The Black Diamond Distance Spike ($100) is a game changer in this year’s traction device market. Perhaps the Distance Spike is a result of the company’s experience in the outdoor industry since 1957 or the input from well-known mountain runners Joe Grant and Kyle Richardson, but Black Diamond nails it with these spikes.
It’s no secret that I prefer aggressive, toothy traction for winter running in the mountains and foothills of Colorado where I live or any other wintry locale I visit. I’ve never been a skater-grrl, so having solid purchase when I’m cruising up and down trails is key. Though there are several other products similar to my personal gold standard of the Kahtoola MICROspikes (review), this Black Diamond option is the first time I’ve worn running spikes for ice and snow that take everything I love about an aggressive spike, trims it down slightly, lightens it up significantly, and doesn’t sacrifice the grip I desire for running on packed snow and sketchy ice.
Black Diamond Distance Spike Design
Per the specs on the website, the Black Diamond Distance Spike comes in 4 sizes ranging from the small (US men’s 4 to 6.5/women’s 5 to 7.5 and Euro 35 to 38.5) to extra large (US men’s 13 to 15.5/women’s 14-plus and Euro 46.5 to 49.5) and weighs 3.3 ounces (93 grams) each in a size medium. Compared to other models I tried, these seem slightly more forgiving in fit at the upper end of the size range–where I seem to always fall. The pair packs into a very small stuff sack approximately 5 x 3 x 2 inches, which protects you from the spikes well and fits into even the most low-profile hydration pack. They’re also light enough that carrying them in your hand during longer dry sections is not bothersome.
A hybrid harness seems to be where significant weight savings is made. Black Diamond combines a heel retention elastomer and a very thin yet durable (so far) softshell fabric upper. The lower volume stainless steel chain containing the 14 triangular stainless steel spikes integrates in 8 places with the upper via webbing to the forefoot material and reinforced holes in the elastomer around the heel. The spikes are 0.31 inches (8 millimeters) long and heat treated for enhanced strength and corrosion resistance. Interestingly, the spikes are joined in groups of 2, 3, and 4 by stainless steel bridges and connected to others via a cross link.
Black Diamond Distance Spike Use and Traction
While I don’t know the exact reason for the stainless steel bridges connecting the spikes on the bottom of the Black Diamond Distance Spike, I really appreciate this feature because they keep the traction centered right where you want it beneath your shoe as your foot lands and pushes off. In other words, the design prevents individual spikes from getting slightly off kilter as the chain moves around beneath the foot during the swing phase of running. I found the design to shed show better than similar styles and I rarely had to stop and kick off built up snowballs beneath the heel or forefoot like I do for other kinds of traction devices. To be transparent though, I’m not sure if this was truly a design function or the luck of the weather and snow conditions on any given day.
The softshell fabric forefoot cover is an innovative feature that keeps the forefoot of a non-waterproof shoe surprisingly dry and comfortable. While the cover does a perfect job of keeping the traction device secure on your shoe, even on long downhills, the challenge of the cover is that the shape of it doesn’t exactly conform to all styles of trail shoes. I found it to fit best over the slightly slimmer toebox shape of Salomon and Inov-8 shoes whereas my La Sportiva Akashas didn’t fit within the toe cover quite as well. With the softshell stretched a bit more, I noticed a line of pressure where the material ends toward the midfoot. This doesn’t hamper the function of the Distance Spike, but it means I have to be more precise in putting them on while wearing shoes with rounder toeboxes. It tends to work better if I pull up a quick seat on a rock rather than balance on one leg.
The webbing that forms the ample-sized heel loop is very easy to grab with gloved hands, thus simplifying the on-off process in general. I only fell over once putting one on, but I think we can blame the device less and where I chose to stand on the trail more.
There is no question that the Distance Spike offers plenty of secure traction for almost all the conditions Mother Nature offers. The light weight of the Distance Spike means I can wear them for a multi-hour run with less overall leg fatigue and energy cost.
Black Diamond Distance Spike Overall Impressions
I am so, so happy with the Black Diamond Distance Spike and the performance they offer. These ice cleats represent a great marriage between plenty of traction for difficult winter conditions in a package that doesn’t feel heavy on the foot. The slightly lower profile spikes mean I can dance through the dry sections without removing them as frequently and with a little less prancing to avoid catching the teeth on rocks. I’m still fairly careful with this though and would rather take a moment to remove them rather than face planting or ruining a really incredible pair of traction-enabling gear.
When it comes down to really nasty ice or steep terrain like I find above treeline, I still feel like I might want a bit more aggressiveness in the teeth and the surety of a full elastomer harness. But someone with more surefootedness will surely find the Black Diamond Distance Spike meets all of their sub-crampon-level needs for running all winter long. If you’ve ever been held back from purchasing aggressive traction options by concerns over weight and packability, the Distance Spike puts those concerns to rest and will let you tackle any trail conditions thrown at you by winter’s icy grasp.
Other Winter Running Traction Devices
For more on the subject, check out our Best Winter Running Traction Devices article. You can also check out these individual reviews of traction devices for running on snow and ice.
Call for Comments
Are you giving the Black Diamond Distance Spike a shot this winter? Leave a comment to talk about your experiences in the spike.
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