Getting a good grip on ice and packed snow is a perpetual challenge for hikers and trail runners who brave the winter months. Kahtoola Inc., a small company in Flagstaff, Ariz., has a new solution this winter with its MICROSpikes, a footwear accoutrement that positions 10 stainless steel spikes directly down off the sole.
The company (www.kahtoola.com) built this category-defying product for ice, packed snow and wet rocks. The 3/8-inch spikes sit linked on a criss-crossing grid of chain, eight on the forefoot, two under the heel. A "shoe harness" made of stretchy rubber flexes as you step in, then cinches tight around your foot. There are no buckles or straps, so they go on quickly and fit cleanly.
Paired with waterproof trail-running shoes, I tested the MICROSpikes last month on woodsy jogs and ice-ridden slopes. On the foot, they fit tight and do not slip. The spikes bite into ice to provide solid footing, even on a hockey rink. For running, the setup does little to interfere with your stride.
One caveat: Wet snow can stick and ball up on the spikes and chains, causing a loss of traction. Avoid introducing room-temperature MICROSpikes to snow, as this exaggerates the balling phenomenon.
Kahtoola sells the MICROSpikes in four sizes, from youth through men's 14. They cost $59 a pair and in the adult sizes weigh around 7 ounces apiece.