Kahtoola MICROspikes Review

An in-depth review of the Kahtoola MICROspikes winter traction device.

By on January 1, 2009 | Comments

Winter Running Traction Devices

For iRunFar’s current favorite traction devices, check out our Best Winter Running Traction Devices guide. You can also check out these individual reviews of traction devices for running on snow and ice.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 Yaktrax Pro review.

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

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.