Posts Tagged ‘running in winter’

Winter running – review of Microspikes and suggested alternatives

In this post I’ll share my experience with Kahtoola Microspikes ($69.95) for running on snow packed trails.

You are ready to go for a run but the roads look like this:


Normally that means your view for the next hour or so would be this:


Microspikes to the rescue? Time to find out…

I live and run in Ottawa, Canada. We get all four running seasons. In spring, I run through puddles and grumble about winter dog walkers who didn’t scoop the poop. In summer, I lose about 3 pounds a run in sweat. Fall is a magical 3 week window for setting personal bests, it’s cooled off and the footing is great. In winter, I check the weather forecast obsessively trying to find a running window between snowfalls and freezing rain, and trying to convince myself -28 C windchill won’t freeze my eyelashes shut.

I am a road runner, but I enjoy running on trails through the woods. I don’t notice the mileage because I am too busy trying to make sure I don’t trip on that rock or log. Most of my “trail” running is on local walking trails. I am NOT a trail runner, but I am happy to do a 5 km trail race or to join a friend for a 10-15 km trail run, because it might be fun!

Once the snow falls, I am driven to the roads and the treadmill. My local trails are a mix of snow and ice. Trail shoes can get you through the snow, but the ice can be a problem especially on the hills.


On a recent run, my friend Chris told me he and his wife, Karen, trail run in winter with Microspikes .I was intrigued. My sister (a fellow runner) picked me up a pair from Bushtukah as a Christmas gift. I went out two days later to try them out with Chris & Karen. We ran 14 km on a partly groomed trail (Trails #66 #67 #68 from P1 in the Gatineau Park) designed for snowshoers and fat bikers (the tires are fat not the bikers 😉). The trail was packed snow with occasional patches of ice.

MicrospikesOldAndNewI wore my Goretex running shoes (Asics GT 2000) to keep my feet warm and dry. I did not wear Gaiters (essential accessory for running snowshoes). When we got to the parking lot, I took out the Microspikes and put them over my shoes. Chris & Karen have a slightly older pair with a metal rod across the front instead of rubber. They said the metal rod occasionally digs into the top of their toes. I did not have that problem with the current design which has replaced that metal rod with rubber. We started to run, and after 500 meters or so I basically forgot the spikes were there. I ran normally, confident on my footing regardless of whether it was snow or ice, uphill or downhill. I had some fun on the dowIMG_20190101_151215nhills letting gravity take over with complete confidence the spikes would give me the traction I needed. (This run was in the Gatineau Hills of Ottawa, so it was an actual trail run). You occasionally hear a bit of a jingle from the chains, and they add a little bit of weight (169 g each according to my kitchen scale), but all in all I just trusted the spikes to give me a good footing. I was pleasantly surprised.

Now as awesome as they were, they are not the magic solution for all winter runs.

When Microspikes are the right option

  • You have a snow packed or groomed trail, dirt patches on the trail are fine
  • You have a light snowfall over the top of a snow packed or groomed trail

When Microspikes are the wrong option

  • Trail has a lot of rocks  – the spikes are long enough to be awkward on rock
  • Trail has a lot of mud – the spikes are slim so don’t help as much in mud
  • 2-6 inches of fresh snow – time to break out the running snowshoes
  • 6+ inches of fresh snow – time to go cross country skiing
  • You are going for a road run and some of the roads or sidewalks are snowcovered and slippery. The spikes are too long for road use. Time to find a route that is well sanded and salted, or hit the dreaded treadmill! If you are going to be road running and the sidewalks are a mess check out my post evaluating different products designed for road runners on icy roads.

Sizing Microspikes

If you do purchase a pair, you do need to get the right size for your shoe (or boots, they can be used over winter boots as well). My Winter runners are a women’s size 10. I have the Medium Microspikes (recommended for Women’s size 9-12). I don’t have any trouble pulling them onto the shoe. Its a little harder taking them off after the run.


So if you have a favorite trail that is walkable with good boots, but not runnable in the winter, it might be time to splurge on a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes and take back the trail!

FYI – those pictures at the start of the post were from this morning. Today was one of *those* days. It was beautiful and sunny, but the roads are an icy, snowy mess! I broke out the Microspikes and ran on a neighborhood walking trail which is I’ve never been able to run in winter before because it’s too slippery with just my runners. I won’t use them every day, but today the Microspikes came to the rescue! I’ll take this view over the treadmill every time!


Happy winter running! Stay warm out there!

If you found this helpful, I have other running related posts