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Best winter running shoes – 2020

Salomon_Snowspike_in_Snow

This article has been updated with current models for December 2019. We’ve removed the Saucony Peregrine ICE+ and added the Icebug BUgrip GTX, Salomon S/Lab XA Alpine 2, and La Sportiva Blizzard GTX.

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 read any of our neutral, stability, or women’s buyer’s guides to choose a shoe of your liking. If waterproofing is all that you require, this article should help.

This curated list is for the more serious stuff. The kind which, at the very least, brings temperatures of 4° C/39° F and colder. With severe winters also come snow and treacherous, icy sidewalks.

That brings us to another sub-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 which includes an outsole designed especially for ice. Because under icy conditions, even an otherwise ‘sticky’ rubber compound that usually works on wet slippery surfaces will fall short of the necessary performance standard.

Thus, it makes sense to carve this guide into three sections. We’ll begin with the mildest category first. These all-purpose road running shoes are waterproof for protection from the winter rains. When worn with the right pair of socks, the uppers insulate the foot against the cold too.

The next group has running shoes that can be worn in the snow. 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.

There’s another kind of snow running, the one which happens outdoors on the 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 a high-top running shoe that grips well and keeps your feet dry and warm.

The last kind of winter running is hardcore, a place where others fear to tread. That would be running on ice.

Unlike snow or wet roads, slippery ice-covered surfaces are the last place you’d 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.

To sum up, here are the features a winter-running shoe should have. The significance of a particular attribute will depend on the level of winter hostility, 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 snowstorm, a waterproof upper is a must-have. The use of a Gore-Tex membrane is a good marker of waterproof-ness but proprietary technologies like Columbia’s OutDry are effective as well.

Some winterized models such as the Nike Shield assortment will offer a reasonable degree of water-resistance and warmth, but these are not to be confused with Gore-Tex waterproofing.

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. If that’s the case, you need to make yourself visible in low light conditions. A reflective trim on the upper helps. Some models like the Salomon Speed Cross Nocturne have 360-degree reflectivity. 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 if your winter runs take place in the open outdoors. When worn with a waterproof running bottom or gaiter, the extra height will keep the snow, debris, and water out.

E) Outsole traction: Dry, wet, snowy, and icy conditions 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.

Then there are universal requirements such as a cushioned ride and a comfortable upper with a secure fit.

Without further ado, here are the best shoes for running in the winters. They are grouped by the weather categories they are supposed to be used in.

For running in cold winters with rain and mist:

These shoes are meant for mild winter conditions without snow. But you might encounter the occasional winter rain and misty conditions which will soak summer running shoes. Here, you require water-repellent uppers that keep your feet dry.

1) Asics GT-1000 8 GTX

The Gore-Tex version of the GT-1000 is nearly identical to the road edition except for the trail-biased outsole and a waterproof upper. This change also makes the upper sufficiently warm for cold-weather running.

Despite having a medial-post, the 1000 rides like a cushioned neutral shoe for daily training runs. The retail price is decent for a running shoe with a GTX lining.

2) Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo Shield

We believe this is the first example of a Nike shield running shoe with a zipper shroud. It is also the first time we’ve seen a waterproof upper – Nike’s seasonal collection has always been the water repellent kind. That said, this year’s Pegasus 36 and Winflo 6 Shield continues to be water repellent.

Based on paper specs, the Pegasus Turbo Shield might seem like the ideal shoe to do all wintry things. In reality, it’s a mixed bag. On the list of positives, the high-top waterproof upper is excellent at keeping the water and cold out. The reflective elements ensure visibility during darker lights.

A windproof and seam-sealed covering is helpful when running through splashes and the internal shoe provides lots of insulation. The combination of zips, Velcro closures, and elastic bands help lock the foot down, but wear a pair of socks that is higher than the collar.

You get the same midsole and outsole as the road Turbo, so that means two things. You get the same lightweight, cushy and bouncy ride as the standard Turbo.

On the flip side, the outsole lacks the geometry necessary for running in icy conditions. While Nike uses a stickier rubber for the Shield assortment, the outsole simply lacks the surface area and lug design for wintry surfaces.

The bottomline is: The Turbo Shield is great if your winter running takes place in non-freezing conditions. It’s got enough insulation from the cold and protective enough for running in the rain. As long as the said runs do not freeze over, you’ll be fine.

Also see: A low version of the Pegasus Turbo Shield minus the shroud is available. Also, the Pegasus 36 Trail Gore-tex is an alternative with a higher level of outsole traction.

3) Brooks Ghost 12 GTX

This is a waterproof and insulated version of the road-going Ghost. The rest of the shoe is the same – except for the higher sticker price, that is.

A cushioned and supportive daily trainer is an apt description of the Ghost. So if you intend to carry your training runs into the winter, the Brooks Ghost 12 GTX is a good shoe to do them in. The upper fits just right and covers the foot in plush comfort.

The shiny heel trim makes the Ghost 12 suitable for darker days as well.

4) New Balance 880V9 GTX

Only a tiny ‘Gore-Tex’ label stitched into the collar gives away the New Balance’s 880’s waterproofing capabilities.

Otherwise, the 880V9 GTX is nearly identical to the standard 880. Along with the blown rubber outsole, the dual-density midsole provides plenty of cushioning for all-weather runs. Do note that the outsole isn’t custom-designed for snowy conditions, so limit shoes like the 880 and the Brooks Ghost to damp roads at most.

We wished that the tongue was fully gusseted, though. For some reason, the sleeve only begins halfway through the tongue

5) Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail Gore-Tex

Not only is the Pegasus 36 Trail Gore-Tex waterproof, but it’s also pretty good at keeping the cold out. What keeps the water out also does a good job of blocking the wind, so this shoe performs well as a winter-running shoe.

What’s more, the waterproof version of the Pegasus trail has excellent low-light visibility – that too in the front. The entire lacing panel and tongue are made of a reflective material and increase the safety of your traffic-facing runs.

The rubber outsole provides good traction as long as your outings aren’t on ice-covered surfaces.

6) Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 Shield

Not to be confused with the $160 Gore-Tex shoe, the Pegasus 36 Shield is a seasonal model that features a water repellent and reflective upper over a grippier outsole. It packs a lot of winter value for just a $10 premium over the standard Pegasus.

There’s very little parts-sharing with the regular Pegasus 36. Except for the midsole and insole, the Peg Shield delivers its winterized performance from brand-new components.

The outsole is made of Nike’s ‘Storm tread’, a rubber compound that sticks better in wet conditions. Most of the upper is covered with a waterproof synthetic that prevents water from soaking the upper edges. If it weren’t for the water-repellent forefoot mesh, the Pegasus Shield would have been a bonafide water-proof shoe.

The ride quality is nearly identical to the summer Pegasus 36 – the Zoom Air and foam midsole creates an efficient and responsive ride. The upper has a snugger fit due to the seam-sealed outer panels. The non-porous side panels block wind and keep the foot insulated.

Also see: Besides the Winflo 6 and Odyssey React 2 Shield, the Free RN 5.0 and the Legend React 2 are also available in their winterized versions.

Snow running shoes – urban:

Use these running shoes for snow-covered sidewalks and parks. The longer lugs of these trail shoes bite well into damp surfaces while the waterproof uppers keep your foot dry and toasty. On the other hand, if running in deep snow is your game, skip this section and head to the next one.

1) adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX

Thanks to the full-length Boost midsole, the Terrex Agravic GTX offers plenty of cushioning for long winter runs. The wide-spaced lugs of the Continental outsole provide reliable traction without clogging.

The upper is waterproof and protective due to the Gore-Tex lining and an upper design which incorporates fused Urethane reinforcements over a closed mesh.

2) Altra Lone Peak 4 Low RSM

The RSM in the shoe’s name stands for Rain, Snow, and Mud. This is the winterized version of the standard Lone Peak so there are few extras like the eVent waterproofing membrane, a protective toe-cap, and fused midfoot overlays (vs. stitched on).

Like the regular version, the outsole is made of a tacky compound for multi-terrain traction. Gaiter attachments are provided should you decide to use one. We’d like to point out that there is a high-top version of the same shoe in case you’re planning to run in ankle-deep snow.

3) Asics Gel-Sonoma 4 GTX

Running shoes with Gore-Tex membranes tend to run expensive, so the Sonoma 4 GTX is a pleasant surprise from a pricing viewpoint.

This waterproof shoe will keep you warm and dry on a budget while doing everything which is required of a winter running shoe. The trail-friendly outsole is good for slushy roads and tracks with light snow. The upper uses a closed mesh and a combination of fused and stitched overlays for protection.

Cushioning the foot is an Amplifoam midsole that works for most daily runs.

Also see: The Saucony Excursion TR12 GTX

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 shields the foot better against the elements.

1) 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 only with 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 so that the mud and slush do not clog the outsole.

You can, however, make the Blizzard even more hardcore by retrofitting the rubber lugs with the La Sportiva AT Grip Hobnails traction kit.

The upper isn’t very easy to get into. Unlike the more commonly seen gaiter design that includes a zipped external bootie (Columbia, Salomon, Nike Turbo, et al), 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 feels like 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 is designed in the manner of bungee cords that loop through enclosed midfoot hooks for an excellent lock-down. Once the laces are cinched, you can tuck it 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.

2) Salomon S/Lab XA Alpine 2

Not every winter running shoe needs to be waterproof. Sometimes you like your upper to be somewhat breathable, and that’s where the Salomon S/Lab XA Alpine comes in.

The lack of absolute waterproofing doesn’t come at the cost of protection. The zipped over-bootie is treated with a water-repellent finish; the urethane-reinforced sides protect the foot and also keeps the moisture from entering.

The ankle-high gaiter is functionally great at keeping the unwanted debris out. There’s an internal shoe with a speed-lacing (Quicklace) system that feels intuitive to use.

The outsole uses Salomon’s wet traction Contragrip along with a forefoot lug geometry that’s designed for uphill runs. An articulated Carbon plate runs between the midsole and outsole for protection and snappy transitions.

Ice Running shoes:

Willing to trade the comfort of your treadmill for running in the icy outdoors? These shoes will serve you well.

A previous version of this guide featured the Saucony Peregrine ICE+. After long-term wear testing, that shoe is no longer recommended for running on ice or snow.

1) IceBug NewRun BUGrip GTX

When running on the icy roads and sidewalks, there’s nothing more reassuring than a spiked outsole. No matter how ‘sticky’ the rubber is, it will never compare to cold steel.

IceBug is a Swedish brand, so they know a thing or two about winters. And that shows on the NewRUn BUGrip. The Urethane coating over the upper acts as a protective layer whereas the Gore-Tex lining keeps the water out. Reflective strips are added over the tongue and heel for low-light visibility.

With a BOA dial system, you don’t have to fumble lacing the shoes with your gloved hands.

The EVA foam midsole and Ortholite insole aren’t just about the cushioning. The foam stack also gives the 17 Carbide spikes a pistoning effect – thus allowing the spikes to brief retract during loading while biting into the icy surface. So instead of sliding on the roads, the spikes work together with the rubber outsole for optimum grip.

The upper fits true to size and has a roomy toe-box. This shoe doesn’t have a gaiter, so you can either use an aftermarket one or buy the Salmon Snowspike instead.

2) Salomon Spikecross 5 GTX

This extreme adaptation of the Salomon Speedcross adds a dozen spikes to an already sticky Contagrip outsole for 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 dampness by a full Gore-Tex bootie. Cinching the shoe comes easy with the bungee quick-lace system – which is just the thing for gloved hands during the cold winters. The sizing fits true to size.

3) Salomon Snowspike CSWP Waterproof

The Salomon Snowcross is our top pick if you intend to run in the wintery outdoors. A proper shoe with a bungee quick lacing system is covered by a waterproof shroud that extends over the ankles. The zipped bootie is also a wind blocker so your feet stay warm when it’s freezing outdoors.

Salomon_Snowspike_outsole

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. You might need to go up half a size.

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