Ice Cleats for Kids and Adults
Hiking with children in the winter can be beautiful. Fresh crisp air, snow sparkling in the sunshine, and no mosquitoes! But it’s not without its share of obstacles. Proper traction for kids can be very helpful for taking on more challenging trails all year long.
I don’t find that we need to wear cleats on most of our flat trails unless conditions are glare ice, and even then the “risk” involved with falling on a flat surface (for kids) is not that great. Kids have a lower center of gravity and a shorter distance to fall.
However, even gentle inclines become very difficult with ice of any kind, or ice under a small snow layer. They’re very useful to bring along if you’re unsure of the trail conditions and especially for any hikes involving steep slopes.
And on some trails, they are definitely needed. Trails that are exposed to frequent wind can remain icy for much of the winter without significant snowfall.
Steep solid ice like shown above is very difficult even with cleats, because most cleats have slightly rounded points. You need to stomp to dig in, and trekking poles come in very helpful. Step on the packed snowy areas whenever possible.
Ice Cleats and Winter Traction for Kids and Adults
The options described below are made out of a silicone elastomer which makes them stretch to fit a variety of boot sizes. By using a velcro strap or tie, you can often secure them to boots quite a bit below the size range they recommend, especially if you use bulky winter boots.
We use the Baffin Snogoose winter boot, and they are especially bulky due to their insulation and width. However, other options work too, of course.
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High Stream Gear ice cleats for kids
We’ve been using High Stream Gear cleat for my children this winter, and we’re extremely pleased with them. They are very similar to my Kahtoolas (mentioned below). Similar spikes but maybe a tad thinner. (Unfortunately these appear to be sold out at the moment, restocks are expected for the Canadian market but may be longer for the US; restocks may go direct to amazon or may be on the High Stream website).
They’re rounded a bit at the point (as are Kahtoolas) so they’re not likely to cause any sort of accidental injury, but they give you nice grip.
It’s easy to get the ice cleats on kid’s boots, and the silicone elastomer keeps them in place even after hours of play, sliding down snowy icy slopes. They come with velcro straps to put across the tops of the boot, I’ve never found these necessary but if you’re trying to fit them in sizes below the suggested range these will help keep them secure.
These cleats come in blue and green. The back and front are marked, but the size is not printed on them. For this reason, we decided to choose different colors to help tell them apart. Right now our smalls are blue and the mediums are green, and when we buy our second pair of mediums they’ll also be green.
We’ve worn the smalls on a size 13 Baffin Snogoose boot and a size 2 Baffin Snogoose boot. (they’d also work well on a smaller boot), and the mediums on size 2 and 3 Baffin Snogoose boots. The smalls will also fit on our bulky size 2 boots, but it’s a tight stretch and I want to size them up.
Here are size small High Stream Gear cleats on two different pairs of size 12 Baffin boots. On the left are a standard winter boot sized Baffin, and on the right are extreme cold weather Baffin Snogoose boots.
The small cleats fit snugly on the large size 12 pictured on the right, and have a small amount of give on the bottom of the chain on the slimmer style but they still grip great to the top of the boot and won’t fall off even without the strap securing them.
When looking at a size chart, know that you can usually go several sizes below the boot recommendation if you have bulky boots. I’d put the smalls on down to at least size 10 if they’re very bulky boots like the Snogoose.
Kahtoola ice cleats for kids
Kahtoolas are what I wear myself, and they provide fantastic traction on ice and slick packed snow. Years ago they came in size XS. They discontinued them a few years back but it’s possible to grab some second hand if you’re lucky.
Size S is the smallest they make in the MicroSpikes which is sized for kids’ 5-8 boot, but you can definitely stretch this size range a lot smaller for winter boots.
I tried my Adult Medium Kahtoolas on Youth size 2 Baffin Snogoose (as mentioned above these are a very bulky boot) and they fit great. Snug around the top and the chain stretched snugly also.
They make other varieties in size XS, including the NanoSpikes and ExoSpikes. The XS in these sizes are designed to work on size 5 running shoes (different sizing chart than the MicroSpikes), so they’d fit even better on smaller boots (though we have not tried them out). These styles are a more minimal “cleat” but would likely be easier for kids to walk in.
Stabilicers Ice Cleats winter traction for kids
Stabilicers are a more economical alternative to Kahtoolas. I used these for myself before I discovered Kahtoolas, and found them to work a lot better than Yak Trax on ice. The tip is shorter and more rounded, but works for adding a bit of grip.
The Stabilicers cleats come in size XS that fit down to a kids’ size 1, but (like most options) they can be difficult to come by! The size small that will fit starting at a kids’ boot size 4 are more widely available, and you can get them to fit a bit earlier if you use straps to help secure them.
However, because they don’t have a lot of elastomer coming up and over the front of the boot, the sizing range is not going to be quite as easy to fudge as some of the other varieties. If you don’t have a snug fit with these they will come off.
Securing them with a velcro strap will definitely help but you may still have to adjust the toe and heel if they slip off.
Yak Trax winter traction
I mentioned Yak Trax earlier in a less than favorable light, because I have several issues with them. First, I’ve seen countless half broken pairs littered along the trailside.
Because the bottom is not all metal and you’re walking on part of the elastomer (wrapped in coils that will dig into it with each step you take), over time it WILL break down (often within a season) and they are not fixable when that happens. Also I’ve seen them be downright slick on ice, akin to being on ice skates.
On packed snow the classic style will fare better, but I think sizing up to something with a little bit more of a spike is worthwhile. The diamond spikes from Yak Trax are a better design and don’t have any of the downfalls.
They don’t have quite as good coverage as the options listed previously, but they do have a good amount of diamond spikes clustered around the front of the foot and heel which is where they’ll be the most useful.
Other Options for Ice Cleats for Kids + winter Traction
These cleats from Pingan look identical to the High Stream Gear ones we’ve liked, though the reviews appear to be mixed. They’re a tad more expensive (prices fluctuate quite a bit this season though) but still a lot cheaper than many other options.
We also just discovered these CAMP Chainsen Crampons on Amazon, but have not had a chance to try these ice cleats for kids out yet.
Lightsmith Snowline cleats are a similar offering to Kahtoola.
Icebug makes footwear with traction built in. They’re very popular with runners but sell boots also. These style are especially nice if you have slippery driveways that you’re frequently rushing in and out to.
You can also stud your own shoes, so if you have a spare pair of boots to use as the high traction pair, this can be done with minimal tools. Many running stores will also do this for you (for running shoes and boots).
Best Boot Soles for Ice
If you don’t have traction, it’s best to choose your boots that have “sticky” rather than “hard” rubber soles if you’re going out for an icy walk.
Boots like with “rain traction” like Bogs can often be extremely slippery on ice, while boots with a rubber sole or knife-siped traction will give much better grip. Note: If you want some neoprene-type boots, these Muck Arctic Ice have great traction (size slightly up for better warmth!)
Don’t let trail conditions keep you from getting out!
Do you have any favorite tips or gear for helping kids navigate icy or otherwise tricky trail conditions? Let us know in the comments!
Another option is using snowshoes with great traction too. See our post here about our recommended gear for snowshoeing with kids.
- Winter Hiking with Kids Tips and Tricks
- How to Snowshoe with Kids
- Best Winter Boots for Kids
- Best Winter Gear for Kids
- Get Outside Every Day
- Layering Kids for Cold Weather
Ice Cleats for Kids and Adults
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