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Skyblue Guide to Choosing a Traction Device

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Our favorite microspikes, crampons and snowshoes. Whether wandering beneath the hills admiring their white coats or heading up the mountains to tackle their icy challenges, come winter you’ll need something to boost the traction of your boots.

During the summer and autumn months, you may be an experienced hiker and climber, capable of conquering even the most challenging rocky trails. But when winter arrives, it’s crucial to have the appropriate footwear and traction devices to safely traverse over packed snow and icy terrain.

No matter how durable your winter boots may be, they will most likely require traction devices for optimal grip. With a variety of options on the market, it is important to determine which type best suits your planned outdoor activities. Options range from coiled devices that can be attached to any shoe, to sharp 10-point crampons specifically designed for challenging winter mountaineering. When considering traction devices, it is crucial to consider the terrain you will be traversing or climbing through.

Embarking on a winter hike is an exhilarating adventure, but one that requires careful attention to your footwear. The decision between Microspikes, Crampons, and Snowshoes hinges on various factors. With their effortless and lightweight design, Microspikes are perfect for well-maintained trails dotted with icy patches. For more challenging terrain such as technical ice and steep mountains, Crampons offer unrivaled traction.

And when faced with deep snow, Snowshoes are the ultimate choice, evenly distributing your weight and preventing you from sinking in. Before setting off on your thrilling winter excursion, carefully consider the demands of the trail, the terrain, and your own expertise to ensure a safe and unforgettable journey.


Microspikes are compact traction devices that can easily be slipped onto your boots to improve traction on slippery and icy surfaces. They can be worn with mountaineering or regular snow boots, making them a versatile choice for winter hiking on well-maintained trails. With small spikes attached to a flexible harness, they provide extra grip without requiring any special skills. Their user-friendly design allows for easy application and removal, ensuring a hassle-free experience during your icy expeditions.

Microspikes are typically a popular choice for winter hiking when icy conditions are present. Whether you’re trekking through snowy trails or facing packed snow, Microspikes offer the added grip necessary for stability. They are especially useful on less challenging terrains, providing convenience and adaptability. When the trail shifts between clear paths and icy areas, Microspikes become invaluable in confidently navigating the changing conditions.

As the winter season blankets trails with ice and snow, maintaining stability is crucial for a pleasant hiking experience. The key to avoiding slips and falls is having the right footwear. Microspikes are renowned for their effectiveness and simplicity on icy surfaces. For more challenging conditions, such as technical ice or steep mountains, crampons offer the necessary grip. And when facing long snowy trails, snowshoes provide a better option to stay above the surface and avoid fatigue. Regardless of the terrain, careful consideration of your footwear will allow you to confidently explore the winter wonderland without compromising safety. Now let’s delve into which type of gear is best suited for different terrains and trails.

Kahtoola NANOspikes Traction System
The Kahtoola NANOspikes are lightweight winter traction devices with redesigned features for improved grip on ice and snow. Featuring concave tungsten carbide spikes, center plate ridges, and a low-profile design for comfort. Inspired by Kahtoola's MICROspikes and EXOspikes, they have an integrated toe bail and secure fit.
Price: $54.95
Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System
Kahtoola MICROspikes fit easily on most shoes, providing unbeatable traction on icy trails. Each foot has 12 durable stainless-steel spikes and secure toe bails. The harnesses are made of thermoplastic elastomer and withstand freezing temperatures. Compact and convenient, with heel tabs for quick removal. Tote sack included.
Price: $74.95
Kahtoola EXOspikes Traction System
Kahtoola EXOspikes: the perfect solution for trail runners and hikers navigating icy and snowy terrain. With a mix of NANOspikes® and MICROspikes® materials, 12 integrated spikes per foot provide superior traction. The lightweight TPU Traction Matrix is reinforced at stress points and remains stretchy in extreme temperatures. Includes tote sack. 40% lighter than MICROspikes.
Price: $64.95
Black Diamond Distance Spike
The Distance Spike by Black Diamond is the ultimate trail running traction device for efficient mountain travel. Its hybrid upper combines a softshell toe cover and heel retention elastomer, providing a snug fit, packability, and snow protection. Weighing only 115 grams, it boasts 14 optimized 8mm spikes made of stainless steel for superb grip on varied terrain.
Price: $99.95
Black Diamond Access Spike
Black Diamond's Access Spike is a versatile traction device for all types of trails. With 14 optimized spikes, stainless steel construction, and a full elastomer harness, it offers superior grip on snow, ice, rocks, and more. The heel loop makes it easy to put on and identify the correct fit.
Price: $79.95



Crampons are a type of metal spikes that can be attached to your boots, providing increased grip and stability on surfaces covered in snow and ice. These essential tools are used for various activities, including mountaineering, winter hiking, and ice climbing. Crampons come in different variations, with varying numbers and shapes of points, types of bindings, and materials used in their construction.

The specific type of crampon you need will depend on the activity and terrain you are navigating. For example, if you are walking on flat or gentle slopes, 8 to 10 points may suffice, but steep ice climbing would require crampons with 14 or more points. Additionally, strap-on bindings may be suitable for flexible boots, while step-in bindings are necessary for rigid boots. Crampons are typically made of either steel or aluminum, with steel being more durable but heavier compared to the lighter aluminum option.

Kahtoola KTS Hiking Crampons
Conquer any winter hike with our versatile crampons. Collapsible, adjustable design for easy packing. LeafSpring® Flex Bar allows foot and ankle movement, while 10 steel spikes provide stability on ice and snow. Folding heel bail and replaceable snow release skins for added convenience. Independent binding system for natural flexibility.
Price: $169.95
Kahtoola K10 Hiking Crampons
K10™ offers a simple Quick-Fit Binding System and patented LeafSpring® Flex Bar tech, allowing for easy on-and-off and maximum comfort. 10 steel spikes provide stability and traction on ice and snow. Independent buckle closures and replaceable snow release skins increase range of motion.
Price: $119.95



Snowshoes are a unique type of footwear designed specifically for walking on snow without sinking or struggling. Their broad, flat shape evenly distributes your weight across the snowy surface, while bindings secure them to your boots and crampons provide traction on slick surfaces. Whether you’re hiking, exploring, or even running across snow-covered terrain, snowshoes can make it easier and more enjoyable. When choosing a pair, consider factors such as your weight, the type of snow you’ll be traversing, and the difficulty of the terrain ahead.

MSR Lightning™ Ascent Snowshoes
MSR's Lightning Ascent snowshoes have ultralight and aggressive performance, now with the Paragon™ binding for secure and comfortable fit. The 360 Traction™ Frames give unparalleled grip, while the ballistic-grade decking ensures durability. For steep climbs, use the Ergo Televator heel lifts for support.
Price: $389.95
MSR Revo™ Ascent Snowshoes
MSR's Revo Ascent snowshoes have a durable design for tough terrain and the new Paragon™ binding offers maximum foot control. The glove-like fit eliminates pressure points and the ExoTract™ deck provides reliable traction with external steel teeth. With Ergo Televators and Flotation Tails, these snowshoes can take you anywhere.
Price: $319.95


Choosing a Traction Device

Microspikes are great for flat, icy terrains

When traversing flatter terrains with icy patches, microspikes offer superior grip. Ideal for smooth trails and leisurely winter hikes, these lightweight traction devices provide the necessary traction without adding extra weight or complexity. Their user-friendly design makes them a top choice for those seeking a dependable solution without requiring specialized skills. For a secure and comfortable journey through areas with occasional icy spots but mostly flat terrain, microspikes are the perfect option.

Crampons are the best choice for steep, icy trails and technical climbs

When the trail becomes steep and covered in ice, and your adventure requires technical climbs, Crampons are the ideal choice. With their sturdy design and sharp spikes, Crampons excel in providing grip on challenging slopes and icy surfaces. Whether you’re an experienced ice climber seeking precision or a mountaineer tackling icy peaks, Crampons offer the necessary traction for a safe and successful climb. The adjustable feature of Crampons allows for a personalized fit, ensuring stability on a variety of terrains. If your winter journey involves navigating steep slopes or scaling icy cliffs, Crampons should be your trusted partner for a reliable and secure ascent.

Snowshoes are great for hiking in powdery or deep snow

When hiking in powdery or deep snow conditions, snowshoes can be valuable companions. They are strapped to the feet and worn over regular winter boots or shoes. These handy tools help distribute weight and increase surface area, preventing you from sinking into deep drifts. With snowshoes, it’s easier to explore snowy trails or create your own path through icy terrain. They provide much-needed flotation for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Snowshoeing is an excellent choice for low-impact exercise when navigating mainly snowy terrain, giving each step stability and confidence.

Skyblue Featured Video: “Running is my way to celebrate me.” | NANOspikes® traction

Alejandra has a quality about her that exudes positivity and kindness. The staff at Kahtoola met her through a local run club in Flagstaff, where she enjoys sharing the trails with other passionate runners. Coming from California, the snow and ice were new to her, but it hasn’t slowed her down. And neither does working 2 jobs, which motivates her to squeeze in runs on lunch breaks and early mornings. Above all, running helps her stay centered, and feel more alive.

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