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Crampons, microspikes, traction devices – call them what you want. But if you ever plan to run, walk, or hike in freezing, wintry conditions, you should want a pair of these.
Hillsound Equipment didn’t mess around about when it designed its new low profile crampons. The FlexSteps ($ 55) calls the brand “chainless crampons,” which are good for anything from an icy walk to a steep driveway to a 9-mile winter waterfall hike – even a slippery, snow-covered winter trail.
I put my pair to the test – two winters and counting – and love the wide range of sizes and flexibility. The FlexSteps have a rubber-elastomer strap and straps that wrap around a variety of shoes, from my minimalist Salomon running shoe to my tightest walking shoe.
In summary: I have been wearing and testing for two winter seasons Hillsounds FlexStepsand not to be a cliché but they blew me away. They are light, packable, easy to put on and take off with gloves or mittens, and have successfully carried me for dozens of icy and snowy kilometers along the way.
No-chain spikes: Hillsound FlexSteps
In contrast to other traction devices, the Hillsound FlexSteps are not a jumble of links and chains or a maze of intersecting straps under your feet. And they’re not too heavy or bulky to handle even the lightest winter race. Trust me, high performance traction has its time and place, and even Hillsound makes some beefier models, but the FlexSteps have tons of amazing uses.
First a note about the construction. FlexSteps have an elastomeric (rubber) strap with riveted attachment points that connect two main heel and toe plates below. And the bottoms of the FlexSteps are littered with a healthy dose of tiny steel spikes.
Only in appearance are the main differences compared to, for example Kahtoola MICROspikes, Yaktrax, or Black Diamond’s Access Spikes are the absence of chains and the minimalist design.
- Traction: 18 x 1/5-inch stainless steel spikes (not the most extreme traction out there, but great for 90% of my winter trips)
- Construction: Rubberized toe and heel plates, harness / strap made of silicone elastomer
- Closure / fit: Velcro over the top of the foot for a better fit
- Weight: 11.9 ounces (size extra small), 12.3 ounces. claimed weight (size medium)
- Price: $ 55
Check the price at REICheck Price on Amazon
There are no untwisted connections or problems getting into traction, and there is no snowballing or underfoot catching. And with the impressive number of spikes that Hillsound fits on the footplates, there is nothing but sheer confidence when you step on a piece of ice.
On the flip side, I didn’t worry about damaging the spines while hiking through varied terrain (like a section of snow and stones). They are small but sharp and offer great traction.
Finally, with more elastomer than metal, the pair is pretty light too. One concern I had before trying them out for the first time was the straps: make sure they didn’t slip or slip.
I had no problems with the straps and found the size to be accurate and the secure fit. I have both an extra small and a small size. The extra small one goes well with all of my trail runners, which is why I use these the most.
- You are cozy! Seriously, I test equipment all the time, and even if a brand invents cool tech, it’s not very good if it’s not comfortable.
- I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the FlexSteps are to put on and take off – even with bulky gloves and in the dark.
- They are minimalist (yet functional) and packable.
- Great price – $ 55.
- Durable – my couple has conquered nearly 100 miles of icy and wintry terrain.
Overall, I really enjoyed the FlexSteps, especially for hikes at higher altitudes as well as for winter runs on icy and questionable surfaces. For 90% of my winter trips where I needed traction, the Hillsound FlexSteps were the perfect choice.
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