Last year, when Surrey got it’s fortnight’s worth of snow and ice on the roads, a lot of my neighbours were for all intents and purposes snowed-in. 30 miles from central London and people couldn’t get to work or the shops without help. A bunch of us got together and formed a loose-knit team of vehicle pushers after the only exit road from our end of the village became slippery enough to play ice-hockey on and anything without snow tyres was ending up kissing a brick wall.
The more prepared of us had ice-spikes on our shoes, which are a sort of cross between snow-chains and crampons for everyday shoes and, at least for that fortnight, made the difference between sure-footedness and broken wrists. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of temporarily upgrading your shoes’ grip for use on snow and ice, and I’ve been keen to test a bunch out this year.
These examples from Pogu are the most professional-looking version we have on test, and despite the mild winter so far we’re going to be featuring them (and alternatives over the next week) before the snow hits across the country.
This morning, temperatures hit -6C and the paths – where water had been sitting in shady puddles – turned to icy runways. It was the first opportunity to put this year’s crop of ice spikes to the test, so I set out on a walk with the Pogu Spikes in hand and hit the ice. Pulling on over your boots (or any shoes with an upper – not flip-flops) the thick silicone rubber band wraps snugly over your foot and holds in place two hinged metal plates with centimetre-long spikes on them via a set of chains.
Aligning the Pogu spikes on your boots is quick and easy, and arrows moulded into the silicone make sure you wear them the correct way around. They are supplied with a handy ventilated bag, to keep them from damaging anything in your pack, and an additional set of Velcro straps which go over your forefoot and hold them securely in place on your boots.
What sets the Pogu spikes aside from cheaper alternatives is the fact that there’s no rubber under the sole of your boot, only chains. You cannot, therefore, accidentally damage the rubber by standing on it and shortening the life of the spikes. The other thing that sets them aside from cheaper ice spikes is that they’re almost crampons, rather than just metal rivets. The spikes on the forefoot and heel sections really dig in to any ice as you walk and it’s quite difficult to slide even if you want to.
The forefoot spike section is hinged, so if you’re wearing the Pogu spikes with running shoes they will flex with you. Because each plate is suspended from the silicone rubber uppers, there’s never any doubt that the whole unit will flex and move, no matter what you’re wearing.
We haven’t had any snow yet, so we’ll come back to this review at a later date and add more details on how they fair in the soft stuff. Update: Now tested on soft-packed and hard-packed snow, and they’re brilliant. On icy puddles they were confidence inspiring and reassuring. On icy mud they also performed well, reducing the slip when walking to zero. On hard ground and rock they aren’t particularly great because the spikes are fairly close to the centre of your boot. They’re not deep enough to cause you to roll off the side of your boot, but you wouldn’t want to be wearing them on hard ground for more than is necessary.
Having said that… My grandfather is 90 years old and lives on his own in the Lake District. His house is on a very steep hill and when it snows he gets completely house-bound due to the slipperiness. I’m buying him a pair of these Pogu spikes as opposed to any other ice spikes. They’re the most secure and grippy I’ve seen for use with ‘any’ shoe.
SUMMARY: Pogu foot spikes are easy to put on with any shoe, and the tough metal plates really dig in to ice making walking feel much more secure when the going is slippery. At £45 – including a carry-bag and extra velcro straps for added security on your foot – they are much more expensive than some other ice spikes, but these feel like proper outdoor kit and that they’ll last for a few years.