EXOspikes_Photo by Beth Price Photography
Photo credit: Beth Price Photography

All-Terrain Traction: Kahtoola EXOspikes Boast Road-to-Trail Grip

Traction spikes help hikers and runners find their footing in wintry conditions, and that extra confidence can help tackle bigger goals. However, the traction options for hiking and running have mostly been mission-specific — until now.

With the EXOspikes, Kahtoola bridges its road and trail winter traction devices with a hybrid of both. These are dying for the Goldilocks analogy, and well, that was the goal. The brand’s designers worked from customer feedback (or demands) for a traction device they could keep on from the front door to the trail and back.

After more than 50 iterations, Kahtoola’s team developed a new device to keep up on a variety of surfaces for running and hiking. That means you spend less time taking the EXOspikes on and off.

See the new Kahtoola EXOspikes

MICROspikes; photo credit: Kenneth J. Hamilton
Two adventurers utilize MICROspikes for traction on rough, wintery terrain; photo credit: Kenneth J. Hamilton Photography

In short, Kahtoola made the EXOspikes to meet the demands of wintry roads and trails. The short spikes are for digging into ice or packed snow, aluminum steps are for gripping uneven surfaces, and the TPU lugs are for traction in soft snow or mud.

To get to this point, Kahtoola designers developed and tested dozens of prototypes. Af first, it meant finding the right mix of traction and support underfoot. Then it was a matter of balancing durability, comfort, and on-trail performance.

In the end, the technical qualities of available materials guided designers’ troubleshooting and, ultimately, provided the mix of a stretchy harness with firmer lugs and tungsten carbide spikes. Like sneaker-hikers, the EXOspikes are cross-terrain hybrids.


Kahtoola ExoSpikes

How the EXOspikes Are Different

Let’s start with the 12 integrated spikes, targeted for greater traction at the toe, forefoot, and heel. Each spike uses tungsten carbide tips to bite into snow or packed ice.

To hold them in place, Kahtoola claims an “industry-first TPU Traction Matrix” that is more lightweight and abrasion-resistant than steel and flexes to fit different footwear without also collecting clumps of snow. Reinforced eyelets add strength to the anchor points, so the rest of the harness can be more lightweight. The same tech is used around the toe to keep the shoe’s toe from pushing through the front of the harness. 

A thermoplastic elastomer harness is shaped to make getting them on easier and fit closer to shoes. Kahtoola says the material will retain its stretch in temperatures down to -22 degrees F.

Kahtoola EXOspikes Specs & Pricing

  • 12 tungsten carbide tips
  • TPE elastomer harness
  • TPU Traction Matrix 
  • Integrated toe bail
  • Raised heel tab
  • Price: $60

Hike, Run, or Both

Yes, the EXOspikes mix elements of the MICROspikes and NANOspikes, so users don’t need to choose between them — or pack both. Yet there are still scenarios where users will prefer the more specialized traction devices.

MICROspikes are the brand’s original design and have been lauded by outdoor publications for years. Designers put a dozen steel spikes under the footbed and heel for the main traction. The connecting steel chains are for added grip in snow. Additionally, the chains can fold over and pack down into a pack pocket between uses.

For running, Kahtoola took a different approach. NANOspikes have a lower profile, using small carbide spikes to stab icy roads. Designers gave them a TPU traction plate to dampen the impact of foot strikes and get a grip on dry and slick surfaces.

If your adventure starts and ends at the trailhead, it makes sense to get the hiking-minded MICROspikes. Likewise, winter runners who stick to roads may prefer the shallower depth of the NANOspikes to feel more connected to slippery asphalt.

The big breakthrough is for the yes-and crowd — trail runners and hikers seeking performance on variable terrain. That can mean shifting from snowy sidewalks to trails in the woods or a hike along a switchback that is frozen in the shade and muddy in sunnier sections. If you want one traction device that can perform and withstand multiples uses, the EXOspikes were made for you.

See the new Kahtoola EXOspikes

NANOspikes_Photo by Beth Price Photography
A runner uses the NANOspikes for added traction around Chicago’s frozen shore; photo credit: Beth Price Photography

This article is sponsored by Kahtoola. Learn more about the EXOspikes and other winter traction options here.