Winter Running: Best Shoes for Cold-Weather Miles

Winter Running: Best Shoes for Cold-Weather Miles

Filed under: Footwear  Running  Winter 

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When the sun takes a sabbatical on the south side and winter’s cold bite starts to sink deep, you don’t need to hang your head over the treadmill. Chin up, we’ve found 12 winter-worthy shoes to keep you running outside through the winter.

Any trail-running shoe worth its lugs has enough traction to keep you upright in sloppy conditions. But a good pair of winter running shoes takes it up a notch.

With shoulder seasons pushing runners out into the dark, winter running shoes often shimmer with reflective strips for increased visibility. And while summer conditions have a bias for lighter, airy kicks, winter specialists will sacrifice breathability for waterproof membranes, shells, and gaiters that shed the icy snow and mud. The goal is to keep feet warm and dry.

This year, we’ve seen a lot of ankle “gaskets” and new waterproof-breathable materials integrated to keep winter at bay.

Winter-Runner-Hero

Best Winter Running Shoes of 2019

After logging long winter miles in dozens of shoes this year, we found these winter-worthy kicks for 2019. And because winter in Minnesota is heaps different than Portland or Boston, we’ve identified a gamut of shoes that meet multiple definitions of “winter.” Happy running!

Techie Road Warrior: Under Armor HOVR CGR Mid Connected ($140)

Under Armor HOVR CGR Mid Connected

Eschew the techie wristband and lace up with the next evolution of wearable tech for less than the cost of a Fitbit. The UA HOVR has an integrated sensor that syncs with the MapMyRun app to track your distance, pace, stride length, cadence, and splits. Don’t feel like bringing the phone? HOVR doesn’t care; runs will download automatically when you get back home.

The HOVR is insulated with UA’s proprietary ColdGear Reactor. It’s a thick(ish) insulation that adapts to your kinetic state, trapping heat while at rest and spilling heat while on the move.

A rubberized mesh grid wraps the water-resistant outer, shedding rain and road grit.

The HOVR doesn’t have a tongue. Instead, a sock-like gaiter wraps around the ankle and continues down over the top of the foot and under the laces.

The HOVR rides over a Michelin rubber sole, which grips wet roads with ease. But the traction is too sparse for stepping off the tarmac. Ice or mud in your forecast? Look elsewhere.

Bottom line: The UA HOVR is a great choice for race-oriented runners training in milder winter road runs.

Fit: True to size

Weight: 10.9 ounces

Offset: 8mm drop

Middle-Distance Storm Protection: La Sportiva Tempesta GTX ($165)

La Sportiva Tempesta GTX

Gaiters are finicky. They can be too big or tight, zippers blow out, and they can chafe or simply be too hot. And they can be overkill for many conditions. This year, we saw a lot of companies integrate a sock-like gasket cuff that saddles under the ankle and keeps the heat in and slop out. The Tempesta has the most robust cuff we saw.

The padded collar smoothly wraps from the ankle to the integrated tongue almost elevates the shoe to mid height, which our testers found a little hard to pull over the foot. Two prominent pull loops help wrestle your feet into the shoes; once you’re tied in, the fit is snug and secure.

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A stiff midfoot, paired with a flexible forefoot, rocks the Tempesta forward with each step. Under the chassis, the Tempesta’s blocky tread grips in the slop but has an open lug pattern that quickly sheds trail muck.

A Gore-Tex liner wraps the lower vamp of the shoe, providing waterproof protection. The tongue, though, is not waterproof. We didn’t mind. The airiness allowed heat to spill out from under the laces.

Speaking of laces, always clever about lashing down, the La Sportiva’s thin laces tuck cleanly away in a pocket on top of the shoe’s tongue.

Bottom line: La Sportiva’s are known to run aggressively narrow. If the shoe fits, this narrowness translates into a pure extension of the foot to the ground and a speedy winter trail trainer.

Fit: Small and narrow. Go up a half size from street.

Weight: 11.3 ounces

Offset: 10mm drop

Zero-Drop Shell: Altra Lone Peak 4 Low RSM eVent ($150)

Altra Lone Peak 4 Low RSM eVent

How do you make one of our favorite winter running shoes even better? Carefully!

This year, Altra released its fourth version of the ever-popular Lone Peak, keeping the shoe relatively true to the original minus one key component. Altra swapped out last year’s Polartec Neoshell liner with a welded eVent shell.

Like a waterproof shell, the material doesn’t wet out and is reputably more breathable than Gore-Tex or Neooshell. After logging 100 miles in wet, sloppy winter conditions, we’d have to agree. Our feet didn’t wet out from sweat, and our toes remained warm during an off-trail marathon slog across the snowy Owyhee desert in December.

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The Lone Peak now has a “four-point” gaiter system, with a clip over the toes, tag points on both the lateral and medial sides, and a “gaiter trap” in back. And because the Lone Peak’s low profile puts you closer to the snow, we recommend you batten down on powder days. Altra has a trail gaiter to match.

Looking for more protection? Altra also released a mid-top version of the Lone Peak 4 RSM.

Bottom line: Zero-drop can be rough on the calves, but for those that have worked up to it, the Lone Peak 4 is one of the most comfortable shoes on the list. The addition of eVent makes them the most storm-worthy and breathable shoe in the review.

Fit: Runs wide; otherwise, true to size.

Weight: 10.9 ounces

Offset: Zero-drop (25mm stack height)

Waterproof Trail Gripper: Gore-Tex Adidas Terrex Agravic XT ($160-170)

Gore-Tex Adidas Terrex Agravic XT

Primarily known for ball sports in the U.S., Adidas has made a steady splash in the outdoor world and offers some of our favorite adventure-worthy gear. Its Gore-Tex Terrex Agrivic XT is no exception.

Wider than past Adidas trail runners we’ve tested, the Agravic is a midvolume, low-profile runner that feels light on the feet, promoting rapid turnover in sloppy conditions.

And all that slop stays outside the shoe with a full Gore-Tex booty that wraps the entire shoe, including the sock-like gasket and tongue.

The EVA Boost midsole yields a cushy ride and will bring a spring to the step and smiles to runners seeking speed play on rough terrain.

Like mountain bike tires strapped to the feet, a fleet of widely spaced chevron lugs pattern back to back across the Continental rubber sole to provide equal parts traction, braking power, and mud-shedding ability.

Going long? Runners will probably want a stiffer midsole to buffer the repetitive bashing against roots and rocks.

Bottom line: Foul-weather traction in a supremely comfortable shoe. This was one of our favorite shoes for messy half-marathon trail runs.

Fit: Runs small. Go up a half size from street.

Weight: 12 ounces

Offset: 8.9mm drop

More: Adidas

Snow Shoe: Columbia/Montrail Mountain Masochist IV OutDry Extreme ($135-170)

Columbia/Montrail Mountain Masochist IV OutDry Extreme

Back when trail running was a fringe sport, Montrail was forging a path for a burgeoning industry. Portland-based Columbia purchased Montrail in 2006 and eventually marched toward fully folding it under Columbia, which it did in 2016.

The Montrail name is faint today, but Columbia has found a way to mesh its best technology with Montrail’s successful runner. The marriage is exemplified in the updated Mountain Masochist.

The venerable Montrail trail shoe is wrapped in Columbia’s proprietary OutDry gaiter. The OutDry gaiter zips over the toggled speed laces, sealing snow and water from creeping into the shoe. The material literally sheds water like a rubberized surface but breathes as well as Gore-Tex and never wets out.

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A soft-shell ankle sock is sewn to the top of the OutDry gaiter, which helps seal in warmth and keeps snow from spilling into the shoe.

The ankle sock is oversized to fit over thick socks and tights without compressing the leg. This also means it fits looser around slim ankles.

Bottom line: For those who run before they shovel the walk.

Fit: Runs large

Offset: 8mm drop

Weight: 11 ounces

Shop Men’s

Studded Tires: Salomon Speedspike ($180)

Salomon Speedspike

Mountain brand Salomon takes winter running seriously and is a perennial Gear Junkie favorite. This year, we love what the Speedspike brings to do battle with icy trails.

Based on the wildly popular (and ferociously sexy) Speedcross, the Speedspike studs the outer sole with 15 carbide-tipped spikes, providing confidence on cold trails that see afternoon sun but turn to a skating rink by morning.

The Speedspike’s hybrid design meshes a waterproof ClimaShield toe-sock liner with a water-resistant (and more breathable) quarter, providing protection where you most often need it — the front end of the shoe. Of course, this reserves the Speedspike for places where snow and rain often turn to black ice that lurks for weeks in the shadows.

While the spikes provide confident traction on ice and frozen muck, beyond a short run to and from the trailhead, the Speedspike is clunky on dry pavement. And be sure to lace up outside, as these spikes can damage wood or laminate flooring.

Salomon runners are priced slightly higher than many, and the Speedspike is no exception. Deals can be found for the latest version priced under $130, a relative bargain by winter running standards. But it’s at the cost of a fully waterproof barrier, which is a dealbreaker for some.

Bottom line: If your conditions are dry and icy, this is your shoe.

Fit: True to size

Offset: 6mm drop

Weight: 11.5 ounces

Shop Men’s

Weatherproof Roady: Saucony Peregrine 8 Ice+ ($150)

Saucony Peregrine 8 Ice+

Saucony’s popular Peregrine is loved by trail runners for its grip. This year, Saucony makes an already superior grip even better for winter conditions by adding Vibram’s Arctic Grip outsole. The specialized rubber provides better traction on the slickest of surfaces: wet ice.

Though a stiffer shoe, Saucony’s cushy PWRFOAM midsole provides enough plush to make the run to and from the trailhead tolerable.

Incorporating Vibram’s Arctic Grip outsole, there are no excuses to stay indoors during the ice storm. The traction only gets better as ice beings to melt. Water resistance, though not waterproofing, reserves the Peregrine 8 Ice for dry, icy days.

Bottom line: A lightweight winter trainer that sticks every landing on icy days.

Fit: True to size

Weight: 10.4 ounces

Offset: 4mm drop

Big, Snowy Miles: HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid WP ($160)

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid WP

The HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat is a top choice among trail runners. Our tester called it his favorite trail running shoe. And for those who fit this model well, HOKA offers this midheight, waterproof version for when the going gets wet, wild, and sloppy.

We’ve logged some early snowy miles into the Speedgoat Mid WP so far and really like this one for super-nasty conditions. HOKA’s proprietary SKYSHELL waterproof-breathable bootie keeps feet dry and remarkably warm. The flexible collar ensconces the ankle well and keeps out snow and muck. But it’s comfortable and plenty stretchy to not bother our tester in modest runs.

The Vibram Megagrip high-traction outsole with 5mm lugs is very effective, especially on hard-pack snow and mud. But it’s not great on pure ice.

As a midheight shoe, the Speedgoat Mid WP could also be a good choice for fast hiking.

Bottom line: This is the heaviest offering in our lineup right now, so not a great choice for those concerned about pure speed. We’re still testing this one but love it so far.

Fit: True to size

Weight: 12.6 ounces

Offset: 4mm drop

The Best of the Rest Winter Running Shoes

While these aren’t the most recently released running shoes, they’re still some of our favorites from past winter running reviews and worthy of a mention. Because the perfect shoe varies widely from person to person and depends on your preferences and winter weather conditions, we want to give you the complete rundown. Our editors and testers have put countless miles on these runners. From icy Minnesota road running to wintry Colorado trail runs, these shoes have held up.

The Snow Machine: Salomon Snowcross 2 ($200 On sale now for $160)

Draped in a waterproof-breathable gaiter and enhanced with nine carbide studs, Salomon’s Snowcross is a racy snow machine. In testing, the Snowcross provided superior traction over technical ground, where the aggressive studs chewed through the slop and the gaiters shed the snow.

Salomon Snowcross 2

Not for tame conditions, the spiked 12-ouncer felt clunky and clattered over the hard rock and pavement, limiting the Snowcross to winter’s worst days. But if you’re fighting for space with your local snowplow, these are the shoes for you. You can read our full review of the earlier version, the Snowcross CS, here.

Weight: 12.7 ounces

Offset: 10mm drop

Shop Men’s

Superior Traction: Icebug Aurora BUGrip ($60-134)

Icebug Aurora BUGrip

Targeted at the road runner, the Aurora is the go-to shoe of choice for runners who can’t afford to skip a beat while training for the early spring season, with metal studs that chew into ice for a great grip.

Don’t need full steel studs? The Icebug Zeal accomplishes much of the same snow traction with hard plastic studs. We’ve even used it to run up Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort in the winter! (Read the full Icebug Zeal review here.)

Bottom line: If winter runs have turned into an ice-skating rink, these ultra-grippy shoes are for you.

Weight: 11 ounces

Offset: 8mm drop

Pure Grip: La Sportiva Mutant ($135)

La Sportiva Mutant

La Sportiva’s cleat-like tread takes a bite out of terra firma, propelling you across the trail. The stretchy upper and overlapping tongue hug the feet snugly and are ridiculously comfortable — for the right foot (read: narrow).

The shoe’s slightly askew lacing system ties each shoe off to the side, over the metatarsals, rather than squarely over the top. The lace ends intelligently tuck into a mesh pocket on the tongue.

Bottom line: The Mutant is a high-performing, versatile trail runner that excels navigating gnarly, middle-distance trails for those with narrow feet.

Weight: 11 ounces

Offset: 10mm drop

Weatherproof Roady: Saucony Ride 8 GTX ($86-149)

SauconyRide8GTX copy

Saucony’s Ride series is a neutral cushion shoe for midvolume feet. Throw in Gore-Tex, and the Ride 8 promises happy miles in wet conditions.

Light enough for tempo runs but stout enough to use as an everyday trainer, Saucony’s PowerGrid EVA provides plush cushion at a low weight penalty, ensuring a smooth and responsive run.

Designed with Gore FLEX waterproofing, the company claims a weight savings of 20 percent over previous waterproof models.

Bottom line: This winterized version of the popular road-running shoe is ready for urban miles in all the slop winter throws your way.

Weight: 9.8 ounces

Offset: 8mm drop


Need a winter boot? Check these out:

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Contributing Editor (and Gear Junkie Idaho Bureau Chief) Steve Graepel is allegedly a crook and a thief, conning his friends to steal away time from their families in pursuit of premeditated leisure, which typically involves a bike, a pack-raft, skis, running shoes, climbing rack, or all of the above.
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