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Slippery walking conditions created by ice can lead to falls and debilitating fractures. Many of my clients avoid walking outdoors during winter for fear of falling. It does not have to be this way. Footwear, including ice cleats for boots, designed for ice and snow can provide the stability you need to walk with confidence through the winter.
But which pair of ice cleats for boots and shoes is right for you? I decided to ask a client help me do a video review of ice cleats for winter walking on ice and snow.
Later in this blog post you will find several extra tips on how to make winter walking safer if you use a cane. Finally, I provide a link to a great resource that reviews winter boots.
As a Physical Therapist, I always have my patient’s well-being mind when I provide advice and guidance. I am particularly concerned with the mobility of many of my patients who have balance issues.
For many people, we are their first line of defence against falls. This means that we not only provide balance training exercises, we also help them choose things such as footwear and stability aids that reduce the chance of a fall.
Ice cleats for boots and shoes can provide stability to people who live in colder climates.
However, individuals with mobility and balance issues encounter more challenges than most people. Not only do they find safely negotiating the ice and snow dangerous, they often find the process of putting on and removing safety devices, such as ice cleats, to be a difficult task. Here are several issues of particular challenge to this population:
- Handling ice cleats might be too difficult for them because their hands might not be strong enough (due to arthritis or other conditions). This is particularly the case for “stretchy” ice cleats for boots and shoes such as the Yaktrax.
- They often cannot bend down or kneel on the floor. As a result, they need to sit on a step or chair to put on or remove the cleats. This means they need to walk across a slippery tiled or wooden floor to get to and from the seat or step. An additional fall risk is that they sometimes encounter mats and rugs that catch their cleats.
- It is not practical for them to remove or put on the cleats while outside because the temperature is often too cold for them and in particular, their hands.
Since first posting this article a number of readers have reached out to me on this subject to share their thoughts and experiences. Some have told me about falls that happened to them as they made their way to a seat inside their house with the cleats on.
Some have contacted me to tell me that they are very satisfied with their cleats and feel much safer negotiating the ice and snow. I am always happy when people find something that works for them and makes them feel safe.
What I have learned and want to share with the reader is that it is important to consider more than the grip of the cleats on ice, snow and pavement. You need to take into account how difficult you will find putting on and removing the cleats.
Let’s discuss that further and review ice cleats for boots and shoes.
Winter Walking Ice Cleats Recommendations
We tested the three models with a patient, Jessica, who has a medical condition that causes a weakness in her hands and feet. As a result, ice traction cleats that are easy to put on and take off and provide stability and balance in icy conditions are highly valued. We evaluated three winter walking ice cleats for this blog:
- Airgo Snow Grabber
Neither of the products adequately met Jessica’s needs so I cannot recommend ice cleats for winter walking. Here are my reservations:
- Jessica found the ice cleats to put on and take off the winter boots. My hands get quite cold in winter so I cannot futz with the cleats when I am outside.
- Neither of cleats truly felt comfortable to wear. You always feel you have an appendage on your boot that should not be there. This gives a feeling of instability.
- When I wear my ice cleats outdoors and then transition into a store, I find I am not as stable and balanced as I would like to be.
- Ice traction cleats for winter boots are easily lost or left behind.
- A number of my clients have had problems getting support from vendors on sites like Amazon. At times, vendors completely disappear from Amazon!
In the meantime, I have located winter boots designed for ice and snow. They have embedded studs that provide amazing stability on ice and snow. To learn more, read my review of the Icebug boots with BUGrip.
Jessica’s Search for Cleats for Winter Walking
Jessica is one of my clients. She was frustrated searching for a pair of cleats for winter walking that were right for her. She found that some of the cleats for winter walking she tried actually increased her instability on ice instead of making her more stable.
I suggested we get together and evaluate a three popular cleats for winter walking and share the results with you.
About Jessica: Winter Walking with Weak Hands and Feet
Jessica has a chronic condition that has caused weakness in her hands and feet. Although she is quite young, her hand and foot strength is comparable to some of my older clients. As a result, she is an ideal representative of how an older person would deal with the different ice cleats we tested.
Best Ice Cleats for Boots
Jessica and I evaluated three different traction ice cleats for boots:
- Airgo Snow Grabber
- Stabilicer Lite Duty Serious Traction Cleats
- Yaktrax Walker Ice Grippers Run Traction Cleats for Ice and Snow
How We Tested Winter Walking Ice Cleats
Jessica and I tested three things when we evaluated the winter walking ice cleats:
- Is it easy to attach and remove the cleats from a pair of winter boots? Like some people, Jessica does not have the grip strength to attach and remove certain cleats for winter walking. Her cleats need to be easy to attach and remove.
- We needed to see how stable the cleats were on a tiled floor. How stable is Jessica when she walks on a tiled floor with the cleats attached to her boots?
- Will Jessica be stable when she walks up and down an untreated, inclined ice patch with her cleats? This is the ultimate test for ice cleats: they need to make the walker feel confident when they encounter an ice patch.
Airgo Snow Grabber Ice Cleats
Jessica was able to attach and remove the Airgo Snow Grabber cleats for winter walking quickly and with ease. The cleats are small and portable so she can take them in the car and attach them before she heads out for a walk.
They provide a snug fit and and provide an extra level of protection for your boots against the winter slush.
The Airgo Snow Grabber did not do well on the indoor tiled floor walk test. Jessica was not stable as she negotiated the indoor walk.
The Airgo Snow Grabbers handled the outdoor inclined ice patch very well and were stable when walking on snow and pavement.
Airgo Snow Grabber Recommendation
The Airgo cleats for winter walking are the best of the three pairs that we tested and I recommend them for my clients. However, I have some concerns that they were not stable when used on a tiled floor.
Unfortunately, the Airgo Snow Grabbers have limited distribution and are not available for sale online. I recently checked and it appears that the product has been discontinued.
Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis
Exercise is an essential ingredient to bone health. If you have osteoporosis, therapeutic exercise needs to be part of your osteoporosis treatment program.
But what exercises should you do and which ones should you avoid? What exercises build bone and which ones reduce your chance of a fracture? Is Yoga good for your bones? Who should you trust when it comes to exercises for osteoporosis?
A great resource on exercise and osteoporosis is my free, seven day email course called Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis. After you provide your email address, you will receive seven consecutive online educational videos on bone health — one lesson each day. You can look at the videos at anytime and as often as you like.
I cover important topics related to osteoporosis exercise including:
- Can exercise reverse osteoporosis?
- Stop the stoop — how to avoid kyphosis and rounded shoulders.
- Key components of an osteoporosis exercise program.
- Key principles of bone building.
- Exercises you should avoid if you have osteoporosis.
- Yoga and osteoporosis — should you practice yoga if you have osteoporosis?
- Core strength and osteoporosis — why is core strength important if you have osteoporosis?
Enter your email address and I will start you on this free course. I do not SPAM or share your email address (or any information) with third parties. You can unsubscribe from my mail list at any time.
Stabilicer Lite Duty Serious Traction Ice Cleats
Jessica found the Stabilicers easy to attach and remove. She also found them to be very stylish and portable.
However, like the Airgo cleats, the Stabilicers were not stable on the tiled floor. Jessica found that they elevated her more than the Airgo cleats — making them less stable on pavement — but they handled the ice patch test very well.
Stabilicer Lite Duty Serious Traction Cleats Recommendation
Although the Stablicer Lite were easy to put on, I cannot recommend these ice cleats for winter walking because they were not stable on either the tiled floor inside the house or on the icy patch outside the house.
Yaktrax Walker Ice Cleats Gripper Review
The Yaktrax took Jessica the longest time to attach because she had to put the cleats on and then run a strap through a loop to secure the cleats onto her boot.
The Yaktrax were the least stable of the three cleats we tested on the tile floor.
The cleats are very different than the other two models we evaluated. The cleat bottom has studs on the front and coiled wire at the back. Jessica found that the coil caused her to slip when she made contact on the ice. The studs on the back had to engage with the ice before she could regain her balance.
Yaktrax Walker Ice Gripper Recommendation
I cannot recommend the Yaktrax for my clients for winter walking for the following three reasons:
- Jessica found them difficult to put on.
- They were unstable on indoor surfaces.
- The Yaktrax had difficulty on icy surfaces.
Where to Buy Ice Cleats for Boots
I cannot recommend a specific online (or offline) store to purchase high quality, well-fitted ice cleats for boots. I suggest that you visit your local sporting or, even better, outdoor equipment store to see if you can try on the cleats.
Fitting cleats to your needs can be quite complex and gets more challenging as we age. Our hands get weaker and we have a hard time getting the cleats onto our boots for snug fit.
I suggest you test the cleats as Jessica and I did in the video. Try the cleats inside and outside (on a patch of ice and snow).
Finally, examine the quality of the build. You want to make sure the cleats do not fall apart when you are using them because of shoddy workmanship.
Winter Capable Boots: Icebug
I much prefer (and recommend) boots designed for winter walking. The boots I recommend are made by Icebug. I have many reservation with ice traction cleats, one being that they easily fall off your winter boot. A few weeks ago I was hiking on a local trail and came upon this lost and abandoned ice traction cleat. It appears that this one fell off their owner’s boot and was left behind.
Winter Walking with a Cane
Besides using ice cleats for winter walking, there are several other things you can do to make your winter walking a safer experience.
First, if you own Nordic poles, remove the booties to help you manage on the ice. The carbide steel tips are designed to help you grip ice.
Second, you can make walking with a cane safer by following these steps:
- Switch to Activator Poles with the carbide tips (remove the large rubber tips).
- Attach an ice grip tip to your cane. I recommend the Sunmark Two Position Cane Tip available at Amazon.
[Disclosure: I receive a small commission from Amazon if you purchase after clicking either of the links listed above.]
Rate Your Winter Boots
The Ontario Ministry of Health and and Long Term Care funded research by Toronto Rehab to evaluate different winter boots. This is a great resource for people looking to purchase safe boots for winter walking.
Ice and snow are a permanent fixtures of our winter. Consider ice cleats for winter walking to guard against falls on icy patches and allow you to walk with more confidence on the winter walkways.