GRIVEL RAN MICROSPIKES
I count myself as extremely fortunate to consider the French Alps as my home for much of the summer. Lush meadows, snow capped peaks in the background, and endless trails. I have always been a strong believe that the Alps has more to offer in the summer than the winter. I do ski a bit, but I’m not a huge adrenaline junkie, so tend to find after a day or two my mind starts wishing all the snow was gone and I could get out running instead. This year we were fortunate enough to take some time away from the Chilterns in January, and head over to our normal summer base, for a month in winter. Previously we have done a combination of snowshoeing, cross country skiing, mixed in with the odd day of downhill. Snowshoeing is great when there is a deep layer of snow, and you are breaking trail, but given the ski season hasn’t been blessed with a super snowy start, the snow was actually fairly patchy, and the combination of warm days, melting the top layer, and cold nights, refreezing this layer, means some tracks were pretty much sheet ice. As I have just signed up to a couple of big races this year, I was keen to not let my running training take an early break, and thought maybe it would be worth getting some running spikes.
GRIVEL RAN OR GRIVEL RAN LIGHT?
A bit of research led me to Grivel who make two ‘anti-slip devices’; The Grivel Ran and the Grivel Ran light. They emphasise on their website these are not mountaineering crampons (though for the rest of this review I shall refer to these as crampons for ease of description), and must not be used as such. As it turned out, the Grivel Ran spikes were available in my size, whereas the lights were not, which made the decision for me, so I bought a pair of Grivel Ran and my husband bought the Grivel Ran lights. The Grivel ran weigh in at 470g, vs the lights at 300g. The main difference appears to be the lights are predominantly chain underneath, whereas the heavier crampons have both a forefoot and rear foot plate which the spikes themselves are attached too. Both have a yellow silicon band with enough flexibility to stretch over most types of shoe, with a Velcro fastener across the top of your foot.
They come in a handy little bag, which would fit in any running back pack. The crampons take moments to put on, with the fairly narrow size bands meaning the products are designed to fit and do not require adjustment. You slip your toe box in first, and then pull the silicon up over the heel of the shoe, and fasten with the Velcro strap. Each takes less than 30 seconds to put on, though the Lights were much easier to accidentally turn inside out, so took a little longer to get into the right position to begin putting them on each time.
We used ours almost exclusively on running trainers, so I can’t speak to their use on boots or regular shoes, but we both noticed a slight pressure on the top of our feet from a metal bar which keeps the crampon chains from slipping outwards. Due to the softer more flexible fabric on trainer uppers, this gave me a slightly numb big toe, for my husband a slight rub on his middle toe, but in fairness we were out for hours and hours each time. Otherwise they were super comfy.
We tested the crampons on sheet ice, on hard snow, on soft snow, on uphills, on downhills, and on the flat and can honestly say the grip was fantastic. Terrain which would be completely impassable in trainers alone, posed no problem at all. My husband is a mountaineer so used to wearing climbing crampons, but I’m far more unfamiliar, but found them completely natural and easy to walk and run in. The spikes face outwards enough to get grip, but neither of us had any issues with tearing our leggings, which has happened to me before when wearing climbing crampons. We use the crampons on mixed terrain where there were snow and ice patches, in between regular trail with mud, pine needles, and even a few rocks mixed in, and the crampons dealt with the mix fantastically. The spikes are not so deep that you feel you are walking on platforms when you are on solid ground, but they certainly feel deep enough to give solid grip. At one point we were out with friends who had cheap alternatives bought off the internet, and between their spikes simply detaching, the rubber of their crampons swivelling around, and eventually falling off, we felt like mountain goats compared to them, and ended up having to lend them one of our crampons each, otherwise they were close to needing to be rescued off the mountain.
The lights and the regulars seemed equally useful over the terrain, but I did notice the weight when running on hard packed snow on the flat. My trainers are not the lightest anyway, and with the extra weight of the crampons, I felt my running was more sluggish that the terrain should have dictated, and each leg lift was a little more effort. When walking I didn’t notice the additional weight. For this reason, I would probably opt for the lights where I would be likely to be running for meaningful portions of a trail, but the slightly more robust feeling regular Grivel Rans for more challenging terrain where sustained running was less likely. Neither slipped or moved around at all, and we both felt rock solid. If you are using them in snow, it’s important to not let the Velcro strap become too clogged with snow when you take the crampons on and off, as the adhesiveness is reduced, but it’s easily avoided by being a little more careful with the strap.
Overall these running crampons are fantastic, and a complete game changer for us, making otherwise un-passable terrain, a breeze. For the price they are infinitely more usable than the cheap alternatives with detachable spikes (our friends binned theirs after 2 uses due to their inadequacy). For trail runners, and trail explorers who want to be able to enjoy the winter wonderland, these are a must buy!
Written by Karin Voller, Run Leader and Trail Runner