User Review: Kahtoola Microspikes
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
Price Paid: sample provided by Kahtoola
I had been using a pair of Yaktrax Pro traction devices for winter trail running and was fairly pleased with them. However, this winter I got a pair of Kahtoola’s new MICROspikes to test, and now I’m never going back. The MICROspikes are super rugged, burly, and easy to use. Not only do they inspire confidence from the get-go, they deliver.
This winter I’m pregnant, so instead of running on icy trails and dirt roads, I’m walking. The plowed and unplowed dirt camp roads I walk down are completely covered with either very hard, continuous ice or a combination of ice and slippery packed snow.
With eight, 3/8-inch, stainless steel spikes per foot mounted on interlocking chains of stainless steel, the MICROspikes have the most rugged, aggressive construction of any non-crampon traction devices I’ve seen. The red, elastomer shoe harness is easy to pull on over boots (no Velcro straps or buckles to fasten) and its front is clearly labeled for proper orientation. Once the MICROspikes are on I don’t give them a thought. I liken them to snow chains for your feet.
Even now, in my last trimester of pregnancy, I have no worries walking across any kind of ice in my MICROspikes. They always grip securely, biting into the ice, and have never slipped. While not designed for heavy snow, my MICROspikes have not clogged, even when walking in several inches of snow. In the past, while running with Yaktrax, I’ve had a few icy tumbles due to clogging and slipping.
The MICROspikes beat the Yaktrax for traction, hands down. One day I started out for a walk with my Yaktrax Pros on and encountered black ice covered with a dusting of snow. After several feet of tentative slipping, I turned around and came back for my MICROspikes, which performed perfectly.
If I was able to, I would not hesitate to run in them, though I have to note that I haven’t been able to personally test them while running yet. Theoretically you also could sharpen the spikes when necessary—not an option with Yaktrax’s coil design.
The MICROspikes generate a lot of interest. Whenever I wear mine neighbors and friends comment on and ask me about them (I expect it’s the bright red color that first catches their eyes). Interested people have included hikers, who were happy Yaktrax owners but recently bought their own pairs of MICROspikes after seeing mine; a former outdoor retailer, who went home and checked out Kahtoola online the same day; and an active friend who complained that he’s had to replace several pairs of Yaktrax after wearing them outside while cutting wood or doing other work around his country inn.
Since I haven’t had the opportunity to test the MICROspikes while running or hiking more demanding terrain yet, I can’t attest to their performance under those conditions. However, I anticipate using mine for trail running next winter and taking them along on late fall hikes when crampons are unnecessary, but where I might encounter stretches of icy trail at higher elevations.
And since 2007-08 is their first season of availability I can’t comment on the MICROspikes’ long term-durability. However, after a couple months of regular use mine show no wear and I don’t anticipate any problems.
I’m taking a half star off my rating for one minor reason. The elastomer shoe harness left red stains on the heels of my light tan, Nubuck hiking boots. This doesn’t bother me aesthetically, but might be a minor problem for some.
It should be noted that the MICROspikes are significantly heavier than Yaktrax. My pair of small MICROspikes weighs 11.3 ounces (319 grams) versus 5 ounces (142 grams) for my medium Yaktrak Pros. They also cost twice as much—$59 for MICROspikes versus $30 for Yaktrax Pros. But that higher weight and cost come with far superior performance for more active, demanding winter users.
Yaktrax still have a place for the casual urban walker for whom the heavier, spiked MICROspikes would be overkill. But if you’re a winter trail runner, hiker, or walker who encounters slippery ice or snow, but doesn’t need crampons, you should check out the MICROspikes for their aggressive, secure traction and ease of use.
Ultimately, Kahtoola’s MICROspikes work as claimed and I’m very happy with mine. They’re a simple, trustworthy piece of gear I expect to put through their paces even further next winter.
March 28, 2008 Update
Just a short update: Today when I used the Microspikes in temps just above freezing I had a bit of snowballing underfoot. This is the first and only time this has happened, but I had to periodically wack my feet together to dislodge the snow, which was a little annoying.
I was walking over a layer of about an inch of fresh snow on top of heavier wet snow in warmer (around or just above freezing) temperatures. This seemed to be the optimum conditions for snowballing to occur. Other than this one-time episode, the Microspikes are still working very well.