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Kahtoola K10 Hiking Crampon Review

Kahtoola K10 Crampons Review

Kahtoola’s K10 Crampons are winter hiking crampons designed for shoes with flexible soles ranging from trail runners to soft-soled insulated hiking boots. Featuring a flexible leaf string and superlight Chromoly steel, the K10 Crampons weigh just 21 ounces per pair (23.6 ounces with anti-balling skins), with burly 3/4 inch long crampon teeth. While the K10s are crampons, they don’t require any special training or footwear to use like a more traditional mountaineering or ice climbing crampon.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 23.6 oz/pair (with anti-balling skins)
  • Crampon spikes: 10
  • Spike length: 3/4″
  • Material: Chromoly steel

The Kahtoola K10 is a major step up in aggressiveness from Kahtoola MICROspikes or Hillsound Trail Crampons and is suitable for thicker ice and packed snow where you want the added control of a crampon instead of independent points loosely connected by chain links. While they’re not suitable for vertical ice-climbing, this style of construction gives you the ability to climb higher-angle ice with deeper spike penetration for enhanced security.

The Kahtoola K10 Crampons is designed to work with soft-soled boots and shoes
Kahtoola’s K10 Crampons are designed to work with soft-soled boots and shoes

Styled as a full crampon, the K10 has 10 spikes arranged in a traditional crampon pattern with 6 under the forefoot and 4 under the heel. These are connected by an adjustable bar called a leaf spring which flexes when walking over uneven surfaces with soft-soled shoes or boots. In contrast, traditional mountaineering crampons are quite rigid and can only be worn with heavy mountaineering boots with soles that have no flex whatsoever.

The leaf spring can be adjusted without a tool making it convenient to switch between boots or trail runners.  This level of footwear compatibility is simply fantastic because it means you can use the same crampon with different soft-soled shoes including trail runners, hiking boots, or even PAC boots.

K10 Crampon Quick-Release Binding System
K10 Crampon Quick-Release Binding System is also compatible with trail runners.

The K10 has a quick-fit binding system that uses webbing to secure the front and back of your foot to the crampon. One strap runs over the top of your shoe/boot just behind the toe kick and the other cups your heel in the rear binding by looping over the front of your ankle, with a small hook that attaches to your front laces to prevent the webbing strap from riding up higher.

The binding is very simple but quite secure.
The binding is very simple but quite secure.

These two straps provide a very secure and reliable binding between your footwear and the K10 crampon for hiking or trail running. The binding is also very comfortable, especially above the ankle, because the quick-release buckle can be positioned to the side of the foot rather than the top where it would cause more friction and discomfort.

The K10s comes with skins that prevent snow from clumping to the bottom of the crampons
The K10s come with skins that prevent snow from clumping to the bottom of the crampons. These are the equivalent of anti-balling plates found on mountaineering crampons.

The K10 comes with anti-balling skins that prevent the buildup of snow and ice, called balling, underfoot if you find yourself walking through wet snow, water, or snowmelt. These are pre-cut synthetic templates that fit over the crampon spikes and weigh a fraction of what traditional crampon anti-balling plates weigh. If you switch between different footwear frequently, the skins get in the way of the K10 leaf spring adjustment, but they are easy to take off and put back on and present a minor inconvenience.

More Winter Traction Aids and Crampons

Make / ModelBest For
Kahtoola MicrospikesPacked snow, icy trails
Hillsound Trail Crampon UltraPacked snow, icy trails
Hillsound Trail CramponsPacked snow, icy trails
Black Diamond Distance SpikesPacked snow, icy trails
Hillsound Trail Crampon ProMixed ice, snow, and rock
Kahtoola K10 CramponsMixed ice, snow, and rock
Kahtoola KTS CramponsMixed ice, snow, and rock
Black Diamond Contact Strap CramponsNon-technical mountaineering
Petzl Irvis FLexlock CramponsNon-technical mountaineering
Grivel G10 New Classic CramponsNon-technical mountaineering


Kahtoola’s K10 Crampons are designed for use with soft-soled trail runners and boots and provide a significant step up in terms of traction over Kahtoola Microspikes or Hillsound Trail Crampons. They don’t require any tools to resize and they come with snow-release skins to prevent snow from balling up under the crampon, something that tends to happen when hiking on wet snow.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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  1. Thanks Phil, hadn’t heard of these before. How do you compare them to the Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro? I have a pair but sometimes the nut on the bar comes loose no matter how hard I tighten it, and I don’t fully trust the ratchet system either (not to mention the issue of them loosening in deep snow). Interested in your thoughts. Thanks

    • The Hillsound Trail Crampon pro can only be used with boots, not any footwear. It has a rigid center bar and not a flexible leaf spring, so it will bend when used with soft boots (anything not a mountaineering boot). That’s not a complete showstopper though. It just bends, but in an extreme case it can snap. The ratchet mechanism is quite reliable and even if it does pop open (it’s done so maybe once for me), you simply resecure it. Same with popping opening deep snow (but why would you be wearing them then and not snowshoes). As for the “nut”, you have an old model. The newer ones use the same toolless adjustment as the K10’s.

      • I prefer the Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro because the anti-balling plate works better and the ratchet binding is easier than the buckles on the K10 which easily get clogged with powdery snow

        • You just can’t use it with a very soft sole. Think of thru-hikers who insist on using trail runners to walk through snow fields on the PCT. You really need the K10 for that.

  2. Similar idea to the Grivel G10 crampons which attach to a hiking boot if ordered with the Classic binding. The Grivel also has anti-bott plates which I find work well. It is heavier at 806g or 28.4 oz for the pair. It is also adjustable without tools, but mine won’t go long enough for PAC boots like my Baffin Eiger boots – only long enough for insulated winter hiking boots. I love mine for steeper terrain such as 15-40 degrees. Below that I use Hillsong Trail crampons.

  3. Thanks for the post Phil, I wasn’t familiar with the K-10’s. Would you be comfortable using them on something like a presidential peak mid-winter? Interested if you put these in the same category as Grivel G10 or a Petzl Vasak in terms of terrain and conditions they can handle.

    • For Washington, Monroe, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson I’d probably bring Hillsound Trail Crampons and my CAMP XLC 390 crampons (sharp). For Eisenhower and Pierce, the K10s would be fine. It’s an issue of spike length and slope angle mainly.

  4. Please give examples of “soft”. Is a vibram sole considered soft for these.

    • Vibram makes about 2000 different soles so that’s a bad clue. Anything that’s not a mountaineering boot designed for ice climbing is a soft-sole boot. This includes All winter hiking boots from Oboz, Salomon, North Face, Merrell, all regular 3 season hiking boots and mids, and trail runners.

    • Hi Phil,

      Thanks so much for another great review. I bought these (through your link of course) and use them with my Xero insulated boots. They are a winner! If you only hike in zero drop boots or trail runners these are the crampons for you.

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