Gear Review: Sole Spikes by Goat Head Gear
Goat Head Gear in Utah makes Sole Spikes which help hikers and backpackers get added traction on the trail. These little spikes can be inserted into the sole of a boot, water shoe, or waders in minutes. They provide added traction on ice and rock and can be removed when the conditions no longer require it.
I took a few hours on my birthday to venture up to the Mt. Charleston Wilderness outside Las Vegas and put Sole Spikes to the test. The conditions were ideal I suppose with icy patches scattered along the trail and sustained winds of more than 30 mph.
The winds forced me, the no-holds-barred adventurer that I am, to stay in the truck to work my way through the initial installation. The wind would have effected the video anyway. Installation was easy and took about 10 mins for the first boot. The second boot was much quicker and took less than 5 minutes.
The Sole Spikes pack comes with 24 spikes and a handy tool for installing them in the tread. It fits well into the palm and is actually more heavy duty than I expected. The knob-like tool, or Sole Driver as the company calls it, works with a shaft insert and a second shaft that can be used as an extension. Both have magnets in the coupling that holds the spike in place for easier insertion. Both of the magnets were loose in my tool and would either fall out or stick to the spike which became a hassle so I just put the magnets back in the container. I’m not sure if that is the way all of them are but it’s not a big thing. A little glue could fix that if it bothers you too much. With the two boots dialed in I hit the trail.
The first section of the hike was on exposed trail that was very rocky with both gravel sections as well as larger rock hoping sections. The spikes help up well to the rock test but did produce a really unappealing sound with contact on the rock. This is a personal issue for me and not necessarily a functional lapse for the product. I just have a hard time with certain sounds and this one would drive me nuts, at least drive me to stop and remove the spikes.
The impact of the spikes is really not that noticeable on soft ground or on rocks (other than the sound). I didn’t really notice any additional benefit or detriment on the traction. The same was true for mud and snow.
But the Sole Spikes really responded well on ice and I think this is where Goat Head Gear can really carve out (like that pun intended!) a niche with hikers and backpackers. The traction that they gave me on ice, particularly on a grade, was very noticeable. In fact, it took me a little while to develop a level of trust with the added traction. That’s a good thing though! Up hill and down hill, the added traction is very noticeable. But how strong would they be against some really aggressive movements?
I decided a scuff test was the only way to test it. I went to the nearest ice sheet and scuffed my boots as hard as I could. Several times the Sole Spikes caught my movement and stopped by foot in mid-move. But most of the time, it just cut channels in the ice leaving behind only channels framed by very fine ice shavings. Impressive and very unexpected.
I then took my boots off and inspected each individual spike insertion. As far as I could tell, not one of the spikes were altered in any way. Their hard forms seemed to show zero impact and none of them were torn free of the sole or even loosened.
I wore them all the way back to the trailhead, covering about 3 miles in total and performed a final inspection at my truck. Everything looked just as good ass it did when I installed them with the exception of the dirt and grit in the tread.
Limits of Testing
I only tested the Sole Spikes on this one occasion. I did cover a range of surfaces and even performed the scuff test. But I think a more thorough evaluation would include a longer time frame for the test and cover more miles. I plan to do that and provide an update here later in the year. I’d like to know how many miles it takes to lose the first one.
Advantages of the Product
- Easy installation – approximately 5 minutes per boot
- Heavy duty installation tool – Sole Driver!
- Low price point makes it cost effective as a backup plan
- Lightweight – delivers a lot of value for its size
- Scuff test resistant – check out the video below to see the test
Disadvantages of the Product
- The sound of the spikes on rock is reminiscent of golf spikes in the parking lot
- The magnet in the shaft of the Sole Driver is loose and falls out easily or sticks to the head of the spike
- Durability unknown over great distance and heavier usage
Use in the Wild
There are a couple hikes that come to my mind over the last 18 months where I wish I had these with me. I did a early May hike up South Loop Trail in Mt Charleston where we crossed the Avalanche Chute that would have been easier with these. There’s also the hike to Big Falls with the massive avalanche created snow field.
Sole Spikes Review Video
Destined for some sort of award for sure!
Background on Goat Head Gear
What does Goat Head Gear want to contribute to the outdoor community?
Goat Head Gear sells a specialty product called Sole Spikes which can be used in any outdoor activity where you would want better traction. We are focused on fly fishermen/women and trail runners, but they can be used for anything from backpacking, hiking, hunting, winter walking, etc. Sole Spikes provide integrated traction for your shoes without bulky straps, added weight, or affecting your gait. We fill a niche in both fishing and running with a top quality product at a reasonable price. We are committed to helping those who love the outdoors to enjoy a clean and healthy outdoor experience. We are working on a set of new products aimed at keeping our rivers free of invasive species and are hoping to work with a major charitable organization to donate a portion of our proceeds to conservation efforts.
How did the idea of Sole Spikes come together?
My business partner Jeff Johnson and I used to work together at a local Utah company and always talked about starting our own business. He called me one day about two years ago with an idea for an engineered screw that could be used for trail running instead of hardware store screws which are soft and prone to breaking. I instantly saw the application in fishing waders and we set out to design a great product. After working with a local independent engineer for design help, we went through a lot of fits and starts with various manufacturers and prototypes until we really felt like we had something unique and marketable. We are so pleased to bring Goat Head Sole Spikes to outdoor lovers everywhere.
Want to know where the name came from? Find out here.
Disclosure: Goat Head Gear provided the author with two sets or Sole Spikes for review at no cost but this in no way impacted the findings of the review. The statements and opinions in this review are the author’s only and were not guided or influenced in any way.
The Bottom Line
The Soles Spikes from Goat Head Gear fill a very specific niche for hikers and backpackers. They provide a lightweight solution for the the trail that allows for easy installation and extraction as conditions change. The price is not prohibitive even for the hiker that wants to use Sole Spikes as a secondary option. They're small enough and so lightweight that they can be carried on any trail excursion without much second thought. Sole Spikes can make the difference when trail conditions deteriorate or when you meet unexpected ice in the backcountry. The price and weight make them a no-brainer decision for any hiker or backpacker.