Saturday, January 10, 2009

RJ Review: Kahtoola KTS Aluminum Crampons

With deep snow giving the backcountry trails a long winter's rest, the quest for vertical feet can often be Quixotic for mountain-dwelling ultra runners. Relegated to plowed roads and paths, we do what we can to stack up some climbing and descending, like out-and-backs on 300 foot climbs, but all of it is in the shadow of the big peaks we truly want to attack -- the big boys with 3, 4, 5000 ft vertical.

Well, this week I tested out some great trail running crampons -- the Kahtoola KTS Aluminum (Kahtoola site) -- which put some of these peaks within reach.

The KTS crampons (retail $139.00) are made to fit over running shoes or light hiking boots, are lightweight (19 oz per pair), and have ten 3/4 inch points, which are aggressive enough to grip firmly in compact snow but not so sharp or long that you'll need to be sutured up if you take an awkward stride.

To test the KTS's, I mapped out a nine mile route that started with a 3.5 mile road run to the base of the Sun Valley, Idaho ski hill (Warm Spring side), then (after strapping on the KTS's) straight up the main 1.9 mile groomed ski run to the top (3200 ft vert; elev 9100 ft), and then down relatively run-able groomed trails to where I started (River Run side).

The upshot: on compact and well-groomed ski trails, the Kahtoola KTS crampons were near-flawless. They're quick and easy to put on. They grip surprisingly well on very steep ups and very steep downs. And, except for a tad of extra weight, they feel very natural when running.

I did have to readjust the straps a few times, especially after sections of very steep downs, but some more experience with the KTS's could help with this. Another quibble is that on very steep ups, the KTS's can cause your heel to slip, since the crampons simply can't flex as much as the running shoes want to. Overall, though, these are minor frailties.

The KTS's are not -- as the Kahtoola website seems to imply -- a great choice for all types of snowy trail running. In anything looser than compact snow, you'll post-hole pretty much as you would in regular running shoes.

But, if you're lucky enough to live within striking distance of a good ski hill, and you're in desperate need of some vertical, the Kahtoola KTS Aluminum crampons could be just what you're looking for.

More gear reviews on Run Junkie (RJ Reviews)


Brad Mitchell said...

Great review and route choice (I'm jealous!)

Hank Dart said...

Get healthy. We need you out there. The center's having trouble holding...

Unknown said...

Interesting. I'm wearing 32North Stabilicers Sport:

I haven't tested these for running yet, but they have pretty good grip when walking around on ice or snow. They are also fairly lightweight and easy to take on and off (same general structure). They stay on my foot reasonably well, but of course my foot does not bend as easily with them on, even though they are made of an elastic material. But the price was around $40, which is well worth it! :)


P.S. It's cool that you log your training on Attackpoint. It's nice to see another person on AP interested in trail running. I've only done a handful of such races, but have really enjoyed them. Hope to do more in the future!

Hank Dart said...


Thanks for the additional thoughts. I haven't used the Stabilicers. They seem pretty aggressive and would probably work well on most compact groomed trails. I'll have to get a pair and stress test them. The price point is certainly nice.

If things really pitch up or down, though, I'd worry about them holding, especially if there were a layer of soft snow on top of compact. That's one reason I really like the KTS's, and with forward points that stick out about 10% you can really grab on the steep steep climbs.

Cheers. See you on AttackPoint.