As it is written, prior to slipping and falling several hundred feet during a climbing descent of Campanile Basso in Italy’s Dolomites in the early ’90s, Kahtoola Founder Danny Giovale had never really given much thought to the importance of winter footwear traction. But there’s something about thinking you might lose your life that’ll get the gears turning. It was in these revelatory moments that Kahtoola was born.
Motivated by his near-death experience, and realizing there wasn’t a reliable product on the market to prevent such accidents, Danny took his problem-solving background and began developing a high-tech solution that conformed to the flexibility of the foot; was comfortable, durable, lightweight and packable; and empowered people to be as “fast and footloose” in nature as possible. After two years, countless obstacles, boxes of prototypes and eight design concepts, the result was the Kahtoola Traction System (KTS) Crampon. And as the need for new designs that would meet the demands of a variety of outdoor enthusiasts was realized, the K•10 Hiking Crampon, MICROspikes®, and NANOspikes® were developed.
In the early design stages of the first-ever KTS Crampon, the initial prototype was constructed out of steel shelving that Danny had hand-bent to create cleats, and he used cordage to connect the toe with the heal. What he discovered was designing something that stayed secure while flexing with the foot was not only difficult but was an entirely new concept.
Later, after incorporating the most advanced flexible steel available to replace the cord as an extender bar, he still was not completely satisfied with its overall flexibility. Then, two weeks before he was scheduled to showcase the crampons, he found that when cut in half and dual-layered, two thin stainless-steel bars were exponentially more flexible than one thicker bar—and surprisingly didn’t compromise durability. It flexed easily with a shoe and was extremely tough. The result was the patented LeafSpring® Flex Bar.
In the nearly two decades since our KTS Crampons were first showcased and Kahtoola launched as a company, we’ve continued to grow and learn. And no path worth traveling is ever without its tests—which we recognize. Along ours, we’ve established a commitment to enabling people to do more and be better, creating solutions to outdoor challenges, and fueling an active and healthy lifestyle. Today, that motivation with which we started all those years ago is very much alive and continues to drive our discipline throughout the company and the Kahtoola brand.