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Traction devices - Let's look at the options

Snowy trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Snowy trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Deb Stanley

Ever walked on an icy pond or any icy trail and wished you wouldn't slip and slide? You need traction devices. Like winter tires with studs help your vehicle on ice, traction devices help you stay stable on ice.

Traction devices are typically a rubber type product you slip over the bottom of your hiking boots that have coils or spikes that give you grip on the ice.

Traction devices range from $9 to $65. Let's look at the different products, starting from the lowest price.

Walmart sells Subzero Ice Cleats in their automotive section for $9. I'm told Costco sells something similar. If you decide to try these, make sure they fit very tight on your feet. Several hikers who have tried these, have had them fall off as they hiked. They had them on their feet for such a short time, I can't tell you if they worked or not.

Yaktrax sells two models of traction devices that use metal coils to help you grip on ice. The walker model is $20 and the pro model is $30. The pro has a strap that goes over the top of your boots to keep the traction devices in place. For years, Yaktrax came with a thin rubber strip that went around your boot. That thin strip could stretch or slip and the devices would not not stay in place. However, they have redesigned the strip and it should work better now. (Personal note, I own simple $20 Yaktrax and I like them on icy, muddy days.)

Goat Head sells sole spikes for $19.95 and $23.95. Sole spikes are hardened, stainless steel spikes that are screwed into the soles of your boots. They work great on ice, however, you may want to install them on an old pair of boots, because you don't want to put them in and take them out for each hike. You will also need to bring an extra pair of shoes/boots to change into after hiking, because you do not want to scratch up your floors by wearing them indoors. The spikes alone are $19.95. A combo pack with a driver for installing the spikes is $23.95. (Review)

STABILicers are ice cleats that use mini spikes to give you traction. They now have several models, some with straps to keep them in place while you're hiking or running. The biggest complaint I've heard about these is that they fall off easily, hopefully the straps will help prevent that problem. $21.95

Many people swear by their Kako ICEtrekkers. ICEtrekkers feature steel alloy "beads" on steel aircraft cable to held stabilize you on icy trails. $41.95

Yaktrax also sells a set of traction devices with spikes called XTR - Extreme Outdoor Traction for $50 (REI). XTRs feature a thick rubber band that goes around the outside of your boot with a series of metal spikes underneath your boot. They're great for walking on icy trails and across icy lakes. They also come with a carrying case. (Review)

Kahtoola also sells traction devices with metal spikes called MICROspikes for $65. MICROspikes were the first metal spike product and people swear by them. I like that they're durable. I've had mine for years and they last. I have friends who climb steep mountains in microspikes. I was afraid of bending the metal spikes hiking over occasional rocks that aren't snow covered, but so far, that hasn't happened.

I highly recommend that if you plan to hike in your spikes, get the Yaktrax XTR or MICROspikes. The others just simply fall off and don't work as well.

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