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​That Girl’s Guide to Crampons

Jul 15, 2021

Never used crampons before? Haven’t even heard of the word crampon? Don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were either in my previous city-girl life. We are going to break down exactly what this important piece of equipment is and why every woman that heads out into the snow should have in her kit.

Crampons are basically spiky metal cleats that are attached to your footwear to prevent you from slipping on snow and ice. The metal penetrates these surfaces just enough to provide you with traction to better support your body weight. This is crucial if you are hiking in moderately steep terrain where snow or ice may be present. Not only does the crampon provide you with grip on the uphills, it also helps you to not slip on the downhill sections. For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on crampons.

Over here, we get into microspikes and snowshoes and when it is better to use either of those options.

There are a variety of styles of crampons to choose from and it can be overwhelming to select the correct one. No fear! Let’s explain all of what you will encounter when shopping for a set of crampons.

Crampons are sold in a set, just like boots or shoes. They attach to your footwear in a number of ways, depending on the style of shoe you are using. Some styles of crampons can only be used for technical boots made for mountaineering but another style can attach to most sturdy pieces of footwear from general hiking shoes to winter boots. You might even be able to get away with attaching crampons to trail runners or approach shoes but this isn’t always a safe option.

Crampon Types

The crampon type is differentiated by the way it attaches to the shoe.


This is the most technical and most secure type of crampon to use, however, this style is only compatible with specific styles of boots. The boots that they attach to must have welts on the toe and heel area. (Looks like a deeper groove.) These boots also have pretty rigid soles. Basically, this style is suited for mountaineering specific boots.

A thick metal wire, called a bail, pulls up and sets into the toe welt, snugly holding the toe in place. The heel also has a metal piece that locks into the heel welt. This side is more like a lever that clicks up and secures the boot onto the crampon.

There also will be a nylon lace just to tie everything around your leg. This doesn’t provide much safety other than if for some reason your crampon slips off your boot (with the right fit, it should never fall off!), you might not lose it down the trail.

Automatic crampons are best for technical mountaineering and ice climbing since they provide such secure traction.


The hybrid crampon style is basically a step down from the most technical crampon style. This type of crampon is described as hybrid because it attaches to the heel the same way as the automatic style, with a metal lever piece fitting into the heel groove, but the toe area is different.

There is a flexible plastic piece that attaches to the toe. The nylon lace is more important here as it will provide extra security to keep the toe piece in place.

Hybrid crampons also require a certain type of boot in order to fit correctly. The boot must have the heel welt for the lever to fit into but it does not require a toe welt. This opens up the boot options a little further as there are some winter hiking boots that aren’t technical mountaineering boots that will have a heel welt. The boots used with a hybrid crampon should also be stiff soled for added security.


A strap on crampon is the most versatile crampon type as it attaches to almost any footwear! This type of crampon attaches to both the toe and heel areas with the nylon lace running through flexible plastic pieces. The laces and the way you tie them are more important with this style of crampon as it aids in keeping them secured to your feet.

While this style of crampon could match with trail runners or approach shoes, it is a good idea to pair them to a sturdier shoe for improved safety. The center bar should be compatible with the flex of the foot of the shoe. With this sort of attachment you can get a little movement between the crampon and the shoe making it a little less secure that the other options.

Women’s crampons? How do they fit a female foot?

Do they make crampons for women’s feet? No, but fortunately, this isn’t really necessary as they are a unisex piece of gear.

The toe and heel attachments are connected to a center bar. This bar usually has a ton of holes and a couple of small metal pegs. This allows you to slide the heel piece closer to the toe or farther away, depending on the length of your shoe. This accommodates a large range of foot sizes.

When adjusting the crampon to fit your shoe, you will want it to be a tight fit around the heel. Any looseness will hamper the attachment to your shoe providing you with less protection. Also, if loose, snow can build up between the sole and the crampon causing the connection to be compromised with the potential for the crampon to come off.

You definitely do not want that to happen.

What else?


Once you have narrowed down a style of crampon, there are a few other components to decide on. Some of this information can get a bit technical but it is always helpful to understand all of the pieces of your gear in order to make an informed decision.

If you want to skip ahead, we have another guide over here to help you choose the right crampons based on your adventure.

Let’s Explore More About Crampons…..

Anti-Balling Plates

Anti-balling plates are pieces of hard plastic that fit in under the crampon to prevent snow from balling up under your foot.. These are often included with your crampon purchase so no need to think about it too much, and, you don’t always need to use them. They are better to be put on if snow is soft and loose. On hard packed snow, there isn’t a great deal of benefit to having them on.

Spike Type

The metal portion of the crampon can be made out of steel, stainless steel or aluminum.


Steel crampons are very durable. This makes them the best all around choice for mountaineering and definitely required for steep, icy and technical terrain. These types of spikes are also the best choice for ice climbing and mixed climbing where you encounter alpine ice and rock. With this durability comes the expense of weight. They are bit heavier than aluminum crampons.


Stainless-steel crampons offer the same benefits as steel crampons except that they will resist corrosion a bit better.


If you are not planning on getting into anything too technical then aluminum crampons are the best choice.

Aluminum crampons are the lightest weight crampons. They are a great for hiking, general mountaineering and ski mountaineering. The lighter weight is a great feature, however, aluminum crampons are best used on soft snow and routes with moderate steepness. They will not be as strong and durable as steel crampons and the front points could bend if kicked into hard ice or rock. Using them on rocky terrain will significantly decrease their lifespan.

Number of Spikes

Crampons come with either 10 or 12 spikes (points).

General mountaineering crampons will mostly be offered with 10 points. These are sufficient in moderate to low angle terrain.

The extra points on a 12 point crampon usually are geared to more technical work. These points are located on the edge near the ball of the foot. They provide additional grip on rock and hard ice. If you are getting into ice climbing or technical alpine or mixed climbing then a 12 point crampon is your choice.


The front points are the front spikes on the toe side of the crampons. The easiest way to determine if a pair of crampons are made for general mountaineering or for more technical routes or ice climbing is by the style of these front points. They will either have a horizontal style or a higher vertical style and this will determine how the crampon handles snow and ice. The number of front points can range from one to two.


Horizontal front points usually protrude from the crampon frame in a slightly downward point. They appear as part of the main crampon frame and will have a wider spike. This greater spike will give more traction in soft snow. These are great for snow and glacier travel. This style of front point will commonly be found in the aluminum strap on crampons but there are definitely a few strong steel options as well.


Vertical front points look much different than the horizontal front points. These front spikes are not usually a part of the crampon frame but can be joined on by an adjustable attachment. These types of points are used more for ice climbing or mixed climbing. The higher front spike allows the climber to kick into hard ice and gain better hold. This style of point doesn’t have the best foothold in soft snow given their more spiky appearance.

Number of Front Points

Usually, crampons will have two points. This is an all around option.

For technical ice climbing and mixed climbing a single or mono point can be used. This provides a more precise point of contact with very small features of rock or ice. There are even offset points where one is longer than the other. Some of these crampons allow you to switch front point options based on your needs.

Crampons are an important piece of gear to have if you are venturing out into the mountains where snow or ice might be present. After reading this guide I am sure you are now well informed to make the best decision based on your adventure!