All-terrain traction: Kahtoola EXOspikes provide road-to-trail grip

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Traction tips help hikers and runners gain a foothold in wintry conditions, and that extra confidence can help them achieve bigger goals. However, the traction options for hiking and running have been largely mission-specific – until now.

With the EXOspikes, Kahtoola bridges its road and trail winter traction devices with a hybrid of both. These die for the Goldilocks analogy, and well, that was the goal. The brand’s designers worked on a traction device based on customer feedback (or requirements) that they could keep from the front door to the trail and back.

After more than 50 iterations, the Kahtoola team developed a new device to keep pace on a variety of surfaces for running and hiking. This means that you spend less time turning the EXOspikes on and off.

See the new Kahtoola EXOspikes

MICROspikes;  Photo credit: Kenneth J. HamiltonTwo adventurers use MICROspikes for traction in uneven, wintry terrain. Photo credit: Kenneth J. Hamilton Photography

In short, Kahtoola made the EXOspikes to meet the demands of winter roads and trails. The short spikes are used for digging in ice or snow, aluminum steps are used to grip uneven surfaces, and the TPU studs are used for traction in soft snow or mud.

To get to this point Kahtoola designers developed and tested dozens of prototypes. First of all, it meant finding the right mix of traction and support underfoot. Then it was about balancing durability, comfort and performance on the track.

In the end, the technical characteristics of the materials available guided the designers’ troubleshooting process and ultimately provided the mix of a stretchable strap with firmer cleats and tungsten carbide spikes. Like sneaker hikers, the EXOspikes are all-terrain hybrids.

Double ExoSpikes

How different the EXOspikes are

Let’s start with the 12 built-in spikes that aim to provide better traction on the toe, forefoot and heel. Each mandrel uses tungsten carbide tips to bite into snow or packed ice.

To keep them in place, Kahtoola claims an “industry first TPU traction matrix,” which is lighter, more abrasion-resistant than steel, and adapts to different shoes without also collecting clumps of snow. Reinforced eyelets reinforce the anchor points so the rest of the harness can be lighter. The same technology is used around the toe to prevent the toe of the shoe from pushing through the front of the harness.

A thermoplastic elastomer strap is shaped to be easier to put on and closer to the shoes. Kahtoola says the material will maintain its elongation at temperatures as low as -22 degrees F.

Kahtoola EXOspikes Specifications & Prices

  • 12 tungsten carbide tips
  • TPE elastomer wiring harness
  • TPU traction matrix
  • Integrated toe cap
  • Raised heel tab
  • Price: $ 60

Hiking, running, or both

Yes, the EXOspikes mix elements of the MICROspikes and NANOspikes so users don’t have to choose between them – or pack both. However, there are still scenarios where users prefer the more specialized traction devices.

MICROspikes are the original design of the brand and have been praised by outdoor publications for years. Designers put a dozen steel spikes under the footbed and heel to provide the main traction. The connecting steel chains provide additional hold in the snow. In addition, the chains can be folded down between the inserts and packed in a packing bag.

Kahtoola took a different approach to running. NANOspikes have a lower profile and use small carbide tips to stab icy roads. The designers gave them a TPU traction plate to cushion the impact of foot blows and get a grip on dry and smooth surfaces.

If your adventure begins and ends at the starting point, it makes sense to get hold of the hiking MICROspikes. Likewise, winter runners who stay on roads may prefer the shallower depths of the NANOspikes to feel more connected to slippery asphalt.

The big breakthrough is for the yes and the crowd – trail runners and hikers looking for performance in variable terrain. That can mean switching from snow-covered sidewalks to forest trails, or walking along a serpentine that is frozen in the shade and muddy in sunnier sections. If you want a traction device that can run and endure multiple uses, this is it EXOspikes were made for you.

See the new Kahtoola EXOspikes

NANOspikes_Photo by Beth Price PhotographyA runner uses the NANOspikes for extra traction on Chicago’s frozen bank. Photo credit: Beth Price Photography

This article is sponsored by Kahtoola. Learn more about the EXOspikes and other winter traction options Here.

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