How to make screw shoes

Last year and prior to setting up my website, I posted a note on Facebook on how to make screw shoes. Now that I have a webpage, I thought I’d share my post publicly.

Fortunately, living in Oklahoma now, I have not had to make and utilize screw shoes (yet!). However, up in Indiana and other places around the country, getting extra traction is a ‘must’ for much of the winter (that is, unless you want to run on a treadmill- yuck!). So why make screw shoes instead of buying ~Yak Trax or microspikes? Well:

  • The screws are less obtrusive to your gait, the feel of the shoe, and the ability to run on concrete
  • They’re lightweight
  • They’re cheaper
  • They work perfectly on snow/ice/black ice, whether a little or a lot
  • If you like tools and being a handyman (or handywoman), this method is for you!

The downside (although, not really an issue):

  • Takes time and a little troubleshooting
  • You have to put them in and take them out, depending on the conditions
  • You end up with holes in your soles

Here’s how I do it: I recommend using a thicker pair of older shoes– a pair you can set aside as your “screw shoes” (unless you don’t mind doing this with your current trainers and taking the screws in and out, as needed). I specifically use #6 hex head sheet metal screws, which I was only able to find at Ace Hardware. I use 3/8 inch (7 cents per screw) for the heel and either 3/8 or 1/4 inch (15 cents per screw) in the forefoot (depends on the thickness of the shoe). You can get “zinc coated” screws, which I think are more expensive but they won’t rust and last longer. The 1/4 inch screws can be difficult to find, so you may have to call around about these or try to order. As far as how many to get/use, I’d recommend 10-20 screws per shoe, so you should buy around 40 of the 3/8 inch and 10 of the 1/4 inch (~so you have some screw backups). Also, I had to purchase a special 1/4 inch magnetic drill bit that can go into either a powerdrill or a manual screwdriver. Personally, I use the Powerdrill for the 3/8 inch screws and the manual screwdriver for the 1/4 inch screws.

I generally try to put the 3/8 inch screws symmetrically around the outer edge of the shoe (~shoe-allowing, put them in the rubber that hits the ground first instead of the foam), and then a few of the 1/4 inch screws in the mid-forefoot. The screws are flat on the top (= doesn’t put pressure on the foot like sharp-pointed microspikes or rounded screws). They have a “lip” around the edge that sticks into snow/ice. I would suggest taking out the insole to make sure the screw isn’t coming through– definitely don’t put your finger there while you’re drilling them in! You might also have to put the shoes on and walk around on concrete to see if you feel any of the screws (particularly the mid forefoot). This is why it’s advantageous to get the 1/4 inch screws– you definitely don’t want to feel any of the screws, like you’re running with a rock under your forefoot.

On concrete, your shoes feel “sticky”– I find the screws to give great traction without being obtrusive to your gait/shoes or feeling awkward. Once you get the hang of drilling/undrilling the screws, you can do it quickly– not more than 5-10 min.. The screws are generally fairly durable– I would change them out as needed. Oh yeah, having holes in the sole isn’t a problem– last winter I wore my “drilled Puma’s” (minus the screws of course) for several marathons. The holes are small enough you shouldn’t have issues getting debri in the holes. I sometimes move the screws around if I’ve drilled/undrilled a few times, and I’m concerned about the screw coming out. In particular, you may have issues with the 1/4 inch screws coming out, so make sure they’re drilled in tightly.

Overall, I love the screws and have done many hard workouts with them on concrete with black ice. They give me confidence and make me not have to worry about my footing or maneuvering around ice/snow. It’s better to be safe than sorry! If anyone has a question, feel free to ask!

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  1. [...] traction on snow and ice. My preference in Indiana was to make ‘screw shoes’ (read my tutorial here), which are less cumbersome to the shoe than Yaktrax. I could run through EVERYTHING with the screw [...]

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