Gear

Best Winter Traction for Trail Runners

We reviewed six traction devices for snowy trails.

For trail runners equipped with the right gear, ice and snow creates a winter wonderland. Taking a pair of traction devices with you on your favorite trails gives you the surefootedness needed to continue exploring and adventuring all winter long. We tested the latest options on snow, ice, and slop to find the best traction for winter running.

[Related: Winter is Coming—Here’s How to Run Safely Outside]

Buying advice: Make sure you purchase the right size. Too small, and the rubber webbing that secures the device to your shoe either becomes impossible to pull on, or uncomfortably pinches your foot. Too large, and you risk the device flopping around annoyingly, or worse, slipping off mid-run.

Black Diamond Distance Spike

Black Diamond Distance Spike | $99.95 | 8.2 ounces/pair

Packing down to the size of a softball when not in use, these toothy traction devices proved super easy to slip on over shoes mid-run run and the most comfortable of the lot. A softshell toe cover eliminates any pressure points over the top of the foot while also keeping the Distance Spike securely in place. Fourteen 8mm spikes made of stainless steel that’s been heat-treated for durability provide super-secure footing. The Distance Spikes even held up to dry sections of dirt and rock between ice patches.

Kahtoola EXOspikes

Kahtoola EXOspikes | $59.95 | 6.9-8.1 ounces/pair (size dependent)

The flat tungsten carbide spikes that extend from TPU lugs (like on regular trail running shoes) on the underside of these traction devices work well on mixed terrain that switches from ice to dirt and rock and back. They provide solid traction without toothy protrusions, and stay put via a stretchy elastomer harness that pulls over shoes simply, with no additional straps to fasten. We also appreciate how the webbing design that holds the 12 spikes per device sheds snow to avoid clumping.

Kahtoola Microspikes

Kahtoola Microspikes | $69.95 | 11.0-13.5 ounces/pair

Twelve ⅜-inch stainless steel spikes per device linked together by a stainless steel chain underfoot create surefootedness on snow-covered trails with icy patches underneath. Like the EXOspikes, the Microspikes are relatively easy to pull on and off over running shoes and stay put via stretchy, elastomer webbing. (Both feel better over shoes with substantial uppers; too thin a shoe and we could feel the webbing a bit too much through our shoes.) The chain system underfoot jingles a bit with each step, but the traction provided by the Microspikes proved secure in a range of conditions.Black Diamond Blitz Spike

Black Diamond Blitz Spike | $39.95 | 4 ounces/pair

At a wispy two ounces per device, the Blitz Spikes are the lightest, most packable of the lot. They even fit in the pocket of a waistbelt, or in the side pockets of some running tights—just be sure to use the carrying bag that comes with to avoid spiking yourself. Six stainless steel 8mm-long spikes on just the forefoot attach via a fixed toe loop and rubber heel retention device that pulls on via a large pull loop. These work best over low-profile footwear. We found that hooking the front loop over trail shoe lugs on the forefoot keeps them from popping off.

Yaktrax Run

Yaktrax Run | $39.95 | 9.7-11.7 ounces/pair (size dependent)

A combination of six carbide steel spikes under the forefoot and steel coils over rubber webbing under the heel creates surefootedness on icy surfaces. (The older, Yaktrax Pro model is all coils and no spikes; we find the Run version more durable and more effective.) The anatomic right and left design with a Velcro strap over the forefoot offers a secure and comfortable fit, though it makes these a bit trickier to pull on mid-run than some others in this roundup.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra | $75 | 14.25 ounces/pair

With 18 stainless steel spikes under each foot—15 ½-inch and three ⅔-inch spikes under the heel—the Trail Crampon Ultra are the burliest of the lot. The stainless steel spikes are connected by a double-link stainless steel chain for durability, and a Velcro strap fastens over the top of the foot to keep these completely secure. With all the extra-bomber traction and security features comes added weight; these are the heaviest pair in our roundup.