’Tis the season for traction devices in the Northern Hemisphere’s wintry regions, and I’m always happy to discover another spikes brand for myself. The Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons ($55) are one offering by Hillsound, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and entered the traction-device market circa 2007. With six removable running spikes for ice and snow, several gaiter options, and some all-mountain ultra-endurance athletes on their ambassador list, Hillsound has a firm place in this angle of the market. Staying upright while running is exceedingly important to me though not always my first tendency, so I have gradually procured a fairly well-rounded collection of ice cleats. In this review, we check out a new-to-me design in the Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons.
Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons Design
The Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons are designed for the urban or light trail runner and hiker and are constructed accordingly yet with the same high quality materials that go into the company’s more technical options. Everything about the device is designed to keep the foot well-secured even if casual shoes without significant outsoles are worn. This crampon—not to be confused with mountaineering crampons—utilizes a textured elastomer harness with an attached velcro strap across the forefoot to secure the device to one’s footwear.
The semi-flexible polyurethane footplates, which also have texture to increase purchase on the sole of your shoe), are embedded with 18 multidirectional 0.25-inch (7-millimeter) triangular, stainless steel spikes and cover up a good portion of the outsole. This makes them ideal to throw on over road shoes or casual hiking shoes.
Though the elastomer is more dense and less stretchy than the competitors’ versions, some flexibility is gained through the riveted attachment points that cross at the midfoot/arch and secure the separate forefoot plate and rearfoot plate to the harness. The relatively large step-in area is accommodating to shoes within the size range, and the heel pull tab as well as the velcro strap are easy to use with liner gloves or bare hands. I am not able to put these on while standing on one foot—something to rest the foot on is key. Once on, they definitely do not slide around, so make sure to set them how you like them.
The Flexsteps are on the heavier end of the range at 5.65 ounces (160 grams) per device in a size medium, but given the market angle, it’s not a prohibitive weight at all. These come with a protective carrying pouch to prevent any damage to softer objects while carrying them in your hydration pack or gear bag. These don’t pack down particularly small, however. At best, the stuffed pouch is approximately 8 x 6 x 3.5 inches, which takes up a fair amount of room in my daily run pack. If you’re wearing them out the door or grabbing them from a car bag, no problem at all. Similar to the other brands, this traction option can be worn across a wide variety of sizes from extra small (US men’s 6 to 8/women’s 6 to 9 and Euro 39.5 to 41) all the way up to extra large (US men’s 15-plus and Euro 48.5 to 49.5).
Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons Use and Traction
Running on snowy, crushed gravel paths and snow-packed, smooth dirt singletrack, I find the traction of the Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons to be exceptional. Short kicker uphills and slippery downhills are no trouble and I feel confident enough to maintain my speedy stride on short distance runs. The riveted construction creates flex points that allow the forefoot and heel to decouple appropriately and reduce foot fatigue. On the flats, the increased traction and secure fit combine to make a runner feel zippy in the way that soccer cleats on grassy fields make you feel like a ringer from a professional soccer team.
From a pure trail running perspective, I find these to be less adept in the presence of frozen ruts or unevenness in the ground—rocks, roots, tufts of weeds, and more. Somehow the teeth create a tipping point that easily inverts the ankle if you hit them just right. I also have consistent difficulties with catching the toe points on little rises or dirt ridges. I seem to adjust well to other traction devices with how high I pick up my feet, but I consistently struggled with these. With the aggressive spikes, the Flexsteps are not something I’d wear on any bare pavement—a minimum of 0.25 inches of solid snow and/or ice cover would be necessary before I’d run or walk in them.
Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons Overall Impressions
For me, the Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons are best for shorter runs on smooth snowy or icy terrain and even better for dog walks, non-technical hikes, or even hauling kid sleds up hillsides. My neighbors borrowed these spikes for a quick trip to Colorado’s ski country and loved them for walking around the local paths from their condominium as well as at the bottom of the ski hill while wrangling their kids. When these traction devices are used for the purposes they’re designed, the secure fit and durability make them stand out. I’m impressed by the attention to detail Hillsound puts in this particular option, and it gives me confidence that the other devices they offer would be equally well-designed.
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 running in the Hillsound Flexsteps Crampons?
- If so, what are your thoughts on the devices overall, and on what terrain do they work well and less well for you?
- Do you run in any of Hillsound’s other traction devices?
[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!]