David Staples: Cure for slippery winter sidewalks? Retractable spikes on boots

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Ken Nichols (President, Gasland Properties Ltd.) with a pair of Kickspike boots, a boot with retractable spikes built into the sole.


Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Had any bad falls on our slippery sidewalks this winter? I wiped out about two months ago, only to break the fall with my hand and cut up my knuckles. They’re still sore.

It’s been a brutal winter for falls and crash landings, which is why I’m excited about a new product that is becoming a staple at major Alberta worksites: Kickspike work boots with retractable spikes.

With a click of a button on the back of boot, Kickspike deploy six stainless steel spikes for traction on ice and snow.

“They’re just amazing,” says Kickspike president and designer Darrell Bachmann, 51. “You just have so much confidence. You know what it’s like walking on ice; you’re just freaked out. As soon as you put these boots on, you’ll never freak out again.”


Kickspike boots are made with retractable spikes built into the sole.

Larry Wong /

POSTMEDIA NETWORK

The boots have a remarkable origin story, which starts with Bachmann falling in love the sport of golf.

As a six-year-old boy on Vancouver island, he picked up loose balls from the blackberry bushes at the local driving range, then returning them to the operator. In return, they let him play for free. Bachmann went on to study to become a golf course superintendent at various Ontario colleges. He soon became a course superintendent, overseeing the construction of courses in Courtney, B.C, then near Chilliwack

At one trade show in 1992, he saw a new product, plastic screw-in spikes that would replace steel spikes. The steel spikes badly ripped up fragile golf greens. At once, Bachmann got metal spikes banned at his Chilliwack course, the first course to do so, he says.

Metal spikes were banned four years later around the world, but as new generations of plastic spiked shoes came out, the new designs included longer, sharper spikes with aggressive traction. They were harder on greens than the old metal spikes.

It came to Bachmann that the answer was a retractable metal spike on golf shoes, which could be recoiled when a player was on the green. He had become handy as a welder and tinkerer from his years in golf course maintenance, so he developed a prototype himself.

He took it to a major golf trade show in Florida and found strong interest, including from a representative of the U.S postal service, who suggested postal workers might love such shoes.

As a result of that conference, Bachmann got some media coverage and was invited to try out for the CBC-TV show, Dragon’s Den.

In a September 2009 show, he wowed the dragon investors, with all five of them agreeing to put $1 million into the concept for 30 per cent of the business. Two of the investors later pulled out of the deal, which allowed Bachmann to also pull out. With all the positive publicity around the product, he found new investors on even better terms.

When Bachmann fully researched the market, he realized that retractable spikes on golf shoes were just a small fraction of the market compared to work boots and shoes. He went to work developing more prototypes. It took him six years and 232 different prototypes to get a product ready for sale in 2015. “I just kept grinding and grinding and grinding.”

At first, there were 245 pieces per shoe, including the mechanism, but he got that down to seven components. “You’d think I was nuts but I’d sit there for four straight hours almost without blinking, looking at the mechanism and how I can do it differently.”

Bachmann signed a deal with boot manufacturer Red Wing to produce the boots in their China factories. He started to sell them in the U.S., promoting the boots to Anchorage, Alaska business executives by racing and beating a Zamboni on wet ice at a hockey game.

The latest model sells for $299 a pair. For now, he sells them online, but has now found a huge market in Alberta. “I honestly believe that Edmonton will probably take everything I can make for the next three years.”

He’s got a hiking boot done and plans to branch out into regular shoes, which will help the elderly and the disabled. “There’s no doubt about it, I want to make a ton of money, but there’s a real good positive that is actually changing people’s lives.”

He sold 2,500 pairs of boots last year, with 10,000 sales expected this year. He’s now won major contracts with Shell, PCL and Atco.

It’s an easy sell with these big industrial firms, he says, which comes down to one simple fact: “We’re at four years and a couple months with no slip and fall-related injuries.”



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February 8, 2019 |

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