Best Snow Grips
|Price||Check Price at REI||$60 List|
$59.95 at Amazon
$19.99 at Amazon
|Check Price at REI||Check Price at REI|
|Pros||Very secure, durable, excellent spike layout||Easy on and off, versatile, secure fit, durable||Low profile, secure, easy to put on and use||Secure fit, easy to use, good traction for most situations||Good traction for soft surfaces, packs small, lightweight|
|Cons||Heavier, annoying on dry surfaces, high profile||Not great for deep snow||Less versatile, not helpful in deep snow||Poor for deep snow and softer surfaces, uncomfortable for running||Expensive, harder to get on|
|Bottom Line||These grips provide excellent traction and a secure fit for the worst winter conditions||With good traction for comfortable walking in dry conditions to deep snow, these are highly versatile||These affordable and easy to use grips are ideal for most winter surface conditions||An added velcro strap provides extra security on these durable, affordable, and well-tractioned grips||Best on soft surfaces, these running-specific grips offer good traction in shallow snow|
|Rating Categories||Kahtoola MICROspikes||Kahtoola EXOspikes||Yaktrax Walk||Yaktrax Pro||Black Diamond Dista...|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Secure Fit (15%)|
|Specs||Kahtoola MICROspikes||Kahtoola EXOspikes||Yaktrax Walk||Yaktrax Pro||Black Diamond Dista...|
|Measured Weight (per pair)||11.0 oz||8.2 oz||5.4 oz||8.0 oz||9.0 oz|
|Number of Points||12||12||12 chain sections||12 chain sections||14|
|Spike Material||Stainless Steel||Tungsten Carbide||Zinc-coated Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
Best Overall Snow Grip
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", making 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 will 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. That said, 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. The MICROspikes are hands down the best snow grip option out there for users who live in harsh winter climates.
Best Bang for the Buck
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 very reasonably priced.
However, 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 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.
Most Affordable for Deep Snow and Winter Hiking
Unigear Traction Cleats
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 also 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.
Best for Winter Running
The Kahtoola NANOspikes are low-profile cleats that feature ten small metal points protruding less than ¼", providing enough traction to prevent sliding on packed snow and thinly iced surfaces. They are also lightweight, 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, adding up to a great option for anyone who 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; 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.
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 products 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 how well they performed across a wide range of activities, and we searched for signs of wear and tear.
Analysis and Test Results
A good pair of snow grips will be your best friend when the outdoors gets treacherously slick. Read on to find out how the products fared in our assessment categories of traction, ease of use, secure fit, versatility, durability, and packability.
While we do not factor price into our testing process or scores, it is absolutely a factor in the decision-making process. We consider a high-value product to be one that expertly balances an excellent performance with a fair price. Gear that lasts and also doesn't break the bank is a win all around.
The Yaktrax Walk is an incredible deal for folks that don't need the burliest spikes. They are light, packable, and ideal for thin ice and dustings of snow. If you need something burlier for deep snow or hiking but still want to preserve your wallet, the Unigear Traction Cleats are a great option. They're not quite as user-friendly, lightweight, or durable as the Kahtoola MICROspikes, but if you only need something for occasional use, they more than fit the bill.
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. That said, 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. The Hillsound Trail Crampons are also heavy-duty snow grips with 11 points that protrude an incredible two-thirds of an inch from the bottom of your foot. These long points provide excellent traction in deep, soft snow, and they aren't too far off from true mountaineering crampons.
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. The Black Diamond Distance Spikes strike a great balance — they are lower-profile and work for running but provide excellent traction thanks to 18 small crampon points. If you want good traction but a little more versatility, the Distance Spikes are a good choice.
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.
None of the grips are overly difficult to put on, but the Kahtoola MICROspikes, Kahtoola EXOspikes, and the Yaktrax Walk are noticeably the easiest. 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 Yaktrax Pro and ICETRAX V3 are also easy to put on quickly and efficiently.
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 Hillsound Trail Crampons take the cake in this metric. They have a strap that can be worn over the top of the foot to keep the crampon in place even when trudging through super deep snow.
All the Kahtoola models feature excellent security of fit. 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 your 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.
Each type of snow grip excels in different 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.
The most versatile snow grip in our test is the Kahtoola EXOspike. This grip features 12 studs on platforms, giving them extra height for use in relatively deep snow while retaining their comfortable feel on firm surfaces and their performance on ice. They can be used while running or when shoveling the driveway of the few inches of snow that fell overnight. The only thing they aren't great for is very deep snow, but even then, they perform decently.
The Yaktrax Walk and Yaktrax Pro also have great versatility. 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 Black Diamond Distance Spike is a crampon-style grip designed to fit securely over running shoes. We like the traction it provides with its 8-millimeter spikes, which are small enough to be convenient for various conditions but sharp enough to provide bite on loose surfaces. They are super light for a crampon-type grip, and they pack up small for easy stuffing into a pocket.
Snow grips are most useful during the worst winter weather when temperatures plummet and the snow piles up. Every material becomes more brittle in these conditions, and manufacturers have to make sure their elastics won't break when being manipulated. 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 spikes take the full force of your body weight, you 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 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. If you tend to navigate many different surfaces and conditions, owning more than one pair of snow grips is recommended.
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 ICETRAX V3 Tungsten 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 and Black Diamond Distance Spikes are also notable here, though the NANOspikes 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.
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!
— Jeff Dobronyi
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