Not all winters are the same. There are places where the ‘winter’ temperatures hover at a comfortable 18° C/65° F.
If that’s the case, you don’t even need to read this article. Just refer to any of our neutral or stability buyer’s guides to pick a shoe. And if waterproofing is all that you need, this article will help.
This curated list targets geographies with serious winters. The kind that brings temperatures of 4° C/39° F and colder. With severe winters also come snow and treacherous sidewalks with surface ice.
That brings us to another topic. Are you going to be running in an urban environment or outdoors? If winter running for you means doing so in snowy trails, then you’re going to need a lot more than mere waterproofing.
Running on ice requires a different set of footwear features – one that includes an outsole designed for ice.
Longer lugs made of soft rubber work well at times, but metal spikes are the only way of getting foolproof traction. On icy roads, even an otherwise ‘sticky’ rubber compound will fail to provide the necessary traction.
Considering the seasonal variable, it makes sense to carve this guide into four sections.
We’ll begin with the mildest category first. These all-purpose road running shoes are waterproof (or at least water-resistant) for protection from the winter rains. When worn with the right pair of socks, the upper provides sufficient insulation as well.
The next group has snow-worthy running shoes. A typical scenario would involve running on snowy sidewalks or flat trails in the park. Waterproof trail running shoes perform well under these conditions. An aggressively lugged outsole will provide decent traction as long as it’s not icy. Here, gaiter attachment points are a bonus.
A different kind of snow running happens outdoors on flat, open trails or in the mountains. Unfortunately, these running paths usually fall outside the jurisdiction of snow-clearing machines. You’re pretty much on your own, so you need an ankle-high running shoe that grips well while keeping the feet dry and toasty.
The last kind of winter running is hardcore, as it involves running on ice-covered surfaces.
Unlike snow or wet roads, slippery ice-covered surfaces are the last place anybody would want to run on. But you know what? A few brave souls do run on ice, so the fourth category covers ice-friendly running shoes.
Based on our experience, here are the features a winter-running shoe should have. The weightage of each attribute will depend on the severity of winter, but most shoes on this guide have them in some form or the other.
A) Waterproofing: Regardless of whether you’re running in snow-free winters or a snowmageddon, a water-repellant upper is a must-have. The use of a Gore-Tex membrane is a good marker of waterproofness but proprietary technologies from Columbia and Salomon are equally effective.
Winterized running shoes from the adidas Cold.RDY, Asics AWL, Nike Shield, and Saucony Runshield assortment also offer a reasonable degree of water resistance and warmth.
B) Thermal insulation: Most waterproof shoes meet this criterion when combined with a pair of winter socks.
Running shoes meant for extreme winter will also be made of a durable exterior that blocks the wind.
C) Low light visibility: One doesn’t get a lot of sun during snowy winters, so being seen in low-light conditions is extremely important. Here, a reflective upper is very helpful. For more options, read our buyer’s guide dedicated to reflective running shoes.
D) Choice of a low or high top silhouette: An ankle-high shoe is necessary for off-road winter runs. When worn with a waterproof bottom or gaiter, the extra height will keep the snow, debris, and water out.
E) Outsole traction: Dry, wet, snowy, and icy conditions each demand a different kind of rubber compound and lug geometry. Foolproof ice-running shoes even come equipped with Tungsten Carbide spikes. It is similar to the difference between all-season and winter car tires. This is particularly true of running on the ice where even ‘sticky’ rubbers won’t cut it.
Vibram launched its Arctic Ice outsole with a lot of hype, but Solereview’s experience with this outsole was underwhelming.
The Arctic Grip outsole grips phenomenally on wet surfaces, but it did not inspire confidence over icy surfaces.
While it is certainly better than regular outsoles, our experience demonstrated that it lacks the ice-gripping tenacity that Vibram so enthusiastically advertises.
Then there are other universal requirements. Like a cushioned and supportive ride under a comfortable and secure fit.
Until a couple of years ago, only Nike was consistent with a winter-friendly running shoe assortment. For example, here’s one of our reviews from exactly 10 years ago. In 2011, the Nike Lunarglide 3 Shield was the only purpose-built cold weather adaptation with water resistance and blinding levels of reflectivity.
Today, there’s so much to choose from. Adidas has their Cold.RDY (previously named Winter.RDY) running shoes. Asics recently released their AWL (All Winter Long) versions of their popular models that complement the numerous Gore-Tex variants.
Even Saucony has embraced the winter running shoe game, as evident from the Runshield versions of the Ride 14, Guide 14, and Endorphin Speed 2.
Our recommendations are grouped by the weather use cases, and sorted in an alphabetical order.
For running in cold winters with little to no snow:
These shoes are meant for mild winter conditions without snow. But you might encounter the occasional winter rain and misty conditions that will soak summer running shoes. Here, water-repellent and slush-resistant uppers keep the feet dry.
1) Adidas Supernova Cold.RDY
This shoe was previously had a Winter.RDY label. For this year, the suffix is an equally unimaginative Cold.RDY.
But as they say, what’s in a name? Like the last year’s model, the Supernova Cold.RDY is an everyday neutral trainer with a cushioned ride. The full-length Boost core delivers the familiar responsive cushioning that doesn’t stiffen in the cold as EVA does.
The Supernova Winter.RDY is purpose-built for cold-weather runs. The closed mesh structure and fused overlays provide insulation and protection. It’s worth bearing in mind that this winterized shoe is merely water repellent and not waterproof – an important distinction.
The layered upper fits snug – as many adidas shoes do. Reflectivity is abundant on the upper, thanks to the side logos and tongue label.
Adidas doesn’t use Continental rubber on the Supernova, and instead compensates by using a dense colony of grippy lugs. The geometry has an outdoors-oriented design for improved performance on imperfect surfaces.
The $110 retail price is great value, making it one of the best-priced products on this list. Having said that, the next adidas shoe on this guide is priced in double digits and worth considering as well.
2) Adidas EQ21 Run Cold.RDY
Though the EQ21 doesn’t have the comfortable ride of a Boost midsole, its stable ride is a bonus on damp and slushy roads.
The EVA foam-based midsole delivers a firm yet protective cushioning for daily runs. Underneath the foam stack is single-piece outsole with satisfactory traction.
The EQ21 Run Cold.RDY’s upper is generously layered, and one of the few instances where the plastic midfoot cage adds tangible value as a cold-blocking layer. The heel clip behaves similarly, except that it’s also a stabilizer.
The fused toe-bumper and closed mesh do a better job of blocking the wind as compared to open-meshed footwear. The padded tongue uses a closed neoprene-like mesh for thermal insulation.
3) Asics Gel-Cumulus 23 GTX
Unlike the Asics Kayano 28 AWL (our next shoe), the Asics Cumulus 23 GTX isn’t a winter running shoe per se.
Nonetheless, the Gore-Tex variant of the Asics Cumulus 22 is a sensible winter running shoe pick. When paired with woolen socks, this shoe is good enough for most non-snowy winters.
A Gore-Tex lining blocks the water from entering, and it’s just as effective as keeping the wind out. Even though the upper isn’t insulated or quilted, blocking the wind drastically cuts down the cold.
This is our top road running shoe pick for cold winter runs that do not involve snow or ice. The Flytefoam midsole is very comfortable, with just the right balance of cushioning softness and smoothness. The true-to-size fit has a please-all quality and uses plush materials for a comfortable interior.
Reflectivity is only found on the heel. For a higher level of brightness, consider the Cumulus Lite-show instead.
4) Asics Gel-Kayano 28 AWL
Asics has the winter running shoe market stitched up from all sides. We know that the Japanese brand sells waterproof GTX running shoes along with the highly-visible ‘Lite-Show’ pack.
If those two categories were not enough, Asics now sells an AWL assortment, short for ‘All Winter Long’. The Kayano 28 AWL is not only water-repellent, but is also reflective and has a host of other winter-friendly features.
For example, this is one of two shoes on this guide with bungee cord lacing. This is rather thoughtful.
Most of us wear running gloves during winter, so regular laces are a hassle. A bungee stopper is a much easier way to cinch the shoes with gloved hands. We can see that Asics has learned well from its Noosa-Tri running shoe.
The ripstop-like upper mesh has a closed weave with wind and moisture blocking qualities. The fused toe-bumper blocks the cold splashes from entering the shoe. Elsewhere, the fluorescent and reflective highlights increase visibility in the dark.
Under the cold-weather upper is a cushioned midsole with a medial post. The ride experience is identical to the road Kayano 28; the Flytefoam stack and firmer wedge produce a comfortable ride with a hint of motion control.
And here’s a pleasant surprise – the AWL variant is priced the same as the road model.
5) Asics Novablast AWL
With its cushioned yet tempo-friendly ride, the Novablast adds value to this guide.
The Flytefoam midsole is thicker and more comfortable than standard neutral trainers like the Asics Cumulus and Brooks Ghost. At the same time, it also feels quick due to its rocker-shaped midsole.
In short, the Novablast is an excellent long-distance trainer. We reviewed the road version here, so it’s worth reading to better understand how the cushioning works.
Just like the cold-blocking Kayano 28 AWL, the Novablast AWL is packed with features that are useful during winter runs. The bungee lacing system makes the shoe easy to cinch with gloved hands, and the sock-like entry is effective at keeping the cold out.
The toe-box and sides are covered with fused synthetic for a high degree of wind and splash resistance. The padded tongue and closed mesh keep the foot insulated. Reflective bits are also included on the upper, so the Novablast AWL is a versatile road shoe for the winter.
6) Brooks Ghost 14 GTX
Unlike the Asics Cumulus, the waterproof Brooks Ghost doesn’t benefit from anything other than the GTX membrane.
The Ghost 14 GTX is a road shoe throughout, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. From the outside, it’s hard to tell that this is a waterproof shoe.
The upper runs a little warmer due to the said waterproof lining, so it’s a reliable daily trainer pick for mild winters. Given its design limitations, the Ghost 14 GTX is not recommended for ultra-cold runs.
The GTX variant gets the identical single-density midsole as the road-going Brooks Ghost, so there’s lots of ride comfort for most runs – be it daily workouts or high-mileage runs.
Reflectivity isn’t forgotten. Small trims over the forefoot and heel help build the Ghost 14’s case as a winter running shoe.
7) Hoka Challenger Low GTX
The Hoka Challenger Low GTX is versatile enough to be used on the pavements as well as gentle trails.
The overall design helps with the versatility. The outsole geometry is mostly flat, and the upper looks like it belongs on a New Balance catalog.
On this buyer’s guide, the New Balance remark is a compliment. The thick Nubuck leather excels at keeping the cold out. There’s hardly any mesh used on the upper, and that’s useful during winter. Keeping the feet dry is the Gore-Tex waterproofing lining under the leather exterior.
Hoka’s high-volume midsole also comes in handy. Sure, that makes the ride cushioned, but the sheer thickness creates a greater distance between the foot and the cold road. Here, the foam stack isn’t merely a cushioning delivery system but an effective layer of insulation.
Though the Challenger’s cushioning runs on the firmer side, there’s plenty of comfort to be had during those winter runs.
8) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 Shield
Like clockwork, the water-repellent ‘Shield’ version of the Nike Pegasus shows up every Fall.
Except for the cushioned React foam and Zoom Air midsole, there’s not much that the Pegasus 38 Shield has in common with the road Pegasus 38.
Many novel features are exclusive to the winterized Pegasus. The outsole has an aggressive geometry, and it’s made of a sticky rubber (Storm tread) for superior performance over damp surfaces.
The upper does a decent job of keeping water out. The Pegasus 38 Shield is not waterproof, but merely water repellent. Making that happen are the coated midfoot panel, bumper, and a closed forefoot mesh. The protective design is also good at blocking the wind and cold; think of the shoe as a rain jacket.
The low levels of reflectivity is a head scratcher. While there are trace amounts of high-viz trims over the heel and tongue, it’s nowhere close to Asics or adidas levels of reflectivity.
Also see: The Nike React Miler 2 Shield.
9) Saucony Guide 14 Runshield
A Runshield version of the relatively softer Ride 14 also exists, but we’ve already featured neutral trainers like the Asics Cumulus 23 and Brooks Ghost 14.
Here, a stability running shoe like the Guide 14 adds more value than the Ride 14. The Asics Kayano 28 AWL is also a stability trainer, but that’s a heavier $160 product with a softer ride.
Unlike running shoes with a Gore-Tex lining, the Guide 14 Runshield isn’t waterproof.
This shoe is a good cold-weather bet, but without the waterproofing. Regardless of the Guide’s winter-running makeover, this is very much a road shoe. The outsole is shared with the non-winter Guide 14, and the upper doesn’t come with acres of reflective detailing.
There are a couple of features that make the Guide 14 Runshield an attractive cold-weather proposition.
The upper is made of a thick closed mesh and fused overlays with moderate levels of water resistance. This construction also makes the shoe warmer than the standard-issue Guide 14.
10) Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield
The Endorphin Speed is now offered in a Runshield flavor, thus making it the only winterized shoe with a PEBA foam midsole and an internal plate.
The cold weather modifications made to the Endorphin Speed results in a warm interior. Instead of the breezy mesh seen on the standard Speed 2, the Runshield version is built using a ripstop textile and protective details like the molded toe-bumper.
The tightly woven mesh and fused bumper work together to offer a fair degree of wind and moisture resistance. True to its name, the tongue is covered with a synthetic leather ‘Shield’ to keep the cold out.
Under the water-repellent upper is the same midsole and outsole used on the Endorphin Speed V1 and V2.
Outdoor snow running shoes:
This is where things get serious. Outdoor running – be it on mountainous or forested terrain – means deeper snow, freezing slush, and more debris. Under such conditions, a high-top shoe prevents the outside from getting inside.
1) adidas Terrex Agravic TechPro Trail
adidas usually doesn’t make running shoes with shrouds that are high enough to cover the ankles. So a product like the Terrex Agravic TechPro Trail is always a welcome sight.
This shoe is based on the Terrex Aggravic platform, so we get the tried-and-tested Boost+EVA midsole over a rugged Continental rubber outsole. In short, there’s ample cushioning that doesn’t harden in the cold.
The upper, is, however, unlike anything that’s in adidas’s current line-up. A water-resistant shroud covers the internal shoe which, in turn, is fastened via the BOA lacing dial. Besides being easy to operate, this is a godsend for gloved hands.
The shroud closure relies on a full-length zipper and a velcro at the top. Again, it’s very easy to use; there’s need to fumble with the laces or snap-button closures.
While the ripstop mesh and the welded layers are designed to keep the elements out, the upper isn’t 100% waterproof. That being said, unless you’re running for more than an hour in heavy rain, a water-repellent upper will do just fine.
2) La Sportiva Blizzard GTX (With spikes)
The waterproof La Sportiva Blizzard GTX is a ‘mildly’ spiked shoe. Unlike the Salomon Snowspike or the IceBug NewRun, (with their 12 and 17 spikes respectively) the Blizzard is equipped with just 9 spikes.
While the Tungsten Carbide spikes provide grip over icy surfaces, the long (7 mm) and aggressive rubber lugs are equally important on the trail. The lugs are spaced wide to prevent clogging.
The upper isn’t very easy to get into. Unlike the more commonly seen gaiter design that includes a zipped external bootie (like adidas and Salomon), the Blizzard relies on an elasticated collar for entry. So if you’re used to the zipper design, working your foot inside the La Sportiva is a bit of a chore.
On the bright side, the upper is insulated very well against the elements. This is a Gore-Tex-lined shoe so the Blizzard is waterproof.
The cord lacing loops through enclosed midfoot hooks for an excellent lock-down. Once the laces are cinched, those can be tucked into a small pocket over the instep.
If you go by just the ease of use, we prefer the waterproof Salomon Snowspike. But the Blizzard GTX gives you the option of retrofitting additional spikes – something that the Salomon shoe lacks.
Ice Running shoes:
Are you willing to trade the comfort of your treadmill for running in the icy outdoors? These shoes will serve you well.
1) Salomon Spikecross 5 GTX
This extreme adaptation of the Salomon Speedcross adds a dozen spikes to an already sticky Contagrip outsole.
The spiked outsole delivers universal traction on loose/compact snow and ice. Mind you, both the SpikeCross and the Snowcross are not meant for use on the roads, cleared sidewalks, or indoor floors.
The upper is protected from the outside by a full Gore-Tex bootie. Cinching the shoe is easy with the bungee quick-lace system – which is just the thing for gloved hands during the cold winters. The sizing fits snug, but true to size.
(Editor’s note: The Snowspike CSWP – the high-top version of the Spikecross 5 – doesn’t seem to be widely available, so the SpikeCross 5 is the next best thing. It’s the same shoe, but without the waterproof zipped shroud.)
2) Salomon Snowspike CSWP Waterproof
The Salomon Snowcross is our top pick if you intend to run in the wintery outdoors.
A full shoe upper with a bungee quick lacing system is covered by an ankle-high waterproof shroud. The zipped bootie is also a wind blocker so the feet stay warm when it’s freezing outdoors.
Just like the SpikeCross GTX, the Snowspike’s outsole combines a traction-friendly rubber compound with dozen Tungsten Carbide spikes.
All-weather traction is what makes a running shoe truly winter-worthy, and this is where both the Salomon shoes deliver. The deep lugs offer a dependable grip in soft snow while the spikes make running on compact ice worry-free.
The structured Ortholite footbed over a foam midsole adds comfort – both at a step-in level and over longer distances.
While the shoe is easy to wear and take off, the fit is snug when worn with a pair of thick woolen socks. Buying a half size larger will solve that problem.