Winter is here, and the water is frozen underfoot. We pulled on a pair of these new spike-equipped ‘devices,’ made for flat ice and steep hills.
Traction on ice and snow via add-on products is not new. But this year Yaktrax bolsters the category of slip-on spikes with its Summit model.
Wear them with shoes or boots and you get 12 triangular, carbon-steel spikes sticking from each foot. They cut into ice, letting you run uninhibited on a hockey rink or frozen lake.
But flat ice is not the exclusive venue. The company made the Summits, $90, for their namesake destination — the top of mountain peaks.
Review: Yaktrax Summit
Unlike most Yaktrax models, which are designed for winter trails, the Summits can kick steps up steep snow. They have enough traction for glaciers and alpine ridges.
The spikes are 3/8-inch long, and the Summit has non-stick sole plates to shed snow underfoot.
Thin stainless-steel cable lacing and rubber yokes attach them to your shoes. A first this year, Yaktrax uses the twist-to-tighten BOA Technology closure to cinch them secure.
Off the foot, they are low-profile and light. They weigh about 10 ounces each and fold up small, fitting easily into a pocket once you hit pavement or trail.
Vs. Kahtoola Microspikes
The Summits are similar to the MICROspikes from Kahtoola, a $69.95 product that came out a few years ago. We have used the MICROspikes all over and trust their performance, including the rubbery “elastomer” harness, which hugs the foot.
The MICROspikes (and similar competing Hillsound Trail Crampons) have 12 stainless-steel spikes mounted on welded chains. They are about an ounce heavier than the Summits but compact about the same when off the foot.
The BOA closure system on the Yaktrax is a noticeable difference; they are slightly more secure than the elastomer harness used by Kahtoola, though we’ve never had an issue with the Kahtoolas coming off.
Another differentiator: Yaktrax includes plates underfoot, which may keep wet snow from sticking to your sole better than Kahtoola’s open chain. (We have not yet tested this scenario head-to-head.)
Flat Ice, Mountain Peaks
Years ago, I climbed Mount Rainier in Kahtoolas. The low-profile, flexible design allowed me to trade bulky boots for a pair of waterproof trail shoes.
I was faster and less fatigued over the 2-day climb than my partner, who wore traditional mountaineering crampons on his plastic boots.
A caveat: products like the Yaktrax Summit and MICROspikes will not work on technical climbs.
They have no front-facing points, which are needed on vertical snow and ice. They also don’t lock on like mountaineering crampons, which attach with wire bails and buckles.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Summits are overkill for a lot of uses. The spikes are too aggressive for running.
Places with mixed terrain, including rocks or pavement as well as ice, would be bad for the Summits. Look to Yaktrax’s lower-profile models in those situations.
But for peak-bagging, hiking on steep winter trails, or for use on glare ice, the Yaktrax Summits are a solution to staying upright, no matter what’s underfoot.