6 Best Microspikes for Safe Hiking in Winter - 2022 Review by Physical Therapist
Even my Alaskan husky Shadow (above) with his giant snowshoe-like feet, takes a fall on rare hoarfrosts.
To gain more traction on icy and snowy paths on your magical winter hikes (or even just a walk to your mailbox), a simple winter traction device called "microspikes" can save you from falling.
What are Microspikes?
They slip on easily over your favorite shoes, trail running shoes or boots & basically act as ice grippers.
Hiking spikes are lighter & more flexible than traditional crampons.
They reduce risk of falls
The best advice a physical therapist can give is to prevent falls vs trying to rehab them. However, you've got to stay connected to what you love - the Outdoors, Mother Nature and year-round fitness and hiking.
Best Microspikes for Hiking
I've included an in-depth review of various kinds of "microspikes" that help you safely stay active with your hiking and fitness goals in winter.
Read until the end, where you'll find our interview with outdoor running coach Dave Taylor. He gives a free tutorial on how to make your own DIY microspikes.
These are the top-rated microspikes currently on the market in the USA and EU:
Our Top Pick: Kahtoola Microspikes
The Kahtoola Microspikes are my top choice of all the microspikes we've reviewed below. They have great potential to save you from falls in the winter for hiking and backpacking.
I much prefer to buy a piece of gear once and buy gear that will be multi-functional. These provide excellent traction on ice and snow, but are flexible enough to take some short runs.
It’s by a well-known and trusted brand so you know you’re getting quality and it has a great price point so buying it doesn’t break the bank.
Best Microspikes for Hiking Comparison Chart
Hiking Spikes for Hiking Boots, Shoes or Trail Running Shoes
REI Microspikes, Amazon Microspikes, Amazon EU, Eastern Mountain Sports
Here’s a quick comparison of all the best microspikes I’ve reviewed in this article.
The aim of this article is to talk you through all the features and considerations that go into choosing the best winter traction devices. I’ve only included the products that I love and that have a proven reputation of being a sound investment for hiking.
I’ve included an easy-to-use comparison chart of all the best microspikes, as well as in depth reviews of each product that make finding them much easier with vendors in Europe and North America.
This post links to products and services we love, which we may make a small commission from, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our blog!! – Morgan
Overall Best Microspikes
Best Traction Device
What do hikers think?
The best traction device on the market, hikers report they've had them for 10 + years and they continue to work great.
Best for people who want serious traction on ice, snow and treacherous hiking trails in the winter.
✅ Pros: Lightweight harness, Glove Friendly, Dynamic flex chain avoid snowballing
▶️ 12 spikes 3/8 inch length made of durable hardened stainless steel
🛑 Cons: More expensive, but ideal for people who only want to buy once
Best Microspikes Hiking
What do hikers think?
These Black Diamond microspikes perform like a hybrid between microspike and crampon offering excellent stability even hiking or running downhill in packed snow and ice and over rocks.
Best for people who want to tackle some serious elevation gains in winter conditions.
✅ Pros: Softshell toe cover and elastic heel prevents blisters, front toe spike for excellent traction on inclines
▶️ 14 spikes .31 inch length made of heat treated stainless steel.
🛑 Cons: Price, but Black Diamond makes some of the absolute best micro spikes.
Best Ultralight Microspikes
What do hikers think?
At only 57 grams, this kahtoola microspikes traction system is easy to slip on elastic toe and heel webbing gives you good purchase on snow and ice with a minimalist feel to stay light and fast.
Best for people who like a fast pace and hate heavy footwear on icy roads, snowy single track and light scrambling.
✅Pros: Lightweight, inexpensive, durable stainless steel spikes.
▶️ 6 forefoot only spikes 1/3 inch.
🛑Cons: No heel grips.
Best Running Microspikes
What do hikers think?
Kahtoola microspikes review: These are less "spike" and more stud, these low profile traction devices help you get great traction but don't force you into an unnatural footfall, think "running crampons".
Best for people who like microspikes for running or get uncomfortable with larger spikes.
✅ Pros: Shock absorbing cleats around studs, Glove friendly, flexible plate, kahtoola microspikes sizing is easy and simple.
▶️ 10 spikes .21 inch length made of tungsten carbide.
🛑 Cons: Shortest spikes, not best hiking spikes, better for running.
What do hikers think?
Hillsound trail crampons microspikes are made for rough terrain and difficult winter conditions in the backcountry. With a velcro strap and ergonomic plate system they offer comfort and significant traction with the stainless steel chains with spikes attached under your foot.
Best for people who want a really secure feel to get deep into icy and snowy trails and wear over boots.
✅ Pros: Velcro strap for great and easy fit around any boot, Glove friendly, ergonomic flexible bottom plate for excellent boot spikes
▶️ 11 spikes .66 inch length made of heat treated carbon steel.
🛑 Cons: Snow balling around longer spikes, not great for trail running shoes
$29.99 - Sale $20.17
Best Budget Microspikes
Microspikes vs Yaxtrax?
Instead of a metal spike, the Yaktrax employs a metal coil to help you grip on ice and packed snow. The system helps shed snowballs.
Best for people who hike to the mailbox or walk to the dog on slippery pavement or roads.
✅ Pros: Lightweight coil, inexpensive at $21-30 per per, great for paved roads and sidewalks
🛑 Cons: Least amount of traction of all reviewed
Expert Review & Tips to DIY Your Own Microspikes
What is a Winter Traction Device?
"A winter traction device or spikes is a device that is usually attached to your normal footwear that will help give grip and make it possible to walk or run safely on icy surfaces. As an alternative I have adapted these running shoes specifically so that I can continue running when conditions are icy underfoot."
Are microspikes just for runners?
"However, anyone could use them not just runners. For example, people who just wanted to feel a bit safer when walking in icy conditions. Non runners could do the same with a pair of walking boots, hiking boots or training shoes."
Why make it yourself vs buy?
"I made them myself for a couple of reasons. I already have some purpose made "micro spikes" but they aren't particularly comfortable to run in so I wanted something better."
"Secondly, I had a spare pair of running shoes that I could use for the DIY task."
"You certainly don't need to be particularly skilled to make your own pair, nor do you need any specialist tools, just a screwdriver.
Making your own is a lot cheaper than buying a ready-made pair!"
What are the benefits of being and moving Outdoors, even in bad conditions?
"Running outdoors in nature on a cold winter day can be wonderful. Fresh air, blue skies and sunshine whilst being away from the busy city is good for both physical and mental health.
Not everyone has access to a gym and might not be able to justify the cost of membership if they are only going to visit a few times a year when the weather is bad. Gyms do have their place when the weather is really bad but a little bit of ice underfoot shouldn't stop you from running outdoors!"
Check out Dave's website to make your own DIY microspikes.
Why we hike in the winter.
Tips & Considerations When Buying Microspikes
I was inspired to write this guide after a trip to Chamonix, France. Under Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the town is lined with slate grey and mustard colored gorgeous apartments, hotels, bars and restaurants.
Slippery sidewalks connect the entire town because it's built for pedestrians as parking is impossible, and most people walk and use the bus.
I wondered if there was a lot of business for physical therapists here because the walking areas were quite slippery, I almost fell 5 times in my ski boots just getting to the lifts.
The guy working at the ski rental shop introduced me to microspikes - such an elegant and simple solution. It reminds me of the "spikes" I used to wear running cross country in college, but easy on/easy off for hiking, or really any shoes.
Simple Gear to Avoid Falls and Move Faster on Ice & Snow
All of the ice traction devices we considered have a stretchy elastomer strap connected to metal spikes or coil underfoot to fit over your existing boots, shoes, or trail shoes.
If you're looking to walk in deep snow, consider snowshoes.
Type of Device: Crampons vs Microspikes
Heavy duty crampons and glacier trekking are beyond the scope of this article. For winter mountaineering that requires vertical climbs and more treacherous conditions, crampons are likely a better choice.
For those wanting safety on their walks, trail runs, or hiking in the backcountry, microspikes should fit your goals.
Ice Cleat vs Ice Gripper vs Microspike vs Micro Spike vs Snow Grip
These are all terms for the same basic device that attaches to your shoe or boot and gives you the traction you need to walk or run safely. The intended surfaces include icy and packed snow trails or roads, but not vertical ice climbs.
Each recommended microspike snow grips has a full sizing guide listed on it's product page.
Ease of Use
You'll likely be wearing gloves or mittens while using winter traction devices.
Being able to take them off and on easily will be appreciated as your terrain will likely vary on longer hikes and this means you'll be taking them on and off periodically.
Similar to walking sticks, sometimes you need them, and sometimes you don't.
Do you want traction cleats for running, walking, hiking, or simply going to the mailbox without slipping?
The word on the hiking groups is that the coils tend to break easily. They don't tend to collect snow as much, but if you're an avid hiker you'll likely be putting more pressure on the spikes and you should consider this in your buying decision.
More is not always better. Consider your distance and frequency goals and they types of surfaces you go over. If it's a lot of slick pavement shorter spikes may be better vs windy dirt single track where longer spikes can dig in effectively. Similarly, if you are a fast hiker or runner, forefoot only spikes may be better.
Ahh, the thing we all strive for - - happy feet. This is up to you to find your special sauce.
Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a passionate hiker and writer, physical therapist, and European Cornhole Commissioner. She is living near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and featured giving science-based hiking tips and advice.
When not out exploring the mountains or sea, she’s writing articles and gear reviews to empower Outdoor Journeys that include family and good food. She is actively involved in the community and advocating for connection and sustainability with her community projects at Cornhole Europa and Sustainable Investors Group.
Hiking in Winter
Thanks for reading! Make winter a gorgeous season of hiking and Nature!
Hopefully this buying guide and review helps you make plans to get outside this winter.
Please share your stories of your awesome outdoor adventures over on our facebook group European Adventure Travel Planning.
with 💖, Crave the Planet
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