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Friday, March 2, 2012

How to Walk in Snow--or Kay's in Love

As I'm sure you've gathered from my earlier posts, I am constantly astounded at what Finns manage to do on the glaciers they call sidewalks.  Skiing and stuff, that's fine and to be expected, but cross-country races using running shoes in the snow ... they have better balance and stronger ankles than I!

I mean, a large part of my daily walking with Ted involves weaving through parks where you really don't know what you'll find day to day.  Not only does the weather affect the surfaces, but the city of Helsinki and the maintenance services of the various nearby buildings always seem to be messing with the paths--and not always to the pedestrian's benefit.

I mean, something like this is navigable, although potential precarious.  For me, I just take babysteps and constantly remind myself to walk flat-footed and avoid putting my heel down hard.

Even with those precautions, and lessons from several Finns I know about the best ways to fall (!), I've been more than a bit nervous of reinjuring my bad ankle, so I've given up any pretense of coolness and broken down and bought the ice cleats that it seems only the elderly here will wear, despite the recommendations of Finnish doctors.

Funnily enough, though, finding what seemed to be a good pair for me has been a problem, in part because I didn't know exactly which stores to go to and the sporting goods store near campus was useless.  I eventually ended up with a type of cleat that forms a cap around your heel and has 5 spikes about the width of thick nails that go into the ground.  It didn't seem like it would be effective, but it did work despite what seemed to be ridiculously small cleats.  Moreover, they were pretty easy to put on and carry when I had to take them off.  I could even get away with wearing them in shops and anywhere that had hard surfaces without destroying those surfaces.  They've made Ted walks much, MUCH better recently.

Despite that security, I kept wondering about what I would do during ice season.  (Yes, according to my Finnish friends, we are only just now starting to get the slippery weather, and it's going to keep going for probably about another 5 weeks.)  With that in mind, I contacted some of my Canadian colleagues, and they recommended these cleats called Stabilicers.

I'm in love.

Here are the two different sets of ice cleats.

Yes, there is NOTHING discrete about those Stabilicers: 17 individual screws embedded into a Vibram sole that straps across your foot and ankle.  That being said, I took Ted for a 45-minute walk this morning around the bay, and I had to keep reminding myself not to speed up and not to walk on my heels because I felt so secure in these things.  Yes!

While I'll bring the heel cleats to Russia next week, too, as you might imagine, the Stabilicers will be at the top of my list of things to pack!

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