Winter Traction Guide

Don’t let ice get you down this winter!

Most of us who work here at the Outdoor Gear Exchange have worked with a customer who fears navigating icy streets, a runner who wants to continue getting out when the snow falls, a hiker who’s looking to conquer mountains all season long.

They have often tried using boots with grippier rubber or more deeply lugged treads, only to find that on pure ice, nothing gave them the security that they wanted. Luckily, there are a variety of footwear accessories available to provide traction on icy streets and trails. This guide will help you decide which one is right for you!

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Basic traction for around town-

The most basic traction category is intended for the average person who needs a bit of extra grip on icy sidewalks and streets when walking to work, around town while shopping and going to dinner, or from the car to the ski lodge on the weekends. These pull-over style traction systems often fit easily over casual shoes and are low profile enough as to not create pressure points when walking on hard surfaces covered with thin ice. The following basic traction products are ideal for casual winter walkers, outdoor workers (construction workers, ski lift operators, etc.) and occasional winter hikers:

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Yaktrax Walker:

The Yaktrax Walker is the classic basic traction system to keep you on your feet even when everything turns to ice! Featuring an injection-molded elastomer upper that stretches over any boot or shoe, the Walker will stay in place so that once you’ve pulled it on, you won’t have to worry about it. Additionally, rust-proof and wear-resistant steel coils give you the 360-degree grip that you need on ice and snow!

Yaktrax Pro:

Like the popular Yaktrax Walker model, the Yaktrax Pro features a stretchy elastomer upper, combined with durable steel coils underfoot. Where the Pro differs from the Walker is in a velcro strap across the top of the foot, which secures the upper over the shoe so that it won’t slide off and the coils will stay in place. This is a particularly useful feature in deep snow, where the Walker could get pulled off.

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Kako Ice Chains:

An alternative to the Yaktrax are the Kako Ice Chains. The Kako Ice Chains feature a similar stretchy upper that will stay tight on your boots or shoes, but with steel linked chains that cover the foot instead of coils and are secured to the upper by a substantial welt. While the Kako Chains will perform similarly to the Yaktrax models on ice, the advantage of an all-metal chain under the foot is durability. The Chains won’t wear out quickly and can easily be cleaned of salt or dirt.

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Grippy spikes for hikes and trails-

During fall or spring months, as well as mild winters, there comes a time when trails and mountains take on a sheet of ice, yet there isn’t enough snow for snowshoes. Traction systems that feature significantly more aggressive, sharp spikes are ideal for winter and cold weather hiking.  The following styles of aggressive, spiky traction is perfect for winter hikers, ice fishermen, and people who work outside in variable terrain:

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Kahtoola MICROspikes:

Since they first appeared on the market Kahtoola’s MICROspikes have been the more aggressive, trail-worthy brother to the original Yaktrax. Featuring 1 cm long spikes supported by chains, all made from highly durable stainless steel, MICROspikes can handle thick glare-ice anywhere from a sidewalk to a steep mountain trail. The upper is stretchy but substantial and durable. MICROspikes are the benchmark in this category for durability, traction, and reliability. Throw on a pair of MICROspikes for your favorite winter hike this year!

Hillsound FreeSteps6:

The FreeSteps6 from Hillsound are similar in design to Kahtoola’s MICROspikes . They feature stainless steel spike groupings, held in place by stainless steel chains and attached to a rubber upper. The FreeSteps6 are great for ice fishing, hunting and hiking on flat trails since they have slightly shorter spikes (compared to MICROspikes), which are less cumbersome on harder surfaces, but have less traction when walking on steeper terrain.

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ICEtrekkers Diamond Grips:

ICEtrekkers took a different approach to traction with the Diamond Grips. With a design similar to the popular ICEtrekkers chains, but with a series of steel alloy spiked beads threaded on steel aircraft cable, the Diamond Grips provide multi-directional grip. These are the lowest-profile traction devices in this group, but also the sharpest! Diamond Grips are perfect for ice fishing and light winter hiking and excellent for walking around town. Compared to others in this category, the spikes on Diamond Grips are relatively short, so on steep trails they won’t penetrate deep enough to provide significant purchase, yet these are by far the most versatile town-to-trail traction option available!

Hillsound Trail Crampon:

The Trail Crampon from Hillsound combines the same rubber upper featured on other models in this category, but with a substantial, miniature crampon-style spike pattern. The Trail Crampon utilizes plates on the forefoot and heel for rigidity and stability, with aggressive 1.6 cm stainless steel spikes that penetrate into thick ice and mixed snowy slop. the Trail crampon also features a forefoot strap to hold the upper in place on a boot for added security. If you want a more aggressive traction system for winter hiking and light glacier travel, the Hillsound Trail Crampon is a great option.

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Specialty traction-

Winter traction is also essential for runners who love to get out on their favorite trails during the winter, or who want to run on the road once the snowfalls. These traction systems designed to work with light running shoes and provide exceptional grip in targeted, running specific areas.

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Yaktrax Run:

Yaktrax took their winter walking expertise and tailored it to running with Yaktrax Run. Featuring the classic Yaktrax steel coils on the heel, combined with carbide steel spikes in the forefoot, Yaktrax Run traction provides excellent grip when moving fast across ice streets and trails. Yaktrax Run also has an anatomical design with a specific left and right shape. Additionally, the upper has been redesigned for running, with a snug toe that won’t shift as well as reflective features for visibility.

Kahtoola NANOspikes:

For a more minimalist approach, Kahtoola’s NANOspikes are an ultralight, low-profile traction system. Featuring rubber panels that cover the heel and toe, impregnated with carbide spikes for excellent traction and grip, as well as a running shoe-specific upper that hugs the foot, NANOspikes are a great option for winter running on the road or trails!

Sizing for traction-

Each brand has a size chart for their traction models, which we have included on the product pages on GearX.com. Typically, each size covers a range of shoe sizes. If you are planning on wearing your traction with a hiking boot or insulated winter boot, add a full shoe size to your street shoe size when reading these sizing charts. If you are between sizes, opt for the larger sized traction model to accommodate boots. If you have the right size, the stretchy upper should be snug, but not constricting and the spikes or traction pattern on bottom should line up properly with your heel and forefoot.

Now that you know how to prevent slipping with these traction recommendations, we hope you have fun winter adventuring when the snow starts to fly!

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