Gear Review: NANOspikes

After a few days of heavy snowfall at the start of January, we’ve enjoyed an extended respite from winter. Our backyard in west Calgary is now clear of snow. And I’ve seen several references to June-uary in my Twitter feed. But even with daytime high temperatures well above freezing for more than a week, there’s still snow on the ground where it’s shaded all day and along the sides of plowed roads and pathways.

The snow piled along roads and pathways is problematic. Repeated melt/freeze cycles due to the daytime/nighttime temperature variations mean there are lots of seriously icy patches out there. Out for a long walk a couple of days ago, we encountered snow, ice, bare patches, wet patches, muddy patches and streams of meltwater along the path.

We expected widely variable trail conditions, so we each carried a set of Kahtoola NANOspikes. Available since November 2014, NANOspikes are billed as ultralight, low profile winter traction for runners. Similar to Kahtoola’s MICROspikes, there are no buckles or straps to fuss with. Once you fit the stretchy and flexible elastomer harness over your shoe, you’ll be a lot more confident walking or running on icy trails thanks to 10 carbide studs – 4 under your heel, 4 under the ball of your foot and two in the toe area.

NANOspikesHaving worn NANOspikes for two long walks now, our first impressions are very favourable:

  • Convenient to carry – NANOspikes are compact and come with a zippered carrying case that can be tucked into whatever bag you’re carrying. The little pouch fits quite easily in my everyday purse, so I can carry them just in case I need them.
  • Quick on/off – With no buckles or straps to fuss with, it takes less than a minute per foot to fit the front of the flexible harness over the toe of your shoe and then pull the back of the harness up at your heel. My view is that MICROspikes are a little faster to put on, mainly because it takes a few extra seconds to properly position the plates along the sole of your shoe.
  • Rinsable – My NANOspikes were pretty muddy when we got back to the house on Wednesday. They were quick to rinse clean under the tap at our laundry room sink. I let them drip dry on the garage floor before fitting them back into the carrying pouch.
  • Reasonably comfortable on bare pavement – On bare pavement and pathways, the low profile carbide studs on NANOspikes are much more comfortable than the longer spikes on MICROspikes or crampons. Mr. GeoK and I were content to keep them on if we could see another icy stretch along the path.
  • Traction – NANOspikes provided fantastic traction on slightly soft ice and good traction on hard ice. A couple of times I slid a few cm walking downhill on hard ice, but the studs did eventually bite. I found I could increase the bite on inclines if I modified my step a bit, kind of like marching.
  • Icy-Trail

  • Not for snow – We ended up crossing one patch of 10 cm (4 inches) deep snow and I was glad it was only a 25 meter stretch. Any further and I would have stopped to take them off. We expect to have a chance to test NANOspikes in 1 -2 cm (about an inch) of fresh snow over ice next week and I’ll update this post once with any further observations.
  • Sizing – I wear ladies size 9 and the medium-sized MICROspikes fit all of my hiking boots (Vasque, KEEN, Merrell). BUT, I found the medium-sized NANOspikes slightly too long for my KEEN boots and ended up with a bit of the undershoe plate sticking out at the front. It wasn’t enough to create a tripping hazard or anything, but I think the small-sized NANOspikes would be a better match for those particular shoes. When I tried the medium NANOspikes on my Vasque hiking boots, they fit really well. My advice? If you can, try NANOspikes on for size with the shoes/boots you’ll be wearing. If not, be sure the online store you order from has a painless return process.

As of the date of this post, Mountain Equipment Co-op still doesn’t carry NANOspikes. We purchased ours from Calgary-based online retailer Live Out There. We’ve made several purchases from Live Out There and have experienced fast shipping and no hassle returns. If you think you might like to make a purchase from Live Out There, please email GeoKs and we’ll reply with a referral link that will get you $25 off your first purchase of $99 or more. And yes, we’ll benefit too, with a $25 credit once your first order ships.

Is there another winter traction aid you’d recommend? Have a question I didn’t cover? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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