Winter may be coming to a rapid end, but that doesn't mean we won't have to deal with ice and snow before it releases us from its grip. There is nothing worse than an early spring blizzard or ice storm to really put a damper on our enthusiasm for the arrival of warmer weather. With that in mind, I've had the opportunity to test out a pair of STABILicers Maxx Ice Cleats from from 32North, and found them to be an excellent way to keep your footing in poor conditions.
The first thing that struck me about he Stabilicers is how durable and rugged they are. They truly feel like they are meant to withstand the punishment that comes from being active in the winter months. They feature a tough, rubber sole that has 17 hardened cleats built right into the base. Those cleats easily bite into snow and ice, providing a surprising amount traction, even in very poor conditions. Putting these on a pair of hiking boots - or even winter boots for that matter - immediately improves traction on the slickest of surfaces.
I was also impressed with the Stabilicers integrated strap system. The belts are wide and accommodating for all manner of footwear. This allows them to quickly and easily slip on to your boot, tighten into place using velcro, and get you off and moving in a matter of moments. I appreciated the fact that it took virtually no time to get my boot seated into place, lock the cleats around it, and hit the trail. The last thing you want to do in cold weather is to waste time battling your gear.
Better yet, once the Stabilicers are connected to your shoes, they stay in place quite nicely. The velcro straps keep them from sliding around or coming off altogether, even when you're taking part in vigorous activities. I found that once I had my pair locked into place, they didn't move until I was ready to take them off at the end of the hike.
As I mentioned, the Stabilicer Maxx acts a bit like a pair of lightweight crampons, although you won't find yourself moving quite so awkwardly with these attached to your boots. While they don't exactly provide the stability of a crampon, most of us don't need that level of performance either. These cleats are akin to putting a pair of chains on your tires to help you get through snow and ice, and in that regard they perform even better than I expected.
A few months back I posted my thoughts on a pair of Yaktrax, which are designed to do something similar to the Stabilicers, albeit with a different design. At the time, I wrote positive thoughts on the Yaktrax, which deliver solid performance and ease of use. There is a night and day difference between these two products however, and it is hardly fair to compare them directly. The Stabilicer Maxx are built more durably and are simply more reliable in demanding situations. The Yaktrax are a lighter product however, and are probably a better option for trail runners looking to move fast in conditions that aren't so demanding. They're also more versatile in that they'll fit more easily on a variety of shoes, but if you're looking for stability in tough conditions or in more demanding environments, the Maxx are clearly the way to go. They are, quite simply put, more up to the challenge than their competition.
The Stabilicer Maxx come with an affordable price tag as well. They run just $49.95, which is a good price for a product that performs this well. If you're still fighting snow and ice where you're at, but you're eager to get out on the trail none the less, consider adding a pair of these to your own gear closet. They'll be one of the best investments you've made in winter gear in a long time.