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Whether your winter adventures take you to mountaintops, up and down snowy trails or simply along icy sidewalks, you’ll need some help staying upright.
Crampons make it easier to walk, hike, run or climb in cold environments. They are built with spikes or studs underfoot to enable wearers to grip the hard parts of the ground and provide stability.
The added traction of a good crampon will mean the difference between completing a climb or hike, and having to turn back early or worse!
With so many manufacturers and models available, finding the right ones for you can be a big task. As a result, we’ve researched dozens of crampons to identify the best of the best right now.
We looked at their weight, build, durability, size of teeth and cost, amongst other things and listed below are our top 10.
If you want to read up on what you should be looking for, scroll down further to our buying guide.
Let’s take a look at some of the best camping chairs on the market right now.
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- Best for: Budget spikes/cleats for hiking, climbing and everyday use
- Spikes/points per foot: 13
- Attachment: Strap on
It’s not snow that makes winter walking treacherous, it’s the ice. For slippery hill trails and urban sidewalks, cleats are an absolute must.
Coming in at the bottom end of the price range we have chosen Unigear’s Ice Traction Cleats as one of our top contenders.
For years Unigear has been serving outdoor enthusiasts worldwide with affordable gear for their adventures.
These traction cleats are perfect for winter walks, basic mountain climbs and ice sports, and wader fishing.
Despite the low price tag, the long-lasting soles are made from heat-treated stainless steel cleats and the hook and loop closure over the top of the foot gives you a snug fit.
Rubber straps wrap around your shoes or boots, allowing you to walk as normal across slippery surfaces and reduce muscular fatigue as a result.
They are plenty durable, with reinforced rubber eyelets to prevent tearing and Unigear guarantees functionality right down to -45°C.
On the underside, 18 hardened-stainless-steel spikes are spread across the heel and toe. Each measuring half an inch in length, they grip into the slickest ice and snow, providing stable footing.
Extra spikes in the front make it possible to maintain a firm grip on inclined gradients, even if you cannot place your heel on each step.
Both light and tough, they can be worn without weighing you down but should not be worn extensively on rock, gravel or concrete to avoid bending the teeth.
These are not a replacement to full crampons but are perfect for those who want to take to the hills or trails in winter.
- Best for: Decent spikes for when you don’t quite need crampons but walking shoes/boots won’t do the trick
- Spikes/points per foot: 8
- Attachment: strap on
As the name suggests, these are a pocket-sized option, suited to people on the go and can be used for everything from winter hiking and trail running to ice fishing or snow shoveling.
The Kahtoola MICROspikes Pocket Traction System is a standout option in terms of cleats and traction devices.
Microspikes are perfect for anyone hiking through various terrains where you will be transitioning from areas that need crampons to others that do not – whether that is snow, ice, loose soil or scree or moss-covered rocks.
Kahtoola MICROspikes are versatile and easy to put on when needed thanks to the elastomer harness that maintains its flexibility well into the negative temperature range.
Similar to the Unigear crampons, these are made out of stainless steel, which is renowned for its strength and rust resistance, and the elastomer shoe harness secures easily without straps.
They can cope easily with a gradient of around 30% on sheet ice but do not confuse these with crampons, which you will need if doing regular walks on ice or technical terrain.
If you enjoy fell walking in snow and ice, grab yourself a pair of these. Perhaps also consider buying the additional bag to protect other items in your rucksack from the spikes.
- Best for: Entry-level glacier climbs and mountaineering
- Spikes/points per foot: 12
- Attachment: Semi-automatic
Here we step up a notch from our last two options into proper crampons, because scaling glaciers requires serious equipment.
Produced by reputable manufacturer Petzl, these tempered steel crampons are intended for relatively experienced climbers.
The 12 tooth-like points anchor you to the snow and ice underfoot and are designed for traversing long patches of ice, ridges, snow couloirs and moderate inclines.
As well as long teeth spread across the sole of the crampons, horizontal front points ensure solid purchase in hard snow.
Users can choose from either Leverlock or Flexlock bindings to get the right fit for your type of shoe or boot, with or without front and rear welts.
Unlike some of the more complex options, they are easy to put on and take off without tools, even with frozen fingers.
By adjusting the base and strap, a comfortable and snug fit can be achieved, regardless of your footwear.
Thanks to a thinner frame, their weight comes in at between 810 and 875 grams, depending on the style you choose.
Providing much more bite than the microspikes, crampons should be your go-to when the going gets a bit more vertical and the stakes are high.
Another thing they have on the microspikes and cleats is Petzl’s patented Antisnow system that prevents snow build up on the bottom and the low-profile plates obstruct sticky snow getting in the way of the teeth.
- Best for: Variable classic mountaineering routes
- Spikes/points per foot: 12
- Attachment: Different choices available
Black Diamond offers a wide range of crampons, and their Serac model are a perfect middle of the range option, ideal for mixed terrain, glacier and moderate progression.
These 12-point crampons have three different configurations (Pro, Clip, and Strap) that allow them to be paired with any mountain boots that have a rear welt.
The Serac Clips are ideal for boots without a front edge, using a hybrid system that has a support strap with a thin lever for the heel but without front support.
Lightweight yet extremely tough, the Seracs are made entirely of stainless steel and are perfect for moderate technical and alpine terrain.
Their strong frontpoints enable the wearer to climb steep snow efficiently and penetrate ice with ease.
The secondary and rear points are optimised for stability on descents and low-angle terrain.
Popular with climbers of classic mountaineering routes such as the Alps, the Tetons and the Cascades, these crampons are tried and tested but won’t break the bank.
Be sure to buy the best model for you, noting that the Pro version is for technical boots, Clip version is for mountain boots without a toe welt and Strap version is for non-technical footwear.
- Best for: Dual-point crampons for any type of ice and best all-rounders
- Spikes/points per foot: 14
- Attachment: Semi-automatic
Another great pair of crampons from Petzl, the Lynx is an upgrade from Petzl’s venerable M10, and was the first crampon to introduce interchangeable front bails for boots with and without toe bails.
A combination of 12 downward facing points (interchangeable and length-adjustable at the front), anti-balling plates and snug fit make for one of the best all-around crampons currently available.
A massive plus of these crampons is the fit. The asymmetrical front section curves gently upwards to follow the curve and rocker of the boot sole.
The front points curve slightly inwards which makes kicking easier.
The Lynx’s front bail is by far the best on our list, being narrow enough to work with newer, ultra-low-profile toe bails, but wide enough to accommodate large welts such as those on ski boots.
Though not quite as solid as full-frame rigid crampons, if you plan to climb on ice, these sharp points bite exceptionally well.
Our favourite part though was that you can configure the crampons to make them fit for purpose.
For snow and ice, the dual points work well to provide a solid platform, whereas on mixed ground you can change it up to the short mono configuration.
We couldn’t find many faults and for the price think that these are the single best all-around crampons on the market.
Coming with dual crampon bails, they’ll fit various season boots and the six possible front-point configurations make them adaptable to any mixed, ice or alpine climbing environment.
They come with a FAKIR storage pouch and can be bought with a long bar for size 46 and up.
This one pair of crampons does the job of three of four, so if you could have only one pair of crampons, this should be it!
- Best for: High-altitude climbs and moderate technical grades
- Spikes/points per foot: 12
- Attachment: Semi-automatic
Black Diamond has made it into our top 10 for a second time with their Sabretooth Clip model.
Redesigning their previous Sabretooth Clip Crampons, this updated version features stainless steel construction that is lightweight enough to handle alpine approaches without rusting or bending over time.
The front dual-density and rear ABS makes it even lighter and more durable than its predecessors.
The Clip version specifically features a flexible toe strap for boots without a toe welt and features a micro-adjust heel bail that has two alternate positions.
12 tactically positioned points improve climbers speed and agility throughout, with horizontal front points providing help with technical ascents and secondary points offering precision and grip during the descent.
Plenty of options at this price point in the market don’t have a design like this, seen typically in the more professional options.
The durable plates are designed to resist snowballing and the low-profile micro-adjust heel bail offers precision fit.
For ski boots, users will need to order wide toe bails as they don’t come as standard.
- Best for: Serious alpine climbers
- Spikes/points per foot: 10
- Attachment: Semi-automatic/fully automatic
CAMP’s Alpinist Pro crampons are an advanced technical crampon for vertical ice-climbing.
They give superb grip and stability, almost like having a series of ice picks embedded in your boot.
CAMP based the design on the Blade Runners, a steep ice and mixed climbing crampon, and as a result they’re performance-focused and ideal for adventures where secure footing is critical.
At 970 grams, they’re not the lightest summer alpine climbing crampons on the market but they make up for this in other features and build.
Also bear in mind that lighter is not necessarily better, particularly as routes get more technical.
The two-piece construction is different from other crampons in this lineup, providing a precise fit and extra rigidity to help you feel secure.
The heel-toe platform has a unique patented heel slide working with a micro-adjustable linking-bar to give you that torsional rigidity.
Stiff enough to support softer boots, the Alpinist Pros are suited to a stiffer boot if you want to feel more secure in the steep sections.
Features that help it to rate so highly are the dynamic anti-balling plates, two heel bail positions, three toe bail positions and high-quality Chromoly steel makeup that provides extra shock-absorption at stress points.
Although they can’t be packed down into a small a package like others when not in use, the carry bag is high quality and will protect your other gear from punctures.
The only downside is that the wide-ish toe straps on the semi-automatic version don’t fit all boot types.
- Best for: Flat or low angled terrain
- Spikes/points per foot: 11
- Attachment: strap on/ semi-automatic/fully automatic
Coming in as one of the more pricey options on our list is this traction device from Hillsound. Though marketed as crampons, they are closer to spikes or cleats.
For any winter wilderness trail pursuits, Hillsound’s Crampons are like wearing snow-tire chains on your feet.
Whereas cheap spikes or crampons may slip off, or even get lost while hiking, these allow you to hike with confidence.
The carbon (rather than stainless) steel spikes are extremely tough but lightweight enough to keep you moving comfortably over longer distances.
The 11 points underfoot are well-spaced across a broad area for maximum grip and a steady, balanced feel.
The large heel plate of these crampons gives great traction and stability during descent and trail running, whether you’re crossing packed snow, black ice, partially covered trails or icy pavements.
The elastomer harness can be worn over any type of hiking boots, trail-running shoes or soft-soled footwear.
Even in sub-zero temperatures, the harness is highly tear-resistant. An advantage is the Velcro strap that keeps them securely fastened but is easy enough to adjust on the move, even in gloves.
Hillsound also provide a convenient puncture-proof carry bag and two-year warranty.
As they are not stainless steel they are at risk of rusting and should be rinsed after use to remove the salt that may have accumulated from walking on streets or city maintained areas.
Although we liked the fact that you could probably run in these and steel feel secure, at this price point there are plenty of good options that can do the same job and more.
If you want something for trails and urban use, Hillsound’s spikes are perfect but if you’re heading up the mountain, opt for crampons.
- Best for: Serious ice climbers
- Spikes/points per foot: 12
- Attachment: Automatic
Some of the best ice climbing crampons on the market right now, the Black Diamond Cyborg Pros are a high-end mixed climbing crampon with a lightweight stainless steel design.
Definitely weighing in on the heavy side (at 1,120 grams), these crampons are not for your everyday adventurer.
Designed specifically for technical ice routes and steep mixed climbing, the Cyborg Pros are built from stainless steel with adjustable hooded frontpoints and aggressive secondary points.
The front points bite hard in water ice, carrying you up vertical ascents and providing precise edging whilst dry tooling.
The aggressive-looking set of secondary points provide a stable platform when kicking up a steep ice column.
The dual-density ABS plates keep snow from collecting underfoot and the low-profile micro-adjust heel lever offers precision fit.
They can be set up for either single or double points and are compatible with most boots – even soft ones.
For those who are primarily focussed on highly technical ice/mixed climbing, you can convert the Cyborg to a mono-point crampon by sawing out part of the anti-balling plate, a one-time hassle (though not the easiest task).
If you are willing to sacrifice some security on snow slopes, these crampons give you precise performance of vertical front-points and side points that are great at inside and outside edging.
- Best for: A go-anywhere, do-anything crampon that fits most boots
- Spikes/points per foot: 12
- Attachment: Semi-automatic
The most expensive option on our lineup is the Grivel G12 Cramp-O-Matics model. These spikes are perfect for everything from moderate water ice to long glacier routes and mixed alpine climbs.
If a single pair of do-it-all crampons is what you’re after, then the G12s won’t let you down.
Grivel’s Antibott plate design prevents balling and avoids any build up of snow that could make the crampons less comfortable or effective and is one of the most effective out of those tested.
The asymmetric and semi-rigid construction is manually adjusted without the need for any tools and folds up for transportation (though does not come with a bag included).
Made of Chromoly steel, the G12 model weighs just over a kilogram and requires both toe and rear welts on the boots.
As such it is a little less flexible than some of the cheaper options that can be used with different types of footwear.
Lighter and more compact than its fully ridged counterparts, the horizontal frame reduces flex and the 2+2 front points provide a solid bite in snow and ice when moving uphill.
Overall we think it is a great crampon option but thought the price was a little steep.
Note that Grivel also offer a New-O-Matic model. These also come thoroughly recommended for general mountaineering and are equally durable.
What should you look for when buying crampons or cleats?
Crampons make it possible to safely walk over snow and ice by turning virtually any type of shoe into a hiking boot.
Below we’ve outlined some of the main things you’ll want to take into consideration before purchasing crampons.
What is your primary use/purpose?
Microspikes and nanospikes are for runners or fast packers that need to carry backup in case of icy conditions on the trail, and also for those who want the reassurance of stable footing in urban areas in winter.
If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all crampon for winter walking or light mountaineering, search for an all-rounder.
These will have horizontal front points that are a bit smaller than a technical crampon, making it easier to walk across flatter terrain without catching your foot in the snow.
For cold condition mountaineering, a durable steel crampon is better suited to walking over rock and moraine, as well as snow and ice – a combination that is typical of most alpine routes.
If you’re going to be doing technical ice climbing, you will need something a bit more aggressive.
Technical crampons have longer vertical front points with aggressive serrated edges designed to bite into the ice.
Construction and materials
Most crampons are built from stainless steel as it is durable, rust-resistant and largely lightweight.
Aluminium can be very lightweight but can only be used in snow and ice, never rock or mixed environments, and is prone to breaking.
Harnesses that go around the foot should always be made out of a temperature-resistant elastomer so that they don’t turn rigid in cold conditions.
Anti-balling bases pretty much come as standard now but it is worth double checking anyway. Any build up of ice shavings or snow makes crampons less effective.
Even once you’ve decided on the model of crampon there is still a choice as to how they attach.
There are strap-on crampons, hybrid/semi-automatic crampons and fully automatic crampons.
Strap ons are what they say on the tin and strap onto your shoe or boot.
They take a bit longer to put on and can be fiddly in nature but for soft boots or those without a heel and toe weld they are perfect.
Semi-automatic or hybrid crampons are for medium rigidity boots with a heel weld.
They clip on at the back and strap on at the front, making them a bit more secure and faster to put on than strap ons.
Fully automatic crampons require both a heel and toe weld and are only for totally rigid boots.
If your boot has any flexibility at all then you put yourself at risk of the crampon popping off.
Obviously you don’t want to be weighed down by heavy footwear, regardless of your journey’s length. But lighter is not always better or faster, especially when routes get more technical.
Just as a heavier ice axe swings better and places more securely in hard ice, heavier crampons are often preferable in tough alpine conditions.
Spike length and angle
The length of the spikes varies greatly, depending on what situation the crampons are designed to be used in.
Microspikes are well-balanced and effective on ice and light snow, where as long, jagged spike are built for deep snow and thick ice sheets.
The angle of the spikes should not be overlooked either. The best (and most expensive) crampons have a combination of varying degrees as horizontal spikes are necessary to keep your foot from sliding as it rolls.
Number and placement of points/spikes
The number of spikes or points determines how much traction you will have. The more contact points there are, the more in control you will feel on icy terrain.
Mono-point crampons give you the ability to swivel and twist your foot in the same way as you might in rock climbing, whereas dual points are more secure but will feel like you are being locked in to every step.
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Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API