Jane, Andrew, Daisy, James).

Now I have to decide which of these solutions I personally want to try! Let me know if you found a different solution I should include as an option.

If you are interested, I have other running related posts






2 responses to this post.

  1. […] You are going for a road run and some of the roads or sidewalks are snowcovered and slippery. The spikes are too long for road use. Time to find a route that is well sanded and salted, or hit the dreaded treadmill! If you are going to be road running and the sidewalks are a mess check out my post evaluating different products designed for road runners on icy roads. […]


  2. […] How to avoid slipping on icy winter runs Surviving runs on the treadmill (dreadmill) […]


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