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Best winter running shoes

Best-Winter_running_shoes_2020

This article has been updated with current models for October 2020. The Brooks Ghost 12 GTX and New Balance 880V9 GTX have been replaced with their updated versions. The adidas Agravic TR Trail GTX, adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro Trail, adidas Supernova Winter RDY, Asics Cumulus 22 GTX, Brooks Cascadia 15 GTX, Hoka Challenger Low GTX, and the Saucony Guide 13 TR are new additions. The Asics GT-1000 9, Asics Sonoma GTX 4, adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX, Nike Pegasus 36 Shield, Nike Pegasus 36 Trail GoreTex, and the Nike Pegasus Turbo Shield have been removed. The preface gets a minor re-write.

Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, summer is over. If you live in a country that takes its winters seriously, then the mornings are turning colder. So far, regular summer running shoes get the job done. But once we’re in the thick of winters, a warmer foot covering becomes a necessity.

That being said, 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. If waterproofing is all that you require, this article will help.

This curated list is for the more serious stuff. The kind, that, 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 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 just waterproofing.

Running on ice requires a different set of footwear features – one that includes an outsole designed especially for ice. Longer lugs made of soft rubber work well here, but spikes are the best. Under icy conditions, even an otherwise ‘sticky’ rubber compound (that usually works on wet surfaces) will fail to provide the necessary level of traction.

Given the number of variables involved, 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 uppers insulate the foot against the cold too. As is expected, regular readers will notice an overlap between this section and the waterproof shoe guide.

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. 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 a high-top running shoe that grips well while keeping the feet dry and toasty.

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

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 weightage 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 water-repelling 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 running shoes from the adidas Winter.RDY and 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 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 disappointing. While the Arctic Grip outsole grips phenomenally on wet surfaces, it didn’t do much 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 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 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 uppers keep the feet dry. The Saucony Guide 13 TR is an exception.

1) Adidas Supernova Winter RDY

The adidas Supernova Winter RDY is new for 2020, and it is vaguely reminiscent of the 2014 Sonic Boost. As in, both shoes have a Boost core that is partially concealed within an EVA outer frame.

Even the upper design is based on a similar premise; the mesh is covered with strategically-placed overlays. And purely by chance, the Sonic Boost we reviewed came in a black/tangerine color scheme.

And like the Sonic, the Supernova Winter RDY is an everyday neutral trainer with a cushioned ride. The full-length Boost core delivers the familiar responsive cushioning that doesn’t harden in the cold like EVA or rubber-based foam does.

But that’s where the similarities end. The cheesily-named Supernova Winter.RDY is purpose-built for cold-weather running, and one of the select few we’ve seen from adidas over the years. The good folks at the 3-stripes do not release a lot of wintery running shoes, so we’ll take whatever we can get.

This winterized product is merely water-repellent and not water-proof – an important distinction.

The closed mesh structure and fused overlays provide both insulation and protection, but it will fall short of Gore-Tex standards. From a functional point of view, the upper fits snug – as many adidas shoes do. A micro-fleece lining in the back makes the heel fit plush and warm. There’s a lot of reflectivity on the upper too, helped by the logos and the tongue label.

Adidas doesn’t use Continental rubber on this Supernova, and compensates by using a dense colony of small lugs for grip.

The $110 retail price is great value, making it one of the best-priced products on this list. Between this and the Asics Cumulus 22 GTX, it’s a close call.

Also see: The adidas Ultraboost Winter.RDY.

2) Asics Gel-Cumulus 22 GTX

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 winters when it’s not snowing.

The Cumulus 22 GTX isn’t to be mixed up with the road Cumulus. While both the models share the same name, the GTX version has a thicker upper mesh and stitched-on overlays. That’s something the standard Cumulus lacks. Nor does the latter have an outdoor-oriented outsole like the 22 GTX.

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 to run in and has the right balance of cushioning softness and smoothness. The true-to-size fit has a please-all quality and uses plush materials to makes the interiors comfortable.

Reflectivity is only found on the heel. If you need more, then have a look at the Cumulus Lite-show instead.

3) Brooks Ghost 13 GTX

Unlike the Asics Cumulus, the waterproof Brooks Ghost doesn’t benefit from anything other than the GTX membrane. The Ghost 13 GTX is a road shoe through and through, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

The upper runs a little warmer due to the said waterproof lining, so it’s a reliable daily trainer pick for mild winter runs.

The new single-density midsole integrates the (previously separate) heel crash pad, so the ride is noticeably more cohesive than the 12. The GTX variant gets the same midsole, so there’s lots of under-the-foot comfort for most runs – daily workouts and the high-mileage kind alike.

Reflectivity isn’t forgotten. Small trims over the forefoot and heel further the Ghost’s case as a winter running shoe.

4) Hoka Challenger Low GTX

The Hoka Challenger Low GTX is as much an urban running shoe as it is a product for gentle trails. The design has all the clues; the outsole geometry is mostly flat, and the upper looks like it belongs to 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 barely any mesh over the upper, and that’s useful during the winters. Also keeping the feet dry is the Gore-Tex waterproofing inside.

Hoka’s high-volume midsole also comes in handy. Sure, that makes the ride cushioned but the sheer thickness also 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.

5) New Balance Fresh Foam 880V10 GTX

Only a tiny ‘Gore-Tex’ label stitched into the collar hints at the New Balance’s 880V10’s waterproofing capabilities.

Other than that, the 880V10 GTX is almost identical to the standard 880. We use the word ‘almost’ because the thicker knit upper and the waterproof membrane makes the shoe warmer to run in. What keeps the water out also does a decent job at keeping the cold out – at least when compared to the non-GTX version.

Along with the blown rubber outsole, the newly-introduced Fresh Foam 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.

6) Saucony Guide 13 TR

So far, this section was missing a stability running shoe. So here we are.

Unlike the others here, the Guide 13 TR isn’t waterproof. This shoe is a good cold-weather bet, but without the waterproofing. Despite the Guide TR’s trail-running pretensions, this shoe is very much a road-trail hybrid. The lugs aren’t aggressive, and the upper doesn’t come with acres of protective detailing.

There are a couple of features that make the Guide TR an attractive cold-weather proposition. The upper is made of a thick closed mesh and fused overlays with moderate levels of water resistance. The design also makes the shoe warmer than its road-going peers.

The sticky rubber outsole also comes in useful on damp surfaces. If there’s any downside, it’s that this shoe fits narrower and shorter due to the thicker outer shell.

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 scroll down to the next one.

1) adidas Terrex Agravic Gore-Tex Trail

Based on paper specs alone, the Terrex Agravic GTX is a trail shoe. However, don’t let that scare you – what works on the trail also works on snow-covered pavements. The prominent lugs of the Continental rubber outsole help bite into the less than perfect surfaces.

The cushioning is powered by a full-length foam midsole that creates an insulating barrier between the foot and the cold pavement.

Keeping the feet dry is a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane inside an upper with a secure fit.

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 sticky rubbber 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) Brooks Cascadia 15 GTX

Here’s another gaiter-friendly running shoe that also happens to be waterproof. The Cascadia 15 GTX is a lot more than the sum of its gaiters; this is a product with serious trail-running chops.

The midsole is supported by two-pair of supportive wedges that Brooks calls ‘Pivot Post’. The forefoot comes equipped with a rock-plate, and the sticky rubber outsole lugs have an aggressive pattern for off-road grip.

Though the generous coverage of overlays on the upper is designed for protection and water-repellency, this set-up is also effective at keeping the cold out. The mesh-bonded Gore-Tex lining ensures that the feet stay dry inside.

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 in.

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 you 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 during the colder months when you don’t want to take the gloves off.

The shroud closure relies on a full-length zipper and a velcro at the top. Again, it’s very easy to use; no fumbling with 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 pouring 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 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 (adidas, Columbia, Salomon, 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 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 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.

3) 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 over the tongue and heel provide 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 CSWP 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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