MICROSPIKES VS CRAMPONS | Which is Best?

by | Gear Guides

Great question – microspikes vs crampons? Which is best for you, and just what is the difference between using microspikes for hiking or crampons for hiking?

If you want to know all about crampons vs microspikes, you’re in the right place. Here at Wild About BC, we love to take to the trails – whatever the weather. 

Hence this guide. We’re here to help you find the best hiking crampons or microspikes for your outdoor adventures. By the end of this article, we promise you’ll be clear on the difference between microspikes and crampons. As well as being familiar with Yaktrax!

In a hurry?

Click here to see our top pick crampons

Click here to view the best microspikes

We will give you a simple definition of crampons, as well as outlining exactly what microspikes are. This post will also run through when and how to use crampons and microspikes, before listing all the best microspikes and crampons on the market.

We also go through how to choose crampons and microspikes, as well as what to look for when buying, and address some of the most frequently asked questions around the topic of microspikes and crampons for hiking.

So stay with us as we walk you through everything you need to know about types of crampons and microspikes. Including when to use crampons or microspikes. Plus which are the best hiking microspikes or best crampons for ice climbing, mountaineering and trekking in winter. 

*Wild About BC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Please note we only link to products & services we personally use or trust. 

Hiking Crampons

Microspikes vs Crampons Comparison Table

Before we get into the product reviews below, this quick reference comparison table lets you see the key features of each option at a glance. 

NameTypeKey FeaturesBest ForPrice
Grivel G12CramponsPro standard, easy to put on, very reliableChallenging icy climbsClick Here
Kahtoola K 10 Hiking CramponCramponsComfortable, hugely popular , rustproof stainless steelAll-day hiking and non-technical mountaineeringClick Here
PETZL Irvis Hybrid Leverlock Universel CramponCramponsCompact, lightweight and great for ski touringApproaches and glacier skiingClick Here
Energetic SkyCramponsRecent upgrade, flexible silicon bindingBargain BuyClick Here
Hillsound TrailCrampons2 year warranty, carry bag, long heel spikesCrampon - Microspike hybridClick Here
Yatta LifeCramponsAffordable, 2 year warranty, robust buildGood all-rounderClick Here
Kahtoola EXOspikesMicrospikesTop brand, very secure, 2 year warrantyBig brand & back-upClick Here
Kahtoola NANOspikesMicrospikesGreat price, 2 year warranty, leading brandWinter road runningClick Here
Camp SnowlineMicrospikesSlimline design, easy fit to most shoesLight duty tractionClick Here
Yaktrax Diamond GripYaktraxGood value, low profile, fits most footwea‘Wild card’Click Here

What are Crampons?

In very basic terms, think of crampons for ice. The original idea of putting crampons on hiking boots was to add grip when ice climbing. Crampons are used for walking on ice or snow, when walking without them you would slip. 

Ice traction crampons are fitted to the outside of footwear to enable movement over the ground in wintry conditions. They can be used as ice climbing crampons or for any other activity that involves travelling over ice or snow and ice, such as traversing snowfields, icefields or glaciers, or scaling icy rocks or snow-covered slopes.

Hiking boot crampons are not as easy to use as microspikes for hiking, and it’s best to have at least some basic training before fitting and moving around in specialized mountaineering crampons. Sometimes crampons are referred to as ice cleats. 

When to Use Crampons

So what are crampons used for, in terms of specific activities? Originally, they were designed as mountain climbing crampons for use on icy terrain. They are still used for this purpose, but ice crampons for boots are also worn when moving over frozen or snow-clad ground.

As such, fitting crampons to hiking footwear may be done before crossing a glacier, icefield or snowfield, or particularly when ascending any kind of ice or snow-covered ground that is also sloping, hilly or even mountainous.  

Types of Crampons 

Crampons come in two main types. There are all-round crampons that are ideal for general-purpose use. For many surfaces, this kind gives sufficient traction. 

Crampons include a series of metal points that face both down and forwards. Many are 12 point crampons, with 10 downward facing points and two front-facing ones.

Some general-purpose crampons have a hinged center. This hinge can be necessary because it enables the safe fitting of crampons to footwear with a flat or completely rigid sole.

Where the ground is especially tightly-packed or steep, a more technically advanced type of crampon may be worn. 

Crampons may vary by the method used to put them on, and each is suitable for use with different footwear such as standard hiking footwear, ski boots or even specialized, low profile ice climbing footwear. 

You may come across strap-on, automatic, screw-in or semi-automatic crampons. Screw-in ones are only for use with technical ice climbing shoes (sometimes known as ‘fruit boots’).

Automatic or step in crampons are worn over mountaineering or ski boots. Strap-on styles can be worn over regular hiking shoes or snowboarding boots, while the semi-automatic kind are often used with more technical footwear without toe welts, such as alpine climbing or more technical hiking boots. 

What are microspikes?

Hiking microspikes tend to be smaller and less heavy-duty than hiking crampons. The name gives some idea as to what they are: small spikes connected together by means of chains or other bindings. 

These are fitted over hiking boots or shoes to improve traction where required. They can be used instead of crampons for walking or running over ice, when the high level of grip that comes with crampons for walking on ice is required.   

Microspikes are fairly simple to use, and you can even buy microspikes for running as you can move far more quickly over the ground with them than when wearing crampons with hiking boots.

Yaktrax are also like a variation on microspikes, but instead of points they have lots of little ‘diamond’ beads for multi-directional traction. 

When to Use Microspikes 

Microspikes for hiking are used mainly for more level terrain. If the trekking trails you want to hike are covered in ice or snow, and the ground is fairly flat, microspikes may serve you better than crampons for boots.

Where your hiking footwear fails to give you sufficient traction to protect you from slips and falls, this is where microspikes can fill the gap. They allow you to move over perilous ground far more quickly than ice crampons for shoes or boots would. 

Types of microspikes

Microspikes all share a similar design in common. They comprise a series of spikes joined together by chains. This part is then connected to a section made from a flexible, rubbery material that fits over the shoe. 

Microspike variations will normally involve the size, shape or quantity of spikes, with larger, longer or more spikes generally giving improved grip.

Best Crampons

Grivel G12 Crampons Review

Best for – Serious ice climbers

  • Number of spikes – 12
  • Sizes – one size

The Grivel G12 is a crampon for the most serious ice climbers among you. It can be worn only with compatible alpine boots, so it’s not for those who haven’t got – or don’t want to invest in – the right footwear.

This is a 12 point crampon, with two to the front and 10 to the sides. Three different types of binding are offered, so you can choose between Grivel’s ‘Cramp-o-Matic’, their ‘New-Matic’ or their ‘Classic-o-Matic’. 

Current owners give these heavy-duty crampons rave reviews, saying they’re easy to put on, offer great traction and are reliable even in the heaviest or very slippery snow and ice. 

We’re wild about:

  • Professional standard crampon
  • Perfect for challenging climbs
  • Easy to put on

Not so wild:

  • Higher price bracket
  • More than some may need

Click here to view the Grivel G12

Kahtoola K 10 Hiking Crampon

Best for – all-day hiking and non-technical mountaineering

  • Number of spikes – 10
  • Sizes – XS – XL

The Kahtoola K 10 hiking crampons are ideal for wearing on your feet for a full day of hiking as long as you are not tackling anything that is too technical. They are designed to be highly packable and can be used on either shoes or boots.

The bindings are independent which means you can tighten both the front and rear bindings separately to ensure maximum comfort as well as increased stability. These crampons are made from stainless steel, which is good to know when you want something that will last without corroding. This also makes them a lightweight choice, while helping to avoid snowballing.

We’re wild about:

  • Comfortable to wear all day
  • Hugely popular product
  • Rustproof stainless steel

Not so wild:

  • Buckles are hard to undo with cold fingers
  • No toe spikes for steep terrain

Click here to view the Kahtoola K 10 Hiking Crampon

PETZL Irvis Hybrid Leverlock Universel Crampon

Best for – approaches and glacier skiing

  • Number of spikes – 10
  • Sizes – one size

These Petzl crampons offer an excellent balance between performance, technicality, weight and traction. The front piece is made from steel, while the heel piece is made from aluminum. The hybrid construction allows these crampons to be ultralight making them easy to carry or wear on your feet all day.

The CORD-TEC flexible linking system and universal bindings allow these crampons to fit any type of footwear, including ski touring boots, hiking boots or regular shoes. The cord system means that the crampons can fold up to a very small size to fit in the included carrying case which makes them easy to throw into your backpack.

We’re wild about:

  • Great for ski touring
  • Design makes them very compact
  • Lightweight

Not so wild:

  • Aluminum heel is not as durable as stainless steel
  • Need to be careful the cord is tight when fitting

Click here to view the PETZL Irvis Hybrid Leverlock Universel Crampon

Black Diamond Contact Crampons Review (Currently unavailable??)

Best for – Superior rustproof steel

  • Number of spikes – 9 
  • Sizes – one size

These Black Diamond crampons can cope with some pretty demanding conditions, yet they can be fitted to most types of footwear, thanks to a very flexible toe strap. This is a compact pair of crampons that are simple to use, yet they’re also tough.

They’re made from rustproof stainless steel, which is good to know when you want something that will last without corroding. This also makes them a lightweight choice, while helping to avoid snowballing.

If ice climbing is your thing, then you can take the Black Diamond Contact along without any risk of your crampons weighing you down. The low-profile fitting is also designed to fit snugly to modern outdoor footwear.

We’re wild about:

  • Hugely popular product
  • Ideal for ice climbing
  • Rustproof stainless steel

Not so wild:

  • Too narrow for some footwear
  • Not the easiest to strap on

Click here to view the Black Diamond Contact

Camp Frost crampons review (Currently Unavailable)

Best for – Lightweight & compact crampon

  • Number of spikes – 6 
  • Sizes – one size

Camp crampons are another name that’s up there with the best. The Camp Frost weighs under 20 ounces, making it a lightweight option. They are also compatible with a broad range of outdoor boots, such as the usual standard hiking boots.

This is a very compact and lightweight crampon with six spikes, yet it delivers an impressive level of traction on slippery terrain. The width is simple to adjust and there are two straps for fitting them to your footwear. 

Designed to be worn beneath the heel and mid-foot, the Camp Frost crampon is ideal for icy or snowy downhill descents. There are integral anti-balling plates and a carry bag comes with them too. 

We’re wild about:

  • Carry bag
  • Compact & portable
  • Fits to most outdoor boots

Not so wild:

  • Users report sizing variations 
  • Less spikes than other products

Click here to view the Camp Frost

EnergeticSky Crampons Review

Best for – Bargain buy crampon

  • Number of spikes – 19 
  • Sizes – M, L or XL

If you want cheap crampons to try out, then it’s worth checking out this product from Energetic Sky, as they won’t break the bank. They’re probably not the top option for severe uphill terrain, but if you want good traction on the average trail then they’ve got to be worth a go.

They attract great reviews and high ratings. While the spikes are a lot shorter than those seen on the most technical ice cleats, there are 19 in total and they’re spread out pretty evenly. 

These Energetic Sky crampons are certainly leaning toward the microspike category, but if you trek fairly flat trails or live somewhere where winter brings lots of snow and ice, these very affordable crampons could be just the job. 

We’re wild about:

  • Recently upgraded
  • Great value for money
  • Flexible silicon binding

Not so wild:

  • Build quality
  • Not ideal for ice climbing 

Click here to view EnergeticSky crampons

Hillsound Trail Crampons Review

Best for – crampon & microspikes hybrid

  • Number of spikes – 18
  • Sizes – XS to XL

Want the best crampons for hiking more challenging trails than Hillsound’s microspikes can cope with? Then take a look at these. The Hillsound Trail microspikes or crampons are something like a hybrid between the two.

Think of them as heavy-duty microspikes or lightweight crampons, if you like. There are 18 points in total, including three longer ones at the heel for added grip. A nice touch is the velcro strap that goes over the instep, as it makes the crampon more secure. 

Like Kahtoola crampons, this product is covered by a two-year warranty. A carry bag also comes with them for easy storage and transportation. 

We’re wild about:

  • Extra long heel points
  • 2 year warranty
  • Carry bag

Not so wild:

  • Users report sizing variations 
  • Not the toughest crampon

Click here to view the Hillsound Trail

Yatta Life Crampons

Best for – Good all-rounder

  • Number of spikes – 14
  • Sizes – S to XL

Lots of people like these Yatta Life crampons, and it’s easy to see why. Again they are perhaps more akin to heavy-duty microspikes, as they can be used for running, walking, hiking and some climbing.

This pair of crampons can be worn over most hiking footwear, including shoes as well as boots. Satisfied owners love the traction and the build quality.

They are certainly built for strength, with welded chains and corrosion-resistant metal. A two-year warranty is also offered by Yatta Life. 

We’re wild about:

  • Affordable price
  • 2 year warranty
  • Robust build

Not so wild:

  • More like a heavy duty microspike
  • Not professional standard

Click here to view Yatta Life crampons

Best microspikes

Kahtoola EXOspikes Microspikes Review

Best for – Big brand with back-up

  • Number of spikes – 12
  • Sizes – XS to XL

Kahtoola makes some of the very best microspikes for hiking, but you don’t have to take our word for that. Simply click on the link below and you can read many a positive Kahtoola microspikes review! A handy microspikes sizing guide is also supplied. 

Whether you’re looking for Kahtoola microspikes in Canada, the US or anywhere else in the world, their EXOspikes often top the list. With 12 spikes, they’re designed for use when walking in winter, or even running over icy or snowy terrain. They can be fitted to hiking or trail running footwear. 

One of the best things about buying Kahtoola microspikes is that they offer a two-year warranty. These microspikes feature a very streamlined design and are ultra secure to wear as well as being ergonomically designed for comfort. 

We’re wild about:

  • Highly respected brand
  • 2 year warranty
  • Ultra secure fit

Not so wild:

  • Can be harder to put on
  • Not ideal for hilly terrain

Click here to view Kahtoola EXOspikes

Kahtoola NANOspikes Review

Best for – Winter road running

  • Number of spikes – 10
  • Sizes – XS to XL

It seems that Kahtoola are King when it comes to microspikes, and their NANOspikes are another great option from the big brand. You can even pick between 4 colors – black, charcoal, red or teal.

This pair of microspikes is chiefly aimed at those who want a sure grip when walking on ground that’s very icy or packed with snow. If you’re a would-be winter road runner, these could be the microspikes for you.

These microspikes are even designed to help with shock absorption, thus protecting your joints and spine at the same time. They also come with Kahtoola’s two year warranty back-up.

We’re wild about:

  • Top microspikes brand
  • 2 year warranty
  • Great price

Not so wild:

  • Can be tricky to fit
  • Not ideal for winter hiking

Click here to view Kahtoola NANOspikes

Camp Snowline Microspikes Review

Best for – Light duty traction 

  • Number of spikes – 12
  • Sizes – S to XL

For lightweight, comfortable traction on moderately slippery terrain, the Camp Snowline is pretty hard to beat. It can be fitted to just about any shoe or boot type, so you wouldn’t need any other special equipment when wearing it.

This set of microspikes is extremely lightweight and portable, and it’s simple and fast to put on. The design is actually based on Camp’s popular Chainsen, but is made with narrower gauge metal and elastomer.

For the average hiking trail or even just heading out safely in wintry conditions, the Snowline is a sound choice.

We’re wild about:

  • Very easy to fit
  • Ultra slimline design
  • Compatible with many shoes or boots

Not so wild:

  • Flimsier build
  • Light duty use only

Click here to view Camp Snowline

Yaktrax Diamond Grip Review

Best for – The ‘Wild Card

  • Multiple ‘biting beads’
  • Size – S to XXL

If you’ve been wondering about microspikes vs Yaktrax, here’s the lowdown. Rather than a smaller number of spikes, Yaktrax have hundreds of the brand’s patented Diamond Grip beads on them to provide grip in multiple directions.

This is held together with strong, secure rubber binding and a cable made from aircraft grade steel. The low profile design is made for comfort, as well as compatibility with various types of outdoor footwear.

Yaktrax are ideal when you’re walking or running on a variety of surfaces, as each bead swivels independently to adjust to the terrain. So there’s no need to remove them when you’re switching from gravel to icy concrete, or even onto frozen mud.

We’re wild about:

  • Low profile design
  • Good value for money
  • Compatible with lots of footwear

Not so wild:

  • Durability
  • Not for more rugged conditions

Click here to view Yaktrax Diamond Grip

What to look for when choosing microspikes or crampons

There are certain features and things to look out for when buying crampons or microspikes. These include how to put on the microspikes or crampons you choose, their weight, the quantity of points or spikes and the materials they’re made from as well as the sizing.

How to put on crampons or microspikes

Whether you buy microspikes or crampons, they fit over your regular footwear. At one end of the scale, some crampons are only compatible with the likes of specialized ice climbing shoes or alpine boots.

Whether they are step-in crampons, clip-on crampons or slip-on crampons doesn’t matter too much: it’s what sort of footwear you can wear them over that really counts.

If you have any trouble with bending or mobility, check user reviews, as they’ll normally mention how easy – or difficult – each product is to use.

The manufacturer’s own guide is often the ideal first port of call if you are wondering how to fit crampons or microspikes once they’ve been delivered.

Spikes or points

As mentioned above, some shoe or boot crampons have 12 points in total, but you may also come across 10 point crampons. They may even have as few as six, or perhaps 20 or more.  

It’s the size of the spikes that matters most, which is why the more serious, professional standard crampons have much longer points than microspikes or light-duty crampons. Although they may well be fewer in number.

Lightweight crampons

You may not be thinking of looking for light crampons, but if you’re going to carry them around this could make all the difference.

If you’re likely to take them ‘just in case’ – or need to hike for miles before putting them on – it’s definitely worth looking for a more compact, portable and lightweight product. 

Heavier crampons will also weigh you down when climbing or hiking, so you may have to weigh that up against the level of traction offered. 

Materials

Most crampons and microspikes are made from metal and will be bound together by some kind of webbing – or have a couple of binding straps instead.

Steel crampons may rust over time, especially if they’re stored damp. So it can be worth paying extra for rust-proof materials.

The binding should also be made from a flexible material – otherwise, you may struggle to put them on!

Sizing

Heavy-duty crampons tend to come in one size, while lighter use ones or microspikes often come in a range of sizes. 

Again user reviews can come in handy here, as you can check out what other people say about the fitting and whether or not they are true to size. 

Crampons for Hiking

Microspikes vs Crampons – FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding hiking, climbing, running or walking with crampons.

Are microspikes and crampons the same?

As we’ve hopefully made clear, crampons and microspikes are not the same. But, when buying, you’ll often find that the two terms are used interchangeably. 

Sometimes there’s a fine line between a crampon and a microspike, while with some products it’s plain to see which category they’d belong to, even after the merest glance.

What is the difference between microspikes and crampons?

In short, you would always be buying the best ice climbing crampons rather than the best microspikes for icy climbs, as crampons are often much more heavy-duty.

Crampons are best for challenging climbs or terrain, while microspikes are best for faster movement over flatter ground. 

When to use microspikes vs crampons?

Microspikes are good for general winter use in snow and ice, as well as less challenging walks and hikes. 

For climbing use or very slippery ground, heavy-duty crampons are the best bet. 

Can you use crampons instead of microspikes?

If you want an all-purpose kind of product, then look for a lighter-duty crampon. These can often be used interchangeably with microspikes. 

Again, even the briefest look at the image for each product should make the difference more clear. 

Are microspikes any good?

Lots of people living in colder countries swear by microspikes when winter comes. Wearing them can mean the difference between a bad fall and staying safe. It’s also a lot simpler to get around when you can move more quickly over ice or snow!

Are crampons and spikes the same thing?

Crampons have spikes – in various numbers and sizes. Microspikes do too, but they are smaller and shorter. 

Best Crampons

Final thoughts

We hope this guide on microspikes vs crampons has helped you find the best crampons for winter hiking, running or even climbing. 

Whether you want walking crampons for a wintry city or the best crampons for mountaineering, microspikes and crampons for hiking boots or other footwear makes you far more sure-footed. 

Who knows, wearing winter boots with crampons may even open up a whole new outdoor world, whether you’re adventuring here in Canada or somewhere on the other side of the planet!


Interested in picking up some more gear for your adventures? Check out our other guides:

Share!

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wild About BC About Us

Hi, we’re Luke and Roxy, a couple of adventurers that are head over heels in love with British Columbia, Canada.

We share our activities and outdoor adventures with the hope of inspiring others to get out and enjoy beautiful BC!

Thanks for visiting our blog!

Popular Posts

St Marks Summit Hike, Vancouver

ST MARKS SUMMIT HIKE | Cypress Mountain

Things to do on Vancouver Island

THINGS TO DO ON VANCOUVER ISLAND | Complete Bucket List

Cox Bay Trail, Tofino

COX BAY TRAIL | 

Epic View in Tofino

Get your FREE day hike packing list!

 

 Subscribe to our email list and get your FREE downloadable day hike checklist straight to your inbox. 

Success! Check your email for your packing list.

Download your FREE Vancouver itinerary!

 

 Subscribe to our email list and get your FREE downloadable PDF Vancouver itinerary straight to your inbox. 

Success! Check your email for your downloadable PDF guide.

Download your FREE checklist of things to do in Tofino!

 

 Subscribe to our email list and get your FREE downloadable checklist of things to do in Tofino straight to your inbox. 

Success! Check your email for your checklist.

Download your FREE checklist of things to do on Vancouver Island!

 

 Subscribe to our email list and get your FREE downloadable checklist of things to do on Vancouver Island straight to your inbox. 

Success! Check your email for your checklist.

Download your FREE Banff bucket list!

 

 Subscribe to our email list and get your FREE downloadable Banff bucket list straight to your inbox. 

Success! Check your email for your Banff bucket list.

Download your FREE checklist of things to do in Tofino!

 

 Subscribe to our email list and get your FREE downloadable checklist of things to do in Tofino straight to your inbox. 

Success! Check your email for your checklist.