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Winter is here! We got a few inches of snow over a layer of ice this week, so its time to start talking about winter foot traction! We had an old friend that used to wave and shout “RUBBER SIDE DOWN!”, out the door when we’d leave her house. I think she meant “DRIVE SAFE”…but that funny expression pops in my head when I think about foot traction.
This review covers 4 different types of Wandering Pine-tested winter foot traction, including an affordable DIY Screw Shoe option!! After a few falls on the ice, I consider winter foot traction a critical piece of winter gear. I also gave traction devices a special shout out in my 2020 Outdoor Gift Guide because they are a practical and thoughtful gift for anyone living in a cold climate. Here we go!
“RUBBER SIDE DOWN, EVERYBODY!”
Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip
My personal favorite removable foot traction device! Aggressive yet low profile, pointy steel beads have sharp, rotating, edges that provide traction for all conditions. Available at Backcountry, REI, Campsaver, Outdoor Gear Exchange and Moosejaw
Best for: Hiking and walking on snow, ice and multi surface conditions. Worth the extra spend for the versatility.
- Sharp steel beads are strung together on durable aircraft cable, allowing free movement and preventing ice and snow build up.
- Heavy duty rubber frame stretches over most shoes and boots and stays put.
- Comfortable low profile, easy to forget you are wearing them.
This will be my 4th winter in these chompers and they have become my go-to. I bought them for a trip up to Eagle Mountain, Minnesota’s highest point, and have used them everywhere from the bus stop to walking the dog and keep them in my day pack just in case I run into slippery conditions on the trail. Its like having tire chains for your feet!
- Traction: Excellent on snow and ice and transitional surfaces like sidewalks.
- Durability-Very durable, has held up to tough use over time
- Sharp grip
- Heavy duty construction: rubber frame, chains and riveted connection points.
- Low profile-natural feel
- Packs flat, easy to stow without tangling up.
- Putting them on and getting them lined up right can feel a little like a putting shoes on a squirmy toddler when you are first learning how to use them, due to the heavy rubber frame.
- Wish these had come with a case, the sharp beads could scratch other items in your pack
- Best on a sturdy shoe, when I wear them with light sneakers, the tension causes friction on my heels.
- These fit perfectly in the mesh zipper bag that one of my Granite Gear stuff sacks came in! The diamond grips are sharp and not something you want to rub your hand against in your backpack. This helps them stay together in a tidy and organized way and allows them to dry. Be sure to let them air out after use, so they don’t get rusty.
Best for: Running or walking on snow and occasional ice
- Reflective velcro strap keeps rubber frames in place and allows night visibility
- 1.4 mm steel coils with steel spikes on ball of foot
- Left/right design for better fit on curved running shoes.
I am not a runner, but I bought these about 5 years ago as an upgrade to my first pair of coil yaktrax because I liked the coil/spike combo and added security of the velcro strap. I have used them for hiking, walking on frozen lakes, slippery sidewalks and now serve as my loaner pair when friends need some traction on the trail.
- Traction: upgrade from the traditional yaktrax coil, best on packed snow and occasional ice. I still prefer the more aggressive traction of the diamond grip, but these are my second favorite.
- Durability: The rubber frames and straps have held up well, but I have noticed that a few of the steel spikes have bent over, making them less effective. This is probably due to walking on sidewalks and combo conditions.
- Sturdy construction designed to stay on your feet while running
- Reflective strips for safety/visibility
- Make sure you get them on the right feet
- Spikes may eventually bend, making them less effective. I probably wore them on the sidewalk too many times, but I don’t like to take my traction on and off.
YakTrax traditional coil bottom, good for grabbin’ on packed snow, not as grippy on ice. Lighter weight rubber frame is easier to take on and off and comfortable on boots and shoes with less structure. Available at Backcountry, REI, Campsaver, Outdoor Gear Exchange and Moosejaw
Best for: Walking on packed snow
- 1.2mm Steel Coils
- Simple, lightweight rubber frame
- Easy to take on and off
This was my first pair of yaktrax. I don’t remember exactly how old they are, but I thought they were cool because this model is made out of glow in the dark rubber! The glow in the dark feature ended up being helpful at the Luminary Loppet one year when my yaktrax fell off in the dark and I had to go look for them. FOUND EM!
- Traction: Best suited for packed snow, but not as effective on ice.
- Durability: the lightweight rubber frame makes them easier to get on and off, but may not stand up to running or harder use over time.
- Lightweight construction
- Night visibility (if you can score a glow in the dark pair)
- Affordable, about half the price of the diamond grip
- Less effective on multi surfaces
- May break under hard use
DIY Foot Traction or “Screw Shoes”
Best for: Hiking, running, walking on snow, ice and multi surface conditions. Especially convenient if you don’t want to bother with taking your winter foot traction on and off.
Making your own!
The first time I saw “Screw Shoes” was at a gear swap a few years ago. I remember a bunch of trail runner gals installing screws in their shoes and thinking “no way, how is that not going to poke you in the foot or ruin your shoes?” I suppose you could manage to do both of those things if you don’t follow the instructions… Turns out this is an old tried and true DIY hack thats been around for ages and can be a very affordable way to convert an old pair of sneakers or boots into a dedicated traction solution.
This concept had been rolling around in the back of my mind since that swap…so decided it was time to make a pair and bought the supplies for under $5!
[2.7.21 Update:] I have been using these as my preferred traction device since writing this article and they are my new favorites. Not great if you want a removable option, or for walking on wood floors but you should take your shoes off in the house anyway. 🙂
Screw shoes are a standard in the winter running world and come with positive testimonies by friends and readers on the Wandering Pine Facebook and Instagram – so I’m looking for forward to putting them through the test this winter!
IMPORTANT: always do your research and modify or hack your gear at your own risk. I happened to have an old pair of HOKA boots that had lost their traction, so this was a great way to give them a new life and try something new!
Find detailed instructions here! http://skyrunner.com/screwshoe.htm
The recent snowfall is getting me excited for winter! I can’t wait to bust out the Snowshoes, crank up the Sled Zeppelin and light the Christmas Tree! I’m also planning another gear round-up on INSULATED SKIRTS! (I have FIVE! Yes, FIVE!) If you want to hear how I ended up with so many skirts and tips for staying sane in the winter months, head to the top right corner of this page and hit follow or add your email address to stay up to date.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, the Wandering Pine 2020 Outdoor Gift Guide has been updated with the latest deals. There are some really great sales going on right now and I’ll keep updating it as I hear of more! I hope you treat yourself or find a nice lil gift for that special hiking buddy. Thank you for reading and supporting my work here! I appreciate it!
Got any winter foot traction faves, fails or stories you want to share? Have you put screws in your shoes? Tell me about it in the comments and HAPPY WINTER!!!