Crampons (ice traction for your feet)

I’ve been meaning to write a post about crampons, and how I believe they are an important prep for anyone living in an area with the potential for ice storms.  Seeing that a significant chunk of North America is blanketed with snow and ice at the moment, now seems like a good time to discuss.

If you’ve ever experienced a significant ice storm, you know it shuts down everything.  Simply walking from your front door to the sidewalk can be dangerous.  An ice storm can paralyze an entire city or region – forget driving, you’ll struggle to simply walk.  If you don’t believe me, I suspect you’ve never experienced a true ice storm (lucky you!).  Sadly, I live in an area that gets them routeinly.  They are not fun, but far more manageable if you have a good pair of crampons.

Crampons are a traction device that attach to your shoes and allow you grip and navigate the otherwise impassable icy world.  They work very much like the chains you’d put on your tires, so you’ll want to identify and size the shoes/boots you’d planning on wearing when using them before you make your purchase.  


Crampons come in differing designs ranging from purely urban use to climbing a glacier.  Your choice will largely be dictated by your environment, especially how hilly it might be.  Navigating ice on a flat surface is one thing, navigating it on an incline something completely else.

I am a particular fan of the Ice Trekkers Diamond Grip crampons. They are a medium-duty crampon that are well made and good for varying conditions.  I use them when I’m walking my dog or going for a winter hike, and paired with my Vasque Breeze winter hiking boots they make me feel secure whether I’m walking down a sidewalk or up the side of a mountain.  There are lighter-duty models out there as well which are significantly easier to attach/remove from your boots. If you struggle with hand strength you might consider one of the rigid/flat-bottomed ice cleat models that are solely designed for urban use.  If you plan on using your crampons for winter hiking/ ice climbing only, get a heavy-duty model, but don’t expect to be able to walk on a sidewalk with them.

One additional note- crampons are a lot like tire traction chains.  They take a beating when you use them, and they will eventually break.  Like chains, I think crampons are definitely worth spending a few extra bucks on.


  • Comments (10)

    • 7


      This the type of ice cleats we wear. I finally found decent ones at Princess Auto on a great sale, but the above link is how ours look. Very good bite on the ice, chain makes them easy to adjust and I dare say, a mugger might think twice if you kicked him in the shin.

      I think the brand name was XL but Princess Auto doesn’t have them in stock, however there are similar as per the link

    • 4

      Yes, important for safety.

      I have a D-I-Y version for the couple of times I needed the traction.  Wearing old boots, I place a section of old shower shoe over lace section of boot and wrap a couple of coils of barbed wire around each boot.  It’s held in place by 1 or 2 U clamps w/ bolts. Heal section neglected I admit.

      • 7

        I like your style, Bob, just be sure you’re up to date with your tetanus shot!

    • 4

      As an old woman with a tenuous grasp on gravity these days, I have a pair of cleats too. I don’t use them often, but the option is there if I feel the need.  


      • 4

        “I don’t use them often, but the option is there if I feel the need.” 

        -Exactly.  Just like so many preps, you rarely, if ever, need them.  But when you do need they sure can save the day.  If you don’t have a pair already, I’d suggest you also look into walking poles.  Walking poles are a godsent for walking on treacherous terrain or carrying a heavy backpack.  My old knees would not take me nearly as far as they do if it weren’t for my walking poles.

      • 5

        Yep, walking poles are the order of the day. I also use them to fashion a shelter with a tarp. I rarely go backpacking these days, but again, I have the option if the whim takes me.

    • 1

      GearLab has a good article on the subject: The 4 Best Snow Grips of 2022

      • 2

        Another idea is hex head screws. I have 2 dozen #10 1/4″ hex head screws in my vehicle trunk. If I am really stuck somewhere in an ice storm (unlikely) I can simply screw them into my boot soles and the problem is solved. 1/4″ screws won’t get beyond the Vibram and can be removed. I can fill the holes with cement glue.

        We had a lot of ice before this week’s storm and I just pre-salted the steps and driveway. Problem solved.

        Going for a run with crampons (of any kind) sounds like something you will only do once…;-)

    • 1

      Have been using Yak Trax to get to and from the barn yesterday and today.  We have a glaze of ice and now rain on top of that.  I think the sharp cleated type crampon may be a bit better than the wire-coil-over-rubber, but I’ve been able to care for the animals without risking my neck during this storm.

      I have a farmer friend who has wrapped chicken wire around his boots to get out and do chores.

    • 1

      I have some similar Yak Traxx diamond hrip for a trip far north.  They packed well since they aren’t the spiked style – compact and didn’t puncture the packing cube.   Are there other uses folks have found?  Hiking in mud? Or wet leaves?

    • 1

      I live in a very icy city (Ottawa, Canada) so ice cleats are quite common. I’ve had many pairs over the years and don’t have a favourite brand. Usually I just buy whatever Costco has – the cheap ones seem just as effective as the more expensive ones. The most important feature for me is that they’re easy to slip on and off your boots, preferably while standing on one leg. You don’t want to wear these things inside or while driving. I have a carabiner attached to my purse that I clip my cleats to while inside. For the last few years I’ve been wearing the same pair of Stabilicers Lite which have been just fine.