9 Best Microspikes For Hiking in 2022

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9 Best Microspikes For Hiking in 2022

Hiking in the winter is a beautiful and sublime experience. It can also be dangerous if you’re not prepared. Without the proper grip, you could slip, trip, and slide your way to injury. Microspikes are the perfect traction device to keep you upright and uninjured.

In the guide below, we’ll take you through the 9 best hiking microspikes available today. Armed with one of these options, you’ll be able to grip snowy and icy trails while appreciating the understated beauty of winter hiking.

Our Review Process

After decades of hiking and mountaineering, I have developed a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of outdoor travel. I’m here to share that knowledge with you.

If you live near snowy climates or expect to do any winter hiking, a pair of spikes needs to be on your radar. Microspikes encompass the wide category between regular boots and crampons, perfect for icy winter hikes and mountain ascents.

Microspikes are great. Their grip holds you in place on icy terrain, their lightweight and compact nature makes storage easy, and they help you reach places that would otherwise be off-limits until the spring or summer. Microspike traction devices help turn seasonal hikers into year-round adventurers.

Kahtoola MICROspikes

Best Overall Hiking Microspikes

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - Kahtoola MICROspikes
Pros

Excellent traction

Durable design

Secure fit on any footwear

Backcountry capable

Packs down well

Cons

Too aggressive for light snow

Heavier

When people think of microspikes, this is usually the first model that comes to mind. A relatively new player in winter traction devices, Kahtoola has made a series of superb products. The MICROspikes are their most popular offering for many reasons.

The spike layout is a highlight. There are 12 steel spikes connected via stainless steel chains that provide superior traction in snowy and icy conditions. The durable design, secure fit, and packability make this the standard for microspikes.

Kahtoola MICROspikes have two small negatives. The spikes are heavier than other models. In addition, the aggressive design isn’t the best for light snow or urban settings.

If you're an avid hiker in need of a durable and well-made traction device, Kahtoola MICROspikes are the best hiking microspikes out there.

Kahtoola MICROspikes

YakTrax Walk

Best Budget Hiking Microspikes

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - YakTrax Walk
Pros

Budget-friendly

Easy to put on

Great for urban settings

Secure fit

Cons

Poor grip in deep snow

Not aggressive enough for backcountry travel

The YakTrax Walk is my choice for the best budget microspikes. The design features a series of stainless steel coils wrapped around thin rubber tubing. The coils dig into the ground and perform well on light snow, ice, dirt, and even rocks.

In most cases, the YakTrax Walk isn't aggressive enough for the backcountry. They also don’t perform well in deep snow.

These YakTrax slip on easily, fit securely, and work well for everyday work or walks after light snow and ice. If deeper winter conditions persist, something more aggressive may work better.

YakTrax Walk

Hillsound Trail Crampons

Most Rugged Microspike

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - Hillsound Trail Crampons
Pros

Great for deep snow hikes

Rugged design

Excellent traction

Good for steeper terrain

Cons

Bulky and heavy

Not for running or urban environments

Despite their name, the Hillsound Trail Crampons are closer to microspikes in design and function. They have an elastomer harness and chain-linked carbon steel spikes. Plus, while there are two small plates, they are not connected via a metal rod like the plates on crampons are.

Many microspikes excel in snowy and icy conditions, but few can handle deeper snow. With a rugged design, large spikes, and aggressive traction, this is where the Hillsound Trail Crampons shine.

Compared to other microspikes, the Hillsound Trail Crampons are bulky and heavy. But if you know you’re dealing with deep snow, this is the set of microspikes you want.

Hillsound Trail Crampons

Kahtoola EXOspikes

Best Hiking Microspikes For Trail Running

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - Kahtoola EXOspikes
Pros

Versatile

Sheds snow easily

Decent traction for light or packed snow

Flexible underfoot

Cons

Not great for deep snow/ice

They don’t pack down as well

The EXOspikes are a jack of all trades model. They sit between the more aggressive Kahtoola MICROspikes and the lighter NANOspikes.

This is the best model for winter trail running or ultralight hiking on thin snow or ice. The EXO has good versatility, flexibility, and plenty of traction.

Like many similar models, the EXOs don’t perform well in deep snow or ice. The EXOs also don’t pack down as well as the MICROs. If you’re out trail running with a hip pouch or small pack, that could be an issue.

Kahtoola EXOspikes

Kahtoola NANOspikes

Best Microspikes for Urban Running

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - Kahtoola NANOspikes
Pros

Lightweight

Great for packed snow/thin ice

Secure fit

Good traction for flats

Cons

Not great in deep snow

Can’t handle thick ice

The NANOspikes are my choice for the best urban running microspike. These traction devices attach easily, feature 10 small metal points that break up thin ice, and are very lightweight.

This is the best pair of spikes if you want to run after a light freeze or snow event on paved paths, boardwalks, or roads. They can also grip mixed terrain well.

The lightweight design and small metal points don't do much for deep snow. The NANOs also can’t handle thicker ice like the EXOs and MICROs can, limiting their use for the backcountry.

Kahtoola NANOspikes

YakTrax Pro

Most Durable Hiking Microspikes

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - YakTrax Pro
Pros

Great traction

Good Price

Awesome Durability

Easy fit

Additional straps

Cons

Poor in deep snow

Uncomfortable for running

This burlier offering from YakTrax has a budget-friendly price, reliable traction, and slips on easily. The additional straps are a nice touch and help cinch the device to your shoe.

The Pro performs well across multiple surfaces and varied terrain. Like the YakTrax Walk, they have steel-plated coils around a rubber tubing that provides traction.

I found that the YakTrax Pro doesn’t handle well in thick snow. Additionally, the coil design makes it uncomfortable to run in. They are one of the best hiking microspikes for frontcountry and backcountry terrain with light to medium snow/ice.

YakTrax Pro

Black Diamond Distance

Easiest-To-Carry Microspikes

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - Black Diamond Distance
Pros

Packs down small

Lightweight

Good traction for soft surfaces

Great for endurance hikes

Cons

Expensive

Poor deep snow performance

The Black Diamond Distance Spikes are the easiest to carry microspikes. They pack down small, are lightweight, and offer good traction on softer surfaces. For shallow snow, dirt, and rocks, they perform admirably.

Like other models, the Black Diamond Distance Spikes don’t perform well in thick snow or ice. Their durability in the backcountry is questionable and for what you get, the price is a little higher than I’d expect.

Still, with great packability, the Distance Spikes are good for endurance adventures.

Black Diamond Distance

Unigear Traction Cleats

Best of the Rest

My winner
9 Best Microspikes For Hiking (2022) - Unigear Traction Cleats
Pros

Aggressive traction

Durable build

Secure fit

Budget-friendly

Handles deep snow well

Cons

Heavy

Poorer performance on thick ice

The Unigear Traction Cleats are the second-best hiking microspikes for deeper snow. The aggressive spikes are fantastic, fit securely on most footwear, and handle snow well. Unigear Traction Cleats are also affordable.

Compared to the Hillsound Trail Crampon, the spikes are smaller and won’t be as supportive on steeper slopes. The Traction Cleats are also heavier and don’t handle thick ice well.

Unigear Traction Cleats

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Crampons vs. Microspikes

Crampons and microspikes are both used to provide extra traction on snow and ice. The differences between them lie primarily in design.

Crampons are burly, with two steel plates connected by a metal bar and large, aggressive spikes. Crampons provide excellent traction for snow and ice climbing on steep terrain (45 degrees and higher). Some Crampons work with hiking boots and running shoes, but many require mountaineering boots to attach to and are meant for technical terrain.

Microspikes have smaller spike points and an elastomer harness that slips around your hiking boots. They are generally used for flatter terrain and gentle snow and ice slopes. Microspikes are also more flexible, pack down smaller, and weigh less.

Want to know more about whether you need crampons or microspikes? Check out our in-depth comparison of crampons vs. microspikes.

When To Use Microspikes

Microspikes are versatile. They can be used for various tasks in slippery conditions. Some models work best in casual urban environments, while others are designed to perform on trails and in the backcountry.

Generally speaking, microspikes are best for generating additional traction on ice and snow. They slip on easily and offer a way to grip trails and road surfaces with gentle pitches.

However, microspikes also have limits. Even the most aggressive microspikes will have trouble holding onto slopes steeper than about 25 degrees.

Some spikes work well on dirt, especially those designed to be worn for running. However, repeated use on rocks and dirt will dull the spikes. The best way to keep microspikes fresh is to limit their use to snow, ice, or softer surfaces.

Hiking Microspikes Buying Guide

When shopping for the best hiking microspikes, keep the following points in mind.

Price

Most microspikes cost less than $100. Budget-friendly spikes can cost a fifth of that, but will likely sacrifice a bit of durability in their construction. You can usually find a versatile, well-performing set of spikes for $20-$75.

Materials

Microspikes have elastic bands that slip over the outside of your shoe. Some models have stainless steel spikes or steel-plated coils that create their grip. The lightweight options often use tungsten carbide points. In all cases, the rubber and elastic help microspikes pack down small and makes them lighter than crampons.

Traction

Not all microspikes perform the same when it comes to traction. Heavier options with larger spikes will provide traction across more varied terrain, but they may not fit onto trail runners. Lightweight options have smaller studs or coils that can provide traction on ice. However, coils don’t perform well on challenging terrain with layers of snow or thick ice.

Think about what type of terrain you're going to put your microspikes through. An aggressive design is best for challenging trail conditions and winter hikes. A lighter setup for running shoes is best for city streets and crossing small sections of icy surfaces.

Durability

Since you’re going to use microspikes primarily in winter conditions, you want a pair of microspikes that won’t break easily. Durability revolves around how quickly the spikes dull over time and how strong the elastic is. If an elastomer harness breaks, the whole apparatus won’t work. Customer reviews and independent research will help shed light on how durable a pair of microspikes is over time.

Sizing and Ease of Use

The best hiking microspikes benefit from an easy slip-on design. You pull the harness around the hiking shoes you're wearing and snap it into place. Some models come with an additional velcro strap for a more precise fit. There are also some heavier models like the Hillsound Trail Crampon that are tougher to slip on.

Because of the elastomer and rubberized pieces, microspikes fit various foot sizes. Regardless, check each model before buying, as the elasticity only applies to a certain foot range. If you have very large or small feet, pay attention to how sizes are grouped.

Weight and Packability

Reduced weight is a major advantage to using microspikes over traditional crampons. Per pair, the selections in this guide run from 5 oz for the YakTrax Walk to 16.6 oz for the Unigear Traction Cleats.

Another factor to consider is microspike packability. How much space do they take up in your pack? A rugged microspike won't pack down as small as a trail running variety.

Summary

The best hiking microspikes are the Kahtoola MICROspikes. The best trail running microspikes are the Kahtoola EXOspikes, and the best for urban running are the Kahtoola NANOspikes.

If you need a pair of microspikes that can handle lots of snow and provide excellent traction, try the Hillsound Trail Crampons. Conversely, if you need a lighter pair for urban activities, the YakTrax Walks are great budget microspikes.

Common questions

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I’m happiest on long backpacking trips into little-known pockets of wilderness, skiing down backcountry mountains, and on all-fours, scrambling the rocky spines of alpine ridges. When I'm not adventuring in the outdoors, I'm most likely writing about them.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.

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