1. They’re like snow tires for your feet.

Winter hikers who love to savor the snowy woods but also like to stay upright now have a good option. For years, the choice has been full-blown crampons or often flimsy Yaktrax. Microspikes are a happy medium. The tough rubber uppers fit any boot or running shoe. The beefy steel chains beneath won’t wear out. And the 3/8-inch-long spikes grip in ice and snow. With ice and snow on many trails, you’ll want to track down a pair of trail running shoes with deep, aggressive treads. Wearing “microspikes” – which resemble snow tires for your shoes – can be an advantage or even a necessity on most snowbound runs and hikes.

2. Winter can be brutal; test those microspikes with a group.

There’s a psychological advantage in surrounding yourself with other hardy souls, says Brian Kerkhoff of Colorado Springs, who organizes mountain bike and running expeditions throughout the season. When wind is battering your windows and the view outside is dreadful, it helps knowing there’s a group that will be waiting at the trailhead, bundled up and ready to suffer with you. “Sometimes, just the motivation to get out of the house and go do it can be huge,” he said. It also offers a chance to commiserate.

3. Traction isn’t the only peril.

Among the bigger challenges of extreme-weather hiking is managing body temperature. Fortunately, clothing has improved to the point where even subzero hikes can be mostly painless, but beware: Working up a sweat quickly can lead to an emergency in the face of frigid winds. So, make sure your clothing is suited for the purpose. Also, assemble a gear checklist because microspikes aren’t the only think you should take: Trekking poles, goggles and facemasks are indispensable accessories when navigating through snow. Some hikers use snowshoes or skis to aid in mobility. Don’t forget the avalanche safety gear and of course, make a study of the weather. Finally, be familiar with the trail, or tag along with someone who is. “In the winter time, with all the wind, you can lose the trail pretty quickly in the blowing snow,” said Dan Stuart of AdAmAn.

4. There are many types to choose from.

There’s a crowded market when it comes to boosting traction on winter hikes, but Kahtoola Microspikes is our choice for balancing durability, effectiveness and cost. Most effective on trails. Sharp spikes dig into icy surfaces and can be sharpened once they wear down. A similar product, NANOspikes, is appropriate for urban adventures.

5. They work on sloped terrain as well as flat terrain.

Ice and snow can appear on many types of terrain. But rest assured, after a little practice, you’ll be able to use your microspikes on both sloped terrain and flat terrain.

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