Microspikes – Hillsound vs Kahtoola vs others

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Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) Microspikes – Hillsound vs Kahtoola vs others

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    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    At the backcountry office / rental office / gear shop at the Adirondack Lodge in NY they said they now only rent Hillsound microspikes, as the other brands don’t hold up (most recently replaced was Kahtoola, I think).  They had a big pile of Hillsound and they showed me some failed Kahtoolas.

    Usage there is hard, and often renters may not be that skilled or careful.  But the Hillsound definitely seemed to be built better (not sure which models they showed me).

    Any experiences along these lines?

    John Mc
    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    Hi Elliott,  I have both the Hillsound Trail Crampons and Kahtoola Microspikes.  I will say that I’ve had no problem with either failing on me.  I also guarantee that my gear is taken better care of versus rental gear.  I find the Kahtoola Microspikes to migrate on my footwear, meaning the spikes don’t always stay on the bottom.  Now and then I need to stop and readjust the microspikes.  For this reason I now only grab my Hillsound Trail Crampons when I know I’m hitting compacted snow and ice on the trail.  The simple addition of the Velcro strap seems to prevent the Hillsounds from migrating.  That little difference means I don’t have to look down at my footwear all the time to see if it’s time to readjust.

    Michael Sirofchuck
    BPL Member


    Locale: Great Wet North

    I have had some slippage with my Kahtoolas as well – sometimes you can go down a size and with a tighter fit, they don’t slip.  Each size will fit bigger boots than you might think.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    The rumor is Snowline made the microspikes for Kahtoola, but had a falling out so now Kahtoola had to make their own and the rubber is inferior on the current microspikes.

    Serge Giachetti
    BPL Member


    Locale: boulder, co

    Good thread. I’m in the market for some micro spikes for trail running and deciding between the two. In REI the other day and I saw the hillsounds but nt kahtolas.

    matthew k


    Slight thread-drift:

    Has anyone added a strap to the Kahtoola’s to help keep them in place? I’ve been thinking about DIY’ing some kind of strap to mine.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Interesting. I’ve never had an issue with migration with my Kahtoolahs. Mine are definitely older. Maybe the materials were better? My gait is wonky and I’d guess this issue would show up with me, but it hasn’t.

    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I’ve got older Kahtoolas (~2009 or 2010) and have no trouble with them migrating.  I’ve noticed, however, that mine fit a lot tighter than most others I see.  I think a lot of folks buy them too big.  I really have to stretch mine to get them on my shoes.

    I’ve heard something like what John S. mentioned from at least one other source.  It’s unfortunate if Kahtoolas are no longer durable.

    Ralph Burgess
    BPL Member


    There’s several things mentioned here, we should make sure we’re considering like vs like.   Is this right
    Kahtoola Microspikes – comparable Hillsound product looks like “Freesteps 6”?
    Kahtoloa K10 Hiking Crampons – comparable Hillsound product “Trail Crampon”?

    The Kahtoola K10s are certainly bulletproof, they are essentially full-on crampons with the front points bent down.

    Serge, for trail running you should check out the Kahtoola nanospikes.   I love them.

    frederick m


    I have worn out a number of pairs of Kahtoolas and of Hillsounds. The Hillsounds have more extensive metal plates which the spikes come out from (a little more like crampons) than do the Kahtoolas. I believe this is part of the reason they may be a little more stable than the Kahtoolas. For the same reason I find them to ice up worse when there is a mix of liquid water and cold snow on the hike. The most common failure I have had with both types is the metal wires holding the chains to the rubber bands ripping through the rubber. The Kahtoolas I just bought have hard plastic rings, through which the wires run, imbedded in the rubber. I suspect they will be more durable. Particularly when sized to fit tight. If the rubber does not fail both types eventually become much less effective as the points wear flat form contact wit rocks.

    Paul S.
    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    The K10 crampons are built with classic style bindings crampons but made to flex.   The trail crampons have an elastic rubber binding and are a bit shorter in the teeth.

    frederick m


    My misspelled comments above were about what Hillsound calls trail crampons vs what Kahtoola calls microspikes.

    Andrew W


    Hi everyone,

    This is Andrew, an associate with Kahtoola. I wanted to join the conversation and hopefully shed some light on a few of the comments I’ve read above regarding the quality of our MICROspikes.

    In 2015, we released an updated version of our MICROspikes featuring a lower profile TPE elastomer harness. Through a series of lab and field tests, we found that the new design, despite being lighter and less bulky, proved to be stronger and more durable than any previous versions. However, last season some users discovered a limited quality issue that arose temporarily in the molding process that caused the elastomer band to snap when being stretched over the shoe. These isolated instances were very misleading as they led some to believe the newer design breaks more easily, which is not the case.  Immediately, we began retesting every single pair of MICROspikes before they were shipped so we could discover any defects not caught during production. We also reinforced the eyelets with durable TPU inserts (which allows the elastomer harness to be lighter and stronger) as we recognized this connection point as a spot where tearing often occurred. At this time, this issue has been sorted out and we have since changed our production process to eliminate any possibility of it arising again.

    In regards to the comments made about our MICROspikes migrating, the sizing is sometimes dependent on the profile (shape and volume) of the running shoe or hiking boot. For example, medium and large MICROspikes can both fit a U.S. women’s size 10, but depending on the profile, you would either size up or down, respectively. As Todd T commented, if they are sized too big, it is possible for them to migrate.

    As an outdoor company and industry leaders in outdoor traction who take the design of our products seriously, we regularly test and stand behind the quality our products to the point that we don’t ever want you to have to use our warranty. And should one of our products fail, we will always replace anything that doesn’t hold up during use. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to ask and I will respond accordingly. You can also reach out to us at [email protected].

    For those interested in a deeper look at this issue, we do have a video (below) that shows the design and testing of MICROspikes and NANOspikes. It compares the older and newer MICROspikes designs side by side and clarifies the advantages of the new design, especially for those users who had a new pair break and were feeling nostalgic for the older, bulkier design.




    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Andrew

    Thank you for your comments. Such details are always of interest to our members.

    Roger Caffin
    Online Community Moderator

    Paul S.
    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    I wonder if my Large microspikes are too small (I’m size 11.5 US). I’ve never had issues with them slipping but the rubber can sometimes put pressure on my toe box that gets uncomfortable after a while.  It’s not an issue on stiff boots but is on more flexible shoes so I’m not sure if it’s a sizing thing or not.  It makes me look at the K10as a possibly more comfortable option but less versatile for mixed conditions.


    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    My personal experience with the newest production versions of the Kahtoola Microspikes is that their durability is VASTLY improved. My current pair of Kahtoolas has more than 600 miles on them now. My pre-2015 pairs barely survived 150 miles without ripping out (chain-rubber connection as mentioned previously).

    Regarding migration, most of the people I’ve met who complain about them migrating either sized them wrong or had unrealistic expectations about how they would perform. If you are carrying a heavy pack on steep, icy terrain / sidehilling / running fast on rough trails – even a well-fitting trail crampon like this will migrate. (And this is where the instep strap on the Hillsounds comes into play – but if you can DIY, you can easily add your own to your Kahtoolas and still end up with something lighter than the Hillsounds).

    I have some more thoughts about Kahtoolas vs. Hillsounds in the ’17 holiday gear guide but those comments are focused more on performance / weight considerations. I’ve had zero issues with either brand over the past two winters (this one included), and my wife and I are in them hiking and running nearly every winter day, which for us living at high elevations in WY and MT, is a long season!

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