Traction is a result of the combination of the ground you’re walking on (think ice vs. sandpaper) in junction with the bottom of your shoe (think dress shoes or flats compared to hiking boots). For times when you are using boots that don’t have enough traction, you need to add something more to help keep you upright, especially in wintertime.
Those winter conditions like packed snow and icy trails can make walking tricky, and instead of pulling the good ol’ banana peel slip, consider purchasing some microspikes. Microspikes fall into the category of traction devices, which are products designed to provide excellent traction and grip the ground in winter conditions. Other examples of traction devices are snow shoes and crampons, but we are going to cover the best microspikes for hiking here.
These are best for non-technical terrain (don’t go trying to hike a glacier) and every day use like walking around the neighborhood or going on a casual winter hike on snow and ice. They work with most shoes, whether you wear running shoes, hiking boots, insulated boots, or hiking shoes. We’ve picked designs that are easy to use and simple to get on and off using the attached heel loop.
- 5 of the Best Microspikes for Hiking
- Thing to Consider When Choosing Your Microspikes
5 of the Best Microspikes for Hiking
There are our picks for the best winter traction devices:
- Editor’s Choice – Kahtoola MICROspikes
- Close 2nd Place – Black Diamond Access Spikes
- Budget – Yaktrax Pro Traction System
- For Running – Black Diamond Distance Spikes
- More Intense Conditions – Hillsound Trail Crampon
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Editor’s Choice – Kahtoola MICROspikes
Kahtoola is the go-to brand for microspikes for hiking, and we’ve chosen their MICROspikes® for our Editor’s Choice because of their well thought-out design and reasonable price. These MICROspikes have been around for over 10 years, and while they aren’t the cheapest on our list, they aren’t the most expensive either, and they offer the best of both worlds with quality and price.
This specific model of hiking microspikes is the most aggressive stretch-on traction from Kahtoola and they’re built tough to handle all kinds of winter adventure. There are 12 stainless steel spikes that are strategically placed and ready to bite into snow and ice, with eight spikes at the fore-foot and four spikes at the heel. The spikes are connected by welded stainless steel chains. The design of the spikes and chains allows the spikes to move with your footwear and helps prevent snow and ice build up under your foot.
The durable elastomer harness retains its elasticity down to -22°F and has reinforced eyelets to prevent tearing at connection points. The back tab helps for easy on and the pair includes a tote sack for easy storage and transportation. These hiking microspikes would be the perfect addition to pretty much anyone’s gear closet!
- Stainless steel spikes and chains, elastomer harness
- 12 points per foot at 3/8″
- Weight per pair: 11oz (SM), 11.9oz (MD), 13.1oz (L), and 13.5oz (XL)
- Warranty: 2 years
- Good up to -22°F
Black Diamond Access Spikes
These Access Spikes from Black Diamond are a close second behind our Editor’s Choice, and meet similar quality requirements while still being a great price. They are also made of stainless steel spikes and chains, and actually have more spikes at 14 instead of 12. There’s an elastomer harness, heel webbing loop for easy on-and-off, and they fit most boots and hiking shoes. Although they have more points per foot and weigh slightly less, they only have a 1 year warranty instead of 2, which can be a major consideration when purchasing microspikes.
- Stainless steel with elastomer harness
- 14 points per foot
- Weight per pair: 7.4oz (size medium)
- Warranty: 1 year
Most Affordable – Yaktrax Pro Traction System
Yaktrax is another main brand when it comes to traction devices and they’re a good contender for the best hiking microspikes. These tracks are great for the casual hiker or walker, or someone who doesn’t put in significant mileage on icy terrain. Instead of using spikes, they incorporate hand-wound stainless-steel coils over natural rubber straps. This gives them 10 times more gripping points than other microspikes for hiking.
They are super easy to use and put on, even in extreme cold temperatures, but aren’t necessarily designed to withstand more strenuous adventures. They are our most affordable pair by almost half, but also have a less durable construction, making them more suitable for casual walkers and hikers who just want a little more traction.
- Stainless steel coils over natural rubber
- 10x the gripping points over spike-based traction devices
- Weight per pair: 5.76oz (small), 6.4oz (medium), 7oz (large), 7.2oz (XL)
- Warranty: 90 days
Best For Running – Black Diamond Distance Spikes
These Black Diamond Distance Spikes are one of the few sets of spikes that are specifically designed for trail running and include some different features than our other top picks. Plus, they are some of the most highly rated microspikes for hiking.
They are similar in design with 14 stainless steel spikes per foot connected by a stainless steel chain, a rubber heel harness, and a softshell toe cover. But they also have a front-point spike positioned specifically for optimal toe-off engagement. This gives the product better usability for running, a more secure fit, superior packability, snow protection, and additional weather protection. Their heel retention elastomer harness fits most trail running shoes, and they weigh only 4 ounces.
- Stainless steel spikes, elastomer heel, and softshell toe cover
- 14 spikes per foot at 8mm in length
- Weight per pair: 6.8oz each
- Warranty: 1 year
Hillsound Trail Crampons
The Hillsound Trail Crampon is an excellent traction device that’s a mix between a crampon and microspike. They are labeled as crampons, but are a less intense version that’s perfect for serious hikers.
These hiking microspikes are made of heat-treated carbon steel spikes, chains, and an ergonomic steel plate system that reduces muscular fatigue and allows you to handle diverse winter conditions. Plus, they have a more secure fit because of the Velcro strap across the top of the foot that’s paired with a textured elastomer harness. While they generally have less spikes, the ones they do have are longer.
- Carbon steel spikes and plate system, elastomer harness
- 11 spikes per foot at 2/3″ long
- Weight: 15.7 oz. (size medium)
- Warranty: 2 years
Thing to Consider When Choosing Your Microspikes
There are some things to take into consideration when picking out a pair of microspikes for hiking that are perfect for your situation: intended use, price point, and the difference between spikes, crampons, and snow shoes.
Intended use is the #1 factor when picking spikes or traction cleats. Within the spikes category, there are varying levels of quality, price, and design. For example, the Black Diamond Distance spikes are specifically intended for trail runners, the Yaktrax are designed for casual neighborhood walks, the Kahtoola (our editor’s pick) are great for hiking on icy terrain and more moderate use, and the Hillsound Crampons are for slightly more serious adventures. This is based on the layout and length of the spikes on the bottom of the traction device, as well as the quality of the construction. You should take a moment to think about what you will use your microspikes for most often, and pick a pair accordingly.
When it comes to spikes, the higher the price, the higher the quality, and the opposite it true as well – the lower the price, the lower the quality. Not all outdoor products are such highly correlated, but we have found this to be true for this category. While the Yaktrax are our most affordable pick, they also have the lowest rating paired with a decent number of reviewers saying they don’t last. On the flipside, the Hillsound trail crampon is our most expensive option and it’s also one of the highest rated traction cleats available.
Microspikes vs. Crampons vs. Snowshoes
As already discussed, spikes are perfect for casual hikers and walkers, especially for low-angle slopes, winter trail running, and neighborhood walks. They’re also called traction cleats or snow grips and fall into the larger category of a winter traction device.
For serious mountaineering and more extreme winter adventures, consider upgrading to crampons. They are more intense versions of spikes or traction cleats and are usually much heavier, have longer spikes, and may even require special shoes to attach to. They’re best for steep terrain, heavy use, really icy surfaces, and extreme conditions.
For deep snow, you should look at snowshoes instead. They have a much wider base, which allows you to stay more afloat in heavier snow totals. They are better for low- to mid-angle, off-trail hiking and walking.
Are microspikes the same as crampons?
No, microspikes are not the same as crampons. Microspikes are designed for hikers and walkers on relatively flat terrain, while crampons are more heavy duty and are designed for extreme conditions like aggressive slopes and mountaineering. Crampons usually have longer spikes and can require certain types of shoes to attach to, while microspikes for hiking can be applied to most hiking boots and shoes.
Are microspikes better than crampons?
Microspikes aren’t necessarily better than crampons, it’s more that they are intended for different uses. Microspikes are great for winter hiking and walking on low angle slopes and easier terrain (like snow and light ice), while crampons are better for mountaineering and extreme winter conditions.
What is best for traction on ice?
For better traction on ice when walking or hiking, consider adding a pair of microspikes to your winter gear. They are great for adding traction to your winter boots or shoes, and are easy to slide on and off.
What are microspikes good for?
Microspikes are good for a wide range of winter activities that vary from running errands around town to hiking in winter conditions or winter trail running. They add traction to your boots or shoes with spikes or coils, which makes it easier to stay on your feet when traversing slippery surfaces like packed snow and ice.
While the Kahtoolah MICROspikes may be our top pick, you can’t go wrong with any of the suggestions on this list, especially if one of them suits your needs better than the others. Either way, they will be a great addition to your winter gear for traction during hikes, neighborhood walks, trail running, or even just running to the store.
About the Author
My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.