Black Diamond Distance Spike Review

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.

The Black Diamond Distance Spike. All photos: iRunFar

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.

A lateral view of the Black Diamond Distance Spike.

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.

A medial view of the Black Diamond Distance Spike.

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.

A view of the spikes, bridges, and chains on the bottom of the Black Diamond Distance Spike.

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.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The elastomer and softshell fabric harness of the Black Diamond Distance Spike.

Kristin Zosel: is a mom, wife, ultrarunner, physical therapist (on sabbatical), and transcriptionist for iRunFar.com. Her love of steep uphills, high mountain environments, and Swiss “lovely cows” keep alpine visions dancing in her head and strong cappuccinos in her mug.

View Comments (14)

  • Thanks for the review, any concern with that heel loop? I'd be uneasy with catching it on a sharper rock or an exposed tree root sticking up.

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  • Pete, great question! So far I’ve had zero issues w it and I’m relatively in love w the size since it lets me pull the spikes on w thin gloves on easily. East coast trails may give a diff experience w the prevalence of roots compared to my Colorado options, but the loop stays quite close to my shoe/heel.

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  • Kristin, you write THE MOST thorough reviews! Thank you so much. I read about equipment I don't even need! Although after reading your reviews, maybe ... hmmm. :-)

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  • Thanks a lot, Jane! Running is such a “cheap sport” except... well... so much cool gear, so little time.

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  • Hi, I have the Microspikes and love them, except in longer steeper runs 2h+. How would you compare those with the Kahtoola? Thanks

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  • Marco, I think it depends on how you define steep and how sure footed you are on the descents. I’m a strong climber but I lose time on descents—confidence and agility lacking, so beefier spikes help w that. Here in CO I prefer the Microspikes for our high alpine easier 13/14ers w all the jumbly rocks that end up exposed in sections because I know it will be running/power hiking/slogging, and the durability of the device itself and the increased confidence is more impt to me than anything else... but for pure running terrain even w a lot of elevation thrown in where the snow and ice covering is more consistent and distance longer, the Distance Spikes are absolutely amazing. An athlete that runs lighter on their feet and is more confident on downhills no doubt can do the Distance Spike for the big mountains. Hope that helps.

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  • Readers will hear more in a few days, but I'm in love with BD Distance Spike. A game changer!

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  • Another great review from Kristin! Those look and sound great, but they lost me at $100. I bought my microspikes 12 years ago, and I was slightly annoyed at them being $65 (I may have even had a coupon). But, they quickly became my favorite piece of gear, and are still going strong. If I did need new traction, it would be hard to justify spending 1.5x the money on such a similar product (YMMV!).

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    • Thanks for the great review! I’m trying to decide between these and Black Diamond’s more traditional full elastomer design, which is a fair bit less expensive at about a 25 gram penalty. Do you have any opinions on this? You mention that you think the elastomer designs are more secure... I like that the soft shell forefoot of the Distance provides some snow protection but I’m concerned with durability and fit (I’m not sure if the elastomer versions will be more or less secure on the foot). Thanks!

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  • The price must come down rapidly, as I'm not buying a $100 accessory for (in my case) very occasional use. Yaktrax Pro despite their multiple issues are still remarkably good for my use case.

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    • RMS, these probably aren't the best investment for someone with very occasional "winter" running needs. (In which case turning an old pair of running shoes into screw shoes for icy conditions and just wearing luggy trails shoes in the snow might workout just fine!) On the other hand, here in Silverton, Colorado, I run on snow and ice for the better part of five months of the year. That certainly changes the cost/value equation. I bought a pair of Distance Spikes for a friend here in Silverton and I know he'll get plenty of use to make them worthwhile in one winter alone.

      For infrequent use, you might check out the YakTrax Pro.

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  • For those who are put off by the $100 price tag, there are also the cheaper BD Access spikes (got them for EUR65 in France, I assume around $75 for you guys). As far as I can tell these have the same spike pattern but a different shoe-attachment system. I was lucky enough to test them during a long run in fresh snow on the Vercors Plateau and they are great !

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    • The BD Access Spikes do retail for $75 here in the U.S.

      The traction portion under foot looks identical. The main differences are likely to be the weight (0.5oz/17g) and packability, with the Distance Spikes coming out on top in both areas.

      Did you find the full elastomer set up of the Access Spikes to curl your toes upward at all. I know I've noticed this in long runs in similar devices like the Kahtoola MICROspikes.

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  • Hi, I have the Microspikes and love them

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