The Carson is able to grip well on hard ice as long as there is no snow.
Metal spikes, metal cleats and studs – you can call them whatever you like. Only rubber cleats provide non-slip safe traction on ice. We will discuss the rubber outsoles with claims of gripping on ice and their limitations in real-world conditions.
Ice refers to hardened ice, which is often formed after periods of freezing rain or under other circumstances. This distinction is important because soft and slushy snow doesn’t pose the same threat.
Winters are characterized by heavy snowfalls that are followed by warm temperatures and then back down to freezing.
The melted snow melts into solid ice and puddles can become solid overnight. In the morning commuters and walkers on the trail discover that their shoes have no traction. Even shoes that claim to be non-slip are not effective on slippery ice.
Numerous studies have shown that winter is a time when injuries are more common than usual. It is crucial to choose the right shoe.
How shoe outsoles grip
The friction coefficient is key to grip. This is the adidas Continental outsole positioned over a rubber treadmill belt. It provides excellent grip because of its high friction coefficient.
How well or poorly a shoe grips on each surface is determined by the level of friction (also called the friction coefficient).
In other words, the object grips better if it is forced to be pushed over a harder surface.
It’s also possible to slip over a smooth surface with a less gripping material. The material, contact area and force applied from the top determine the overall friction.
Have you ever played Air Hockey in an arcade? When struck, the flat puck glides effortlessly across the shiny surface; a slab or Steak of Tofu will not. The friction coefficient is crucial, as you can see.
Similar principles apply to winter car tires. The winter compound is softer and doesn’t freeze in cold. This provides the required levels of traction as well as contact area.
Shoes don’t have the same advantage as winter tires. Only a small portion of the outsole is in contact with the ground when you’re running or walking on ice. And unlike cars, the soles of both feet do not touch the ground simultaneously. It would be a great way to improve grip.
It is necessary to “brute force” the grip on ice with spikes or cleats. This is the only way to secure the ground on the frozen surface. Some aftermarket traction devices, such as the Yaktrax, use coiled metal. However the shoes in this guide use only spikes.
Let’s now look at some examples.
Here are a few examples of icy surfaces
Although it’s cold outside, the sidewalk is safe to walk on.
The picture above, despite being a safe surface, is a good example of a safe surface. The pavement has been salted to reduce the freezing point of water and prevent the formation of slippery snow. You will see small puddles when you walk on a salt sidewalk even on very cold days. Even foam outsoles can grip on wet sidewalks.
It’s also possible to use crushed ice. Here, most rubber outsoles provide adequate traction.
The outsole lugs can also be gritted by a dry snow or ice slurry.
If you are able to walk on snow-ice slush, it isn’t very dangerous. The semi-solid surface becomes crumbly when weight is added, providing enough surface area to make outsoles.
Most rubber soles can grip well as long as they aren’t too smooth.
This is not a good sign – there are hard ice patches on the surface.
As dangerous as they can get, icy lumps are. These lumps are difficult to see and easy to slip on.
We are now moving into slip-and fall territory. The hardened, flat road ice is similar to a bumpy skate rink but with smoother ice. It’s worse when you have icy driveways or slopes that are frozen.
Most rubber outsoles lose their traction in this situation. Walking like a penguin, which means taking shorter steps and keeping the center of gravity low, reduces the chance of falling.
If we are talking about hiking and trekking on ice, crampons will suffice. Short crampons of six points are sufficient for day hikes on iced over trails that don’t involve alpine climbing. For activities that involve climbing, a more aggressive crampon geometry (8-10 points) is required. These use cases are not covered in this buyer’s guide.
Here’s a brief overview of Vibram Arctic Grip rubber, and other similar technologies that claim to grip well onto ice
Avoid Vibram Arctic Grip soles. These will not provide enough traction on hard ice.
Here’s the scoop. If you plan to use your shoes on hard ice, please do not purchase shoes with Vibram Arctic Grrip outsoles (or similar tech).
Shoes with Arctic Grip outsoles are not something we haven’t tried before. We have tested three Arctic Grip shoes on this site and our verdict is the same.
Vibram claims that its outsole is suitable for wet ice. Rubber lugs with a rough, sandpaper-like texture are supposed to increase friction between the outsole & ice for better grip.
The rough texture of Vibram Arctic Rubber is supposed to grip better on “Wet Ice” – a surface that freezing winters don’t have.
Now, “wet ice” is and not the reality that most runners and walkers encounter on a cold winter day. Slipping and falling on hardened ice is more common than they think, such as the one we showed.
But, unlike Vibram’s marketing campaign that saw people test the outsole on a slope made of wet ice and supported by handrails; there are no handrails for the roads or pavements.
The Vibram Arctic Ice rubber and its counterparts are not effective on these dangerous surfaces. Similar outsoles are sold by Dr. Martens and Keen, but they all have the same problem. They are not slip resistant on black ice.
There are two types of studded outsoles that can be used for ice.
These are Carbide-tipped metalspikes. The Salomon Snowspike CSWP is shown here.
It is easier to find fully cleated outsoles. Salomon’s Speedcross is a great product. Icebug and La Sportiva also sell other options.
For traction, steel spikes with carbide-tipped tips are embedded in the rubber outsole. They are placed under the forefoot area and the heel. The Snowspike Climasalomon Waterproof is our top choice. It’s a shoe we reviewed several years ago.
Shoes with full cleats are best for walking on ice. They also provide decent traction on soft surfaces such as snow and slush.
Fixed studs cannot be used indoors, which is the biggest problem. Although metal cleats are very strong on ice, they can slip on smooth surfaces and cause damage.
These shoes are a bit harder to find. For dual-purpose use, the outsole features retractable spikes that can be used indoors and outdoors.
Retractable cleats are used by Pajar boots made in Italy by OC Systems.
Our experience has shown that only the OC system outsole is functionally ‘on-off.’
The metal spikes are attached to a TPU hinged section. Flipping the hinge exposes them. The spikes can be removed from the rubber outsole and retracted when not in use. This is a unique design and requires a key to turn on the spike.
There are many compromises in the OC system. The hinge mechanism takes up much of the outsole’s real estate, making the outsole flat when the spikes have been retracted. The outsole is slippery in slush due to the lack of deep lugs.
The Canadian boot manufacturer Pajar sells a variety of boots with the OC System. Naot, an Israeli shoe manufacturer, also offers a few models. However, Pajar does a better job with the upper design.
Korkers also offers a few boots that can be fitted with an optional cleating system. The Korkers spike system is a distinct component, however, unlike the OC system. You’d be better buying standalone traction devices that can be combined with other shoes. The Kahtoola exospike is our recommendation.
These are the boots and shoes we recommend that provide reliable grip on ice. They can be either retractable or fixed.
We don’t offer affiliate links for Pajar shoes as their availability outside of Canada seems limited. Pajar has a US website where you can order. You might also want to check out independent brick-and mortar stores that sell winter boots.
Pajar comes with a caveat emptor. We recommend that you visit the store to avoid any negative reviews about Pajar.
Boots with metal spikes that retract
1) Pajar Carson ice-gripper boot
Pajar Carson boots are very similar to Carrefour boots, because they share a leather upper and genuine shearling. The removable insole is made of Shearling fleece, not Merino or Sherpa. It’s extremely comfortable and warm.
Interiors are very comfortable and warm thanks to the genuine Shearling (fleece-side of Sheepskin).
This boot is Pajar’s most expensive. Although its basic design may seem a bit sloppy, the boot is made from premium materials and North American production. Both the Carson boot and Carrefour boot were made in Canada. We recommend that you try them out before purchasing, as they are large and awkward.
Rubber outsoles feature OC System’s patented ice grip system. It can be difficult to find the right slot for the metal key provided. The changeovers are much easier than retrofitting a device for traction.
The rubber lugs don’t hold the cleats so they aren’t suitable for snowy or slushy surfaces.
When indoors, flip the outsole to the non-cleated side. Because of the flat outsole geometry, outsole traction on soft surfaces such as snow and slush is very poor.
We have a detailed review of the Pajar Icegripper boot.
2) Pajar Icepack icegripper boot
Although the Pajar Icepack boot is half the price of the Carson, it has the same outsole as the Carson and the retractable OC System spike. It is as effective on icy trails and pavements as the Carson or Carrefour boots.
The Icepack has an all-mesh, non-Shearing, upper instead of the Shearling insole and full leather upper.
Boots with fixed metal spikes
1) Salomon Snowspike CSWP
Two years ago, we reviewed the Snowspike. It’s still our favorite cleated running shoe.
Contagrip’s outsole features a collection of Carbide-tipped Lugs that provide confidence-inspiring traction for icy trails and pavements. The soft rubber sole grips well on snowy surfaces, in addition to the metal spikes.
It’s more than the ice-friendly sole. The Speedcross-inspired Speedcross inner shoe provides cushioning and support for long distance runs.
The snow and water are kept out by the waterproof gaiter that zips.
2) Salomon Shelter Spikes CSWP
Salomon Shelter is lightweight, waterproof shoe that can be worn for day hikes. It’s recommended to use in moderate winter temperatures. The boot’s inner bootie is made of synthetic fleece and Climatherm insulation. However, the boot’s upper temperature is -5 C (23F). The Icebug Hova boot is recommended for colder conditions.
The 9 spikes that are mounted on the sticky Contagrip rubber sole are what makes this product so special. The Salmon Shelter Spike’s unique geometry makes it ideal for hiking and walking on frozen ground.
3) Icebug NewRun BUGrip Gore-Tex
In our other buyer’s guides, the NewRun BUGrip was featured on and off this website.
The Icebug is not winterized or insulated. However, it has a closed mesh upper which is waterproof. The Icebug can be used as a winter running shoe up to -5 C (23F) with the right pair or running socks. The wind and moisture are also blocked by the fused synthetic cladding.
The Newrun’s sole is generously spiked. 17 Carbide-tipped Studs provide reassuring grip on ice covered roads and sidewalks.
The shoe’s Ortholite insole and EVA foam midsole offer the comfort you would expect from a running shoe.
4) Icebug Hova Insulated Waterproof boots
This boot is a true winter Chelsea boot and is also rated at -32 C (-25F). These shoes can keep your insides warm to -20 C (-4F) in real-world conditions. This is cold enough to keep you warm in winter, and cold enough to allow surface ices to harden.
The 17 spikes on the Hova boot are a great solution. The chances of you slipping on ice are greatly reduced by the metal studs.
Primaloft Bio’s insulated suede top is layered over a wool-topped footbed. The EVA midsole adds support and ride.