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January 23, 2015 Comments (3) Gear Reviews

Traction Control – Gear Review Comparison


As winter forges on and most of us continue to be socked in with snow and ice, as well the everlasting hope of warmer spring weather peeking through (which creates more ice as snow melts and re-freezes), traction on slippery surfaces is a real concern. This especially true for those that want to stick to the trails and continue to venture up high where snow & ice still lingers even after spring has sprung.For this review we brought together three of the best slip-on traction device options that can turn a slippery adventure into a solid and safe outing.

Right up front we’ll mention that these are not your typical ‘warehouse sale 3 for $10 traction aid’ – these suckers are designed specifically for mountainous and rugged terrain, biting into the slipperiest of ice, snow, and even rock.

Note on Sizing. In most cases, the sizing seems to be based on a boot size, so if you are on the bottom end of a size range, we’d recommend going for the smaller size.


Yaktrax XTR – $60

  • 13 oz (Medium)
  • Stainless Steel chains
  • Toe and Heel plate – this is designed to prevent snow from packing, but users also commented on how it greatly increased the comfort as well. Note that if your spikes are loose (too big), users found that snow would pack between the plate and the shoe.
  • Storage Bag. This is the only one of the bunch that comes with a storage bag. As silly as it may seem, this is a great feature, as you are often pulling your spikes off and throwing them in a pack. It keeps your pack clean (these get dirty!) and protects your gear (and back) from punctures.
  • Other options: Yaktax also offers “Run” and “Pro“versions, which are a suitable option for road or hard packed trails.



YakTrax XTR

Kahtoola Microspikes – $64.95

  • 13.6 oz (Medium)
  • Stainless Steel Spikes
  • Very simple, slip on traction solution. Packs easily, but be careful about where spikes are pointing if you are carrying them in a pack.
  • 2 year warranty
  • Come in Black or Red – which can sometimes come in handy if you drop one in the snow!
  • Very high marks for comfort, functionality, and ease of use. Great all around choice.
  • Other Options: The NanoSpike, a more minimal titanium carbide tipped slip-on traction device, more suited to road running or casual wear.


Khatoola Microspike

Khatoola Microspike

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra – $69.99

Faster and lighter than their predecessor (below) the Trail Crampon Ultras from Hillsound were a top pick among testers, providing a delicate balance of comfort, traction, and ease of use. The Trail Crampon Ultras were easy to slip on and offered excellent traction on all surfaces.  

  • 14 oz (medium)
  • Stainless Steel, welded chains
  • Velcro attachment. While similar, this is one of the notable differences from the MicroSpikes. These can be used with or without the Velcro strap, but it does provide a more adjustable fit when used.
  • The rubber grommets where the chain attaches to the rubber are the beefiest of the bunch. Testers experienced breakage in both of the other brands (admittedly with heavy use), but no reported breakages yet in any of the Hillsounds.


Additional Options from Hillsound

Hillsound FreeSteps6 Crampon – $39.99

The FreeSteps6 is your go-to for a simple, lightweight, versatile, and cost effective traction option. Whether walking, running, or even fishing, the FreeSteps6 are a excellent choice to help keep you upright!

  • 11 oz (medium)
  • Stainless Steel chains and spikes
  • Easy slip on
Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra

Hillsound FreeSteps6

  • The Trail Crampon Ultras turned a relatively low traction, max cushion shoe into a snow running fiend

    The FreeSteps6 Crampon turning a relatively low traction, max cushion shoe into a snow running fiend


Hillsound Trail Crampon – $59.99 This is the predecessor to the Trail Crampon Ultra, and bear the most aggressive spikes of the bunch. Hinged spikes up front offer some flexibility, but a few users found that they could ‘feel’ that more after a couple of hours, causing some discomfort. That will obviously vary with the shoes they are worn with. Killer traction in nearly all conditions. Unless you really need something with a slightly beefier traction, or won’t be doing a lot of running, we’d recommend spending the extra $10 for the Trail Crampon Ultra.

  • 16 oz (medium)
  • Velcro attachment.
  • Sturdy rubber grommets

Hillsound Trail Crampon

Hillsound Trail Crampon

We’ve used each of these brands extensively, and know that choosing which device to buy can be tricky sometimes. You really can’t go wrong with any one of these, but if you have questions – Ask away and we will discuss in the comments!

3 Responses to Traction Control – Gear Review Comparison

    • Matt Williams says:

      Thanks Candice! For this review we were specifically looking at slip on (no pun intended) traction devices, but it would be fun to look at some of the screw in options as well!

  1. RunnersAndWiners says:

    I’ve used every version of Yak Trax. They are great on snow. Last week I recieved a pair of Kahtoola MicroSpikes – best device I’ve ever tried on the trails of solid ice here in PA, USA.

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