Winter Traction Guide

A pair of running shoes in the snow with Yaktrax Run traction devices on them

Don’t let ice get you down this winter!

Most of us who work here at 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, or a hiker who’s looking to conquer mountains all season long.

They’ve 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!

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:

Yaktrax Walker

Image of yaktrax walker traction device

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

Image of yaktrax pro traction device

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.

Walk

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:

Kahtoola Microspikes

An image of red kahtoola microspikes

Since they first appeared on the market, Kahtoola’s MICROspikes have been the more aggressive, trail-worthy competitor 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 FreeSteps 6

An image of the Hillsound Freestep 6 traction device

The FreeSteps 6 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 FreeSteps 6 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.

Hillsound Trail Crampons

An image of the Hillsound Trail Crampons

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.

Traction for Winter Running

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.

Yaktrax Run

An image of the Yaktrax Run winter traction device

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

An image of Kahtoola's 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!

Kahtoola EXOspikes

An image of Kahtoola's EXOspikes

Think of the Kahtoola EXOspikes as an extra-rugged version of their NANOspikes, tailored specifically toward light hiking and trail running. With a burly and novel TPU matrix constructon that’s both lighter than steel and highly abrasion-resistant, aluminum steps to grip uneven surfaces, and tungsten-carbide tips that bite into ice and hard-packed snow, the EXOspikes are ushering in the next generation of winter traction devices. Plus, their TPE elastomer harness stays flexible and easy to put on footwear down to -22° Fahrenheit!

Sizing for winter traction traction

Each brand has a size chart for their traction models, which we have included on their product pages on our website. 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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