Kahtoola MICROspikes Review

Kahtoola MICROspikesAfter 14 months of waiting, I finally got my chance to try the Kahtoola MICROspikes last week and the MICROspikes didn’t disappoint. They were the most aggressive traction device in iRunFar’s tests and that aggressiveness pays off in providing more traction than you could possibly need. If you’re hitting snow-covered trails in winter, you can’t go wrong with the MICROspikes. The only time Kahtoola’s offering might not be the right choice is in conditions when you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time on hard surfaces (pavement or rocks) and there won’t be enough wintry precipitation on the ground to prevent the spikes from hitting the hard surface.

Design
Until you look at the details, the Kahtoola MICROspikes’ appear to be in line with traction device standards, as they have a rubber ring design with a flexible metal system to provide traction while they weight in at around 6 ounces per foot (354 grams for a size medium pair). However, the 3/8 inch spikes distinguish the MICROspikes from their competition by making them lightweight, runnable crampons with killer traction. Despite the depth of the spikes, I never felt that I had to alter my stride while running in them and I never accidentally caught the spikes on the ground during testing. The MICROspikes firmly held to my shoes, having never shifted during use. However, Tony from IRunUltras.com and I each experienced a minor amount of chain jingle while running. Kahtoola offers four sizes of spikes that will keep you upright whether your shoes are youth size 1 or men’s size 14.

For those living in the far north, Kahtoola claims that the MICROspikes’ rubber stays flexible down to -76 degrees Fahrenheit. May I never have occasion to find out if this is true!

Kahtoola MICROspikesA pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes.

Mounting
When I first put on the MICROspikes in October 2007, I did so without having read the instructions or having tried any similar traction devices. However, at the time I noted, “It was quite easy to figure out how to put on the MICROspikes.” With the spikes hanging underneath the rubber, all you do is slip the toe of the shoe you’re wearing into a small slit where the rubber is labeled “front” (raised arrows also point you to the front) and then grab the opposite end of the spikes, before pulling the rear of the spikes back and then up over the heel of your shoe. When you are done securing the front and rear of the MICROspikes, be sure that all remaining edges of the rubber portion are pulled up over the sides of both shoes. I found this traction device to be the easiest to mount of the four I tried during my tests, though it should be noted that it was the only device I had put on prior to this round of testing.

Mounting the Kahtoola MICROspikes

Traction
My field notes from testing the Kahtoola MICROspikes succinctly state, “Absolutely rock solid traction. Felt good on snow, too.” The 3/8″ spikes tenaciously dig into ice and provide extreme confidence while running on the slickest of ice. While I didn’t have a chance to test them in freshly fallen snow, I suspect that the spike depth of Kahtoola’s offering would provide more traction on snow than other traction devices. I think this would be particularly useful in the wet coastal snow that compacts into a sheet underfoot that then slips on the uncompacted snow beneath it. I should note that the chains themselves (as opposed to the spikes) also help provide traction on snow.

The MICROspikes were not slippery on pavement; however, they weren’t terribly comfortable either. I’d guess they’d be okay for a couple 100 yards before I’d want to take them off.

Conclusion
After trying Kahtoola’s MICROspikes, Tony said “My favorite [traction devices]. No doubt about it.” While these weren’t my absolute favorite traction devices, I would still rate them as an extraordinary trail running product. The only reason the MICROspikes weren’t my favorite of the traction devices I tested is because of the conditions under which I am most likely to use traction devices. If you live in an area where you see lots of snow or have less snow, but do most of your running on trails, these are the traction devices for you. “No doubt about it,” as Tony said. However, if you don’t see much snow and log most of your miles on the roads stay tuned for tomorrow’s review of the Yaktrax Pro.

Call for Comments
How have the Kahtoola MICROspikes worked for you? Under what conditions have they worked the best? Are there conditions where they have under performed?

iRunFar Traction Devices Reviews

There are 17 comments

  1. Trail Goat

    Kim,I haven't had a chance to try screwed shoes myself, but I did include a link to how to screw shoes in my overview of traction devices. :-)

  2. Caren

    I got the Microspikes after your review last year. I've used them twice; once in the Massanuttens last year on fresh snow over rocks, and the second on a local trail with only about an inch of wet slush. I was worried how they'd perform over rocks and deep powder, but I never noticed them and they gave me plenty of traction. I was very happy with them. The second time I used them on a wet slushy trail, they were complete overkill. The biggest problem was that the slush just built up into big balls under my feet. My prior experience with traction devices was the screwed shoe, which performed admirably on an ice-slicked Greenway Trail race 2 years ago (I think you ran that year Bryon). My only issue with the screwed shoe is that once the screws are in, you're stuck with them and they can be treacherous on any kind of rocks. I like that I can remove the Microspikes when the conditions change.Great reviews Goat!

  3. Trail Goat

    Caren,Thanks for sharing your thoughts re the MICROspikes. (I was at the icy then muddy Greenway race.) Glad you like the reviews – I'm putting the finishing touches on the final one. :-)

  4. AnthonyP

    Ah, the screwed shoe. The STABILicer Sport is basically that, except that the screws are not directly in your shoe, they are on a frame that fits over the shoe.It was a close race for my favorite, between the Kahtoola MICROspikes and the Yaktrax Pro. I honestly liked the Kahtoola MICROspikes better, but at the end of the day I would be happy with either of the two (Kahtoola or Yaxtrax).On a side note, it was super fun to hit the trails (er, ice/snow) to product test with iRunFar.com.

  5. jc

    This is my second or third year running the icy trails of Maine with my Kahtoola's and i wouldn't trade them for the world. This past Tuesday I took the hound out for a 21 mile trail run which was glare ice(skatable) with a fresh half inch of baby powder snow coating it. Someone wearing Yak Traks had run about 4 miles of it earlier in the day, there were no other tracks. I noticed multiple occasions where he slid and lost traction -I could see the coil pattern and the slide, i wish i had brought my camera. I kept thinking about the up coming reviews on your website. Even when i hooked my dog up to his canicross line and he pulled me down the trail -i never lost traction or even slipped a tiny bit. So for running the icy boilerplate trails here on the "Ice Coast" I'll stick to my K's.

  6. aerojust

    I just got a set of these for Christmas. Hopefully I will get to try them out on the Massanutten and Laurel Highlands Trails.

  7. Derrick

    Very well said jc. I would agree 100% with your assessment of the Mspikes. I've been running in them for the past year and love them for our sometimes challenging Canadian winters in Eastern Ontario. Challenging as I mean that we get a real mix bag of snow, slush and ice.Goat…As I mentioned in your snowshoe post, the following is how I run during our winters after experimenting with many different options…1) A little bit of snow: Trail shoes with big lugs (La Sportiva Crosslites work great).2) A little ice &/or a bit more snow, plus hitting some bare trail sections: Screwshoes3) More ice still &/or more snow up to about 6": Microspikes.4) More snow still of over a foot: Dion Running Snowshoes.I can see that if you are looking to only own 1 pair of devices that the Yaktrax may be the most versatile, however I don't think that they perform as well for specific conditions as listed above.

  8. Derrick

    …I should also mention that I recently let a friend of mine (who has represented Canada at World XC Champs) try them. He was so impressed that he immediately went home after our run and ordered a pair. He has since said that after many years of frustration, they have saved his winter of training and kept him injury free on the trails.

  9. Trail Goat

    Tony, It was great having you out there for the traction device gear test. Thanks for shooting the great video!JC,Thanks for the Maine insight. The Kahtoola's would certainly offer some benefit where there is layer slippage, be it compacted wet snow on other snow or snow over ice. I'd love to see some Yaktrax slippage pics if you snap some. :-)Areojust,I'm sure you'll have a chance to find some ice in the Massanuttens this winter. Those ridges and steeps climbs are great at forming ice on thaw/freeze cycles.Derrick,Thanks for the great info on the MICROspikes and winter running in general. That's quite an endorsement of the KMS from your Canadian XC friend.

  10. kjsully

    Ahh, I'm late to the game here but I think the MICROspikes (KMs) are hands down the best device out there. I put them head to head last week with the Yaktrax on our local Fat Ass 10k loop (training)(25 miles North of Boston). Conditions were mostly snow pack with a quarter to half inch of soft snow (i.e. layer of slippage) and some ice here or there. I ran one loop in each device and went close to 30 secs a mile faster in the KMs. The Yaks just couldn't grab the pack with the snow on top of it. I then used the KMs today in our Fat Ass 50k and ran by everyone in the Yaktrax (most folks were asking, "Hey, what are you wearing?"). Conditions were icier but still with a thin layer of snow and the KMs performed even better – zero slippage (I mean, none). I also think they run fine over short stretches of pavement. If I had to find one issue with them is would be that the loose chains sometimes make you feel like your shoes are untied, but I honestly rarely feel I'm even wearing anything (unlike the the death grip feel of the Yaks). I have typically run in the Yaktrax over the past couple years (and will probably continue to use them when running on longer (i.e. more than 10 miles) slippery road runs), but the KMs are my new winter training toola! Just one man's view.

  11. drytool

    i run on steep trails in the mountains of colorado and the microspikes haven't held up. i encounter deep snow, ice, mud and rocks, all on the same run. contouring on the steep hillsides the toe slides off to the side of my shoe, even when sized so tight they bend the toe of my shoe up. the chains break on the rocks after a couple weeks. somebody needs to make something genuinely tough to handle mountains in the winter.

  12. Leah

    best things since sliced bread! having never worn spikes before and having very little 'testing' time (i live in western australia!), i ran the polar circle marathon in greenland wearing kahtoola spikes. decided on them after reading this and various other reviews. i had originally planned to only wear them for the icecap part of the race. but they were so comfortable (after a few strides you barely aware you're wearing them) i ended up doing the whole 26 miles in them. no soreness or funny muscular pain (considering i'd never trained in them). amazing traction and went fine on the thinner, softer snow of covering the gravel roads. other people wearing other brands (including yaktrax) had issues with traction and the spikes staying in place through the heavy snow. no issues with the kahtoola microspikes. HIGHLY recommend.

  13. Mike Place

    These are great though I did recently discover (the hard way) that their effectiveness lessens as the snow warms up. Doubly so on steep slopes where if you start to slide, there's no way these are going to help you recover and you're going for a ride. Lesson learned — climbing steep mountains is best done when the snow is cold and the ice is hard. Soft snow is asking for trouble.

  14. Mike Place

    Also, there's another point I forgot to mention. If you have dogs, think carefully before purchasing these. It would be trivial to put a spike right through a dog's paw if they darted in front of you and it wouldn't end well.

  15. WildChildT

    After a few seasons of YakTrax Pro wearing (and having a very negative experience of the springs breaking halfway through runs) I switched to Kahtoola Microspikes. I love the spikes. They aren't perfect but they are the best I've found and the pros outweigh the negatives. Pros: Extremely extremely grippy for my Colorado mountain runs, lightweight enough that if I encounter pavement or super rocky sections I can slip them off and hold onto them until I get to trail, super easy to put on and take off, easily cleaned, able to knock off anything that gets impaled on the spike, overall great traction device for trail running.

    Cons: On very steep or uneven terrain (like the side slope of a mountain), the MS sometimes slide slightly off my toe. I have to stop and readjust every so often, but not often enough to annoy me; Slushier hard packed snow can ball up and get stuck in spikes- this can just be knocked out and I haven't had any issues of slipping due to it; they are so grippy that if you aren't careful and drag your feet while running you could trip and fall- not made for "shufflers".

    Overall I'll keep my Kahtoolas way over YakTrax. Many runners here put screws on their shoes and are happy with the results, however my main complaint on this is that you can't "slip them off" when you hit pavement etc like you can the Kahtoolas. I would rather have the ability to put them on and take them off quick as needed than to (semi)permanently affix a screw in my shoe.

  16. @striving2thrive

    I'm curious to know if any of the microspike wearers can compare them to icetrekkers? I just bought the latter today and slipped a bit on an icy trail (Colorado) so I am wondering if I should take them back. That said though, I have dogs and would hate to accidentally impale them when we are on a tight trail. Any thoughts?

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