Want to be able to frolic in the snow without fear of falling on your ass? Want to be able to do that without investing in unnecessarily expensive gear? Barring anyone who’s actually planning to do legit mountaineering or hard core winter summits, all most of us need are some run-of-the-mill traction devices for their shoes. This, of course, begs the question: which ones?
There are a number of everyday traction devices on the market, ranging in price and functionality. I have tried a number of these brands and products and definitely have a favourite (more on that later), but ultimately I think you have to choose your traction device based on what you plan to use them for and how often you plan to use them.
Here’s some free advice to help you select the best product for you:
Yak Trax Pro: If you’re a casual trail goer (think flat trails with ideal snow conditions like compact, grippy snow), or a runner who lives in a snowy locale, these may work for you. They are pretty cheap by market standards ($33 CDN) and they’re easy to use. Be warned, their sizing can be off and you may want to go a size up from the recommended if you’re on the cusp (i.e. if your shoe size is the upper limit of the range). The biggest drawbacks I’ve experienced with these is that they do not work at all on ice, which is a big problem for hiking more challenging trails or running in cities where they plow running paths but then run off/melt creates delightful sheets of pure ice. In wet snow, they are also a nightmare. Snow will clump and form ice balls around the coils, which can either lead to them falling off your shoes entirely or to the rubber portions snapping under stress. I broke two pairs in one year when I was hiking trails every weekend. They also don’t do much in the way of providing traction in deep, non-compacted snow. You have been warned.
IceTrekkers Diamond Grip: I haven’t personally tried these, so I don’t speak from my own experience with them. However, when I was looking to upgrade from YakTrax Pros, I did a ton of research on alternatives. These were alluring at first, as they were similar in price point ($49 CDN), but ultimately didn’t measure up for my needs. Their design is similar to YakTrax Pros in that they are spikeless. To me, this meant they would be similarly ineffective on ice and in deep snow. The one perk above YakTrax is that their grip structure isn’t coiled around rubber, which I assume means they would be more durable. I imagine these would only be good for compact snow, not ice, and for relatively light-weight activities.
STABILicers Walk: I haven’t tried these ones myself either, but in my research phase I was quite certain that the cleats wouldn’t be long enough to provide traction in deeper or non-compacted snow. Sure enough, most reviews that criticize cite just that issue. I’m sure that these would be fine for running on compact snow, and likely an improvement over YakTraks or IceTrekkers for ice (cleats are better than coiled metal in my experience), so it’s about knowing what you’d use them for. At $27 CDN, these are a highly affordable option for those who need cleats for the odd easy to moderate hike in compact snow, or for the winter outdoor run on reasonably groomed paths.
Kahtoola Microspikes Traction: Do NOT confuse these with the Kahtoola NanoSpikes. They are completely different products. These, these Kahtoola Microspikes have fundamentally changed what I can do outdoors. I bought these to replace my YakTrax Pros seven years ago. I am still using the same pair and they are still in great condition. If you want to hike in varied conditions, these are your go-to. I use them instead of snowshoes in relatively shallow (up to a foot), non-compact snow. I have used them to run on sheer ice. They are a dream on compact snow. You will not slip or skid even on the steepest of terrain. The one small criticism I have is that on steep uphill climbs in loose slow, you have to alter your foot position to gain reasonable traction, but that’s a small complaint in the grand scheme of things. I would recommend these to anyone. At $79 CDN, they’re pricier than many others on the market, but it is worth it for their versatility and durability if you want to do more with one traction device.
There you have it, all you need to start your own research and to get out there in the snow. Trust me, it’s worth it!
*In case you’re wondering, no I am not an expert and no I have not been compensated for recommending any products. I wish Kahtoola would send me some stuff but, please, let’s be honest, they’re not reading this blog.