There are many varieties of winter traction devices on the market. Some utilize low-profile metal coils and others function like less aggressive ice climbing crampons. Whether you’re looking to safely walk the icy city streets or trail run through the frozen backcountry, there’s a traction device that matches your needs.
To develop this list, we tested a massive pile of options from brands including Yaktrax, Black Diamond, Kahoola, and Hillsound. After extensive field research involving hiking, running, and slip-sliding over all kinds of terrain, we’ve identified the top traction devices of 2023.
For additional help narrowing down your search, check out our buyer’s guide, FAQ, and comparison chart. Or, simply jump ahead to the category you’re looking for.
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023
- Best Overall Winter Traction Device: Kahtoola EXOspikes
- Best Budget Winter Traction Device: Yaktrax Pro Traction
- Best Ultralight Winter Traction Devices: Black Diamond Blitz Spike
- Best Winter Traction Devices for Technical Hiking: Hillsound Trail Crampon
- Best Winter Traction Devices for Runners: Korkers Ice Runner
- Weight per pair 7.3 oz. (medium)
- Traction Twelve tungsten carbide spikes
- Harness Lightweight elastic rubber with reinforced eyelets
- Best for Walking, hiking, and running on a variety of surfaces
- Secure fit
- Durable cleats don't wear down
- Grippy on various surfaces
- Not the most packable
Yaktrax Pro Traction
- Weight per pair 6.4 oz. (medium)
- Traction X-pattern of steel coils over rubber harness
- Harness Rubber with velcro strap
- Best for Walking, running, and hiking on moderate terrain
- Good value
- Traction system covers the entire underfoot area
- Low profile
- Not ideal for technical terrain
Black Diamond Blitz Spike
- Weight per pair About 3.2 oz. (medium)
- Traction Six 8 mm stainless steel spikes in the forefoot area
- Harness Rubber heel webbing loop and thin toe strap
- Best for Ultralight backpacking, light and fast technical winter travel
- Stuff sack included
- Only provides traction in the forefoot area
Hillsound Trail Crampon
- Weight per pair 1 lb. (medium)
- Traction 11 2/3" carbon steel spikes per crampon
- Harness Burly over-foot harness with velcro strap
- Best for Hiking on steep terrain
- Highly secure harness system
- Grippy on technical hiking terrain
- Good value
- Despite the name, these aren't technical crampons
Korkers Ice Runner
- Weight per pair 11 oz.
- Traction 22 replaceable carbide studs
- Harness Rubber underfoot platform and top plate with customizable BOA fit adjustment
- Best for Running in town and on moderate trails
- Secure fit
- Replaceable studs improve overall longevity
- Customizable fit
- Only compatible with running shoes
Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip
- Weight per pair 11.2 oz. (medium)
- Traction Free-spinning steel alloy beads slung on steel cable in the forefoot and heel
- Harness Thin elastic rubber with riveted eyelets
- Best for In-town use and semi-technical trails
- Innovative traction system
- Relatively packable
- Some users have reported durability issues
Winter Traction Device Comparison Table
|Traction Device||Price||Weight||Traction||Harness||Best for|
|$63||14.6 oz. (per pair, medium)||Twelve tungsten carbide spikes||Lightweight elastic rubber with reinforced eyelets||Walking, hiking, and running on a variety of surfaces|
|Yaktrax Pro |
|$34||12.8 oz. (per pair, medium)||Steel coils over rubber harness||Rubber with Velcro strap||Walking, running, and hiking on moderate terrain|
|$55||11.2 oz. (per pair, medium)||Free-spinning steel alloy beads slung on steel cable||Rubber strap||In-town use and semi-technical trails|
|Black Diamond |
|$50||3.2 oz. (per pair, medium)||Six 8 mm stainless steel spikes in the forefoot area||Rubber heel webbing loop and thin toe strap||Ultralight backpacking, light and fast winter travel|
|Hillsound Trail |
|$80||1 lb. (per pair, medium)||11 2/3″ carbon steel spikes per crampon||Burly over-foot harness with Velcro strap||Hiking on steep terrain|
|Korkers Ice |
|$70||11 oz. (per pair, medium)||22 replaceable steel carbide stud||Rubber underfoot platform and top plate with customizable BOA fit adjustment||Running in town and on moderate trails|
Why You Should Trust Us
The bulk of our winter traction device testing was conducted by Austin Beck-Doss during an exceptionally snowy Wyoming winter. Several times per week, Austin trekked up the side of a steep canyon through icy trail conditions. In town, Austin ran errands by foot, traversing sidewalks and streets that closely resembled ice rinks. The testing process had real implications — Austin was seeking the best devices to meet his actual day-to-day needs and avoid falling on his butt.
While testing, we paid careful attention to traction, fit, comfort, and versatility. We determined durability over multiple wears on various surfaces. Every pair of microspikes was assessed on their ability to grip snow, ice, and mud. We ran, hiked, and post-holed to find the best of the best.
As new traction devices hit the market, we’ll be sure to test a pair to see if they make the cut.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Winter Traction Devices
What Are Traction Devices and How Do They Work?
Most footwear isn’t designed for ice and snow-covered surfaces. Standard rubber-soled boots and shoes are no match for frosted sidewalks and frozen trails. In the cold climates of the northern United States and elsewhere, snow often covers the ground from November to May.
Winter traction devices — also known as ice cleats or microspikes — attach directly to a shoe or boot to bite onto slick surfaces and improve grip. Designs and intended applications vary, but all traction devices are meant to prevent slippage and improve safety.
Some traction devices on this list utilize a pattern of steel coils, while others have cleats or spikes. Every traction device utilizes some kind of harness to snugly attach to a boot or shoe. Traction devices are generally compatible with all kinds of footwear. Ultimately, any traction device is better than nothing, but some work better than others for certain applications.
Types of Traction: Coils vs. Studs vs Spikes
Traction devices rely on a variety of materials and designs to improve grip. The ubiquitous Yaktrax Pro Traction has a series of steel coils that run in an X-shaped pattern from toe to heel. While coils are a reliable option for non-technical everyday use, they aren’t as aggressive or biting as metal studs or spikes.
Studs — or cleats — are small metal points typically no thicker than the tip of a pen. These points are usually made from ultra-hard carbon steel compounds called carbide. They work exactly like football cleats, stabbing into the ice with every step. Studs are the preferred traction solution for runners, as they are lower profile and shallower than spikes. On this list, the Korkers Ice Runner utilizes replaceable steel carbide studs to great effect.
Teeth-shaped crampon-style spikes tend to be more aggressive than coils or studs. Steel spikes dig deep into the snow, ice, mud, and dirt. For steep technical hiking, spikes are the most secure choice. On this list, the Hillsound Trail Crampons are rugged spikes for serious winter hikes. They won’t work for climbing vertical terrain, but they’re great for trekking in the mountains.
Other Traction System Factors: Length and Number of Spikes/Studs
Traction devices with spikes aren’t automatically “better” than those with studs or coils. No matter which traction system you go with, consider the length, distribution, and total number of studs, spikes, or coils.
If pure traction is your priority, look for a device with coils, studs, or spikes across the entire underfoot area. Some styles, like the Black Diamond Blitz, only have spikes in the forefoot. While this minimalist design improves packability, it increases the potential of a slip and fall. Typically, 10-12 evenly distributed studs or spikes will provide the best grip and performance for winter walks and hikes. As for coils, the Yaktrax Pro features coils that stretch across the whole foot.
As for length, longer spikes and studs are more aggressive, which is helpful on steep and rough terrain. The most rugged traction devices have long spikes and a lot of them. Hillsound’s Trail Crampons have long 5/8″ spikes that did deep into snow and ice. Long spikes can be a nuisance for runners, as they tend to disrupt the user’s natural stride. For general use, the Kahtoola EXOspikes have shallow studs, which are sufficient for most users.
Casual In-Town Use vs. Hiking-Specific Traction Devices
In snowy cities like Duluth and Syracuse, a single step out the front door might require walking on ice or snow. If you need a traction device for everyday commutes to the grocery store or library, we recommend a pair with a less-aggressive non-performance-oriented tread pattern. The Yaktrax Pro is a tried-and-true low-profile option that you can hardly feel when it’s strapped on your shoes. It’s perfect for flat surfaces, and it won’t break the bank.
If you live in a hilly area and require something with a bit more bite, the Icetrekkers Diamond Grip is a great middle ground. Its free-spinning steel beads are more aggressive than the basic Yaktrax coils, but they’re still relatively lightweight and unobtrusive. For occasional short hikes on unpaved trails, these ICEtrekkers are fully capable.
The next step up is the hiking category. Traction devices like the Hillsound Trail Crampon have many long, sharp spikes that dig into the ground underfoot like an ice axe. Aggressive hiking designs are best suited for semi-steep unmaintained trails. Longer spikes tend to be heavier, and they do impact your natural gait, but they’re absolutely essential on slick, high-consequence terrain.
Traction devices use harnesses to remain firmly fixed to the user’s foot. Typically, harnesses are made from rubber or a rubber-plastic compound, which has elastic qualities and holds up to abuse. With that said, some harnesses are more durable than others, and they tend to be the first component to fall apart. A good well-fitted harness keeps the underfoot traction system from sliding around.
On this list, the Hillsound Train Crampons have a durable harness that is both secure and lightweight. It’s easy to put on and take off with its sizable pull tab, and the eyelets that hold the traction system are thick and reinforced. On the other end of the spectrum, the ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip has a semi-thin standard rubber harness that feels less durable.
While most harnesses simply stretch around the outside of a shoe’s sole, some are more advanced. The Korkers Ice Runner uses a BOA adjustment system to fully sandwich the foot between two contoured plates. The resulting fit is exceptionally secure — which is exactly what runners need.
Some traction devices weigh as little as 4 ounces per pair, while some of the beefier hiking styles can weigh as much as 12 ounces. Naturally, minimalist options like the Black Diamond Blitz Spikes weigh very little, and the aggressive Hillsound Trail Crampons are relatively hefty.
As weight increases, so do durability and overall grip. More spikes and thicker harnesses improve performance, but the ounces do add up. For everyday comfort, it’s nice to stick to lighter options. On this list, Kahtoola’s EXOspikes weigh just 7.3 ounces per pair — an excellent middle ground of weight and all-around performance.
Packability is a concern for outdoorsy folks who will need to carry their microspikes when they’re not in use. Backpackers should check out Black Diamond’s minimal Blitz Spikes — which pack down to the size of an apple and weigh less than an iPhone.
Rugged models like the Hillsound Trail Crampons aren’t very packable, but that’s the price you pay for long spikes and a heavy-duty harness.
Every brand of traction devices will offer a size guide that will help you identify the right fit. In our experience, these guides are accurate. If you’re seeking a precise fit for running or technical hiking, look for a model with a customizable harness such as the Korkers Ice Runner.
In extremely cold temperatures, rubber traction device harnesses can become brittle and snap. All of the recommendations on this list are built to handle freezing temperatures, and most users will not encounter an issue.
However, If you plan to use your microspikes in the artic tundra, for example, it’s worth checking the temperature rating. On this list, the Kahtoola EXOspikes are rated to -22 degrees Fahrenheit and the Yaktrax Pro can withstand temps down to -41.
Traction Devices vs. Crampons and Snowshoes
Winter traction devices are different from crampons and snowshoes. Crampons are designed for technical climbing, and snowshoes are designed for preventing post-holing when walking on accumulated snow. The traction devices on this list offer neither of those benefits.
If you’re seeking gear for technical ascents, look for a pair of bonified crampons. If you need a wider platform for staying afloat in soft snow, check out our favorite snowshoes of 2023.
Prices vary, but winter traction devices are quite affordable. For a simple pair for in-town use, expect to pay between $20 and $50. For a more capable hiking pair, you’ll be looking at $40 to $75. On this list, the Yaktrax Pro ($35) offers outstanding value.
When not in use, keep your microspikes clean, dry, and above freezing. If they’ve become caked in mud, give them a quick rinse before storing them away. An entryway shoe cubby is the perfect storage spot.
Some icy surfaces are naturally gripper than others, but in any case, traction devices are a great idea. Many people go without microspikes for their whole lives without issue, but wearing a pair certainly decreases the risk of injury. Often, once a person wears a pair for the first time, they realize the immense benefits and never go back.
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