Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fight the Ice with Screw Shoes

Longmont has been under a rare covering of ice since yesterday.  It started on Thursday night with some sort of rain/sleet mix that came down on mostly dry pavement and then froze overnight.  With below freezing temperatures and no sun on Friday, driveways, sidewalks, and roads (with the exception of treated main thoroughfares) were turned into ice rinks.  Nice for Dorothy Hamill, not so much fun for us. 

What to do, if you need to walk the dog, go to the mailbox, or visit a neighbor?  Screw-shoes to the rescue!

They're well known by Boulder trail runners who use them for traction on icy rocks but they mostly work fine for traversing your slicked-over driveway too.  All you need to get started is a pair of old running shoes, a screwdriver, and a visit to the hardware store:

The well-written defacto tutorial is here from legendary Colorado Springs runner, Matt Carpenter.  Pay close attention to the length of the sheet metal screw that you're buying, and don't go longer than 1/2 inch unless you want some continuous acupuncture on the bottom of your feet while walking.  

Here's the bottom of my screw shoes but I'm missing a few screws on the top (they occasionally come out):

These work best on small patches of the frozen stuff and will not save you on Zamboni-smooth ice. For questionable surfaces ahead of me, I like to gently scuff the toes of my shoes on the ice to see if I'm getting any traction.  If not, I'm taking very small steps until I'm past the danger zone.  I imagine that you'd have to take extra caution if you're walking a dog, especially one that pulls on the leash.

The screws are removable so you don't have to permanently sacrifice your shoes to do this.  And one more thing, be sure to remove your screw shoes before you walk into your friend's house with nicely finished wood floors!

There are more expensive ice traction options out there but given that these ice situations are rare in Longmont, the homebrew screw shoe solution is an acceptable alternative. 

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