First Look: Lightweight 'Running Crampons'

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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.

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A test run on icy roads

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.

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Testing the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra (left) against Kahtoola Microspikes

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.

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The Gear: Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra

Price: $69.00

Available: Now

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.

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The Hillsounds come with a 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

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Posted by tom - 12/15/2013 10:29 AM

So it’s a blatant ripoff of a US product that only adds a cheap velcro strap that doesn’t do much. Why do you hate America?

Posted by Sean McCoy - 12/15/2013 10:02 PM

Tom, Kahtoola Microspikes are also made in Korea.

Posted by Alex - 12/15/2013 10:24 PM

I bought a pair of these and they work well. Had them for a year and use them to climb a very steep trail to get to work that often gets icey. Located in Vermont. They are easy to take on and off but I find when I am on my toes ascending this steep slope (30%) the front part of the crampons tend to drift slowly to the outside of my hiking boots and i have to eventually correct them. The trail is only about an 1/8th of a mile and i usually have to realign the crampons one to two times.

Posted by Paul - 12/15/2013 10:26 PM

A timely review. I lost one of my crampons on a hike today on a series of ice and rock scrambles. I didn’t notice it immediately and couldn’t find it later. I had just bought them this morning :-(
The Velcro straps on the model you reviewed seem like they would help me not lose another pair! I know what I’ll be buying soon. Thanks for your helpful review.

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