The 8 Best Microspikes for Hiking

If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best microspikes for hiking are, we recommend the Black Diamond Access Spike Traction Devices.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Winter is my favorite time of the year to go hiking. The snow makes everything look bright and glittery, and the crisp air feels great after I’ve started to work up a sweat. One of the few downsides, in my opinion, is that the once solid ground transforms into a slippery mass of ice and loose snow.

Falling is hardly uncommon when exploring any frozen wonderland, and sometimes it can be quite devastating. The ground is unforgiving, especially when it’s been hardened by the cold temperatures, which is why the best microspikes for hiking are so vital. Pop them over your footwear and get the extra traction you need to stay upright in almost any environment.

Microspikes At A Glance

If you’re in a hurry, check out this quick list of our favorite microspikes – otherwise, keep on scrolling to get to the full reviews!

Microspikes Vs Crampons

brown boot with microspikes on it

Microspikes or crampons? You’ll often hear the terms used interchangeably, but they’re not actually the same thing. Both of them are winter traction devices that are used to gain purchase on slippery surfaces, but there’s are a few key differences to note.

For starters, crampons have much longer spikes. That’s because they’re designed for use on ice, particularly in mountaineering where there tends to be climbing involved. They aren’t really suitable for hiking in mixed terrain, and they can be a little difficult to put on and take off.

Microspikes have shorter spikes than crampons, and come with a set of chains that link them together across the bottom of your footwear. They can generally be taken off pretty easily, as they stretch to fit around whatever shoes or hiking boots you’re wearing. Mostly ideal for flat terrain with ice and snow, they can also be used on mixed surfaces that require you to walk on rock.

Important Features

Length and Number of Spikes

When you put it all together, there’s no denying that more spikes equals better traction. However, the length of the spikes is something to pay close attention to as well. In fact, this may be an even more important factor than the number of spikes, since the length determines how deep they’ll go into the icy terrain.

You won’t see too much variation in length when it comes to microspikes, but a quarter inch here or there can make a huge difference. And if you plan on climbing steep terrain, make sure that you have spikes near the front of your hiking boots as well. These will help you dig in on those slippery uphill climbs.

Types of Spikes

man wearing green coat and orange backpack hiking in the snow

Spikes can come in all shapes and sizes. Most often, you’ll find that they live up to their name, providing a good number of spikes to give you traction. However, from time to time, you’ll also come across coils and studs as well.

Coils work fairly well at biting into hard, flat surfaces, and their low profile makes them suitable for walking around town without much discomfort. However, since they aren’t very aggressive, I wouldn’t recommend them for steep, technical climbs that require more traction.

Studs are a similar story, providing a low-profile form of traction that’s often used for running. Like coils, they work well on flat ground with a thin layer of snow or ice, but since they’re short and rounded, they don’t bite into the terrain very well.

Spikes are the clear winner when it comes to traction in general. Especially on steep, slippery ground that’s covered in a thick layer of snow or ice, spikes will give you the most support.

Harness Construction

Insights

All microspikes should have a front and rear band that stretch to fit over your footwear. The material of the harness can vary, but generally speaking, elastometer is going to be the best that you’ll find. It merges the elasticity of rubber with the lightweight, durable properties of plastic to create the ultimate combination of longevity, fit, and security. You’ll end up paying a little more to get this material, but in the long run, the upgrade is worth it.

Your other choice is to get a harness made purely from rubber, like you’ll find in the Yaktrax ICEtrekkers. While it will still stretch nicely and accommodate a wide variety of foot sizes, it lacks some of the durability that you’ll find in elastometer. And that’s fine, if you don’t plan on beating up your microspikes too badly. The Yaktrax spikes are mostly designed for more mild conditions anyway, and not for aggressive mountain climbing.

Weight

woman putting microspikes on her shoes

If you’ve spent any amount of time hiking through the mountains, you know that every ounce counts. Even the smallest items can start to feel like lead inside your pack, but remember that your burdens aren’t limited to what’s on your back.

The weight of your clothing adds up too, between different layers that you’re wearing on your top and bottom, and the heavy hiking boots that you probably have protecting your feet. All things considered, microspikes aren’t really that heavy, but a few ounces here and there can still be noticed on extended treks.

However, a reduction in weight usually equates to a reduction in durability. For that reason, a good rule of thumb is to find a pair of spikes that weigh between 8-12 ounces, if you plan to use them for hiking. Microspikes for running will be a little lighter, for obvious reasons.

Durability

Your microspikes are going to experience a lot of abuse, so it’s important to find something that can withstand the test of time. Regarding the harness, we’ve already talked about the differences between rubber and elastometer, with the latter being more durable than the former.

But don’t forget about the spikes themselves, since they’re the features that will be digging into the unforgiving ground. While the metal bits usually don’t have a hard time staying in good condition, some brands do take liberties with the connecting points between the spikes. Yaktrax, for example, often makes use of rubber (instead of metal) to attach everything together. As such, they’re often plagued with bad reviews with people complaining about premature wear, broken straps, and other durability issues.

Sizing

Most microspikes come in your standard small, medium, large, and XL sizes. The different sizes usually match a range of shoe lengths, so you can ensure you get a fit that won’t slide off but won’t squeeze your foot to death either.

Check with the manufacturer to determine what microspikes will be suitable for the shoe size that you wear.

Microspikes for Hiking Comparison Table

Your Page Title
MicrospikesWeight (oz)SpikesMaterialBest Use
Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System1112Stainless SteelWinter Sports
Black Diamond Access Spike Traction Devices7.414Stainless SteelMultisport
Hillsound FlexSteps Traction System13.318Stainless SteelHiking
Kahtoola EXOspikes Traction System7.812TitaniumTrail Running, Hiking
Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip Traction System12.830SteelMultisport
Yatta Life Ice Spikes11.314Stainless SteelHiking, Ice Fishing
Cimkiz Ice Cleats1719Stainless SteelHiking, Winter Sports
Yaktrax Ascent Traction Cleats1516Stainless SteelWinter Sports

Best Microspikes for Hiking – Reviewed

Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System

Weight: 11 Ounces

Spikes12

Best Use: Snow Sports

Material: Elastomer/Steel

Want a reliable traction device that’s easy to slip on and off? The Kahtoola traction system might be your best bet, if you’re in the market for a new pair of microspikes. Get the size that will match your hiking boots, and stretch them over your feet with relative ease. They’re just as easy to take off again, once you’ve gotten past any mounds of snow, icy sidewalks, or frozen lakes.

Rugged and durable, the metal chains ensure a long lifespan, even when used aggressively. There are 12 spikes on each foot to help you gain purchase on slippery ground, though it’s worth acknowledging that they won’t stop you from sliding completely. In general, microspikes will only help you control your slide, instead of eliminating it altogether. As you might expect, this effect is amplified when there’s more snow and ice to contend with.

The elastomer harness will stay malleable down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Any colder than that, and you really won’t be able to stretch it over your footwear. When not in use, they pack down to a small size that can be shoved into the included tote for easy transportation.

Reasons For

Durable

Provide good traction

Pack down small

Lightweight

Easy to get on and off

Reasons Against

Somewhat expensive

Black Diamond Access Spike Traction Devices

Weight: 7.4 Ounces

Spikes: 12

Best Use: Trail Running

Material: Elastomer/Steel

Though a bit pricey, there are few microspikes that can beat the Black Diamond Access Spike traction devices in terms of sheer quality. With 14 spikes on each foot (two extra than the Kahtoola model mentioned above), you’ll experience superior traction and stability on snow and ice. Also made from elastomer, the harness is stretchy, and can slide over your footwear with minimal effort. When you’re ready to take them off again, there’s a tab on the back that’s easy to grip and pull down on.

But what makes this traction device a true crowd favorite is the weight – or lack thereof. At a mere 3.7 ounces per device, they’re practically weightless, which is a larger bonus than you might think. We often want to stay as light as possible when hiking, especially through snow, but sometimes we forget that our footwear contributes to that poundage. You don’t want your feet to feel like lead when you’re dragging them through deep snow. And on top of that, you don’t want your backpack to house that extra weight when your spikes aren’t in use.

Even after wearing them for several hours (or days) at a time, they’ll still look like new when you’re done with them. Durability will be the least of your worries, even if you’re constantly stepping on sharp, uneven rocks.

As I see it, the biggest downside to these spikes is how difficult it can be to put them back into their original storage container. Still, as far as cons go, that’s a pretty insignificant one in my book.

Reasons For

Lightweight

Durable

Great traction

Easy to put on and take off

Comfortable

Reasons Against

Hard to put back into original case

Hillsound FlexSteps Traction System

Weight: 13.3 Ounces

Spikes18

Best Use: Trail Running

Material: Elastomer/Steel

With 18 spikes per foot, the Hillsound FlexSteps traction system has the most out of any microspikes in this review, after the Cimkiz ice cleats. As you’d expect, their ability to grip the ice and find purchase in snow is second to none, giving you plenty of stability and traction.

However, it’s worth noting that these microspikes only feel good when they’re used on snow and ice. If you walk with them on extended stretch of rock or pavement, they’ll start to hurt your feet. This won’t be a problem in many circumstances, since you shouldn’t be using spikes on rocky ground anyway, in order to extend the lifespan of the device. But it can get annoying when you’re constantly switching between ice and rock, where it doesn’t make sense to take off the microspikes and put them on again 10 minutes later.

Easy to clean and pack away when you’re done with them, this traction system is durable and rust resistant. Though they’re on the heavy side of the spectrum, they still weigh less than a pound, which isn’t terrible for day hikes. But for longer mountaineering treks, I’d suggest going with something like the Black Diamond Access traction device mentioned above.

Reasons For

Very grippy

Fairly durable

Easy to store away

Simple to clean

Fit over most footwear

Reasons Against

A bit heavy

Not comfortable to wear on rocky ground

Kahtoola EXOspikes Traction System

Weight: 7.8 Ounces

Spikes: 12

Best Use: Trail Running

Material: Elastomer/Titanium

Earlier in this review, you may remember that we talked about the different types of spikes found on traction devices. Every product that we’ve talked about so far has stuck with the traditional “spike” design, which is the most common for a reason. After all, it’s the optimal style for biting into thicker snow and ice to gain as much traction as possible.

However, sometimes the conditions don’t warrant such aggressive measures. Spikes can dig into your feet when used on harder surfaces (like pavement or rock), or when there’s only a thin layer of snow and ice to contend with. In situations like these, you’ll appreciate having the Kahtoola EXOspikes. They adopted the stud design, instead of the traditional spikes, giving you enough traction for thin layers of ice without going overboard.

The reduction in material equates to a reduction in weight as well. A size large in these will come in at 7.8 ounces, which rivals the Black Diamond Access traction system that we reviewed above. Naturally, they’re easy to store, given their minimalistic design, making them perfect for hikes that require a lot of on and off usage. Since the tips are titanium, you can expect excellent longevity, due to the superior durability that comes with that material. Given the modest price of the product, I’d say it’s a real steal.

Reasons For

Work on a variety of terrains

Lightweight

Durable

Long lasting

Reasonable price

Reasons Against

A little tight

Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip Traction System

Weight: 12.8 Ounces

Spikes30

Best Use: Multisport

Material: Rubber/Steel

Another model that decided to take the “stud” approach, the Yaktrax ICEtrekkers are incredibly durable and grippy. If you’ve ever had the Yaktrax model that makes use of springs for traction, you know that they don’t last very long… Sorry Yaktrax.

However, these diamond grips hold true to their name, withstanding wear and tear like a champ. The pointy tips on the studs also grip the ice better than the springs will, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t choose this model over any other variety by Yaktrax.

The ICEtrekkers fit nice and tight over most styles of footwear. In some cases, perhaps a little too tight. If you feel like you’re usually on the upper end of “large,” I’d probably suggest you go with the XL size in these. The same could be said about any of the other sizes as well.

Still, they’re very heavy duty, and should last you for a long time with proper care. Make sure to clean them in between uses to get rid of dirt and prevent the formation of rust. Just because they’re made from steel doesn’t mean that they’re indestructible!

Reasons For

Durable

Grip well

Snug fit won’t peel off

Compact

Self-clearing design

Reasons Against

Run small

Yatta Life Ice Spikes

Yatta Life Heavy Duty Trail Snow Spikes for Shoes Crampons Ice Cleats - Stainless Steel Ice Shoes Grippers Footwear Crampons Traction Cleats for Ice Fishing, Walking, Climbing, and Hiking

Weight: 11.3 Ounces

Spikes: 14

Best Use: Hiking/Ice Fishing

Material: Rubber/Steel

One of the more customizable options, the Yatta Life ice spikes come in three different colors: black, blue, and bright pink. I like to go with black whenever I get the chance, but I know plenty of you will appreciate the variety in color as well.

Tough and built to last, the spikes are made from stainless steel, just like many of the other products in our review. With 12 spikes on each foot, you might not get the same level of traction that you’ll find on the Black Diamond Access microspikes, but you’ll still get enough for solid walking on slippery surfaces.

They’ll take a little effort to get on your hiking boots, but once they’re on, they won’t be sliding off anytime soon. The snug fit is a nice bonus, especially if you’ve ever owned microspikes that fell off your footwear in the past. However, they’re not tight enough to give you uncomfortable pressure points, like some traction devices that I’ve owned in the past.

As a great, versatile option, you can use them on and off the trail. Ice fishers and mountain climbers will appreciate how effective they are, but so will anyone who needs to clear off their snowy (and icy) driveway in the winter.

Reasons For

Variety of bright colors

Decent traction

Snug fit

Versatile

Durable

Reasons Against

Not much stretch to the rubber

Cimkiz Ice Cleats

Crampons Ice Cleats Traction Snow Grips for Boots Shoes Women Men Kids Anti Slip 19 Stainless Steel Spikes Safe Protect for Hiking Fishing Walking Climbing Mountaineering

Weight: 17 Ounces

Spikes19

Best Use: Hiking

Material: Elastomer/Steel

The cheapest option in our lineup, the Cimkiz ice cleats are perfect for people on a budget. They also have the most spikes per foot out of any product we’ve mentioned so far, with a whopping 19 spread out around the walking surface. That being the case, you can expect superior traction and stability, which is fairly surprising given how cheap this product is.

But as we all know, that reduction in price has to express itself somehow. In the case of the Cimkiz ice cleats, that comes in the form of weight. As the heaviest product in this listing, the cleats weigh in at 17 ounces, which is pretty staggering when you think about it. For comparison, that’s roughly like getting two Kahtoola EXOspikes. It’s definitely a noticeable difference, and you’ll feel the extra weight on longer hikes through the snow.

If you can overlook the weight, though, they really are a rugged and tough pair of microspikes. Easy to put on, they work well on a variety of slippery surfaces, such as ice and mossy rocks. And when you’re done using them, they stash away nicely inside a backpack or other carry bag.

Reasons For

Very grippy

Easy to put on

Cheap

Stores well

Doesn’t rust quickly

Reasons Against

Weight

Yaktrax Ascent Traction Cleats

Yaktrax Ascent Heavy Duty Traction Cleats with 16 Stainless-Steel Spikes (1 Pair)

Weight: 15 Ounces

Spikes16

Best Use: Hiking

Material: Elastomer/Steel

The Yaktrax Ascent are a pair of winter traction devices that are just one step shy of turning into crampons. There are 16 spikes spread out across the walking surface, ranging from 3/8-1/2 an inch, depending on where you’re looking. Of those 16 spikes, 6 of them are facing forward, allowing the toe of your foot to dig into more vertical terrain. It’s the ideal design for climbing steep, mountainous slopes that are covered with snow and ice.

A bit on the heavy side, they weigh just under a pound, which I know will turn some of you away immediately. However, that extra weight takes the form of superior durability for the harness and the undercarriage of the microspikes. With care, they’re a pair of traction devices that should last you for several years.

Considering how durable and grippy they are, you’d expect them to be one of the more expensive options on this list. But no, this is another point that the Ascent excels in, offering a high-quality product for a very average (if not budget friendly) price.

There are a variety of sizes to choose from, and Yaktrax gives a handy guide to help you know what to get. All models come with a carry case, so you can easily pack them away when you don’t need them anymore.

Reasons For

Durable

High traction

Large number of spikes on the toe

Reasonably priced

Easy to get on and off

Reasons Against

Heavy

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FAQ

Are Microspikes Adequate for Winter Hiking?

Generally speaking, microspikes are enough to see you through most trails in the winter. However, in deep snow, you may prefer snowshoes, and on steep inclines with deep ice beds, crampons are the way to go.

What Are Microspikes?

What is the Difference Between Microspikes and Crampons?

Final Thoughts

Winter hiking can quickly turn into a painful (and embarrassing) ordeal if you’re prone to sliding on every patch of slick ground you step on. Microspikes give you the traction you need to keep your balance on snow and ice, allowing you to cross the terrain efficiently and safely.

While there are a few different styles for you to choose from, we believe that the Black Diamond Access traction device is the best overall. With a good number of spikes, a durable harness, and the lightest weight out of every product we looked at, it’s a versatile option that will see you through many winters.

Meet the Author!

By the age of 20, Spencer had already tackled some of the most famed mountain ranges in Europe, Asia, and North America. His mission is to help others accomplish their own outdoor-related goals, even within the time constraints of a 9-5 job and a busy life schedule.

1 thought on “The 8 Best Microspikes for Hiking”

  1. You should review the YakTrax Ascent. They may be on the heavier side but they’re tough as nails and have superior traction to the others on this list. Probably the closest to a true crampon that I’ve seen.

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