#49 – Screw Shoes

4 February 2008

When I noticed that my last two entries were about making tracks in deep snow, I realized that I should share what kind of shoes I prefer for winter running: screw shoes.

Screw shoes are nothing more than homemade studded running shoes using hex-head screws as the studs. I got the idea for trying screw shoes about a year ago when browsing Matt Carpenter‘s website. He did such an excellent job explaining how to make screw shoes that I won’t bother doing the same. What I’ll discuss here is how well screw shoes work and how they compare to commercial products that also aim to provide winter traction.

2007 screw shoesOn the right is a photo of my 2007 screw shoes – if you count ’em there are 20 screws in each shoe. I note this because Matt Carpenter was boasting about 18 in his shoe and 19 in his wife Yvonne’s shoe – it’s the only running-relating “competition” in which I can top the elite mountain runner. 🙂

I used my screw shoes extensively last winter when running on icy sidewalks with my co-workers during our lunch runs. The faint click-click-click of metal against the pavement was the only indication that my shoes were different than those of my friends, until we hit patches of ice or packed snow – then my shoes fell silent. Yet it was still clear that I had “special” shoes because the other runners had to slow down and proceed cautiously while I was able to maintain my stride without fear.

Screw shoes simply do not slip on ice. The only surface that has ever resulted in minor slips is smooth, black ice that’s shallow enough to allow a slight amount of asphalt/concrete to poke above the ice. This is still very slippery for regular shoes and screw shoes do help, but the exposed pavement seems to be just enough to prevent the screws from digging into the ice with full force and allowing them to skid a bit.

Otherwise screw shoes provide better traction than regular shoes in all winter conditions – ice, slush, packed snow, fluffy snow, roads and trails. I loved them so much that I made a new pair this season. All of that sidewalk running did wear down a few screws, especially a couple on the heel and at the front under the toe. While I could’ve simply replaced the old screws with new ones, I chose to recruit another pair of shoes for two reasons: 1) my original screw shoes had about 400 miles on them (including before “getting screwed”) and 2) my new shoes are extra wide.

2008 screw shoesLast year I tried a wide version of my favorite shoe, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS, but the 14 EE didn’t work as well as my usual 14 D. It occurred to me that a wide shoe would be a perfect winter running shoe since I could add an extra layer of socks in cold temperatures. Perfect! On the right are my 2008 screw shoes, this time with 30 screws per shoe. Matt Carpenter doesn’t stand a chance against my huge feet! I easily could’ve fit 40 screws, too.

I used #8 x 1/2″ screws; on my 2007 shoes I made the mistake of using #10 x 1/2″ screws. The length was fine (even in the toes) but the #10 size required a 5/16″ hex bit compared to #8 screws using a 1/4″ bit. The latter is a standard size and magnetized 1/4″ bits are commonly available – it is so much easier to install screws into rubber soles when the bit is magnetized!

Over time I may elect to remove a few screws once I determine which locations are the most critical for traction – the screws do add a noticeable amount of mass to the shoe although the gains in traction are easily worth the tradeoff. With my 2008 shoes you may notice I was able to put a row of screws in front of the first flex line, which has improved toe-off traction tremendously.

If screw shoes are such a great idea, then hasn’t someone developed a similar commercial product?  The answer is yes, but none of them compare to the simplicity of a couple dollar’s worth of screws.

Yaktrax makes a popular elastic slip-on that easily slips over most any shoe.  An adventure racing friend from GRAAR used Yaktrax during winter training runs on the trails a couple years ago and they worked well… until they broke.  The rubber straps that secure the device are exposed at the corners of the shoe and are no match for the abrasive power of ice, rocks, and pavement.  At $30 a pair, they’re not expensive but not cheap enough for frequent replacement.

STABILicers are another option I’ve seen in stores but I don’t have any experience in them, nor do I know anyone who’s ever used them.  They’re similar in concept to Yaktrax but utilize a solid sole with replaceable studs – not a bad concept except that those replacement studs cost a buck more than good ol’ hex screws and you have to drop $40 on the STABILicers in the first place.

Kahtoola makes two types of traction devices.  MICROspikes are similar Yaktrax – they elastically slip over shoes but use a metal chain instead of rubber where contacting the terrain.  It’s a smart but expensive design, ringing up at $60.  KTS flexible crampons are for the serious winter adventurer with a price tag to match – it’ll set you back $130 for a pair of these!   Many adventure racers who’ve taken the financial plunge will swear to the effectiveness of Kahtoola products, but at that price you had better be A) competitive, B) wealthy, or C) run in the most extreme environments.

All of the above options give you the flexibility to wear them with any shoe of your choice at any time – admittedly this feature is lacking in screw shoes, although it’s still a simple process to “get screwed”.  I’d love to try them, however, the price is too steep.  $4 bought me a pack of 100 hex screws and I already own a power drill (if you don’t own one, I’m sure one of your running buddies has one) so the cost is just the sacrifice of an older pair of running shoes.  There are certainly plenty of those in my closet!

Last but not least, making a pair of screw shoes is actually quite fun.  You get to decide where to put the screws and experiment with various strategic arrangements.  You can compare notes with friends or even compete to see who is the biggest “stud” – can anyone get 50 in a pair?


  1. You should give Yaktrax a try again- The company was purchased a year ago and the product was updated with a more reinforced structure. The Pro version comes with a strap across the forefoot for more aggressive running.

  2. Interesting… I hadn’t known that Yaktrax had a new owner. Assuming you own a pair, how do you like them?

  3. I have Yaktrax, but have only used them on one occasion… they are okay. I like the screw shoe idea… if we ever got any snow around here (Philly), it might just be worth a try! Before reading your post (just having read the title), I thought maybe you were going to talk about running barefoot in the snow. Yikes!

  4. LOL that’s pretty good – it never occurred to me to interpret the title that way! There actually is a guy who has run a barefoot marathon in the snow: Wim Hof.

  5. I also like the screw shoe idea and may try it. I asked for Yaktrax for Christmas after an icy winter last year, but I noticed that when I put them on over my running shoes, which are rather unstructured on the top, they tend to crush the top of the shoe’s toebox in a little. I think they will still come in handy for driveway shoveling etc.
    My real reason for getting them though, is that since I am now well-equipped, we will probably never see ice again in my lifetime. ;-))

  6. There’s plenty of ice here! As I type this it’s all of THREE degrees outside. One nice thing about screw shoes is that they don’t change the feel of your running shoe at all. Good luck!

  7. I was looking for a way to improve traction when running on ice / snow and someone pointed me to your blog. Great idea! I will take a pair of shoes and add the hex screws. Cleveland, OH winters are long and cold and now I have gotten rid of another excuse not to run! Enjoy reading your blog, I run with my mini aussie, Koda. He LOVES to run and he does well on the lease when we run on the road. He stays right next to me and keeps me company 🙂

  8. Thanks! Hopefully those screw shoes work out for you. I’m glad to hear that you enjoy bringing Koda with you! It must be fun for both, although aren’t you a bit envious of his natural traction with pads and claws? 🙂

  9. I have recently discovered your site – great info! I wanted to chime in on the traction discussion. I have been a huge fan of Stabilicers – I live in maine and we experience icy/snowy conditions that require a product that is durable and provides superior traction. I use StabilicersSport to winter train. I found that they are secure on my feet, no slipping and again, very durable. I have not had to replace the studs as of yet – cost is always a factor but I have found the value to be excellent. I bought mine at http://www.32north.com.

    • can u plse inform me where i can get these sheet metal screws from thxs dave

  10. If anybody is too busy to run to the hardware store to get the supplies for screw shoes. I found this blog runnergizmos.blogspot.com They sell these great little packs with everything you need to screw your shoe’s ! Check it out.

  11. Great info. BTW, thanks for the link to the screwshoes blog. Got my screws from them today…work great!
    ==> Get runners ice traction shoe screws cheap at Runnergizmos > *

  12. Yeah I bought some too! They totally helped me out!
    ==> Get runners ice traction shoe screws cheap at Runnergizmos > *

  13. I have tried the Yaxtracks and while they are nice for packed snow, the coiled spring they used for traction is useless on ice.

    The Stabilicers work well on ice but the tips aren’t long enough to be real effective, there aren’t enough of them, they wear down fast and are expensive to replace.

    The Screw Shoes are the best. I have a choice of wear to place the screws, have as many as I want and can cheaply replace them as need be.

    Keep in mind that if they wear down real far it takes a pair of Vice Grips to get the screw out.

  14. Has anyone tried Garmont Icebug Mr. Bugrip Trail Running Shoes – Studded shoes? I found them at
    Amazon.com. They are studded with carbide tips and waterproof. At 124.00 they are pricey. Thoughts?

  15. Seems like a very practical idea – but… the cyclist in me recoils at the idea of a bunch of screws falling out on our trails and roads! It seems inevitable that some percentage of the screws will loosen and fall out. Yikes! Not only causing havoc on bike tires, but think of the new trend for barefoot running… how would you like to step on one of these screws sitting there with the point up? Ouch! I think therefore, the considerate thing for our fellow trail users is to avoid this method!

  16. I run 50+ miles per week – no matter the weather. This winter (January 2011) I tried Yaktrax. The metal broke. The elastic bands snapped. My running store was more than gracious to take them back. Then I tried shoe screws. Outstanding! I use #8 1/2 inch stainless steel sheet metal screws. My shoe is a Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11 size 12.5 4E, so I used 20 screws per shoe. (Had to buy them at Ace Hardware because Home Depot only had zinc plated ones. These are not as weather resistant or durable.) The net is after about 100 miles, I only have to replace about four screws because the heads were worn. (I practice Chi Running, so I am not a plodder who smashes his heels or toes into the pavement.) At any rate, this shoe screws are terrific and less expensive! The only caveat is black ice. Still, however, they make the shoes much less slippery – kind of like the studded tires on my car!

  17. Try these. I guarantee you wont slip with these two inch spikes, but you might break you angle though 🙂

  18. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that
    make the most significant changes. Thanks for sharing!

  19. this is a fabulous blog list, I was just looking for such valuable list which I got from your blog .

  20. With the slippery sidewalks we’re having in Toronto this winter(2013/2014), screw shoes have become my day-to-day shoes. I have tried Yaktrax, and still have a pair (if I need to go out in more formal shoes), but for running they do not last long (not like screw shoes). You can also get away with using screw shoes indoors – in shops and malls they are fine, whereas the Yaktrax can become scary on the glossy floors you find in malls. Removing and replacing Yaktrax can be a painful chore in freezing weather…

  21. Awesome post – I used the same method as you did (my experiences here http://restday.ca/2018/02/10/screw-shoes/).

  22. I’m gone to convey my little brother, that he should also
    visit this blog on regular basis to get updated from most recent news.

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