In this Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, photo Emma Bohman, a sales associate at Skinny Raven sporting goods, shows two kinds of exterior cleats attached to running shoes in Anchorage, Alaska. Exterior cleats are one of many ways Anchorage residents cope with up ice on streets up to seven months per year. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, photo Emma Bohman, a sales associate at Skinny Raven sporting goods, shows two kinds of exterior cleats attached to running shoes in Anchorage, Alaska. Exterior cleats are one of many ways Anchorage residents cope with up ice on streets up to seven months per year. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Footwear options abound to stay upright

  • By Dan Joling
  • Saturday, December 24, 2016 8:15pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — Darrell Bachmann doesn’t wear ruby slippers, but when he clicks his heel, something magical happens.

Bachmann invented KickSpikes, a boot designed to walk on ice. Kick a button on the heel and 7mm steel cleats pop out. Kick the button again and the cleats retract, allowing the wearer to walk inside without tearing up floors.

“Traction on demand,” he says.

Bachmann’s boots are the latest option for secure footwear in Anchorage, where streets are icy up to seven months per year and falling could mean a broken wrist or worse.

Alaskans, like Scandinavians, look for technology that will allow them to embrace long winters, said John Clark, running shoe buyer for Skinny Raven, an athletic gear store that caters to runners. The store carries three brands of shoes for running on ice. That niche market, like trail shoes, didn’t exist a few years ago.

“People see those types of things and go, ‘This is a tool for me to not just survive winter, but more likely conquer winter,’” Clark said.

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute tested 98 winter boots in a study released Nov. 24 and found only 8 percent met minimum slip resistance. None of the tested boots had cleats.

No one shoe is perfect for all applications, Clark said, but there are plenty of options for getting outside.

Strap-on cleats — mini versions of crampons used by mountaineers — make any shoe an ice shoe. Held on by straps or rubber harnesses, they stretch from toe to heel and put steel teeth on a shoe bottom.

They remain a popular choice in Anchorage because they can be transferred between shoes and removed to enter a store. The price: $10 to $70.

Strap-on cleats can pinch soft running shoes. Swedish manufacturer Icebugs was one of the first to offer running shoes with cleats.

Their bottoms are flecked with tungsten carbide studs. The shoes’ popularity led to competition. Skinny Raven offers studded running shoes from two other European manufacturers, Salomon of France and Inov-8 from Great Britain. They range in price from $150 to $220.

Galoshes used to be the norm for northern schoolchildren. Neos Overshoe and Tingley Rubber Corp. offer studded overshoes with uppers like wide gaiters that easily fit over a shoe or boot. They’re waterproof and offer an added layer of warmth. Prices start at about $120.

“Very handy for the person who doesn’t like to take off his shoes and put on another one,” said Stewart Valladolid, boot buyer at B&J Sporting Goods.

One Anchorage flightseeing company provides tourists with the non-slip footwear on flights to glaciers.

“A lot of their clients come unprepared,” Valladolid said. “This way, if they’re wearing regular dress shoes, they can pop these on and not lose their toes.”

Tingley and LaCrosse also offer more traditional rubber overshoes with studs.

For a warm hiking boot with cleats, Anchorage stores offer Korkers, boots with interchangeable outer soles. Agile users can peel off a rubber outsole and snap on one with cleats without taking the boot off. Prices start at $180.

For the fashion-conscious, Canadian manufacturer Pajar offers boots with a hinged insert on the bottom. Flip the insert and cleats appear. Women’s versions have been popular with customers who have had hip or knee replacements, said Alexa Ives, a manager at Shuzy Q, a downtown boutique. Prices start at $240. Men’s versions are available online.

And then there are Kickspikes. Bachmann set out to invent a golf shoe with steel cleats that could be retracted so they didn’t tear up greens.

“It turns out that golf is half of 1 percent of the market we’re after,” he said. “We went full-fledge into boots.”

One model is aimed at hikers. Some feature safety toes. In industrial settings, users can transition out of cleats without bending over if they have to climb a ladder or walk into a building.

The soles are slightly taller and wider than a regular boot but Bachmann swears by their stability. A video on the company website shoes him racing behind a Zamboni ice resurfacer between periods at a hockey game. Prices start at $350.

Valladolid one day received an appeal from a gentleman with feet so wide, he could not find winter boots. The man navigated Anchorage in flip-flops but took a nasty fall.

Valladolid showed him Goat Head Sole Spikes — cleats that screw into the bottoms of almost any shoe. A $24 kit includes spikes and a handle to install them.

“We studded out his sandals and he was very happy,” Valladolid said.

Skinny Raven offers a similar service. For $10, the store will drill case-hardened screws to the bottom of shoes. The service is free for anyone pregnant, disabled or over 60.

“We just don’t want people getting hurt,” Clark said. “We don’t want that to be a limiting factor for people. It’s not that big of a deal for us. We should be doing something nice for those people to encourage them to be out.”

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read