This is The Wise Adventurer’s rundown of the best microspikes and snow grips currently on the market. Microspikes are modular traction systems designed to work with your existing shoes or boots to give you better purchase on slippery winter terrain like snow and ice. Some use spikes, some use cleats, and some even use minimalist approaches like lightweight coils or metal beads, but they all serve the same purpose: Saving you from embarrassing (and often painful) slips and falls when you’re outside in the winter.
After testing and analyzing dozens of microspikes on the market, we found that the Kahtoola MICROspikes system was the best overall. These durable snow grips are easy to use and offer unrivaled traction in the roughest conditions like packed snow and thick ice.
They won’t be everyone’s first pick though, especially if your local conditions are something closer to your typical Alaskan winter.
That’s why we’ve included something for everyone in the list below including runners, hikers, and even folks just out on the town looking for an advantage over those slippery sidewalks. We’ll also mention that if you’re not sure where to begin your hunt for the best microspikes, we’ve included an informative buyer’s guide at the bottom of our list to help you decide.
Alright. Winter is coming… Let’s get started.
|Kahtoola MICROspikes: Best microspikes overall||Proper crampon-style spikes provide traction on even the deepest snow and ice. Bombproof welded steel and elastomer construction will last for years. See Review|
|EnergeticSky Ice Cleats: Best quality overall||Tough stainless steel chains and spikes combined with a thick silicone upper for a seemingly unbreakable option. Highest spike count we tested for outstanding grip on snow and ice. See Review|
|Yaktrax Pro: Best on a budget||Easy to use and provide greatly improved traction for your average winter walker or hiker. Improved durability and fit, yet only cost slightly more than the original Yaktrax Walk. See Review|
|Kahtoola EXOspikes: Best for running||Uses multi-level cleats for excellent traction on any surface without sacrificing comfort or adding weight. Elastomer upper is easy to use and gives a secure fit runners will appreciate. See Review|
|Hillsound Trail Crampons: Best for hiking boots||Flexible elastomer harness and plate-mounted spikes deliver the best of both worlds: walking comfort and aggressive traction. Ample room and stretch works with even the chunkiest insulated boots. See Review|
|Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip||Versatile microspikes with a unique beaded design. Grips all surfaces well, and packs down reasonably small, making them ideal for a winter emergency kit. See Review|
Best Microspikes and Snow Grips
Kahtoola MICROspikes: Best Microspikes Overall
– Type of grip: Spikes/crampon
– Spike material: Stainless steel
– Studs per foot: 12
– Weight: 11 ounces (312 g)
– Construction: Welded stainless steel & elastomer
– Ideal surface: Deep snow, thick ice
Kahtoola is arguably the biggest name in microspikes today, and anyone looking for a serious crampon-style microspike need look no further than their fantastic Kahtoola MICROspikes model.
Built for the harshest winter conditions like packed snow and thick ice, the Kahtoola MICROspikes traction system uses twelve separate ⅜-inch spikes on each foot, which are mated to a thick elastomer harness via stainless steel chains for unrivaled traction and durability.
The harness is both lightweight and easy to use, and incorporates a textured heel tab into it’s design that’s easy to grip and makes for impressively quick entry and exit. Kahtoola’s MICROspikes have always been popular, but the design was improved even further back in 2015 to incorporate reinforced eyelets integrated into the harness, which allows it to remain stretchy and complaint in tempuratures as low as -30-degrees C.
Honestly there are no drawbacks to Kahtoola’s MICROspikes traction system, so long as you use them as intended. They’re simply not made for hard surfaces like roads and sidewalks, and feel about as awkward and uncomfortable underfoot on these surfaces as a bed of nails. Still, if you’re spending your winters in serious snow and ice, these are our go-to pick for everything from hiking to shoveling snow.
|– Real spikes for excellent traction in serious winter conditions|
– Bombproof welded steel and thick elastomer construction
– Elastomer upper fits snugly on anything from boots to trail runners
|– Crampon style spikes aren’t made for pavement or dry ground|
EnergeticSky Ice Cleat Spikes: Best Overall Quality
– Type of grip: Spikes/crampon
– Spike material: Stainless steel
– Studs per foot: 19
– Weight: 13 ounces (369 g)
– Construction: Silicone and stainless steel
– Ideal surface: Deeper snow and thick ice
If you’re a fan of the crampon-style Kahtoolas above but want something even sturdier and more secure, check out EnergeticSky’s Ice Cleats.
These cleats use a similar approach to the MICROspike traction system, but instead of Kahtoola’s elastomer harness, they use heavy-duty silicone, which is just as pliable and grippy but is rated to remain compliant in temperatures as low as -51-degrees C!
The harness also benefits from an additional adjustable strap across the instep, so although the Kahtoolas aren’t lacking anything in terms of fit, EnergeticSky’s Ice Cleats get a leg up on adjustability.
The actual microspikes themselves also benefit from a beefier design, incorporating a full 19 spikes per foot, and swapping out the standard round welded steel chains for flat link rings instead.
They don’t rank quite as high on our “ease of use” metric due to the additional strap, but do feature a similar rear pull tab to make getting them on and off easy enough. We’ll also mention that the EnergeticSky Ice Cleats are about half the price of the more recognizable Kahtoolas, but thousands of customers swear by their quality just the same, making them a worthwhile investment for serious traction on deep snow and ice.
|– True crampon-style spikes for traction in the worst conditions|
– Silicone harness works in unhospitably cold conditions
– Surprisingly affordable
|– Not as easy to use as comparable Kahtoola MICROspikes|
– Heavier and bulkier than similar models from other brands
Yaktrax Pro: Best On A Budget
– Type of grip: Coil
– Spike material: Stainless steel
– Studs per foot: 12 coil sections
– Weight: 6.4 oz (181 g) for a size medium
– Construction: Natural rubber
– Ideal surface: Light/packed snow, ice
The Yaktrax Pro is an upgraded version of the original Yaktrax Walk, the snow grips that first popularized the “metal coil” design now found in many microspikes today. This design has remained popular as an added-traction option for years for its ease of use, light weight, and great packability. The natural rubber and lightweight steel coils of the original Yaktrax Walk have a habit of breaking down after a season or two though, which is why we’re learning toward the new Yaktrax Pro instead.
The design is much the same, using a natural rubber chassis that simply stretches over the heel and toe of your shoe to stay in place, but Yaktrax has made a few improvements to the Pro model worth looking at.
The materials have all been beefed up, for instance, with a heavier-duty rubber and thicker 1.4mm stainless coils. Yaktrax also adds an adjustable velcro top strap to the Pro model, which allows you to dial in a properly snug fit over your instep and helps keep the grips where you need them when walking or hiking.
All things considered the Yaktrax Pro microspikes are comfortable and affordable while providing good all-around traction on a variety of surfaces. We don’t recommend running in them, as the coils feel uncomfortable on your feet when subjected to heavier foot strikes, and they’re also nowhere near as grippy in deep snow as a proper microspike or crampon. Still, for your average winter walker/hiker they greatly improve traction on both snowy and icy surfaces, and are still an absolute bargain buy.
|– Upgraded materials for improved durability|
– Top strap for a secure fit
– Only slightly more expensive than original Yaktrax Walk
|– Coil design not ideal for deep snow|
– Not comfortable to run in
Kahtoola EXOspikes: Best Microspikes For Running
– Type of grip: Cleats
– Spike material: Tungsten carbide
– Studs per foot: 12
– Weight: 8 ounces (227 g)
– Construction: Elastomer and high-density TPU
– Ideal surface: Light or packed snow, ice
Kahtoola’s NANOspikes traction system has been a favorite of winter runners for years, so when Kahtoola introduced the even more rugged and grippy Kahtoola EXOspikes recently, we had to check them out.
The EXOspikes get a thoughtful list of high-tech upgrades like an open TPU matrix underfoot rather than the closed elastomer system of the NANOspikes, which effectively covered the existing tread and lugs of a running shoe entirely. They still get the same high-quality tungsten carbide spikes, which bite into snow and ice aggressively for confident traction in the slipperiest conditions, but also benefit from TPU lugs that are ideal for trail running applications.
The EXOspikes also share the same harness construction as Kahtoola’s popular MICROspikes system above, including the reinforced eyelets and raised heel tab that make for easy entry and exit in even the coldest conditions.
We believe these are the best microspikes currently available for runners, but their specialization is also their main shortcoming. That’s because their low-profile design is geared toward the compact shape of a running shoe, meaning they aren’t likely to fit on hiking boots and are especially unlikely to fit larger oversized or insulated winter footwear. They also fetch a similar price to the MICROspikes above, but all things considered they’re a wise investment for any winter runner who wants to avoid those painful slip-and-falls on ice and packed snow.
|– Multi-level spikes grip well on any surface|
– TPU footbed is highly durable
– Elastomer harness goes on quick and stays put
– Unlikely to fit anything larger/bulkier than a running shoe
Hillsound Trail Crampons: Best For Hiking Boots
– Type of grip: Spikes/crampons
– Spike material: Carbon steel
– Studs per foot: 11
– Weight: 15.7 ounces (445 g)
– Construction: Carbon steel/stainless steel/elastomer harness
– Ideal surface: Snowy/icy trails
If you’re looking for microspikes specifically for winter hiking, we recommend taking a look at the Hillsound Trail Crampons. These steel and elastomer microspikes are roomy, rugged, and extra secure, making them the perfect match for winter hiking boots.
Whether you’re working with bulkier insulated boots or traditional over-the-ankle hikers, the Hillsound’s formula is tough to beat: A beefy elastomer harness, an added instep strap for added stability, and rugged stainless steel chains with plenty of room for even the chunkiest soles.
What really sets Hillsound’s design apart though is their unique approach to the crampons themselves: Rather than breaking the spikes apart between lengths of chain, each set of spikes (one at the forefoot and one at the heel) is part of the same carbon steel plate. This gives comparable traction and stability to a traditional set of rigid steel crampons, while also giving the flexibility and comfort of a more casual option like the Kahtoola Microspikes above.
Truth be told, the chunky steel plates will work with more casual footwear like sneakers or trail runners, but they’re a little too robust for anything shy of the firm rubber sole and protective shank of a traditional hiking boot. If boots are your weapon of choice for winter trails though, there’s nothing quite like these microspikes from Hillsound.
|– Ideal fit for traditional or insulated boots|
– Spiked plates deliver excellent traction and stability
– Elastomer harness and dual plates preserve comfort and ergonomics
|– Not ideal for sneakers or trail runners|
– Not as durable as hardcore crampons
Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip
– Type of grip: Chain
– Spike material: Steel
– Studs per foot: 30
– Weight: 11.2 oz (318 g) for a medium size
– Construction: Natural rubber/ steel alloy
– Ideal surface: Deep or packed snow, ice
The Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip take a unique approach to traction: Rather than using spikes linked with chains or studs linked with rubber or plastic, they use a continuous steel wire on the underside of the shoe, onto which rugged steel beads are threaded to provide a similar degree of bite to hardcore spikes.
This design carries some unique benefits worth considering. For one, the beads are free-floating, allowing them to rotate as you walk, which clears snow from your tread and maximizes traction. The beads have a much lower-profile than spikes as well, so they’re not as uncomfortable on harder surfaces like thick ice or icy sidewalks. They’re also exceptionally easy to use do to their stretchy rubber uppers, so slipping them on and off is as easy as pulling them up around your heel and toe.
Unfortunately the unique design of the YakTrax ICEtrekkers also comes with a disadvantage: Because the beads aren’t securely “fixed” to the tread of your shoe, they dig into your footwear just as aggressively as they dig into the ground below, which can wear out the tread of shoes or even boots alarmingly fast. Still, thier outstanding grip and ease of use makes them the ideal candidate for occasional use, and they’re an excellent addition to any winter roadside emergency kit.
|– Grip great on all surfaces without being too bulky|
– Work with any type of shoe
– Easy to take on and off
|– Free-floating spikes are hard on shoes|
Buyer’s Guide: Best Microspikes and Snow Grips
If you know you need some extra winter traction, but aren’t sure which microspikes are best for your next outing, you’re in the right place. Each of the snow grips above was selected based on the following criteria. Whether you’re planning on picking up one of the microspikes on the list above, or are considering a pair not mentioned, these are the factors we think every buyer should consider when shopping for a winter traction system.
Why Microspikes Are A Smart Buy
Anyone who has ever experienced a painful slip and fall down their icy front stairs, or struggled to keep upright hiking up a snowy hill understands why microspikes are essential for snowy and icy outdoors conditions. The best microspikes slip on easily to just about any existing footwear from running shoes to winter boots, and give users the confidence they need for a host of winter activities from setting-up your winter tent to going for a run around the neighborhood on snow-covered sidewalks.
Traction is the amount of purchase your footwear gives you on a given terrain. In normal, clear conditions, traction is typically achieved through a combination of a rubber outsole that “grips” the ground underneath and the tread lugs on the bottoms of our shoes, which dig into the terrain where they can to keep our feet planted. On snow and ice, however, neither of these methods work particularly well, and we need microspikes to get a better hold on these surfaces.
The amount of traction you get from microspikes depends on the type of spike they use under the footbed. Crampon-style microspikes use literal pointed spikes, which dig into the ground aggressively, providing unparalleled traction on the slipperiest surfaces, including thick ice.
Cleats and chains perform a similar function, but stick to a lower-profile spike, so they don’t bite in as deep as a crampon-style sytem. The same goes for coil-style microspikes, which use a spiral of thick steel wire to bite into surfaces underfoot. Coils provide the least traction in the bunch, but are still a significant improvement on snow and ice compared to even the most aggressively treaded shoes and boots.
Weight And Packed Size
The importance of weight and packed size all depends on your intended usage. For example, if you’re looking for the best microspikes for general walking duties around town, having a lighter and more packable set of snow grips is nice because you can take them off and stash them in a pocket or bag when you venture indoors to shop or find yourself in an area with mostly clear walkways.
Weight is also an important factor for runners, who prefer to keep their footwear as light as possible for better freedom of movement.
As you delve into more extreme conditions like hiking or working in deep snow, weight and size become less relevant because you need dedicated spikes, and chances are you’ll be wearing them all day anyways. Just consider what you’ll spend most of your time doing in your microspikes, and if regularly taking them off and stashing them will be part of your routine, you’ll likely want a more compact version.
Fitment is an important feature of the best microspikes. You want your snow grips to fit securely on your shoe to keep the rugged underside securely fixed on the tread of your footwear where it belongs. Loose or improper fitting microspikes have a tendency to slide around underneath the wearer, which makes them less comfortable and less stable, and prevents them from providing peak traction.
On the other hand, you also don’t want your microspikes to be too snug. Just like a pair of too-tight shoes or socks, a too-tight pair of microspikes puts undue compression on your footwear, which is uncomfortable, restricts blood flow, and can even cause blisters.
Ease Of Use
Ease of use is another factor you’ll want to consider in your search, especially if you’ll be regularly taking your microspikes on and off throughout the winter.
The easiest designs typically use a flexible rubber or silicone webbing on top, allowing the wearer to simply stretch the upper portion up over the top of their footwear and let the natural elasticity of the material keep them snugly in place.
Generally speaking, the more straps and adjustments you add from there subtract from a microspike’s ease of use, but they also add additional stability and a more custom fit, so if you don’t plan on taking them off too often, extra straps and adjustments can be a welcome addition.
When we talk about versatility in a pair of microspikes or snow grips, we’re referring to how many different types of surfaces they’re suited to.
For instance, serious crampon-style spikes are the best option for deep snow, thick ice, and other harsh winter conditions. Try wearing them on a city sidewalk with a light dusting of snow however, and you’ll wish you had something a little more versatile like a cleat or a coil.
Cleats and other low-profile studs are arguably the most versatile option, because they improve grip to some degree on pretty much every surface, but also aren’t too awkward or uncomfortable on relatively clear and dry surfaces.
Again, it all comes down to your intended use, so if you’re not planning on doing any extended activities in deep snow, a more versatile option is probably your best bet.
The durability of your microspikes depends largely on their construction and materials. Generally speaking, spikes made from thicker, heavier-gauge stainless steel hold up the best through multiple seasons, but they also tend to be heavier and less versatile.
Lighter-duty options like cleats and coils don’t typically last more than a winter or two, but they also tend to be less expensive and more comfortable on a wider variety of surfaces.
We’re particularly fond of cleat-style designs, which typically use carbide-steel tips (like you’ll find at the end of a good set of trekking poles) that can be replaced as they wear down over time.
You’ll also want to consider the durability of the materials on the underside of your microspikes. The same concept applies here, and you’ll almost always get a longer shelf life out of microspikes that use steel chains or wire to connect and hold your spikes in place rather than composites like plastic and TPU or natural rubber and silicone.
If you do go with a light-duty underside, just know that you’ll get much more use of out them if you take them off when walking over harder terrain like gravel, concrete, or asphalt. Snow isn’t terribly abrasive, but hard rocks and pavement will wear down softer materials in short order.
Conclusion: A Final Word On Microspikes
For all the reasons above, we found that the Kahtoola MICROspikes were the best microspikes overall for serious winter conditions. There’s just no easier system to own and use that provides this level of traction for such a wide variety of footwear.
Granted, not everyone needs a pair of snow grips for deep snow or thick ice, and for that reason we recommend checking out a model like the Yaktrax ICEtrekkers above for general/occasional use, or going for our well-rounded budget pick the YaxTrax Pro snow grips for added grip that won’t break the bank.
If durability is your top priority, we love the EnergeticSky Ice Cleats for their bulletproof design and overbuilt spike system. And, of course, if you’re a runner who prefers fast and light options but doesn’t want to sacrifice on grip, the Kahtoola EXOspikes won’t disappoint.
1 thought on “Best Microspikes And Snow Grips For Serious Winter Traction”
I’m looking forward to trying out some of the microspikes and snow grips on the market in 2022!