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Yaktrax Pro
Yaktrax Pro

Making (yak) tracks is harder than you think Add to ...

At approximately 11:30 a.m. last Monday, there was only one person jogging around Queen's Park in Toronto: me.

I was as solitary as I imagine I'd be in some remote part of the Yukon. No one was out walking dogs, there were no families celebrating Family Day, no obsessive marathoners, no squirrels.

It was freezing, and an evening snowfall had left a fresh coating of white stuff on the park's semblance of paths. I was sporting four thermal tops and YakTrax on my feet: I was prepared. My greatest winter running concern isn't keeping warm, it's slipping on ice - which is why I was eager to test-drive my new snow tires.

YakTrax (from $34.95, www.yaktrax.ca) are a web of lightweight rubber wrapped in steel coil that stretch over the soles of your sneakers. They are said to offer superior traction.

They do help, somewhat. The coils grip the snow, eliminating that dreaded sliding sensation and allowing you to run normally rather than shortening your stride.

Just don't assume they help with stability. The snow covering the uneven terrain in the park last week was powdery, so my feet sank as if in sand and my ankles wobbled.

But the bigger problem is that on any indoor surface other than carpet, the coils have nothing to grip, which means they glide and take you with them. They feel weird and make ascreechy sound, like nails on a chalkboard.

Oh, the irony: A device that prevents you from slipping on ice is an accident waiting to happen on marble or wood. The box acknowledges as much in highlighted red typeface, "Not for indoor use." Street grates present an additional hazard: Jump over or avoid them when possible.

At least you don't have to worry about YakTrax coming off mid-run: the Pro style features a Velcro strap across the instep that secures them over the shoe. They are easy to put on as long as you're seated. Available in four sizes, they accommodate most feet.

My advice: Try to assess the conditions before heading out. If the sidewalks are clear, leave your YakTrax behind. But if it's icy, they're the best aid out there to prevent slipping. They're also effective on a psychological level; you run with more confidence if you believe you have the necessary protection.

I wondered if people who would normally have been in Queen's Park for their morning walk or run had opted for the treadmill or shovelled sidewalks. Truthfully, I didn't mind being alone. Even if I happened to wipe out in my YakTrax (likely from lack of stability, not traction), no one would witness my embarrassment.

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