Sunday, February 26, 2017

Footwear for Icy Winter Hiking

So many choices, where to begin when selecting footwear for winter hiking? Consideration of the terrain and weather conditions take priority. Lately I've been section hiking the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT) in Southern Wisconsin. Icy hills, temperatures between F(-18°C) and 32°F(0°C), and hard-packed ice with snow (typically of less than 6 inches / 15 cm deep) comprise the main considerations when day hiking the IAT in this area. 

This video shows a footwear system that has served me well and kept my feet warm and dry on many winter day-hikes along the IAT in Southern Wisconsin:

For winter day hikes on the Ice Age Trail in Southern Wisconsin, I wear Salomon XA Comp 7 waterproof trail runners with Smartwool® or Thorlo® socks and I also wear gaiters. If you wear trail runners, choose trail runners with stiff soles. The soles of my trail runners provide enough stiffness for comfort on lumps of ice and rocks, whereas a soft sole would be very uncomfortable. Use gaiters to keep the snow out. If the snow happens to get much above 6 inches (15 cm) deep, you need snow shoes, but this is not typically the case on the Ice Age Trail in Southern Wisconsin.

Neos Trekkers


When the trail is icy or slick, spikes are needed and trekking poles help with balance, particularly when hiking down icy slopes. I use Kahtoola Microspikes paired with trekking poles for balance. The stainless steel Kahtoolas with 3/8 inch spikes dig into the ice and help prevent slipping. Should the temperatures lead to melting and standing water, I slide Neos Trekkers over my shoes to make wet crossings.

Clothing Item
Adult Hiking Socks (Thorlo®)
3.3 oz. / 94 g.
Adult Shoes (Salomon XA Comp 7 Trail Runners)
1 lb. 8.5 oz. / 695 g.
Adult Overshoes (N.E.O.S.)
1 lb. 12.1 oz. / 797 g.
Kahtoola Microspikes (Small)
11 oz. / 312 g.

The bottom line is to consider the terrain and weather conditions where and when you plan to hike. Trial and error led me to my system. Start with a small hike and an easy bailout, once your system proves itself, you are ready for more distance. If you are backpacking, consider what you will wear when you are done hiking as we become colder when we slow down, and will need warm, dry footwear particularly if our feet are sweaty from hiking in.

That's all for now. Let's get outdoors and keep our wild places wild.


I do not receive compensation for products mentioned or reviewed in this post. All products mentioned or reviewed were purchased by me or my husband. The comments made based on my experience with these items.

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