Friday, January 15, 2016

Yaktrax vs. Microspikes

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Yaktrax vs. Microspikes, Microspikes gear review, Yaktrax gear review
One of the most common questions I hear is, 
"What's the difference between Yaktrax and Microspikes?"

They are built upon the same concept - to provide traction while hiking or walking on ice and snow. Both companies advertise this product as lightweight, easy to put on, and be used for everyday activities. However, as we look deeper into the differences we see that they are some big differences. Let's compare the pros and cons for each.

Yaktrax vs. Microspikes, Microspikes gear review, Yaktrax gear review
(Photo courtesy


  • low elastic harness, which makes putting them on easy
  • eyelet reinforcements and integrated toe bale
  • welded, steel chains
  • 3/8 inch spike length
  • weight ranges from 11-13.5 oz (depending on shoe size)
  • built to last for years
  • can literally walk on a sheet of ice without slipping
  • Price - $70
  • Feet can get cold from the elastic squeezing your shoe

Yaktrax vs. Microspikes, Microspikes gear review, Yaktrax gear review
(Photo courtesy

  • easy to put on
  • abrasion resistant 1.2 mm steel coils
  • cheaper - $20
  • good for running on roads, not trails
  • ultralight, 2-4 oz (depending on shoe size)
  • coils break easily after only a few uses
  • the smooth, round coils don't penetrate ice
  • falls easily off boots
  • newer models require an extra "safety" strap
This is what often happens with Yaktrax - broken coils and rubber straps.
Yaktrax vs. Microspikes, Microspikes gear review, Yaktrax gear review
In my opinion...

My first pair of an ice traction system was the Yaktrax back in 2007, which I bought from REI. I was starting to hike more in winter, and didn't want to be held back from getting outdoors when ice covered the trails. I bought these because of the price - $20 is what I could afford at the time (think poor college student!). I didn't know there were other options anyway. So, I took them out for their maiden voyage, and on the first uphill, they wouldn't dig in enough and had me slipping backwards. Fortunately I was able to grab onto branches to keep from getting bruised or worse, breaking a bone from falling. I decided to keep going, I thought they maybe needed to break in. On the flat part of the trail they did fine, and thought, ok maybe these will do. But on another hill, I slipped all around, and decided to cut my hike short. I was bummed that I just spent this money on a product that didn't even work! 

I took them back to REI (thank goodness for their return policy), and told them what happened. They asked what I was looking for, and suggested I look at the Kahtoola Microspikes. Only problem for was the price. I waited until my next paycheck and used the money I got back from REI to purchase these. Almost 8 years later I still have the same pair. They are perfect for hiking any trail, and I often use them in place of snowshoes with the snow isn't too deep. I've never had a problem with them breaking or preventing me from falling on ice. If you can afford to pay the higher price the first time you shop for something like this, I highly recommend you go for Microspikes - it's well worth the money to keep you safe on the trails.

There are several other "off" brands that make a similar product, such as the Alps Ice Grips, IceTrekkers, or the Hillsound Trail Crampon, but I haven't tried those out. If you are looking to hike in deep snow (more than 6-8 inches), then snowshoes are the way to go.
Yaktrax vs. Microspikes, snowshoes
(Photo courtesy of Google)

The winner of the best ice traction system? Microspikes. 
Yaktrax vs. Microspikes, Microspikes gear review, Yaktrax gear review
What has been your experience with ice traction systems?
Are Microspikes better than Yaktrax?

Related: Check out the 4 Must Have Items for Winter Hiking!
What to Wear While Hiking in Winter - For Women!

What to Wear While Hiking in Winter - For Women!

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Katie Arruda said...

Great informative article! I have a pair of microspikes and love em! I think (personally) yak traks are more for runners who want to get out and run on the snowy roads with some traction, but for hiking, you really need the microspikes!

Thanks for sharing :)
Katie @ Katie Wanders

Caroline Victoria Mitchell said...

In my experiences, I found Yaktrax to be more than sufficient for walking around on streets and sidewalks that are covered with ice and snow. They were even suitable very LIGHT hiking. The microspikes are much more aggressive and better-suited for hiking up steeper pitches. I also have an off-brand of microspikes. They were even cheaper than the Yaktrax. The metal is definitely inferior, but again, I think they'd be fine for lighter activities.

Alicia Baker said...

Agreed! Yaktrax for runners, microspikes for hikers. - Alicia :)

Alicia Baker said...

Agreed! I have known a few people with an off brand or microspikes, and they seem to work well. -Alicia

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Alicia for such a great post. I have been reading about Yaktrax and microspikes in numerous places in the past few months and have resolved to get a pair but was unsure which way to go. Really appreciate the time you took to do the comparison. Also, I've been having trouble commenting on some blogs, yours included, but I also wanted to say that I've loved reading about your winter adventures and seeing all the mountain and snow pics. ~Meghan, anotherwalkinthepark

Alicia Baker said...

Thanks, Meghan! Glad to know this post has helped you out! :) -Alicia

Unknown said...

It looks like the Crampons have bigger spikes. Any thoughts on that? I've never owned any of these, so I have no idea about the pros/cons about having longer spikes - maybe they're not needed? Thanks!

Unknown said...

It won't let me put my name in here for some reason - this is Suzanne! :-)

Alicia Baker said...

Hi Suzanne! Crampons are for climbing peaks in the winter (which also means having ropes, an ice axe, etc). You also have to have special boots for them. - Alicia

Suzanne Slifka said...

Perfect - thanks, Alicia. (And NOW I see my name!) ;-)

Anonymous said...


Just wanted to say thanks for the article. I was happy google turned up an article by you, because I know we hike the exact same terrain.

Romilda Gareth said...


Mercedes said...

I have owned an off-brand pair of yaktraks from TJ Maxx for the last 5 years and they have worked great for me on the trails---I've had not problems! When something happens to that pair I will invest in a pair of microspikes. As with you, the price really holds me back on those. P.S. I love your site, it has been my go-to hiking site! Thanks for all the work you put into your guides!

Alicia Baker said...

Sounds like a plan! Thank you! -Alicia

DeVo said...

I had the Yaktrax for running in winter first; on really icy roads, they slipped all over-flat or hilly. When I discovered the Kahtoola microspikes, I was delighted. I used them anytime there is ice, walking, hiking, & running. I am in Nebraska, experiencing ice storms and Kahtoola all the way for walking to work on streets and sidewalks covered in ice.