Are Microspikes The Same As Crampons?

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Your hiking boots are the most essential piece of equipment you’d need when you go hiking. The best hiking boots are waterproof and are carefully insulated to enable you to move effortlessly on icy terrain or slippery surfaces to some degree.

When icy conditions worsen, hiking boots can be fitted with small equipment pieces attached to the shoes to provide additional grip while you’re ice climbing. Microspikes and crampons are the most common add-ons found on winter boots.

Most people use crampons and microspikes interchangeably; however, they have pretty different use cases and designs. Crampons and microspikes provide extra traction in icy conditions, but that’s the closest you’d get to a similarity between them.

When it comes down to it, they are not the same. Microspikes are for hiking on icy surfaces, and crampons are used to climb icy surfaces.

We’ll outline some significant differences between crampons and microspikes. Keep reading.

What are Crampons?

Crampons are traction devices with large toe spikes and a solid frame that provides hikers and climbers with aggressive traction allowing them to move effortlessly on ice-covered rock and steep icy slopes.

Traction devices like crampons have increased depth and stability in steep and icy terrain. Ice climbing crampons are heavier and more expensive than microspikes, giving you a deeper grip on snow-covered trails.

Crampons are more complicated to understand than other winter traction devices. A standard crampon can take up a few hours of learning before heading for icy trails and climbs.

Pros and Cons of Crampons


  • Provide aggressive traction on deeper snow and ice
  • Great for mountaineering
  • Perfect for ice-covered rocks and hard-packed snow


  • Can be pricey
  • Requires complex training
  • It can’t be worn over most hiking boots

What are Microspikes

Microspikes are built with small spikes and have different foot frames. Microspikes are built to be lighter-weight versions of hiking crampons and are meant for hiking on icy surfaces, not for climbing icy surfaces.

While you can use both devices for winter hiking, microspikes won’t give you much depth if you’re mountaineering or hiking on steep terrain. This is because the spikes on microspikes are considerably shorter than those found on most crampons. Even a lightweight crampon like the Grivel G12 Cramp-O-Matic Crampon will have a better grip in steep snow than most microspikes.

Microspikes are enclothed in a robber sole, allowing you to throw them on any kind of boots or even trail running shoes. You don’t need rigorous training when putting on microspikes; you should get the hang of it in a few minutes.

Microspikes come with shorter sikes meaning they have less tendency to cause you problems when you tread adventurous trails.

Pros and Cons of Microspikes


  • It can be worn on any footwear
  • Excellent for trail running
  • Perfect for flat terrain or thin icy surfaces


  • Not suitable for deep snow
  • Poor traction on steep terrain

Are Crampons and Microspikes the Same

Crampons and microspikes are both used in winter adventures. They help hikers and mountain climbers get a better grip on their terrains. However, crampons and microspikes are not the same.

The only similarity between each winter traction device is that they provide ice traction in solid ice and rocky terrain. Aside from traction enhancement, microspikes and crampons have several differences.

What is the Difference Between Microspikes and Crampons

When people shop for ice cleats, they often mix up microspikes with crampons. Even the description on Amazon interchange microspikes and crampons. That’s where people get it wrong. Here are some of the significant differences between microspikes and crampons.

1. Design

As we’ve earlier discussed, crampons have significantly longer spikes than microspikes. The average length of steel crampons is about 1″. Conversely, microspikes have spikes ranging from 1/4 ” and 1/2″ in length.

Microspikes are designed with stainless steel chains to boost ice traction, but crampons have thick spikes and straps, allowing them to navigate steeper slopes.

2. Cost

Crampons are way more expensive than microspikes. This is because crampons are designed for difficult climbing. For example, mountaineering crampons can be used to climb frozen waterfalls. This is due to their thick and long spikes, which can dig into the icy terrain aggressively.

However, microspikes are made of durable welded stainless steel chains, but they don’t provide the traction needed for hiking on hard snow.

3. Use Cases

Crampons are designed for hard ice climbing. Steel crampons cannot be used to trek; you can only climb with them. On the other hand, microspikes are much lighter than crampons. You can use microspikes as trail runners allowing you to hike in mixed ice and rock.

Also, wearing crampons requires training to use without hitches compared to microspikes which can be used with little or no knowledge.

When Should You Use Microspikes or Crampons

The best way to know which traction device you’ll need is to examine the conditions and the terrain in which you’ll be using them. Many times, both boots can be used interchangeably. However, for more efficiency, you must carefully choose the right one for the terrain to avoid injuries.

Microspikes and crampons work perfectly on hard ice and packed snow. However, microspikes are better off in shallow snow or packed ice for a best-case scenario. If you’re hiking in an area where the snowfall is fresh, microspikes will do the trick.

However, crampons work better on hard ice where the snow slopes are steep because the spikes can dig deeper into the compact ice without breaking off.

In terms of slope, microspikes work better in level terrain and low-angle slopes. This is because the spikes on microspikes are short; they won’t provide you with the necessary traction needed to dig into the hard ice.

However, crampons work better on very steep terrains. If you’re climbing on vertical ice, you need long and thick spikes to ensure your foot makes adequate contact with the ground.

Are Snowshoes Similar to Crampons and Microspikes

Snowshoes are a pretty different type of traction device. They are attached to your hiking boots, preventing you from sinking in powdery or deep snow. They are designed specifically for walking over snow.

Snowshoes are easy to operate and relatively safe if worn on appropriate terrains. However, they are very difficult to walk in and can be cumbersome to carry when not in use.


Microspikes and crampons are designed for different icy conditions. If you’re planning on hiking on steeper slopes, crampons are your best bet. However, microspikes will serve you better when hiking on low-angled slopes.