Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Snow Grips of 2021

Photo: sam willits
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday March 25, 2021
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Looking for the best snow grips? Our test team researched over 50 choices and picked the top 10 for our rigorous, hands-on testing process. With so many options to choose from, it can seem impossible to pick the right product for your needs. Our team of winter-loving mountain enthusiasts put the competitors through the wringer and scored them on key performance metrics like traction, ease of use, security of fit, versatility, durability, and packability. This review will make it easier to find the exact product to meet your needs and budget.


1

Best Overall Snow Grip


Kahtoola MICROspikes


Number of Points: 12 stainless steel | Weight per Pair: 0.69 lb
Great spike layout
Secure fit on any footwear
Durable
Not suitable for mostly dry surfaces
High profile elevates user
On the heavy side

The Kahtoola MICROspikes are crampon-style snow grips that provide excellent traction for deep snow and thick ice. Each foot has 12 spikes that protrude ⅜", which makes them perfect for winter hiking, chopping wood, and working on soft surfaces like dirt. They are relatively easy to put on, requiring the user to stretch the rubber body around their boot or shoe. Once on, they stay in place securely and don't slide around or feel like they are going to come off. The stainless steel points are strong and will easily last multiple winters.

These robust snow spikes are on the heavy and bulky side of the options on the market, but they provide better traction than any other product we tested. The large spikes make them uncomfortable and awkward to use on firm surfaces like concrete with just a dusting of snow. These are best used in deep snow, on thick ice, and where the surface underneath the snow or ice is soft, like hiking trails and dirt roads. For users who live in harsh winter climates, the Kahtoola MICROspikes are hands down the best snow grip option out there.

The Kahtoola MICROspikes are a time-tested traction machine in deep...
The Kahtoola MICROspikes are a time-tested traction machine in deep snow.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

2

Best Bang for the Buck


Yaktrax Walk


Number of Points: 12 chain sections | Weight per Pair: 0.34 lb
Easy to put on
Secure fit on any footwear
Low profile
Poor grip in deep snow
Not super versatile

The Yaktrax Walk was one of the first snow grips on the market, and its design has changed very little over the years. It features zinc-plated steel coils wrapped around rubber under the foot, and the coils dig into snow, ice, and even dirt and rock. These work very well on shallow snow or thin ice over firm surfaces like pavement. They are also easy to put on, lightweight, and pack down to a very small size. The icing on the cake? They are reasonably priced.

The coil design doesn't work so well in deep snow, where crampon-style spikes with larger points are more appropriate. The coils also aren't very comfortable when running because they protrude from the bottom of the shoe, creating an uneven landing surface. But aside from these niche uses, the Yaktrax Walk are great for most everyday winter uses on slippery urban surfaces. And for the price, these are the best option out there for users expecting mostly light-duty winter walking.

The Yaktrax Walk are a simple and affordable option.
The Yaktrax Walk are a simple and affordable option.
Photo: jeff dobronyi

3

Most Affordable for Deep Snow and Winter Hiking


Unigear Traction Cleats


Number of Points: 18 stainless steel | Weight per Pair: 1.04 lb
Great traction
Durable
Fit securely on most footwear
Bulky and heavy
Only for use on softer surfaces

The Unigear Traction Cleats provide excellent grip in deep snow and on thick ice — and they do it for a low price. These snow grips feature 18 large crampon-style points that dig into soft material with ease, making them a great choice for users who spend a lot of time in deep snow, on dirt trails, or who work outside. The points are durable to last multiple winter seasons, and the stretchy rubber provides a snug and secure fit that won't accidentally come off.

Like other crampon-style snow cleats, these grips aren't comfortable to wear on hard surfaces, like sidewalks with a dusting of snow or a thin veneer of ice. They also have a point layout that places three spikes right below the toes, which can sometimes get caught when stepping up stairs or stepping over roots on a hike. The points add weight and size to the profile of your normal foot, making these spikes unsuitable for winter running. Still, for the cost, they provide excellent traction on soft surfaces and are a great option for users who need maximum grip without breaking the bank.

The Unigear Traction Cleats are an affordable alternative for deep...
The Unigear Traction Cleats are an affordable alternative for deep snow and soft surface grip.
Photo: jeff dobronyi

4

Best for Winter Running


Kahtoola NANOspikes


Number of Points: 10 tungsten carbide | Weight per Pair: 0.50 lb
Excellent secure fit
Good grip on packed snow and thin ice
Lightweight
Not great for deep snow or blue ice
Limited versatility
Expensive

The Kahtoola NANOspikes are low-profile cleats that feature 10 small metal points protruding less than ¼", providing enough traction to prevent sliding on packed snow and thinly iced surfaces. They are also lightweight, at just 8 ounces per pair, making them almost unnoticeable. The points are deliberately placed for maximum traction and stability when landing on each foot. They are easy to put on and stay securely placed on each foot. These things add up to a great option for anyone that can't fathom not running, even in the winter months.

This style of snow grip works decently well in deep snow, but not nearly as well as crampon-style points. And since the points don't protrude deeply into the ground, they are not ideal for use on soft ground surfaces like steep, unfrozen dirt trails because if the ground moves just a little bit, the points no longer have any purchase. They're also relatively expensive, especially considering their limited versatility. These are a specialty product that winter runners will cherish, but other users should check out different options.

The Kahtoola NANOspikes are a secure and low-profile option, perfect...
The Kahtoola NANOspikes are a secure and low-profile option, perfect for winter runners.
Photo: sam willits

5

A Secure and Durable Choice


Yaktrax Pro


Number of Points: 12 chain sections | Weight per Pair 0.50 lb
Super secure fit
Easy to put on
Good traction for most situations
Not awesome in deep snow
Poor running performance

The Yaktrax Pro is akin to the classic Walk model, but upgrades the metal coils to stainless steel construction for maximum durability, and also adds a velcro strap across the top of the foot to increase security of fit. These grips bite into slick surfaces from powder snow to blue ice, and stay on your feet, period. They are also light, relatively inexpensive given their performance, and are built to last.

In deep snow and on very soft surfaces, the metal coils don't provide as much traction as other spike designs. The coils are also uncomfortable to land on when running, so we wouldn't recommend them for users searching for a running-specific snow grip. The design is relatively secure, and we don't think the top strap is necessary for most users. Still, these are a great option for users who want a simple, inexpensive snow grip for everyday use in normal winter situations. Runners and deep-snow trekkers should look elsewhere.

The Yaktrax Pro is a simple and well-built grip that offers...
The Yaktrax Pro is a simple and well-built grip that offers exceptional security of fit.
Photo: sam willits

6

A Simple Design with Great Traction


Yaktrax Diamond Grip


Number of Points: 30 zinc-coated steel | Weight per Pair: 0.74 lb
Easy to use
Fairly secure fit
Good traction in soft snow
Not great for firm surfaces or running
Can wear out shoe soles over time

The Yaktrax Diamond Grip is a novel design that uses chains of angular metal studs to provide traction. The rubber frame fits easily and securely over most footwear, and the traction provided by the chains is great. Furthermore, the grips aren't super heavy, considering how much metal is used, and they pack down to a relatively small size for easy storage. These grips work best in deep snow or packed snow conditions, though they also perform well on ice-covered sidewalks.

The major downside to this design is that it puts lots of wear on the bottom of your shoes. The metal studs that push into the snow also push back against your boot sole, which can chew up rubber over time. Other options on the market have more refined designs, and whatever winter conditions you are expecting, there is another option that won't destroy your boot soles. However, these would be perfect for leaving in the back of a car for emergency use because they are simple to wear and provide good traction. Just don't wear them every day of the winter.

The Yaktrax Diamond Grip features a sharp chain that digs into both...
The Yaktrax Diamond Grip features a sharp chain that digs into both the snow surface and your boot soles.
Photo: sam willits

7

Low Profile for Shallow Snow


ICETRAX V3 Tungsten Winter Ice Grips


Number of Points: 9 tungsten carbide | Weight per Pair: 0.35 lb
Easy to use
Extremely low profile and light
Secure fit on most shoes
Inexpensive
Limited traction
Not that versatile

The ICETRAX V3 features an elastic body that wraps around the bottom of your shoe and is dotted with 9 tungsten carbide studs that protrude about 0.2 inches. These cleat-style grips are best for shallow snow and ice on firm surfaces, and they are also great for running because of their small points and low weight. The V3 is easy to place onto all kinds of footwear and stays in place once on.

Unfortunately, we had issues with this grip when walking or running on tilted surfaces. Our sneakers slid easily on the inner rubber surface of the grip, especially when wet, and in a few instances when the trail tilted to the side for long distances, our sneakers slid completely out of the grip. These were harsh testing conditions, but the result is notable nonetheless. Additionally, the small metal teeth provide plenty of traction for running on firm, slippery surfaces, but they don't bite in unpacked powder snow. That said, these are great for runners on flat trails who need added friction on firm surfaces, and they are relatively inexpensive.

The ICETRAX V3 is a cleat-style grip with good performance on firm...
The ICETRAX V3 is a cleat-style grip with good performance on firm surfaces for running and urban winters.
Photo: sam willits

8

Crampon-style Grips at a Low Price


EnergeticSky Ice Cleat Spikes


Number of Points: 19 stainless steel | Weight per Pair: 0.70 lb
Great traction
Durable
Inexpensive
Finicky to adjust once on
Not versatile
Bulky

The EnergeticSky Ice Cleats are crampon-style spikes that feature a whopping 19 points per foot, each protruding about ⅜" from the bottom of the user's shoe. These spikes provide significant traction in deep snow and on soft surfaces. The points are made of stainless steel, which is resistant to corrosion, and will last for multiple winters. Furthermore, they are inexpensive for the amount of traction they provide and their expected lifespan.

On the downside, it is easy to put these spikes on inside-out, which would press the points into the boot sole when walking, so be sure to check that the spikes are situated correctly. Furthermore, the elastic body takes a little while to get centered on the boot, and the chain suspension system doesn't slide perfectly into place when you put the spikes on, as other products do. Versatility is limited because of the sheer number of large points used in this model, meaning that these grips are awkward to use on firm surfaces like pavement with a slight dusting of snow. We wouldn't use these for running, either. They are great for users who need an occasional boost in their gripping power, and since they are so affordable, they can be stashed in the back of a car or in the garage for that big snowstorm that makes you a little nervous about walking around. But if you need snow grips for everyday use on soft surfaces, there are better options out there.

The EnergeticSky Ice Cleats are decent crampon-style grips, but they...
The EnergeticSky Ice Cleats are decent crampon-style grips, but they are a bit confusing to put on, and have spikes too close to the toe.
Photo: sam willits

9

Most Affordable


ALPS Ice/Snow Grips


Number of Points: 10 steel | Weight per Pair: 0.30 lb
Very low profile
Lightweight
Inexpensive
Limited traction
Fragile
Don't feel secure

The ALPS Ice/Snow Grips are a low-profile option for users needing a small amount of additional traction on firm surfaces like roads and sidewalks. They feature 10 small steel studs that bite into icy and snow-packed surfaces. They boast a light weight and thin construction, making them hardly noticeable underfoot. And, they are one of the least expensive products in this category.

Unfortunately, the rubber body feels flimsy and fragile and is likely to get cut on a rock or sharp edge before too long. They come with additional metal stud replacements that pop into place with ease if any are lost. But in our experience, the thin rubber body is likely to fail before the studs fall off. The traction provided by these snow grips is adequate, but because all of the studs are located in the center of the foot, the edges are left without traction. This is a problem when trail running. In addition, the rubber body that stretches around the entire shoe feels loose and insecure and gives the impression that it will slip off at any moment. These are a good choice for anyone who wants a very inexpensive snow grip for occasional use on pavement.

The ALPS Ice Grips are a lightweight but fragile option for...
The ALPS Ice Grips are a lightweight but fragile option for occasional emergency use on firm surfaces.
Photo: sam willits

10

Easy to Use


STABILicers Walk Traction Cleat


Number of Points: 24 steel | Weight per Pair: 1.00 lb
Slide on easily
Reasonably durable
Low-profile
Low traction
Put user off-balance
Not good for running

The STABILicers Walk Traction Cleat is a slip-on cleat-style grip that uses 24 steel points under the ball and heel of the foot to provide traction. The rubber body stretches easily over running shoes and large snow boots, and fits securely. It is also durable enough to last a heavy winter of use. When not in use, the grips pack flat into a low-profile package.

The downside to this product is that the teeth are placed closely together in groups, generally right in the middle of the foot. This creates a feeling of imbalance, because the user feels like they are stepping on something in the middle of their foot. This inelegant design makes the cleats feel unnatural and uncomfortable to wear. Furthermore, the teeth are rounded and placed very closely together, which limits the penetration they can accomplish, and the result is relatively poor traction. We don't recommend this product.

The STABILicers Walk Traction Cleat clumps its spikes together in...
The STABILicers Walk Traction Cleat clumps its spikes together in the middle of the forefront and heel areas, creating a high center that is awkward to walk on.
Photo: sam willits

Why You Should Trust Us


For this review, our test team was led by IFMGA mountain guide and Jackson Hole resident Jeff Dobronyi. Jeff lives, works, and plays in brutal winter climates worldwide and has spent years of his life in skiing, climbing, and winter boots. From splitting wood to shoveling the driveway and getting out of the car in icy parking lots, Jeff knows what it's like to live around slippery surfaces. He has also seen the injuries that can come from just living in cold, wintery climates. As a certified mountain guide, he makes a living keeping people safe and securely attached when slippery surfaces pose a threat. He rarely leaves home in the wintertime without a good pair of grips.

To compile this review, we looked at the top options on the market, recording key specifications about each model. We then selected the top 10 for hands-on testing, which included trail running, wood splitting, shoveling, and walking on sheet ice. We made notes and recorded our findings every step of the way, getting to know each product intimately. We trekked through deep snow and walked across icy parking lots to score each product's traction. We put each product on and took them off countless times, both with bare hands and gloved hands, to score ease of use. We pulled and pushed the products around our shoes to see how securely they fit once donned. After all this testing was complete, we scored each product on versatility, based on how well they performed across a wide range of activities, and we searched for signs of wear and tear.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


Read on to find out how the products fared in our assessment categories of traction, ease of use, secure fit, versatility, durability, and packed size and weight.

Traction


The main reason people buy snow grips is to increase grip on slippery winter surfaces like ice, packed snow, and deep snow. As such, traction is the most important factor in choosing and assessing these products. In general, the products on the market fall into one of three types: crampon, chain, and cleat. Crampon-style grips use vertically-oriented teeth that protrude down into the ground, focusing the user's body weight on a small number of points and increasing friction between the spikes and snow or ice underneath. These have the best grip on icy and snowy surfaces. Chain grips use a length of sharp metal material under the foot to chip into slippery surfaces. These have decent traction and are more comfortable to walk in than crampons. Cleat grips feature a handful of small metal studs that add the least amount of traction out of the three styles, but they are also the easiest to walk with and are great for thinly covered firm surfaces, like a thin layer of snow over pavement.

The Kahtoola MICROspikes have the best traction in our review, placing crampon points in strategic areas all over the shoe sole. The other crampon-stye grips we reviewed also have excellent traction but place teeth directly below the toe of the boot, creating a tripping hazard. Still, the EnergeticSky Ice Cleat Spikes and the Unigear Traction Cleats provide excellent traction for a lower price than the MICROspikes. These are the best option for use on dirt roads or during high-consequence activities like chopping wood. Chain grips like the Yaktrax Walk provide plenty of traction for everyday activities on pavement and some off-pavement use. The Kahtoola NANOspikes have the most traction among the cleat-style grips and are our pick for winter running.

A close-up view of the crampon-style points on the Kahtoola...
A close-up view of the crampon-style points on the Kahtoola MICROspikes.
Photo: sam willits

Ease of Use


Since we need additional traction in winter, usually during or just after storms, it is vital that grips can be donned easily and quickly, with both bare and gloved hands. All of the options in our review feature some kind of rubbery, elastic body that is stretched over the sole of the user's shoe or boot. Products that differentiate themselves from the pack are extremely easy to put on and snap into place right where you want them.

The Kahtoola MICROspikes and the Yaktrax Walk are the easiest grips to put on. The front and back are obvious, the material stretches easily, and there is a cup where the toe of the boot or shoe fits to line up the rest of the grip. The Kahtoola NANOspikes, Yaktrax Pro, and ICETRAX V3 are also easy to put on quickly and efficiently.

The ICETRAX V3 is fast and easy to put on. All it takes is putting...
The ICETRAX V3 is fast and easy to put on. All it takes is putting the toe in the front cup and stretching the rubber over the back of the shoe.
Photo: sam willits

Secure Fit


It is very important your grips stay attached and centered on your feet when walking on slippery surfaces because if they become dislodged, the chances of falling increase, and preventing falls is the main reason you wear spikes in the first place. In every model tested, the elastic body stretches out to fit over the toe and heel of a shoe, and elastic tension is what keeps the grip in place. The exact design of the toe and heel attachments, as well as the design of the body if it snaps around the sides of a shoe, are what differentiate one product from the next.

The Kahtoola models feature the best security of fit of the products that we reviewed. This company has a lot of experience in this field and offers a secure design across its range of products. The Yaktrax models also fit securely, and the Pro model even has a top strap to ensure the grip isn't going to fall off. This is a nice touch if you are taking the spikes on a long hike and don't want to deal with a loose grip. The crampon-style models all have a relatively secure fit but can be a bit of a pain to put on in the first place.

All of the crampon-style grips look like this when put on correctly...
All of the crampon-style grips look like this when put on correctly. They are secure and ready for heavy duty work or hiking.
Photo: sam willits

Versatility


Each type of snow grip excels in a different type of terrain and surface conditions. Crampon-style grips excel in deep snow and soft surfaces, while cleat-style spikes do best on firm surfaces with little soft snow. Chain-style grips perform decently in both kinds of conditions, but they aren't excellent for either. Some users are only interested in wearing spikes during extreme conditions, and others are looking for one grip for every day of the winter. This metric measures how well each pair of grips can handle a variety of conditions and also how well each grip can fit across different shoe types, from sleek running shoes to heavy-duty winter boots.

In this category, the Yaktrax models beat out the competition. Their chain-style traction performance is good across a wide range of surface conditions, and they can be worn on everything from a winter hike in the woods to icy city streets with any footwear. Our only gripe is that they are uncomfortable for winter running, but that's a niche use that won't apply to everyone. We also like how the ICETRAX V3 fits a variety of footwear with ease, providing traction for mostly urban and paved environments.

The Yaktrax Walk can be used on both sneakers and winter boots, and...
The Yaktrax Walk can be used on both sneakers and winter boots, and provides enough traction to be useful in both deep snow and frozen, firm surfaces.
Photo: sam willits

Durability


Snow grips are most useful during the worst winter weather when temperatures plummet and the snow piles up. In these conditions, every material becomes more brittle, and manufacturers have to make sure their elastics won't break when users are manipulating their grips. In addition, the spikes themselves take a beating, and some materials and designs wear out faster than others.

Again, the Kahtoola and Yaktrax models outperform the rest of the competition when it comes to durability. Their designs feature solid attachment points between components and great elastic materials. We had no problem with either of these brands during our testing period, and we don't expect to see any problems for many winters. Since our spikes take the full force of our body weight, we can reasonably expect to see the steel models wear down over time, especially the crampon-style grips. Their prominent spikes will wear down relatively quickly if they are worn on firm rock or paved surfaces. Since this style is most at home in deep snow and on dirt and other soft surfaces, proper use will elongate the lifespans of these products.

Packed Size and Weight


Once the storm is over, and the streets dry out, or when you enter a building and don't want to damage the floor, it's important that your traction devices pack into a small and light package that you can easily stash in a pocket or a compartment in a vehicle. In general, the rubber-soled cleat grips are the lightest and pack the smallest, while the chain and crampon-style grips have more metal, so they weigh more and can't pack as tightly.

The Yaktrax Walk and Yaktrax Pro don't have much body material and are easily stuffed into a small pocket. The ALPS Ice Grips and ICETRAX V3 are not much more than rubber soles with some extra material that covers the toe and heel of the user's shoe, so these pack small as well. The Kahtoola NANOspikes pack small as well, but feature a slightly stiffer rubber sole, which provides a secure fit and traction when walking, but doesn't pack down as small as the other rubber cleat grips.

In general, the cleat-style grips are lightest and pack the smallest.
In general, the cleat-style grips are lightest and pack the smallest.
Photo: sam willits

Conclusion


After countless hours of testing and scrutinizing the competition, we have compiled a truly comprehensive review of snow grips. From high-end perennial favorites to budget-friendly alternatives, deep snow specialists to pavement running cleats, this review has something for everyone. Consider your needs based on where you live and what your normal winter activities are, then scroll through our results until you find something in your budget. Thanks for reading, and stay warm out there!

Snow grips are essential for adding security on slippery winter...
Snow grips are essential for adding security on slippery winter surfaces.
Photo: sam willits

Jeff Dobronyi