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Hillsound Freesteps6 Trail Crampon

WINTER TRAIL RUNNING

Anyone who runs in the winter knows that it can be a dangerous and tricky environment if one is not properly outfitted. Slipping on ice can lead to an untimely injury and potentially weeks of recovery. I have ran on icy trails in only shoes and taken my share of falls, so when I finally decided to get some kind of trail running crampon I was pleased to find an alternative in the Hillsound Freesteps6 (MSRP $39.99 USD/CAD). The other alternatives I had seen previous were Khatoola Microspikes® (MSRP $64.95) and Yaktrax RUN (MSRP $39.99).

 

PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

After a year of use the features I like about the Freesteps6 are:

  • The Elastomer Harness

    is stretchy enough to pull from the toe and get around the heel without problem. They then stay in place quite well, due in part to the sticky grip and in part to being a little tight. I have worn these crampons on my size 11.5 Brooks and size 11. Altras. On the Altras they tend to fill too tight, likely due to the wide toe box of the Altras. It depends on the angle of my foot placement on and the steepness of the slopes, but occasionally the crampon will move around in the toe area. From time to time I find myself making adjustments, which is not difficult since there is a nice finger hole on top of toe box and grippy tab on the heel for stretching over the shoe. There are no odd clasps, buttons to snap or velcro to connect when putting the Freesteps6 on.

  • High Traction and Confidence

    on ice and icey snow the crampons grip and provide firm traction. I can not recall a single time of slipping on the ice. Even strutting one cold January morning on pure ice, with a 20% downhill grade that curves into a ravine (I was really expecting to go down on this one).

  • Light (comparatively),

    the Large size weighs just under 12 ounces, almost 2.5 ounces less than the 14.4 ounce Khatoola Microspikes®. Really, compared to running specific snowshoes, these things are hardly noticeable. Forget Red Bull, these things will give you Winter running wings.

  • Exploring

    A really cool thing about throwing on a pair of crampons is that it makes exploring winter scenes much more accessible. Not to mention the thrill and fun of cruising out across a moonlit trail at night. Old familiar trails take on a new life when explored in the solitude and quietness of a snow landscape. There are always less crowds and an other-World feel at times.

SOME BAD, BUT MOSTLY GOOD

The heel section of the chains and spikes come together to form a ring of stainless steel. This ring can prove to be an area of snow accumulation when the snow is really sticky. Which can lead to a ball of snow right under your heel, not a comfortable running experience. I found that if there is too much snow and it is wet or sticky then the crampons were better left in my backpack and I would let the traction of my trail shoes do the snow gripping, similar to running in mud.

Speaking of the stainless steel ring, I took my Freesteps6 out on a run in early Decmeber up a local trail. At the end of my run as I took off my crampons I noticed that the ring heel on one of them had broke. I took some pictures and sent an email to Hillsound explaining that I had the product for just over a year. Since they have a 2-year warranty it was no problem to have them replaced. It is always a bonus when a company stands behind their product.

Snowball Accumulation

Snowball Accumulation

2-Year Warranty (phew!)

2-Year Warranty (phew!)

Slightly Tight on Wide Toe Boxes

Slightly Tight on Wide Toe Boxes

SOME SPECS

The Freesteps6 are made of Stainless steel, chains and a 21 spike bed, reinforced Elastomer harness, Size LG that I used weighs 340g.

HOW DID THEY RATE?

We rated this item under four categories, each with a maximum of 5 stars:

Quality 4
Performance 4
Features 3.5
Value 4.5

OVERALL RATING FOR THE FREESTEPS6: 4 Big Stars!

Considering the value when compared to the other leading brands out there, the Freesteps6 should not be overlooked if you are looking to walk hike or run on some icy trails this season.

ABOUT HILLSOUND

Icame across Hillsound at the January 2012 Outdoor Retailer show, where I was introduced to their new running crampon the Freesteps6. The reps there were very passionate about their products, they were friendly and cool to talk too. Hillsound, headquartered in Vancouver BC, had their beginnings in traditional trail crampons and from there branched out to gaiters. You can check out their goods here.