Best winter running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

Salomon_Snowspike_in_snow

This article has been updated with current models for October 2022. The Nike Pegasus 38 Shield has been updated with its current version. The adidas Ultraboost 22 GTX, New Balance 1080V12 Permafrost, Nike Pegasus Trail 4, Saucony Triumph 20 Run Shield, and Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 Runshield are new additions. The adidas Supernova Cold.RDY, adidas EQ21 Cold.RDY, Asics Novablast AWL, Hoka Challenger Low GTX, and Saucony Guide 14 Runshield have been removed.

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 has shoe recommendations for both mild and freezing winters.

Nike Pegasus Trail 4 in the snow.

For light snow, even the Pegasus Trail 4 Gore-Tex works just fine. You’ll just need a pair of warm socks, that’s all.

A mild winter never goes below freezing, so a running shoe that repels rain and blocks wind is all that one needs. On the other hand, freezing winters have temperatures of 0° C/32° F and colder. With severe winters also come snow and sidewalks with dangerous 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 on 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.

Salomon_Snowspike_forefoot_spikes

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 grip.

Given the context, it makes sense to recommend shoes based on the severity of winter.

The best running shoes for winter

Not all winter running shoes are the same.

We’ll kick off with shoes for mild winters. 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.

Our top pick: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 Shield

The next group has snow-worthy running shoes. A typical scenario would involve running on snowy and slushy sidewalks or flat park trails. Waterproof trail running shoes perform well under these conditions. An aggressively lugged outsole with special rubber 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? Some runners 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 snowstorm, 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 Salomon are equally effective.

The water resistant finish of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

The Pegasus Shield has a water-repellent upper mesh.

Winterized running shoes from Asics AWL, New Balance Permafrost, 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.

The insulated tongue of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

Some winterized running shoes – like the Pegasus Shield here – have insulated interiors.

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.

The reflective details of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

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.

The Storm Tread outsole of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

The specially designed compound offers traction on wet roads.

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.

Saucony_Peregrine_ICE+_vibram_arctic_grip

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. Saucony has their Runshield running shoes. Asics sells AWL (All Winter Long) versions of their popular models that complement the Gore-Tex variants.

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) Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX

There’s a good reason why a road-trail shoe features at the top of this guide.

Despite the Pegasus Trail 4’s off-road positioning, this shoe is a versatile winter running shoe that works equally well on the road.

Unlike the Pegasus Trail 3’s single-piece trail outsole, the Pegasus Trail 4 uses a multi-piece layout that’s less aggressive. The shallower forefoot lugs are road-friendly, whereas the ribbed lugs on the side and heel provide traction on slushy surfaces.

Nike Pegasus Trail 4 in the winter snow.

The React foam midsole is susceptible to freezing temperatures.

The midsole is made of React foam, so there’s ample comfort for the road. Just know that the React foam turns stiff in cold temperatures, so the ride experience is weather-dependent.

The built-in heel gaiter is an effective middle-ground between the traditional low-cut and ankle-high silhouette, as it does a good job of keeping the debris and cold out.

This is the Gore-Tex version of the standard Pegasus Trail 4, so the waterproof upper keeps the moisture out during rainy runs. The upper is not insulated, but waterproof uppers are effective windbreakers. Our in-depth review is here.

2) Brooks Ghost 14 GTX

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.

3) Asics Gel-Cumulus 23 GTX

Unlike the Asics Kayano 28 AWL, the Asics Cumulus 23 GTX isn’t a winter running shoe per se.

Nonetheless, the Gore-Tex variant of the Asics Cumulus 23 is a sensible winter running shoe pick. When paired with woolen socks, this shoe is good enough for most non-snowy winters. Asics should be releasing the Cumulus 24 GTX soon, since the standard version has been out for a while now.

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) Adidas Ultraboost 22 GTX

Some of the design elements on the adidas Ultraboost 22 Gore-Tex are recognizable from the standard model; there’s a full-length midsole made of Boost foam under the plastic heel clip.

So in essence, the winterized Ultraboost delivers the same cushioning comfort as the regular model. However, this version is more than just a waterproof variant. The GTX version of the UB-22 has unique features that make it suitable for cold weather use.

Besides the Gore-Tex membrane that makes the upper waterproof, the fused mudguards and ripstop mesh act as effective wind blockers. There are no laces; in their place is a pull toggle and a zipped shroud. This makes it easier for gloved hands to cinch the Ultraboost.

Even the Continental rubber outsole is specifically designed for cold weather. The outsole combines small aggressive lugs with a sticky compound called Winter grip. Like most shoes, this outsole is ineffective on ice, but does well on wet and slushy roads.

The adidas Boost foam doesn’t stiffen in the cold, so that’s a bonus.

5) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 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 39 Shield has in common with the road Pegasus 39.

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 new outsole is an improvement over the Pegasus 38 Shield, since the entire outsole gets the sticky rubber treatment. On the Pegasus 38 Shield, the side crash rails were made of smooth rubber lugs.

The upper does a decent job of keeping water out. The Pegasus 39 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 level of reflectivity was puzzling on the previous model. Thankfully, the Pegasus 39 Shield addresses the visibility concerns. The large Nike Swoosh logo on the upper is reflective, and so are the smaller trims on the side.

For a less expensive alternative, consider the Nike Winflo 9 Shield.

6) Saucony Triumph 20 Runshield

Unlike running shoes with a Gore-Tex lining, the Saucony Triumph 20 Runshield isn’t waterproof.

This shoe is a good cold-weather bet, but minus the waterproofing. Regardless of the Triumph 20’s winter-running makeover, this is very much a road shoe.

The outsole is shared with the non-winterized Triumph 20, and the upper doesn’t come with acres of reflective detailing. Saucony sells a ‘ViziPro’ version for that instead. We find that very confusing; Saucony should sell just one winter-specific shoe that includes reflectivity and water resistance.

There are a couple of features that make the Saucony Triumph 20 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 and tighter-fitting than the regular Triumph 20. For all that, there’s a $10 up-charge in price.

7) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V12 Permafrost

It’s good to see New Balance get into the winter running shoe game, and that too with the 1080V12.

In our review of the standard 1080, we thought highly of the cushioned and peppy ride that was also versatile enough for most runs. The winterized 1080 shares the same midsole to deliver an identical level of comfort.

In its ‘Permafrost’ avatar, the 1080V12 features a DWR-treated mesh for moderate levels of water repellency. Mind you, the 1080V12 Permafrost is not waterproof, so you may want to get the Hierro V7 GTX or 880V12 GTX for your waterproof shoe needs.

Along with a water-resistant upper, the laces are toggle-based – meaning that you can fasten the 1080 with gloved hands.

Though the outsole looks similar to the standard 1080, New Balance uses its ‘Hydrohesion’ rubber compound for better traction on wet roads.

8) 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 also offers 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 few 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.

9) Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 Runshield

The Endorphin Speed 3 is also 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 3, the Runshield version uses a ripstop textile and dark colors.

The tightly woven mesh and light insulation offer a fair degree of wind and moisture resistance.

Under the water-repellent upper is the same midsole and outsole used on the (standard) Endorphin Speed V3. In other words, the Runshield Speed 3 has a soft and responsive ride that makes long runs comfortable, yet fast.

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.

10) 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 Velcro near the heel opening. Again, it’s very easy to use; there’s no 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.

11) 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.

12) 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 snugly, but is 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.)

13) 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.

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. Buying a half-size larger will solve that problem.

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