If you have ever seen a photo of an ice climber, you no doubt noticed their ice cleats: long, aggressive steel teeth extending from the soles of their boots that help them gain traction against slippery vertical surfaces. You probably think two things upon seeing ice climbers’ cleats:
- It would certainly hurt to get kicked by someone who’s wearing them; and
- It would certainly be nice if there were a more practical version for everyday use.
You are correct in both assumptions. We’ll speak to the second one, because our foot care clinic in the Twin Cities commonly treats people who were injured while slipping on snowy and icy sidewalks and parking lots. Many of our patients could have avoided muscle sprains, ligament strains, compression fractures and broken bones had they only worn a pair of ice cleats!
Several types of ice cleats are available. Some are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Others are substantial enough to be of use during alpine exploration, let alone safely traversing the path from your car to the grocery store. Let’s go over your options as we work from the simplest ice cleats up to the larger ones.
QuickTrax by YakTrax are the most basic solution for added foot traction in winter. Once you have stretched a single, supple QuickTrax band around the forefront of your shoe or boot, it will put two tungsten carbide steel studs between your sole and the ground beneath. QuickTrax are the least effective ice cleat, but also the most conveniently sized one – you can keep a pair in your pocket.
Coil cleats are mostly made of rubber, and only put a few stretchy strands between your feet and the ground. The steel coils wrapped around each strand allow them to bite into snow and ice. Coil cleats’ low profile edges don’t dig as deeply into ice as studs would have. They’re ultimately less effective because of that, but they’re still suitable for when you want added security while walking around town.
Chain cleats use supple rubber bands to cling around the midsoles. True to their name, chain cleats put a series of steel chains between the outsoles and the ground. Some chain cleats have links with raised edges to create additional traction, but normal links are typically enough on their own to provide sufficient purchase against urban surfaces.
Traction cleats cover the near entirety of the outsole in rubberized material. Anchored within that material are multiple steel studs – usually about five times more studs than smaller and simpler QuikTrax. Like all crampons, traction cleats are easy to slip on and off so you can prevent an injury and damaging your floors, respectively.
Our own podiatrist Dr. Sperling highly recommends NANOspikes by Kahootla. In addition to 10 hard tungsten carbide spikes, the ultralight and low-profile traction cleats feature flexible impact-absorbing plates, durable thermoplastic elastomer harnesses with reinforced eyelets, and tow bails and raised heel tabs which assure a secure grip on slippery terrain. Dr. Sperling wears NANOspikes whenever she takes her dog for a walk in the winter!
Overshoe cleats are essentially galoshes that feature steel studs in their outsoles. They offer all the advantages of traction cleats, but they also help to protect shoes while adding an extra layer of insulation that guards feet from frostbite. An excellent investment if you’d like to continue wearing your dress shoes during winter!
Many winter boots are available with integrated steel studs, such as the Ice VICTOR by Navatex. These boots are more practical than they sound, because their cleats are reversible to permit walking indoors without destroying flooring. Studded boots will additionally provide increased ankle support, as well as insulation against the winter’s nastier temperatures.
Hiking crampons share a similar design to chain crampons; their chains just include significantly longer steel teeth that excel at biting into slippery surfaces. As surefooted as you might feel while wearing hiking crampons, they are impractical for walking in urban environments. Contact with pavement will damage the teeth in addition to making walking uncomfortable. They are optimal for ice fishing, however!
If an unfortunate slip and fall on the ice has injured your feet or ankles – or you have any other need for foot care in the Twin Cities metro – then the passionate podiatrists of Twin Cities Foot & Ankle Clinic are available to see you right away. We welcome you to contact us today to schedule a visit at our convenient location in Golden Valley, Minnesota!