Winter runners get a new option with gaiter-equipped, ground-gripping shoes that Saucony touts can ‘make ice obsolete.’ We reviewed the RAZOR ICE+ this week.
A freak snowstorm. A desire to run. Those ingredients this past week gave reason to put a new winter-ready running shoe to the test.
Saucony’s RAZOR ICE+ had arrived in the mail just hours before a November cold front. It was the season’s first snowstorm, and the next morning I laced up in a stark whiteness at the edge of a forest, ready to run.
Review: Saucony’s RAZOR ICE+ Winter Running Shoes
Despite a sleek shell and the look of XC ski boots, Saucony’s cold-weather running shoes feel as comfortable as footwear you wear when it’s warm. Rigid boots they are not.
The high-top design is a departure from winterized shoes in a few ways, including a flexible build and a new kind of Vibram sole (more on that below). They are light weight for winter footwear at about 13 ounces per shoe in men’s size 12.5.
The midsole, upper, and chassis are flexible and foot-hugging. They secure on via a quick-lace system, and the inner shoe is made of a thick mesh.
All this is ensconced in a thin, stretchy shell. It zips shut to keep snow out and add warmth. Gaiters extend to the ankles to seal out the elements.
Winter Sole: Vibram Arctic Grip
Underfoot the shoe gets even more unusual. Its rubber sole has light tread and textured chevrons composed of a new formula, Vibram’s Arctic Grip.
The top-secret Vibram compound is a dense rubber that is rough to the touch. The company touts it “sticks to wet ice” better than anything in its class.
On the Saucony shoes, Arctic Grip is a worthy add-on. It is no panacea, however, despite the company’s claim that it can “make ice obsolete.”
Overall, the shoes grip well on new snow. On cold ice you can run and slide a little; they are not slip-proof but are a good upgrade over traditional rubber tread.
They work best on wet ice and slush. Compared side by side with a regular running shoe on wet ice, the Vibram-equipped Saucony shoes slipped less. While my normal running shoe slide freely on wet ice, the Saucony’s sole nabbed some purchase.
As noted, the solution is far from a cure-all. The rubber sole is not comparable to the grip you get from carbide-tip tread, spikes, Yaktrax, or crampons.
But as far as rubber-tread options for winter running, The Saucony/Vibram combo is a good one. I never fell down, despite running miles on snow and ice for this review.
Winter Running: The Test
It was 20 degrees on my first run in the shoe. Fresh snow piled in the woods, and after a mile on a packed road I headed off-trail.
In the powder, very little snow got into the shoes. This was a surprise, as Saucony’s gaiter did not fit tightly around my leg. Despite some stretch and a thin, pliable fabric, the company did not overly elasticize the cuff.
It did not cinch tight. A small gap — less than a millimeter — was open all around at the top of the gaiter. I was wearing long underwear and socks; if you have thicker running pants on the gaiter closure will be tight enough to fully seal off the opening.
The design makes the shoes comfortable, as no material squeezes the ankle. But unlike traditional gaiters (which cinch closed) these ones are not snow-proof.
But after an hour of hiking and running in deep snow I was surprised to find little powder made its way inside. Despite the small gap the gaiters block 99% of the snow from getting through.
This is all moot on trails. Where the snow is underfoot and you’re not wallowing in it Saucony’s gaiter design is strong.
Note they are water-resistant but not waterproof. These are running shoes dressed up in a winter coat, not mountaineering footwear.
You can bag easy winter peaks with these shoes, however I will be wary to take them high into the mountains for extended time.
On The Run: Sub-Freezing Temps
For warmth, the stretchy shell provides protection from wind and some insulation. My toes got cold on a 20-degree day while standing around and casually hiking in the RAZOR ICE+ shoes.
On the run, with your blood pumping, they are warm enough to 10 degrees and below.
A note on sizing: Like any shoe, it’s best to try them on before you buy. For this model, we found the fit to run a half-size or more small. I normally wear size 12, but in this shoe size 12.5 was just right.
In summary, the RAZOR ICE+ are superior shoes for their intended task — running on snow and ice in the winter.
I tend to push this kind of footwear a little far into applications like mountaineering, where flexible crampons are required, or tromping through powder in the woods.
But stay on the trail (or the snowy road) and you’ll be happy in these shoes. They are now my go-to footwear for pounding out miles when the air turns cold.