Thursday, April 06, 2017

Yaktrax Summit Review - Supreme Traction and Rugged Durability

By Jeff Valliere

Yaktrax Summit
$90.00
Sizes Small-XL
18.5 oz. per pair (size medium)
Ideal use: Steep, rugged trails and off trail with packed snow and ice.


Yaktrax is one of the earlier pioneers in the traction game with models for walking and running (like the Yaktrax Pro) that feature a coil over thin rubber bands criss crossing underneath the outsole, providing moderate traction on moderate to mellow terrain.  I have used some of these earlier versions (though still available) and found them to be OK for casual use, jogging on snowy streets/sidewalks, walking the dog, etc... and they are really popular with mail carriers.

When used on steeper, more mountainous terrain however, the Walk and Pro versions flounder and are especially delicate.  Any use on varied terrain and your days are numbered.

Enter the Yaktrax Summit, a huge step up for Yaktrax, as the Summit offers top notch traction and durability for steep, icy, technical all mountain terrain and is in direct competition with the Kahtoola Microspikes.

The Summit is unique in that the 12 x 3/8" carbon steel points are positioned upon flexible plates in the heel and forefoot (4 in the heel and 8 in the forefoot) and secure with an adjustable Boa cable system.  The plates on which the points are attached offer greater ease in positioning, stability and double for anti balling when the snow gets wet and compacted.

The toe piece does a great job holding the toe of the shoe in place and I like that it distributes pressure, as I do not feel any discomfort no matter which shoe I am wearing.

The inside of the plates are ridged to reduce shifting and sliding.  The chains are attached to the rubber with very secure and durable rivets.

The points are extremely sharp and the front 6 are curved slightly for maximum grip at toe off.

It took me a few times to perfect my technique, but with a bit of practice, putting on the Summit is quite easy.  First position the toe of your shoe inside the toe cup.

Then pull the rubber over the heel and make sure the rubber strap is aligned around the perimeter of the shoe, as well as the plates are centered under the shoe.

Then simply ratchet the Boa knob on the heel to secure the cable.  Pressure and tension is snug and very evenly distributed.

Performance:

The Yaktrax Summit performs extremely well on steep packed snow and ice when running or hiking, are stable, secure, comfortable and versatile.  They are very easy to put on and take off and though I have not used them long enough to speak to their durability and longevity, they are very high quality and well constructed, so I anticipate years of use.  The anti balling plates work in colder conditions, but when the temperatures warm and the snow gets tacky, snow does ball up under the plates.  When conditions like this occur, I'll usually just remove them in favor of just a heavily lugged outsole anyways, so I find it to not really be an issue.


The inevitable comparison with Kahtoola Microspikes:

They each have their pros and cons.  Traction and durability are comparable, stability, ease of use, 3/8" x 12 points.

The first major difference is the toe piece, which is a bit more comfortable on the Summit than the Microspikes.  Though I rarely have an issue with the Microspikes (I transferred the toe wire from an old pair, as it is no longer available on the newer models), I have felt pressure in the toe depending on the shoes I wear and just a slight bit of pressure there can reduce circulation to the toes.  I find this to be most noticeable on cold days, when my toes go numb, but this is rare and again depends on the shoes.

With the points being connected to the plates on the Summit, positioning is a bit easier and they stay aligned a little better, but again, I never really have an issue with the Microspikes.

Size:

This is a big one for me.  Snow surfaces can vary wildly and often I'll carry my traction to use on the upper half of the mountain.  I can easily tuck a rolled up pair of Microspikes in a pocket of a running vest or tuck them into the hem of my pants or shorts.  They are quite compact and tidy.  The Summits however are much larger.  The size difference is obvious in the photo below.

Even more obvious when tucked into their storage bags.  To carry the Summit, I need to stuff them in the large main rear compartment of a running vest, which takes up a lot of room and feel significantly weighty.

Which leads me to weight.  The Summits weigh in at 9 1/4 oz. each, which is the same weight as many of my shoes.  Doubling or nearly doubling the weight of your shoe feels significant, especially when mountain running.

The Microspikes however are only 6 oz. per foot, which feel significantly lighter.

Which to choose?  I don't think you can go wrong with either.  They are both very effective at their purpose of providing great traction on steep, snowy, icy terrain, are easy to put on and take off, are high quality and durable.
For runners looking to save weight and easily stow them in a pocket when necessary, I would recommend the Microspikes for their smaller size and lighter weight.
For hiking, all day use in the mountains and for those less concerned with weight (or price, as the Summits cost $20 more than the Microspikes), then the Yaktrax Summit is an excellent choice.

The YakTrax was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's. 

Jeff Valliere's Run Bio
Jeff is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he has recently worked in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 6 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

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