Have you ever come upon a product that you wish you had known about earlier? That's was my feeling when I received my Stabil-Icers Walk-brand shoe attachment designed to make walking in wintry conditions safer.
Now I'm not one to go out there posting any product or brand endorsements. But I do get excited when I find out about rubber goods that I hadn't previously been aware of. And when I came across this product from Stabil—part of the Implus Footcare L.L.C. family of offerings—I definitely wished I'd had a pair a week earlier.
The product itself is extremely simple. It's a molded rubber tread with tiny traction cleats sticking out that fits over your shoes. They work on the same premise as studded tires, giving the walker better grip in icy walking conditions.
The reason I bought the product was good old word of mouth. You see in Akron we are just coming off what was a period of historically low temperatures. The last week of January brought wind chills approaching 40 below, temperatures we hadn't had in the region in more than a decade.
To make matters worse, the night before the cold front moved through, we had temperatures of 40 above with several hours of rain. Then overnight temperatures plummeted, making the streets and sidewalks in my residential neighborhood a virtual skating rink.
Now I have a dog—Shiloh T. Meyer—who I love very much. The only problem is I don't have a yard I can put him out in to do his business. And he isn't the kind of dog who will go right out, take care of things in a couple of minutes, and come back in. He has to go on a full walk, and in this weather that isn't the funnest of tasks.
So during this three-day period of record-breaking lows, at times I literally was taking steps no longer than an inch or two for safety reasons. And of course that just made the walks last longer.
We have a very dog-friendly neighborhood, and at any given time you'll normally see someone out you know. On the third night of these conditions, I came across a neighbor I know from the park around the corner, as his kids and my grandkids are the same age.
And he was out that night with Scruffy, the relatively new puppy in his family. I was complaining about the walking conditions and he told me about this product he had bought that made walking on the ice much safer.
So when I got home, I told my wife what he had bought, and she ordered me a pair of the attachments from Stabil, at a cost just over $20. When they arrived a couple of days later, walking conditions had improved a bit, but there still was enough ice to try them out. And to my delight, they worked as advertised.
After I had used them twice, I did a bit more research on the brand. According to the packaging, they are made in either Maine or Canada, so that was a plus, and they also offer four GSA-approved traction devices for military purchases. The company apparently started out of a garage in Maine, and has been offering its goods since 1990.
I did find its mission statement and company description quite interesting. It reads in part: "We believe in the endless adventure—that no trail should be left unexplored, that no mountain is too high, and that harsh winter conditions should never keep you inside."
They also have mini bios on three brand ambassadors to champion the firm's wide variety of offerings: a 25-year-old hiker who in 2016 achieved the "Triple Crown of Hiking"; a woman runner who likes to keep training during winter months on trails to keep her sharp for race season; and a husband-wife team who has hiked the tough trails of the Midwest, with the wife also having completed 41 marathons.
Now if they need an ambassador for those of us who just want to stay safe while walking our dogs in winter, I'll happily volunteer.
Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News and he sees rubber-related stories nearly everywhere he goes. Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.