Get a grip: picking the right ice cleat.

Chris Tse Running Edmonton Ice Cleats.jpg

From casual hikes to great adventures, the spring-like weather in Edmonton has many of us venturing outside. The sidewalks are relatively clear of ice but, if you are heading into the River Valley, many of the trail systems are more icier than socializing in a packed elevator. There have been a a few times where I’ve found myself trapped in the middle of a slippery slope wondering why I put myself in these situations. A few weeks ago I started to look into different ice cleat systems; these are spikes, bolts, or metal teeth that somehow attach to a shoe to dig into an icy surface. I’ve ran a minimum of a 5 km distance, and walked on concrete, ice over concrete, mud, and icy trails with each one of these systems to gauge the pros and cons of each system.  Let’s review a few, and there’s a special event and offer at the bottom of this blog!

Sheet Metal Screws as Ice Cleats.jpgDrywall screws: 

I figured I’d start with this do it yourself method first. All you need to do is go out and buy a pack of sheet metal screws with hex heads and strategically screw them into a pair of slightly worn shoes. The recommended approach is to place the screws around the perimeter of the shoe and in areas where you see the most amount of wear on the sole. Fifteen minutes of work and a bit of elbow grease and you have yourself a pair of ice cleats!

Pros: It’s simple, and cost effective.

You can put these screws on practically any shoe that has a thick sole. I noticed the traction on any ice surface is similar to the other manufactured ice cleats and far less expensive. At a cost of $5 for a pack of 80 screws and using fourteen of them for each shoe, you can practically outfit every winter running boot and shoe with this system.

Cons: versatility.

I run in minimalist shoes so I had to dig up a pair of thick soled shoes for this project. So running and hiking on thicker soles combined with the screws changed my gait quite a bit. I would probably not run in these again. In thin areas of the sole I could definitely feel the screw threatening to puncture through. In most running or hiking situations, we are either running on concrete or driving to get to the trail; in this set up, you can’t remove the spikes for situations where they aren’t necessary and then place them back on when needed unless you are bringing two pairs of shoes.

Kahtoola Nanospikes.jpgKhatoola Nanospikes:

This product has a few elastomer rings that hold two  plates with small spikes affixed to them. It’s hailed to be great for running and walking. You can slip this piece of equipment easily on any shoe and head off to your next adventure. The spikes are low profile so but still quite effective at gripping on ice in both run and hiking situations.

Pros: versatility, and comfort.

I was able to easily take the Khatoola’s on and off the shoe when needed; I could take them off when I was running on cement, and put them on relatively quickly when I was running or hiking on trails. I did run on cement with them to see how they felt and these were the most comfortable feeling spikes out of all of the three. Even with minimalist footwear I didn’t feel them as much as either the bolts or the Icetrekkers on hard surfaces; I attribute this to the platform that the spikes are affixed to and the lower profile.

Cons: performance, and cost.

The platform that the spikes sit on shifts around a little if you are running and hiking on technical terrain, at times the shoe slips out of the sling a bit. The profile of the equipment does suit more towards a running or walking shoe so it may not be suited for more aggressive hiking boots. They are quite expensive at $50 for a pair but in my mind it’s worth a bit more money for safety.



Icetrekkers by Yaktrax.jpg

Diamond Grip ICEtrekkers:

Although the Diamond Grips are said to be for walking and hiking, I figured I’d try these out for running too. This is a very simple design, one rubber sling fits around the bottom of the shoe and chains hold two circles of hardened steel that fit to the shoe. The device slips easily on any shoe you want so you take them on or off with no issues whatsoever.

Pros: versatility, and performance.

The ICEtrekkers fit snugly on every shoe, whether it was a minimalist shoe or a hiking boot, when I put them on the shoe it stayed on and didn’t move. These were the easiest to take on and off since the sling covered the bottom of the shoe. I was able to take these off quickly when running on concrete and put them on when I was running on the trails.  This device is also quite compact so you can easily throw them in a pocket unlike the Kahtoola’s. In more flat but icy terrain, the difference between all three systems is barely noticeable but the Diamond Grips out performed the two when it came to icy hills and technical trails. This device was great on hikes too since it also exposed the tread of the shoe to all of the surfaces unlike the Kahtoola’s.

Cons: Price, and comfort.

The cost is almost the same as the Kahtoola Nanospikes ($50) so investing in either one will set you back a bit; but again, I’d happily trade cost for safety and versatility. The whole device is meant to fit snugly on a shoe, so less supportive shoes like minimalists shoes tend to flex and crumble in weird areas with the sling attached to it but when you’re moving you barely notice it. The diamond beads on the other hand were pretty noticeable when I was wearing my running shoe so I could feel them every time I planted my foot. I didn’t notice the beads at all in my hiking boots.


With respect to traction I couldn’t really tell the difference between either of the three systems. So it all comes down to versatility. I’d probably say that if you are running or walking under three times a week for less than an hour and you have a spare set of shoes with thick soles, the screws may be a great option. Just be aware of your placement… there’s nothing like a screw to the foot to end an adventure! If you are looking for versatility and thinking primarily of walking or running I’d recommend the Kahtoola’s. If you are looking for the ultimate in versatility and planning on taking the device with you on more tougher terrain I’d recommend the ICEtrekkers.

The Special Offer!!!!













Kahtoola and Campers Village have given us 10 Kahtoola Nanospikes so we’re holding a draw and a super fun night hike! Enter the by filling out the form below, the draw closes at 3:00pm MST and, we’ll choose the winners by tonight. If you have been chosen you will win a pair of Nanospikes and you get to use them for the first time on our hike on Monday February 29 at 8:00 pm that Jeremy Derksen and myself will be leading. In order to claim your prize you will need to show up for the hike (so this is a local contest only), it will only be an hour long but we promise it will be very scenic and a great time!

*** Note, the draw is over! Keep checking in for other awesome things in the near future!

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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