The 6 Best Microspikes for Hiking (Buying Guide)
Microspikes make hiking easier.
Hiking is a wonderful activity. It allows us to see beautiful highs and exhilarating lows. From canyon valleys to high-altitude peaks, it’s a great way to see the world and give your body a superb workout. Not to mention a rewarding palate cleanse for your eyeballs. But when the leaves start to fall, and the snow soon after it, most of us turn indoors, find a good book, and wait for the inevitable thaw. Those people are called quitters.
When stepping outside in the frozen months, the slick icy surfaces below can make it dangerous to rove around. Fortunately there are additional devices we can equip to our boots to better combat the conditions. Crampons and microspikes are something you can add to your boots for that added traction when the trails get slick and it’s you want to keep pressing onwards and outwards on the slopes.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best microspikes for hiking on the market today:
To be a 4-season outdoorsman extraordinaire, it’s a necessary pair of equipment to keep you safe and upright. But before we expand beyond what the product is and how it keeps you moving, let’s break down all the essential characteristics of their pointy exoskeleton: from frame construction and points to the bindings, materials, as well as the size and weight and the boot compatibility questions you’re probably holding inside.
What do microspikes do?
Within the microspikes umbrella term, there are several options that you can strap to your boots’ underside. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can either focus on something that improves grip but still allows a normal stepping motion, or something needed to climb steep surfaces with deep indentations. Essentially, microspikes are so helpful for two reasons: they increase traction and surface area.
Of course, the most important characteristic of their ability to stab into icy surfaces with the spikes stopped on them. They’re great for slick surfaces like hiking on icy slick surfaces or scaling alpine ice-covered boulders. And the wider surface area some provide will also be different between staying above the layers of snow and sinking right through them.
What are the different kinds of microspikes constructions?
When talking about frame constructions, there are three main formats. The spike harness can either be fully flexible, semi-flexible or rigid. Because the best option for walking is a fully flexible frame, this is the option that all microspikes first come with. Usually, there is also a hinged bar that connects the front and backplates.
These plates and the hinged bar is great for preventing the accumulation of snow beneath your boot. This snow collection throws off your natural gait and it a helpful way to normalize your motion in challenging terrain. Plus, they work for conventional climbing methods as well.
A semi-rigid frame
A semi-rigid frame combines the two options, that are popular for its versatility. They can come with an adjustable bar to choose how rigid or flexible you want the device to be. And then the most rigid frames offer the best precision. They sit really tight on your boot and offer great support and maneuverability when climbing. Not such a good choice for walking, though.Within the microspikes community, build, fit, traction are the most important considerations of the item’s function. However, we want to start our focus on how easy it is to put them on and take them off.
It’s actually more difficult than you may think, especially when you have numb fingers and the wind is blowing something fierce. It’s just the last thing you want to worry about, and the hassle can become potentially dangerous if you need to get inside quickly. This is something we hope to highlight as we move onto the reviews of the microspikes and something you should keep in mind.
However, one aspect we won’t have to remind you of its importance is the traction of your spikes. You’ll obviously want something that provides the additional traction you need to move around. If you’re just hoping to get to the bus stop on a particularly blustery day, obviously you don’t need something with aggressive spikes. Beyond the spikes and the traction of the product, you also want to consider the build. Even if it’s not such an expensive addition, you still want your microspikes to be able to last you a few winters.
The most important thing is the match the microspikes stiffness with your boots. If your boots bend, don’t get a stiff traction device. It will wear down and eventually break the thing that’s supposed to keep you safe in the blustery winter. Not ideal. What is ideal is to have a good fit between the spikes and your boots. If they wrap too tightly around your boots, they could leave with you with some uncomfortable pressure points on your feet, and something that’s too loose won’t be able to help you as you would like. If anything this will hamper your motion and inhibit your exhibition into the outdoors.
Something also to consider with your microspikes is how and where are you going to use them. If you purchase aggressive spikes, just know that they wear out quickly on cement, pavement, and other unforgiving man-made surfaces. That leads us to our next consideration, which is where you are going to use them. If it’s just to make sure you’ll stay upright under particularly slick evenings where there could be black ice around, there’s no need to invest in heavy aggressive traction. Minimalist stuff or chains can get you moving with confidence and poise at lighter weights.
If you’re stepping over a frozen pond or stream, you want something that will keep you grounded on the icy surface. These styles will be heavier and clunkier, but obviously worth the unfortunate risk of falling and slipping. Both painful and dangerous, it’s best to keep your butt off the ground and your eyes on ahead, moving forward.
Microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes: what’s the difference?
Just know that just because we’re emphasizing microspikes in this article, that doesn’t mean there is the only option on the table. Microspikes are most effective on slick packed snow or ice. You’re really looking for that extra traction that can keep you on top, but microspikes are nothing compared to crampons.
Crampons are heavier than microspikes because of their larger steel teeth on the toes and base of the boot. Due to their weight, they’re a bit more difficult to maneuver with, and you’ll be stepping slower and getting more tired with them on. They’re helpful when climbing up an ice-covered slope and some equally challenging icy conditions.
And when the ice is still copious amounts of snow, the best options are that with the widest plates of stability: snowshoes. They’re designed to keep you above dry soft snow that otherwise you have you sinking to your knees. If you’re inching along a downward sloping surface, the grippy set of teeth on the undersides can help.
Best Microspikes for Hiking – Overview
1. Hilllsound Trail Crampon Ultra
- GRIP ON PACKED SNOW AND ICE - 18 stainless steel spikes including three 2/3 inch spikes on the heel
When winter hiking through the backcountry, you’re sure to come across some icy trails. And the last thing you want to do is slip and fall, making it handy to have one of these winter traction devices. And to stay upright on slippery surfaces, the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is one of the best options providing great traction.
Winter trails will feel like a snowless summer walk in the park thanks to the 18 stainless steel spikes that are strapped below you. And with the elastomer harness providing a secure fit, you have no worries beyond what’s for dinner that evening after a lovely day outside. It also comes with a convenient carry bag and a two-year warranty. So it’s not going anywhere, and you can bring it anywhere.
- Reliable two-ear warranty and 18 stainless steel spikes
- The convenient bag helps you bring it to the campsite
- A bit more expensive than the other options
- Sizing can be a bit tricky, we recommend sizing up
2. STABILicers Walk Traction Ice Cleats
- Pair of robust traction cleats fit securely on any shoe or boot to reduce the risk of falls and increase safety when walking on snow and ice
These are a great option to pop on for some added stability on a slick and icy day outside. They feature a plastic platform that flexes to adhere to your boots outsoles. Also, they come with a set of small steel teeth erupting from the plastic to secure your steps on the surface below.We appreciate the angles that the teeth sink into the snow, as they provide the maximum grip with an ergonomic design to keep you moving forward.
With that in mind, the platform can also be folded in two, just in case a work trip comes up in the middle of the Alaskan tundra. Just be sure to cover them up in protective casing before schlepping them around, because the teeth could tear a hole in your bag.
- Ergonomic teeth design to propel you forwards
- Easy to put on
- Sizing runs small, be sure to go up a size
3. PECO MICROspikes Crampon
Kahtoola microspikes are a great option because they offer super stability and fantastic spike positioning. The material these are made with a heat-treated stainless steel, and the harness holding them together is a superb elastomer as well. The steel chain which connects the spikes provides some awesome durability and reliability to boot. The eyelets are reinforced so you don’t need to worry about them giving out on you mid-trail. Each shoe is strapped up with 12 spikes that are 3/8ths of an inch long.
We also like the variation in weight and size, ranging from extra small to extra large with corresponding weight from 11 ounces to 13.5. Also, you won’t have to worry about these undersides slashing your bag, because they come with a convenient carrying bag. It’s a compact 5x3x2 inch box, so it won’t take up too much time. Additionally, you’re provided a 2-year warranty, so it’s a good way to invest appropriately in a pair of microspikes.
- The two-year warranty guarantees the product’s quality
- Heat-treated stainless steel means the spikes stay sharp for longer
- A bit more expensive than some of the other options listed
- Considering the competitors, they are a bit heavier as well
4. Yaktrax Pro Traction Cleats Crampon
- Traction cleats that fit over shoes for safely walking, hiking, or jogging on packed snow or ice
These are a cool option because they have been made with a different design than the other products listed. Instead of a few specific points digging into the earth below, they are designed with coils for improving traction. The coils are 1.4mm thick steel and positioned in all directions to maximize 360-degree stability.
The harness holding the coils to the bottom of your boot is made with a similarly designed heavy-duty rubber with additional straps. This means it can withstand the same punishment you’re placing on your boots, and the additional straps ensure it won’t wither away under duress. The harness only comes in four available sizes, but the harness is pretty elastic so you can fit it onto your boot easily. Plus the adjustable straps mean even with all the gloves and protective coating you wear, you can adjust accordingly to ensure a safe fit.
- Steel coils to keep you stable
- Interesting design with adjustable straps
- Only four sizes available
5. Hillsound Trail Crampon
- GRIP ON PACKED SNOW AND ICE - 11 carbon steel 2/3 inch spikes that are dispersed across a broad area
We love these crampons for their reliability, as emphasized by the two-year warranty they come with. The ergonomic plate system the spikes come with is impeccably designed, and each boot is draped with 11 spikes for superior stability. Also, the front plate is divided into two parts connected by a couple of hinges, which improves flexibility across the front foot.
The harness is designed from an elastomer material, while all the spikes are of stainless steel. The spikes here are long, around 2/3 of an inch, so you’ll get a good grip on any surface. Though with that length comes added weight, and the 16.3 ounces means they’ll be a bit heavier and more costly than competing products. However, all that plus the two-year warranty means you pay for what you get, and this is a reliable product.
- The flexible front plate for added stability
- Two-year warranty for super reliability
- A bit heavier than other options at 16.3 ounces
- A bit more expensive as well
6. ICETrekkers Diamond Grip Traction Cleats
Hikers looking for something to strap to the bottom side of their hiking boots should look no further than this fantastic option from the folks at ICETrekkers. From backpacking through the woods or trekking up icy slopes, the stainless steel spikes on these guys will keep you upright and chugging along.
The spikes can strap onto a pair of winter boots or hiking shoes with the same degree of comfort, thanks to the ingenious sling design that holds the spikes doing together. When you need good traction on those winter hikes, the grippers on these microspikes will keep you safe and secure. We also love that the grip moves in all directions, so they can handle any slush or mud you may come across as well.
- Steel alloy beads move in each direction for maximum stability
- Tough rubber sling keeps them intact regardless of frigid temperatures
- Doesn’t come with a warranty
- The steel spikes can wear down quickly on concrete
7. Kahtoola NANOspikes
When moving through deep snow in Colorado or ice fishing in Michigan, it’s helpful to have something additional on the underside of your boots. The low-profile of these nano spikes makes them a great choice along the hiking trails when the snow has turned to ice but you still want to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Mountaineering enthusiasts among us will appreciate the lightweight design, as each only runs from 7.2 ounces to 9, depending on the size you select.
Plus a one year warranty means you can bring them on a backpacking trip without worry. While they’re mostly designed for trail running, they are a great option for anyone looking for some extra protection on the trails without so much burdensome weight. So place them on your trail running shoes and get out there today!
- Minimal and lightweight design
- One year warranty ensures premier craftsmanship and safety concerns
- Doesn’t come with a tote sack
We love the PECO MICROspikes Crampon because it’s always been one of the more popular products, and with good reason. The superior stability they require as well as the two-year warranty they guarantee means they know their product isn’t going to wear down after just a few uses. Knowing how harsh winter can be, it provides great comfort knowing these guys believe in their product this much.
We also love that it comes with a carry bag so you can lug your stuff around without fear of it puncturing your tent or backpack. For the backpacker eager to set foot in winter, it’s a much welcome benefit they provide.
All in all, adding a pair of microspikes to your winter collection is a great way to stay safe and ensure you can stay outdoors in the coldest months of the year.
Bonus tip: Check out this great video explaining the differences between crampons, microspikes and snowshoes!