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Walking on Ice

We’ve been having an unusually mild winter this year on the east coast, and our current storm is only the second major one of the season. There’s been very little snow shovelling this year, and very little weather-related inconvenience. Under normal conditions, though, here in the mid-Atlantic area, we often spend most of the season dealing with ice, rather than snow, and a fair amount of ice-related bother.

Yaktrax WalkersI love snow — really cold, crisp, snow — but fear ice. A few years ago, during a time when I had to be mobile during the worst of winter, I picked up a pair of Yaktrax hoping that they’d help me feel safer when walking in icy conditions. Frankly, I didn’t see how they could possibly work well enough to be worth wearing, but boy, was I wrong.

Yaktrax are made of an expandable rubber-like web wound with metal coils. You pull them over the soles of your shoes or boots as if they were a high-tech version of overshoes (which, come to think of it, is what they are), and then walk. The coils bite into the ice and make it virtually impossible to slip or fall.

Initially, I crossed black-ice covered parking lots with the most gingerly of steps when using my Yaktrax. It turned out that the most difficult part of learning to wear them was getting used to the idea that I could just walk normally — the idea that you can walk on ice or icy snow is just counter-intuitive. It’s not as miraculous as walking on water, but being able to walk on frozen water is a close second.

Yaktrax ProYaktrax are simple to put on; mine (the ‘Walker’ version) require a little force to stretch the webbing. The ‘Pro’ version for heavy boots and serious hiking have a hook and loop fastener that goes over the top of the footwear.

When you’re not wearing them, Yaktrax fit into a small pouch (we keep ours year-round on a hook in the coat closet) making them easy to store at your destination. What’s not to like? Freedom rarely comes in such a convenient package!

The Yaktrax site has a pdf of an interesting (independent) study done by The American Geriatrics Society that amounts to a resounding endorsement of Yaktrax as a fall prevention tool.

I think I bought my Yaktrax at Campmor (they call them a “traction device”) but EMS and other sporting goods stores usually carry them, too.