Crampons vs Microspikes: Which To Wear And When

Microspikes vs Crampons

Without the proper traction gear on your feet, hiking on snow-covered trails can be difficult and even dangerous.

You’ll need some crampons or microspikes to remain upright on snowy and icy terrain. Many people think that these two items are the same. Microspikes and crampons, however, are distinct and have different purposes. Both will increase your traction in winter weather, but that’s about where the similarities between the two stop.

Crampons vs Microspikes

We hope to add a little more clarity to the crampons vs. microspikes discussion in this post. We’ll begin by giving a succinct description of each device and its function. We’ll then get into the situations and conditions where you should choose one over the other

Crampons vs Microspikes: What’s the Difference?

The same thing is accomplished by both devices: you get a better grip on snow and ice by adding steel bits or teeth to dig into the surface. The size of these teeth and the degree of additional grip they offer resemble their main distinctions from one another.

What Exactly Are Crampons?

Winter traction tools called crampons have a rigid frame and pointed “teeth” that offer aggressive traction and allow you to move with confidence on slick, slippery surfaces.

They are made for technical hiking, mountaineering, and ice climbing. You need crampons on your feet if what you’re doing involves climbing with an ice ax. They provide a deeper bite than other winter traction aids and can be used to traverse glaciated terrain as well as climb frozen waterfalls, icy and snow slopes.


But to use a crampon correctly, you need to be trained. Before running for the hills, we strongly advise spending time studying some techniques, like the German or American technique.

The majority of crampons feature thick straps, foot frames, bindings designed for specific boots, and spikes or points made of chromoly steel.

Crampons are classified into three styles: C1, C2, and C3.

The C1 crampons are intended for general hiking and are more commonly referred to as “strap-on” hiking crampons. They fasten to your boots with straps that cross the forefoot and heel. Since C1s don’t need a heel or toe bail, they can be worn with any type of boot.

A strap across the forefoot and a heel bail on the C2 crampons allow them to be fastened to B2 boots. C2s are typically thought of as all-arounders as they can be used for mountaineering, hiking and even ice routes in more difficult terrain.

With a lever at each end, the C3 crampons fasten to the toe and heel bails of the B3 boots. C3s are too stiff for everyday hiking and are designed for technical mountaineering and ice climbing.

Crampons vs Microspikes

What Are Microspikes?

Microspikes are tiny spikes embedded in a rubber sole. The best way to think of microspikes is as the smaller brother of crampons. You can add microspikes to any type of boot (or even trail running shoes) to increase traction on snow and ice.  Microspikes are much simpler to use than crampons because they let you walk with your normal gait, so no special technique is needed.


Microspikes’ short spikes make them ideal for flat terrain and moderately snowy conditions, but they are insufficient for mountaineering or hiking on steep trails. They’re a better choice for trail runners or hikers on thin snow and ice because their short spikes make them less likely to snag.

Choosing Crampons vs Microspikes

You should choose between using crampons or microspikes depending on the specific trip you are planning. To choose between them, take into account these four factors.

Crampons for Climbing Mountains

Conditions Underfoot

Both microspikes and crampons perform excellently in hard ice and in frozen snow. In shallow snow or ice, microspikes perform best. Microspikes are likely all you’ll need for winter traction if you aren’t the first person on a trail after a new snowfall. The long spikes on crampons could possibly reach through the snow and snag on objects, which could result in a trip or fall.

Crampons function better on thick ice because the spikes will go deeper into the ice and feel extremely solid. On ice, microspikes will increase your traction, but their small, blunt tips won’t penetrate the surface as deeply.

Aspect Of Slope 

In a nutshell, crampons are more effective on steeper slopes than microspikes are on flat terrain. You should use crampons if the ascent you’re making consistently exceeds a 20% slope. The toe spikes are helpful on steep slopes as this is the part of your foot making contact with the ground, whereas the long spikes allow your foot to dig into the sloped surface and be sure of every step.

On the other hand, microspikes perform best on flat terrain and low-angle slopes. The short spikes and lack of front points prevent them from offering the necessary traction or grip to prevent slips when the terrain becomes more vertical.

Crampons on Slope

Weight and Cost

In general, crampons weigh more and are more expensive than microspikes. This is why you should choose between crampons and microspikes carefully. Crampons can provide a lot of traction, so if you don’t need them, leave them at home. They will only make you feel heavier.

Microspikes on Snowy Trail

Type of Boots

In order to use crampons, you need special mountaineering boots with a cleft in the heel.  They are expensive, which is another justification not to purchase them if using microspikes will suffice for traction.

Microspikes are the most practical option for the majority of hikers in winter because crampons are expensive, heavy, and difficult to use. 

Microspikes on Snowy Trail

How To Use?

Knowing how to use crampons or microspikes is necessary after deciding whether you need them. The use of crampons while mountaineering is covered in great detail in books and training courses. Here is a brief explanation of how to use these two traction aids.

How to Use Crampons

You should wear crampons on snowy and/or icy surface. Wearing them on a rock or a trail dulls their edges and makes you move more slowly. Step into the shoes, then wrap the straps around your shoe from the front to the back, ending at the back of the shoe. The straps are fastened in a different manner by each crampon. To get the hang of it, practice at home with your partner.

Cramps make it difficult to move around. At first, many people have trouble because the crampon teeth catch on their pant legs, causing them to trip and fall. The outcomes could be disastrous if this takes place on a mountain slope. Spend some time getting comfortable using crampons in a safe environment. You will improve and catch your crampon teeth less frequently as time passes.

Using Crampons for Climbing

How to Use Microspikes

Compared to crampons, microspikes are much simpler to use and require very little practive. Find the spikes that correspond to each foot, then place the front of your shoes inside the rubber while the chains are suspended below. To tighten the chains up along the bottom of your boot, pull the back of the rubber up and over your heel. If necessary, make the chain smaller to ensure a tight fit.

Keep your balance while wearing microspikes to prevent tripping. Although it doesn’t happen as frequently as it does with crampons, it still can if you are careless. If you begin to lose traction, stop and clear any snow that has accumulated on the bottom of your microspikes. 

How to wear Crampons

Frequently Asked Questions

What are crampons vs microspikes?
Large-toothed traction aids called crampons attach to your boots and give you a better grip on snow and ice. Microspikes, a scaled-down version of crampons, offer less traction on surfaces like trials covered in snow.

Are crampons better than microspikes?
Due to the fact that they have different uses, crampons are neither better nor worse than microspikes. When you need more traction, such as on a glacier or steep terrain, crampons perform better than microspikes because they offer more traction. When hiking on snow that has been packed down, where larger teeth would be unnecessary and cumbersome, microspikes are preferable.

Are microspikes and crampons the same?
Crampons and microspikes are two different things. Microspikes and crampons both use “teeth” to provide traction, making them similar items. But compared to microspikes, crampons have much larger teeth and offer more forceful traction.

What are microspikes good for?
For snowy and icy terrain on trails microspikes are perfect. They are not the best for off-trail travel in difficult, steep terrain. Mountaineering crampons are the best option in these circumstances.