Snow covered the city streets as I ran headlong into a biting wind. Under my feet the road surface was hard-packed snow, slick from two days of car traffic, with a dusting of fresh powder on the surface. As I got into the rhythm of a daily run through the fringe of the city a cross-country skier passed me going the other way down the road.
He skied solemnly in the fading evening light.
On my feet were a different tool for slippery winter surfaces, the new Trail Crampon Ultra from Hillsound.
With each step, a slight metallic sound of steel on ice filled the air. My footsteps were confidant and stable and I felt light even with the contraptions strapped to a pair of Salomon Mantra shoes.
I used the Trail Crampons in a few different situations and found them comfortable, stable and effective mated with running shoes or heavy hiking boots. The rubber upper and velcro strap design made for a snug fit and no play between the crampons and shoe.
The crampons are very similar to the popular Kahtoola Microspikes ($64.95), so much so that I gave them a test with one brand’s model on each foot. It was hard to tell the difference, but I did like the Hillsound’s addition of a velcro strap over the top of the foot. I felt that the Hillsound gave a little less play on my feet during the 4-mile hike up and down an icy road, although both models performed fine.
The Gear: Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
Where To Test It: Icy trails and city streets when running or hiking.
Who’s It For: Winter runners, hikers and back-country skiers who want to add burly traction.
Boring But Important: Made of stainless steel for durability and weight reduction, it has 18 spikes for traction on ice and even pressure distribution. Welded chains withstand repeated torque, foot strikes and abuse on any ice and snow. I’ve covered about 15 miles on ice, concrete and rock and they show no signs of wear.
Important Specs: A size medium weighs 7.1 ounces per foot.
Made In: South Korea
Killer! A Velcro strap wraps over the top of the boot and really secures the crampons snugly. The super flexible rubber body of the crampon allowed it to fit over a wide range of footwear, from running shoes to heavy boots. They come with a nice heavy carry bag.
Flaw: While the company gives them a thumbs-up for backcountry skiing and glacier travel, they have shorter spikes than a full-on mountaineering crampon and do not have front points (which you would definitely not want for running).
First Impressions: Light, effective for winter hiking to running on ice and snow.
Who Should Buy It: Snowbound trail runners and others who want to cover icy miles on foot.
Contact Brand/More Beta: Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC