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The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023

On slippery snow and ice-covered surfaces, standard rubber-soled footwear just doesn't cut it. Winter traction devices — also known as ice cleats and microspikes — attach directly to your shoes and significantly improve grip.

The Best Winter Traction Devices(Photo/Austin Beck-Doss)
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There are many varieties of winter traction devices on the market. Some utilize low-profile metal coils and others function like less aggressive ice climbing crampons. Whether you’re looking to safely walk the icy city streets or trail run through the frozen backcountry, there’s a traction device that matches your needs.

To develop this list, we tested a massive pile of options from brands including Yaktrax, Black Diamond, Kahoola, and Hillsound. After extensive field research involving hiking, running, and slip-sliding over all kinds of terrain, we’ve identified the top traction devices of 2023.

For additional help narrowing down your search, check out our buyer’s guide, FAQ, and comparison chart. Or, simply jump ahead to the category you’re looking for.

The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023

Best Overall Winter Traction Devices

Kahtoola EXOspikes


  • Weight per pair 7.3 oz. (medium)
  • Traction Twelve tungsten carbide spikes
  • Harness Lightweight elastic rubber with reinforced eyelets
  • Best for Walking, hiking, and running on a variety of surfaces
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023


  • Versatile
  • Secure fit
  • Durable cleats don't wear down
  • Grippy on various surfaces


  • Not the most packable
Best Budget Winter Traction Devices

Yaktrax Pro Traction


  • Weight per pair 6.4 oz. (medium)
  • Traction X-pattern of steel coils over rubber harness
  • Harness Rubber with velcro strap
  • Best for Walking, running, and hiking on moderate terrain
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023


  • Good value
  • Traction system covers the entire underfoot area
  • Low profile


  • Not ideal for technical terrain
Best Ultralight Winter Traction Devices

Black Diamond Blitz Spike


  • Weight per pair About 3.2 oz. (medium)
  • Traction Six 8 mm stainless steel spikes in the forefoot area
  • Harness Rubber heel webbing loop and thin toe strap
  • Best for Ultralight backpacking, light and fast technical winter travel
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023


  • Ultralight
  • Packable
  • Stuff sack included


  • Only provides traction in the forefoot area
Best Winter Traction Devices for Technical Hiking

Hillsound Trail Crampon


  • Weight per pair 1 lb. (medium)
  • Traction 11 2/3" carbon steel spikes per crampon
  • Harness Burly over-foot harness with velcro strap
  • Best for Hiking on steep terrain
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023


  • Highly secure harness system
  • Grippy on technical hiking terrain
  • Good value


  • Heavy
  • Despite the name, these aren't technical crampons
Best Winter Traction Devices for Runners

Korkers Ice Runner


  • Weight per pair 11 oz.
  • Traction 22 replaceable carbide studs
  • Harness Rubber underfoot platform and top plate with customizable BOA fit adjustment
  • Best for Running in town and on moderate trails
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023


  • Secure fit
  • Replaceable studs improve overall longevity
  • Customizable fit


  • Only compatible with running shoes
Best of the Rest

Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip


  • Weight per pair 11.2 oz. (medium)
  • Traction Free-spinning steel alloy beads slung on steel cable in the forefoot and heel
  • Harness Thin elastic rubber with riveted eyelets
  • Best for In-town use and semi-technical trails
The Best Winter Traction Devices of 2023


  • Innovative traction system
  • Versitile
  • Relatively packable


  • Some users have reported durability issues

Winter Traction Device Comparison Table

Traction DevicePriceWeightTractionHarnessBest for
$6314.6 oz. (per pair, medium)Twelve tungsten carbide spikesLightweight elastic rubber with reinforced eyeletsWalking, hiking, and running on a variety of surfaces
Yaktrax Pro
$3412.8 oz. (per pair, medium)Steel coils over rubber harnessRubber with Velcro strapWalking, running, and hiking on moderate terrain
Diamond Grip
$5511.2 oz. (per pair, medium)Free-spinning steel alloy beads slung on steel cableRubber strapIn-town use and semi-technical trails 
Black Diamond
Blitz Spikes
$503.2 oz. (per pair, medium)Six 8 mm stainless steel spikes in the forefoot areaRubber heel webbing loop and thin toe strapUltralight backpacking, light and fast winter travel
Hillsound Trail
$801 lb. (per pair, medium)11 2/3″ carbon steel spikes per cramponBurly over-foot harness with Velcro strapHiking on steep terrain
Korkers Ice
$7011 oz. (per pair, medium)22 replaceable steel carbide studRubber underfoot platform and top plate with customizable BOA fit adjustmentRunning in town and on moderate trails
Your choice of winter traction device will almost always come down to snow conditions; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Why You Should Trust Us

The bulk of our winter traction device testing was conducted by Austin Beck-Doss during an exceptionally snowy Wyoming winter. Several times per week, Austin trekked up the side of a steep canyon through icy trail conditions. In town, Austin ran errands by foot, traversing sidewalks and streets that closely resembled ice rinks. The testing process had real implications — Austin was seeking the best devices to meet his actual day-to-day needs and avoid falling on his butt.

While testing, we paid careful attention to traction, fit, comfort, and versatility. We determined durability over multiple wears on various surfaces. Every pair of microspikes was assessed on their ability to grip snow, ice, and mud. We ran, hiked, and post-holed to find the best of the best.

As new traction devices hit the market, we’ll be sure to test a pair to see if they make the cut.

The tungsten carbide spikes of the Kahtoola EXOspikes make them ideal for hard-pack snow or ice; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Winter Traction Devices

What Are Traction Devices and How Do They Work?

Most footwear isn’t designed for ice and snow-covered surfaces. Standard rubber-soled boots and shoes are no match for frosted sidewalks and frozen trails. In the cold climates of the northern United States and elsewhere, snow often covers the ground from November to May.

Winter traction devices — also known as ice cleats or microspikes — attach directly to a shoe or boot to bite onto slick surfaces and improve grip. Designs and intended applications vary, but all traction devices are meant to prevent slippage and improve safety.

Some traction devices on this list utilize a pattern of steel coils, while others have cleats or spikes. Every traction device utilizes some kind of harness to snugly attach to a boot or shoe. Traction devices are generally compatible with all kinds of footwear. Ultimately, any traction device is better than nothing, but some work better than others for certain applications.

The Yaktrax Pro Traction has a classic X-pattern array of steel coils across the entire underfoot; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Types of Traction: Coils vs. Studs vs Spikes

Traction devices rely on a variety of materials and designs to improve grip. The ubiquitous Yaktrax Pro Traction has a series of steel coils that run in an X-shaped pattern from toe to heel. While coils are a reliable option for non-technical everyday use, they aren’t as aggressive or biting as metal studs or spikes.

Studs — or cleats — are small metal points typically no thicker than the tip of a pen. These points are usually made from ultra-hard carbon steel compounds called carbide. They work exactly like football cleats, stabbing into the ice with every step. Studs are the preferred traction solution for runners, as they are lower profile and shallower than spikes. On this list, the Korkers Ice Runner utilizes replaceable steel carbide studs to great effect.

Teeth-shaped crampon-style spikes tend to be more aggressive than coils or studs. Steel spikes dig deep into the snow, ice, mud, and dirt. For steep technical hiking, spikes are the most secure choice. On this list, the Hillsound Trail Crampons are rugged spikes for serious winter hikes. They won’t work for climbing vertical terrain, but they’re great for trekking in the mountains.

The Hillsound Trail Crampons have numerous meaty spikes in the forefoot and heel areas; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Other Traction System Factors: Length and Number of Spikes/Studs

Traction devices with spikes aren’t automatically “better” than those with studs or coils. No matter which traction system you go with, consider the length, distribution, and total number of studs, spikes, or coils.

If pure traction is your priority, look for a device with coils, studs, or spikes across the entire underfoot area. Some styles, like the Black Diamond Blitz, only have spikes in the forefoot. While this minimalist design improves packability, it increases the potential of a slip and fall. Typically, 10-12 evenly distributed studs or spikes will provide the best grip and performance for winter walks and hikes. As for coils, the Yaktrax Pro features coils that stretch across the whole foot.

As for length, longer spikes and studs are more aggressive, which is helpful on steep and rough terrain. The most rugged traction devices have long spikes and a lot of them. Hillsound’s Trail Crampons have long 5/8″ spikes that did deep into snow and ice. Long spikes can be a nuisance for runners, as they tend to disrupt the user’s natural stride. For general use, the Kahtoola EXOspikes have shallow studs, which are sufficient for most users.

Once snowy trails become compacted and refrozen, it’s time to bust out the winter traction; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Casual In-Town Use vs. Hiking-Specific Traction Devices

In snowy cities like Duluth and Syracuse, a single step out the front door might require walking on ice or snow. If you need a traction device for everyday commutes to the grocery store or library, we recommend a pair with a less-aggressive non-performance-oriented tread pattern. The Yaktrax Pro is a tried-and-true low-profile option that you can hardly feel when it’s strapped on your shoes. It’s perfect for flat surfaces, and it won’t break the bank.

If you live in a hilly area and require something with a bit more bite, the Icetrekkers Diamond Grip is a great middle ground. Its free-spinning steel beads are more aggressive than the basic Yaktrax coils, but they’re still relatively lightweight and unobtrusive. For occasional short hikes on unpaved trails, these ICEtrekkers are fully capable.

The next step up is the hiking category. Traction devices like the Hillsound Trail Crampon have many long, sharp spikes that dig into the ground underfoot like an ice axe. Aggressive hiking designs are best suited for semi-steep unmaintained trails. Longer spikes tend to be heavier, and they do impact your natural gait, but they’re absolutely essential on slick, high-consequence terrain.


Traction devices use harnesses to remain firmly fixed to the user’s foot. Typically, harnesses are made from rubber or a rubber-plastic compound, which has elastic qualities and holds up to abuse. With that said, some harnesses are more durable than others, and they tend to be the first component to fall apart. A good well-fitted harness keeps the underfoot traction system from sliding around.

On this list, the Hillsound Train Crampons have a durable harness that is both secure and lightweight. It’s easy to put on and take off with its sizable pull tab, and the eyelets that hold the traction system are thick and reinforced. On the other end of the spectrum, the ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip has a semi-thin standard rubber harness that feels less durable.

While most harnesses simply stretch around the outside of a shoe’s sole, some are more advanced. The Korkers Ice Runner uses a BOA adjustment system to fully sandwich the foot between two contoured plates. The resulting fit is exceptionally secure — which is exactly what runners need.

Kahtoola’s EXOspikes use a lightweight yet secure harness that fully wraps over the toe area; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)


Some traction devices weigh as little as 4 ounces per pair, while some of the beefier hiking styles can weigh as much as 12 ounces. Naturally, minimalist options like the Black Diamond Blitz Spikes weigh very little, and the aggressive Hillsound Trail Crampons are relatively hefty.

As weight increases, so do durability and overall grip. More spikes and thicker harnesses improve performance, but the ounces do add up. For everyday comfort, it’s nice to stick to lighter options. On this list, Kahtoola’s EXOspikes weigh just 7.3 ounces per pair — an excellent middle ground of weight and all-around performance.


Packability is a concern for outdoorsy folks who will need to carry their microspikes when they’re not in use. Backpackers should check out Black Diamond’s minimal Blitz Spikes — which pack down to the size of an apple and weigh less than an iPhone.

Rugged models like the Hillsound Trail Crampons aren’t very packable, but that’s the price you pay for long spikes and a heavy-duty harness.

Packability is a big concern when winter hiking or camping when bulky gear can add up quickly; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)


Every brand of traction devices will offer a size guide that will help you identify the right fit. In our experience, these guides are accurate. If you’re seeking a precise fit for running or technical hiking, look for a model with a customizable harness such as the Korkers Ice Runner.

Temperature Ratings

In extremely cold temperatures, rubber traction device harnesses can become brittle and snap. All of the recommendations on this list are built to handle freezing temperatures, and most users will not encounter an issue.

However, If you plan to use your microspikes in the artic tundra, for example, it’s worth checking the temperature rating. On this list, the Kahtoola EXOspikes are rated to -22 degrees Fahrenheit and the Yaktrax Pro can withstand temps down to -41.

Traction devices are especially helpful while descending steep slopes; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Traction Devices vs. Crampons and Snowshoes

Winter traction devices are different from crampons and snowshoes. Crampons are designed for technical climbing, and snowshoes are designed for preventing post-holing when walking on accumulated snow. The traction devices on this list offer neither of those benefits.

If you’re seeking gear for technical ascents, look for a pair of bonified crampons. If you need a wider platform for staying afloat in soft snow, check out our favorite snowshoes of 2023.

Our testing process involved a lovely uphill slog in Sinks Canyon; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)


How much do winter traction devices cost?

Prices vary, but winter traction devices are quite affordable. For a simple pair for in-town use, expect to pay between $20 and $50. For a more capable hiking pair, you’ll be looking at $40 to $75. On this list, the Yaktrax Pro ($35) offers outstanding value.

How do I care for my winter traction devices?

When not in use, keep your microspikes clean, dry, and above freezing. If they’ve become caked in mud, give them a quick rinse before storing them away. An entryway shoe cubby is the perfect storage spot.

Do I need traction devices to walk on ice or snow?

Some icy surfaces are naturally gripper than others, but in any case, traction devices are a great idea. Many people go without microspikes for their whole lives without issue, but wearing a pair certainly decreases the risk of injury. Often, once a person wears a pair for the first time, they realize the immense benefits and never go back.

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