With winter approaching, I'm considering stocking up on some winter accessories for my 2020 Forester for the times I will be driving up the local mountains to go skiing. In general I am a conservative driver, and if the local mountains are being dumped on I'll stay at home. However, with mountains being mountains, I know that anything can happen while I am out and about.

I understand that snow chains are not recommended for AWD vehicles1 . But I have recently become aware of snow socks which seem to be OK for use an AWD vehicles. However, I am not sure how much value2,3 they supply, and whether they are deemed as a suitable replacement for chains by my DOT (New Mexico).

Currently I have fairly new Michelin Defender 2s on my Forester, which I know don't have the best rating for driving in snow. I am also not going to be buying snow tires, as given where I am (where there is typically only snow in the mountains) and the amount of driving I do in the snow they wouldn't make a good investment for me.

So how much benefit could I see from Snow Socks? And are they deemed a legal replacement for chains (when chains are mandated regardless of vehicle type)?

  1. I am not 100% sure why chains are not recommended for AWD if they are applied to all 4 wheels. However, I have seen comments referring to physical clearance of chains with respect to an Outback.

  2. I saw a comment elsewhere that said snow socks don't make for safe driving in snow, just slightly safer driving in snow.

  3. I've also seen comments that suggest driving snow socks when not on snow can easily damage them.

FWIW I found a random YouTuber who has tested both snow chains and snow socks in actual snow, and in a previous video, tested various types of snow chains. I found his videos to both informative and amusing, but they don't quite answer my questions.

And from my Forester's owner's manual

Tire chains cannot be used on your vehicle because of the lack of clearance between the tires and the vehicle body.


When tire chains cannot be used, use of another type of traction device (such as spring chains) may be acceptable if use on your vehicle is recommended by the device manufacturer, taking into account tire size and road conditions.

  • What does your Forester Owner's Manual say about tire chains?
    – jwh20
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 20:13
  • Subaru explicitly says no to chains on Foresters ; low clearance between tires and body. Tire chains are sloppy and need more clearance; used on semi tractor trailers. Cars/SUVs in general have less clearance; check with state dmv rules. Metal treads fitting around the center tread, plastic treads assembled like large wire ties, etc. Personally, snow socks are questionable when leaving snow and running on asphalt/cement roads. They're synthetic and thin, most likely have warnings against using them on bare ground.
    – F Dryer
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 22:32
  • @FDryer I know that socks are questionable when not on snow, but I am looking for something to put into my emergency kit. I have heard that the profile of "spring/er chains" works with Subaru's, but the images I have seen make me wonder how good they are.
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 15:01
  • There may be Subaru Forester owners on forums with experience in snow regions to ask what they recommend. And of course, YouTube videos of various add ons to tires for snow/ice traction to review; narrow selections to Subaru Foresters for recommendations. In ski areas, ask locals how towns plow roads since snow sports are part of winter attractions and wise to keep roads open for traffic.
    – F Dryer
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 16:00
  • @jwh20 Added explicit text from my manual.
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


I been towing a trailer with a jeep, several times in winter. I asked recommendations all around the country, even in Montana and Alaska, where I guess people have a pretty good idea on winder.

I got the same as the first "tip": If you need chains, don't go out, stay on a gas station, or don't leave your house. Chains (or any other accessory that does the same) is the last resort on an emergency.

I read a lot of bad things about socks too. I cannot find the video now, but there was a test and good winter tires performs way better without the socks.

Is not that chains are "not recommended for awd" but a good advance awd system like the one on your forester, gets "confused" when using chains and it wont manage the traction as good as without them.

Chains and other artifacts with spikes are intended to break and try to get traction over ICE, where socks does nothing better than a winter tire.

And yes, socks gets damaged when not driving in "soft" surface. and chains damage your tires too.

I personally got the trasversal plastic thing with spikes that you put like 3 of them per wheel, ONLY as emergency, and I never used them in the past 5 years. When the road got bad, I just stopped and waited for the snow pow or even booked an hotel.

In top of all your security measures, and specially here in the US, there will be always someone in a corola, driving like is summer in florida, and read end you at 60.

  • Thanks for you reply. I did state that if conditions are bad, that I will stay home. But in the mountains conditions can change unexpectedly, even as you drive - so I am only looking for emergency situation usage. Also you mention equivalence between socks and winter tires. But as I stated, I don't have winter tires. And chains are explicitly called out as not be used with a Forester. Finally, last season, the day after a big dump I drove past 2 or 3 "Corollas" that had been plowed in the previous day. People told me what was a normal 1/2 drive turned into 3 hours because of conditions.
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 14:59
  • BTW check out the videos I linked to. Your "trasversal plastic thing" may not work as well as you hope it does. (and I have no relationship with that YouTube - they just popped up when I was googling for comparisons)
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 15:03
  • 40 years ago, I put on nylon webbed polyurethane cleats onto both rear wheels of my '77 Datsun 280-Z 5-speed. Never used them before. I was young and adventurous. The polyurethane bands go across treads for traction, It worked perfectly. I drove out onto the narrow street, turned onto a main roadway with three lanes, still unplowed in the early morning sunshine. I used them only once, and they gave my little sports car traction while NYC was digging out. The nylon webbing made them adjustable to take out slack as everything stretched. The noise was a reminder to drive below 30 mph.
    – F Dryer
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 23:32

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