Best Winter Running Shoes
When winter begins to set in, you might begin to feel a bit down if you love to run and don’t want to be reduced to using your treadmill indoors for your workouts. However, you can avoid this depressing scenario and continue your love of running on the trails no matter what the weather is by purchasing the best winter running shoes to keep your feet warm and ready for cooler temperatures.
With a good pair of running shoes, you’ll be able to hit the trails every day, regardless of what the weather should be (ice, sleet, or snow). However, you’ll have to use some judgement when you select your shoes. There are so many different types of winter shoes for running made nowadays, we’ve decided to help save you some time by compiling a list of the best top ten winter running shoes, and covering some features that should help you make your decision.
- Adidas Adizero XT
- Excellent gaiter
- Good traction
- Salomon Spikecross 3 CS
- Altra Lone Peak 3.0
- Great traction
10 Best Winter Running Shoes
Adidas Adizero XT
Adidias’s Adizero XT Boost Winter Running Shoes includes a breathable “debris sock” gaiter, which is one of the most effective designs on the market today. It rolls smoothly into the tongue, and will remain snug on your foot while keeping debris out of your shoes—meaning you won’t feel any rubbing or irritation with this design.
The Adizero shoes also are made with a smaller toe box, but it’s stable underfoot is a real plus because these shoes have an excellent heel cup and plastic straps that will keep your foot where it needs to stay as you run. Plus, these shoes also have a Continental Race King Outsole, meaning they feature excellent grip quality, helping you on hills.
While these shoes are not waterproof, they are still excellent when you run in mud and much. They do well-keeping debris away from your foot, and perform well on just about any surface you’ll encounter when you run.
- Good traction
- Keeps debris away from the foot
- Excellent gaiter
- Not waterproof
- Can run small
Salomon Spikecross 3 CS
The Spkecross 3 CS runners are designed with something called Ortholite. The Ortholite is a foam that offers your feet conditions that are supremely comfortable and cushioned. Along with this, the foam keeps your feet cooler and drier, too.
To help keep your run as convenient as possible, there is a minimalistic Quicklace System in place. This allows your runners to go on and off as simply and quickly as possible.
Midsole, there is a foam that offers more comfort to your feet. The midsole is also very flexible and absorbent to friction from runs.
If a pair of winter running shoes that offer you extreme comfort, a waterproof effort, and excellent grip to keep you firm on any terrain, these are your shoes.
- Have excellent grip in the snow
- Not made for all seasons
Altra Lone Peak 3.0
Altra Lone’s Peak 3.0 Winter Running Shoes use Polartec Neoshell on the outer area of the shoes, so they will stay dry for a long time no matter where you find yourself running. These shoes are very water resistant, and the Polartec Neoshell material will help both you and your shoes through anything, keeping your feet warm and dry.
Altra Lone’s Peak 3.0 Winter Running Shoes are also made with StoneGuard in the shoes, making these shoes flexible while still keeping your feet protected from rocks and other things that can bother your feet. Also, TrailClaw technology is designed into this shoe’s outsole, making it easy for you to run uphill or downhill in any weather condition.
These shoes are also very comfortable and fully cushioned with Zero Drop and a FootShape toe box to keep your foot in the right position, helping you with your stability and running form. You’ll be warm, comfortable, and ready for anything on the trails with a pair of these shoes.
- Great traction
- There could be more color and style options
- Don’t fit wide feet well.
La Sportiva Tempesta GTX
When it comes to lacing these La Sportiva Tempesta GTX runners up, you won't struggle with icy cold hands to tighten and tie laces. Instead, they have a simple lacing system that makes for a pull fast experience.
The upper of these runners are made with durable mesh, which allows breathability, but it also wards off the elements.
These runners come in both men and women selections and vary in sizes.
When looking for ultimate traction, the bottoms are made of durable and traction ready grips, so you don't slip.
If you are shopping for a winter running shoe that is highly comfortable, easy to lace, and is waterproof, these shoes should fit the bill.
- Weather resistant
- Ventilation can make your feet get cold when the weather is cold
Icebug Aurora BUGrip
Made with durable steel metal studs, these Aurora shoes are manufactured to grab right into the ice, making the grip excellent over all terrains. Plus, they are also made to be weather and water resistant, and have a protective PU/TPU winter shield lining over the top of the shoe, and include quick-drying mesh.
Icebug’s Aurora shoes include a removable molded EVA with a mesh liner that will help to keep your feet in place each time you run, but can be taken out if you don’t need the liner. These shoes are also made with injection molded lightweight technology on the midsole, meaning they can absorb shock and protect your feet throughout a wide variety of conditions.
Icebug made these shoes with a rubber BUGrip on the outsole, which has nineteen carbide tip studs to help you with your traction. You should be able to handle just about any weather condition or terrain anytime you run in these shoes.
- Weather resistant
- Shoes can fit narrow
- Can’t run on concrete
Merrell All Out Terra Ice
Merrell’s All Out Terra Ice Winter Running Shoes are made with a strong synthetic out layer that includes mesh and TPU with reflective details, they’ll keep your feet warm and dry, repelling water and snow away from your feet. Plus, these shoes are also made with lace-up closures which makes them easy to take on and off, and also helps them to fit with comfort.
These shoes also come with a removable insole that’s made with a TrailProtect pad, helping to protect your feet from shock and other issues. Plus, this shoe comes with M Select DRY and M Select FRESH technology to cut back on bacterial growth and odor, making it easy to go all day long in these shoes.
Designed with a Vibram rubber outsole and 6mm lug depth, the Tungsten Carbide spikes on these shoes, combined with the carbon toe, make an effective grip formula for any terrain. You’ll feel warm, dry, and comfortable each time you run in these shoes.
- Easy to get on and off
- Threads can flay.
- Studs don’t do well on technical climbs.
Made with a strong waterproof membrane, Columbia’s Ventrailia shoes are designed to be rugged and weather-resistant, helping to keep your feet warm and dry no matter where you run. The waterproof membrane on the outside of these shoes is melded to the exterior fabric, which helps boost your protection.
The welded overlays on this shoe also help provide your feet with better support and comfort, and make the shoe strong so it won’t wear or tear easily. Also designed with an omni-grip non-marking traction rubber on the bottom of the shoe, you’ll get excellent grip while out on the trails.
Columbia’s Ventrailia shoes have a lightweight welded textile mesh upper area, and a lightweight midsole to boost the cushioning of the shoe, making it very comfortable. You’ll feel energetic the entire time you run, since your feet will be extremely comfortable no matter what terrain or weather you encounter outdoors.
- Weather resistant
- Heel could have more cushioning
- Shoes can feel a bit short.
La Sportiva Mutant
These shoes have an innovative lacing feature, putting the laces off to the side and over the metatarsals, instead of over the top of the shoe like most of us are used to. You can tuck your lace end into a mesh pocket on the tongue area, making the shoes easy to get on and off since you don’t need to tie them each time.
La Sportiva’s Mutant Winter Running Shoes are also made with a lot of cushioning while still remaining lightweight, so you get a lot of comfort, helping your feet feel great even on long runs. Plus, these shoes are also breathable and come with AirMesh fabric to cool your feet down as you run, control moisture, keep bacteria out, and reduce blisters, rubbing, or skin irritation.
Designed with stability and control, you get a solid grip from the FriXion XF soles that also feature an Impact Brake System, boosting stability and helping you with traction. You won’t have to worry about slipping, and you’ll be able to stop easily.
- Narrow fit
- Can sometimes feel choppy when running, depending on terrain.
Saucony Ride 8
Since you get a waterproof, weather-resistant shoe with the Saucony Ride 8 design, your feet will stay warm and dry no matter what the weather is like outside. Plus, these shoes are made to be lighter and can handle difficult weather, but aren’t made to run in warmer conditions.
Saucony also designed their PowerGrid EVA technology into the cushion of this shoe, which makes the cushion lightweight but still comfy, helping you to respond as you run. Also, the cushioning system is made to help with shock absorption and stability, so you’ll feel great even if you’re out running for a long time.
With these shoes, you also get an IBR+ traction rubber outsole, which will help you get better grip and traction on difficult terrain. On cold days, it should be very easy to get up and down hills, and enjoy your run outside for many hours in these shoes.
- Good traction
- Not made for all weather or all seasons
- Could come in more styles and colors
Nike Air Zoom Structure 20
Nike’s Air Zoom Structure 20 uses compression-molding that removes the need for glue on the shoe, so these shoes won’t feel stiff at any point, and are designed to be flexible enough to move well as you move. You still get the support you need since the shoe is also constructed with a strong platform for your toe-off.
Also, this show is made with an effective foot cradle, allowing the mesh area of the shoe to meet the foam, providing a lot of comfort. You also get great traction from this shoe, since it’s made with deep flex grooves on the sole of the foot.
Made to be lightweight, this shoe also comes with a removable insole when you don’t need the extra support. The shoe also gives you a performance boost since it’s flexible and comfortable while still giving you an extra level of support.
- Cushioning can wear out quickly
- Shoes can squeak when they get wet
Types of Winter Running Shoes
First, when trying to decide which one of the major types of running shoes you need, you need to figure out the kinds of trails you’ll be hitting when you run. If you plan on running often, four times a week or more, then know your shoes will probably last around four to six months, so you will have the chance to try something else later if you feel the shoes you buy now don’t work.
However, we always want to get the best pair of winter running shoes for our feet right off the bat, and we’ll try to help you with that here. We’ll cover some of what you can expect from the different types of shoes and what you need to know about your own running style to help you decide what’s best for you. The different types of winter running shoes are light trail shoes, rugged trail shoes, and off-trail shoes.
Light Trail Winter Running Shoes
If you are running on surfaces that are mostly uniform, like gravel paths, hills, and fire roads, then light trail shoes might work for you. Most of these shoes resemble road-running shoes in both weight and built. These shoes offer the following:
- Lightweight gear that allows you to move quickly.
- Light protection from trail obstacles, like rocks.
- Stiff shoe design so that your feet stay stable
- Soles usually have basic lugs to help stabilize you and place your feet accurately
- Some of these shoes have a lot of midsole cushioning to promote comfort if you run long distances.
- Some of these shoes have lighter midsole cushioning for those runners who like to “feel” the trail better as they run.
Rugged Winter Running Trail Shoes
Rugged trail shoes are made for both running and hiking, and can handle a lot of difficult surfaces. Typically, rugged trail shoes can be used in a wide variety of terrains. These shoes provide the following:
- The front of the foot includes toe guards, and the underfoot has hidden plates to provide better protection from trail obstacles and better shock absorption.
- Overlays on the top of the shoes made of durable materials to add an extra layer of protection against thorns.
- The midsole cushioning is very shock-absorbing, and helps protect your feet when you’re making a hard climb or land hard on a rocky area.
- The upper parts of the shoe are made to be supportive and stiff to add foot stability on surfaces that don’t feel stable.
- Some of these shoes have internal shanks for extra midsole support and stiffness.
- The lug patterns on these shoes can vary quite a bit, but the focus is on extra grip and more help when you stop.
- The soles on these shoes tend to be thick and include multidirectional lugs so you get more traction. The lugs are usually also spaced more widely so that any mud or muck that collects on them can slide off more easily.
- Some of these shoes also have a soft, grippy rubber that will help stop you from slipping on wet surfaces.
- Some of these shoes have harder, less-grippy rubber features for better durability.
Off-Trail Winter Running Shoes
If you plan on hitting your runs off-trail, and like rugged terrain, then you’ll want to consider a pair of off-trail shoes. These shoes have most of the characteristics rugged trail shoes have, but offer a few bonuses as well, which are:
- Made from tougher materials like polyurethane foam midsoles, which are much more durable and rugged than what you usually find on rugged trail shoes.
- The structure of the shoe will be stouter and help provide more stability so the shoe won’t give when you have to twist quickly.
- These shoes tend to be more waterproof and weather-resistant because off-trail running usually means you’ll run into bodies of water or more severe weather.
So what kind of winter running shoes should I go for?
What type of winter running shoe you purchase will depend a lot on the weather you’ll encounter and where you’ll be running. For runners who really want weatherproof protection, which can be very important depending on where you live and where you run, off-trail winter running shoes are probably the best bet. While these shoes tend to be more expensive, they also offer the weather protection you’ll need if you encounter snow and ice.
Some rugged winter running trail shoes do also offer weather protection and work well for those who plan on just running on trials when the weather is cold. So, as you decide what type you need most, think about the terrain and weather conditions you are likely to encounter to help you make your choice.
Criteria Used to Choose Winter Shoes
While we can’t always have fantastic year-round weather, it’s nice to know you can still run outside even during the winter when the weather is cold with a great pair of running shoes. When you’re looking to purchase the best pair of winter running shoes, what are some criteria you should consider?
Below we’ve listed some general criteria points to help you make your decision. We’ll take a look at shoe type, cushioning, heel to toe drop, and fit. We’ll cover each one of these concepts in a bit more detail below.
Some manufacturers call cushioning levels “stack height,” and the approach to cushioning stayed the same for quite some time in this industry. However, with new technologies appearing everywhere and various options for padding becoming available, the shoe industry changed, and now we have a variety of winter running shoes with different types of cushioning options. The cushioning options you’ll find when purchasing a pair of winter running shoes include:
- Barefoot shoes are shoes that don’t include padding. Some runners like shoes without padding because they “feel” the trail better as they run.
- Minimal padding. For runners that still want to “feel” the trail as they run but want some light padding, this padding style provides that option.
- Moderate padding. This type of padding is more standard nowadays and traditional trail runners usually opt for these types of shoes so they feel fine running over rocks or other trail obstacles.
- Maximum padding. If you want a lot of padding at the midsole, then this is the option for you. Maximum padding works well for those who have joint problems or are worried about fatigue on longer runs, since these shoes help prevent that. However, some people feel that this excess level of cushioning makes you less efficient when you run.
How much cushioning you feel you need depends a lot on personal preference, but you’ll want to think about things like joint pain and fatigue, how far you’ll be running, what you’ll be running over, and what type of protection you need. Most runners purchasing winter running shoes opt for moderate to maximum cushioning, but this is all a matter of personal comfort and how much you want to “feel” the trails as you run.
Cushioning height and heel-to-toe drop often go hand-in-hand. Heel-to-toe drop tells us the difference between the heel’s height and the forefoot’s height. A heel-to-toe drop in a winter running shoe can be anything from 0mm to more than 12mm.
Shoes with barefoot cushioning usually have a 0mm drop. Finalists shoes will have a drop of 0 to 4 mm. Moderate and maximalist shoe types have a range of various heel-to-toe drops.
So, how do you figure out what type of heel-to-toe drop is the right one for your feet and running style? You’ll want to factor in a few things:
- Check out the drop of your current running shoes. If you’re already running often and are comfortable with the heel-to-toe drop you have now, you won’t have to mess around with the way your body feels in a heel-to-toe drop if you currently use shoes that already have this and feel comfortable running with it.
- If you don’t have running shoes, then check out some of your other pairs. If you do have some athletic shoes already, check those out. If not, then examine your other shoes. Most shoes have some kind of heel-to-toe drop, and once you figure out which shoes you feel are most comfortable to wear and know their heel-to-toe drop, you should be able to assess what you’ll want your heel-to-toe drop to be in your winter running shoes. For example, if you like to wear flat shoes often, then you’ll probably feel better wearing shoes with a low heel-to-toe drop.
- Figure out if you need more stability when you run, and if so, then you’ll prefer a low heel drop. When shoes have a low heel drop, they provide you with a lot more stability when you land, which also increases your ability to balance well. Because most runners want to have great balance, a lot of them opt for barefoot and minimalist shoes, and they’ll forego the padding. However, not all runners will feel great in a low-drop shoe, so this is something you’ll need to feel out.
- If you are used to a higher heel-to-toe drop and want to change to a barefoot or minimalist shoe, you’ll need some time to get used to the new feel. There will be a learning curve with this change, so you’ll have to be patient and plan it out if you do want to do this.
- Some moderate and maximum cushioning shoes also have low heel drops. So, if you do still need a lot of cushioning but want a lower heel-to-toe drop in your shoe, you can have the best of both worlds as long as you purchase a shoe that does both.
Determining your heel-to-toe drop comfort level can take a little bit of research and looking into some of the other shoes you own to figure out what you feel most comfortable in. While a lower heel-to-toe drop does add stability when you run, if you don’t feel comfortable with it, and aren’t patient enough to make the transition, it just might not be right for you. So, when figuring this out, remember it will be up to your personal preferences, so you want to try to stay with what makes you feel comfortable.
Probably the most important criteria point you’ll look into when selecting the best winter running shoes for your feet is the fit of the shoe. Even if a shoe is very popular and well-reviewed, if it doesn’t fit you right, you’re not going to like the shoe.
Making sure a shoe fits you correctly will mean more than just checking out the length and width of your feet. Your feet are a lot more complex than that, and you’ll need to look at things like your arch shape and length as well as the overall volume of your feet.
So, when you’re trying to determine the fit of your winter running shoes, what should you look at? We’ve listed a few items for consideration below:
- Look into the shoe lasts. A shoe last is a way each manufacturer builds its shoe to match different feet forms. You want to find winter running shoes that have a last that resembles your own foot form. Once you know that, it’ll be easier to find shoes that fit you.
- Don’t just base things on your shoe size alone. Your feet can change as you age, gain or lose weight, and experience body changes overall. Get measured first before you assume you know your shoe size, and remember that you’ll need to factor in the fact that your feet can swell while you’re running. With that in mind, you need a little room to grow, regardless of shoe size.
- It’s worth it to have a footwear specialist measure your shoe size, and tell you about the shape of your feet. You can use that knowledge as well to ask the footwear specialist what types of brands would fit your feet best. You can make an appointment for faster and easier service at most local sporting good footwear stores. Another important item to know to help you assess your foot shape and size is that your feet will swell later in the day because of your increased activity on them, so if you go at that point of the day, you’ll be able to factor the swelling into your foot size.
- Another nice thing about seeing a footwear specialist is that if you have foot issues, that person can help you find brands that will balance out those issues as you run—like bunions, plantar fasciitis, etc. Also, if you have premade insoles you need to use, the footwear specialist can factor that in and still help you find winter running shoes that will meet your needs.
Q: What do I need to know about winter running shoe weather protection?
Depending on where you live and where you plan on running, winter running shoe weather protection is probably something you’re going to need. During the winter, you’re more likely to encounter snowy and icy conditions, and you’ll want a pair of shoes that can keep your feet warm and dry through this.
To ensure you’ll be protected from the elements, it’s very likely worth it to invest in shoes that have weather protection. When looking for weather protection in a show, you want to look at whether the shoe is water-resistant, or water-proof.
When a shoe is water-resistant, you’ll get some protection against light rain and wind, but when a shoe is waterproof, you’ll be protected from pretty much anything. Running in wet and cold socks is certainly not something you want to deal with, so weather protection is an important factor. Many of the best types of weather protection in a shoe are those that are made with GORE-TEX, which is a strong material that repels water effectively.
Q: How warm and comfortable do I need my winter running shoes to be?
Most runners don’t enjoy running in the cold and letting their toes or feet go numb from pain. So, to avoid this unfortunate outcome, you do want a shoe that gives you enough warm and comfort to make you feel happy in them. You don’t need excessive warmth unless you plan on being out in very cold temperatures, but something with an inner liner that will help protect you from the weather.
Also, remember, the longer you run, the more your heat warm up themselves, so while you want some warmth to protect you against the cold air outside, you need to factor in the warmth your own body heat will generate as you run, and how much warmth you really need. Too much can also make you feel uncomfortable.
Q: Do I need shoes that will be visible when I run?
Most of us have to run either early in the morning or later in the evening (meaning before or after work). So, if you know you’re going to be out running in lower light conditions, then you’ll want to think about your safety.
Most winter running shoes come with reflective features on their shoes to combat low-light conditions and make you more visible as you run. Some have full reflective coverage, and others even glow-in-the-dark.
You need some level of reflective features on your shoes if you know you’ll be out when the sunlight isn’t strong. How much you need, however, is up to you—the main thing you need is to simply stay visible to vehicles so you stay safe.
Q: What are the pros and cons to spikes?
Metal spikes on the bottom of winter running shoes are put there to ensure that you don’t slip in conditions that might be slippery or icy. Having the ability to soar through a trail or along a sidewalk even though it isn’t optimal conditions is fantastic and freeing. However, the one downfall of these spikes is that they can be noisy and sometimes, not necessary. The spikes can also begin to wear down on paved sections of roads that are not icy. You also would not want to wear them around your house, because they can damage the flooring.
Q: What if I want to wear thick winter socks with my shoes?
When it comes to fitting your feet comfortably into a pair of runners with thick winter socks on, it might take a little trial and error. This is because every pair of shoes has a different fit and every pair of feet is different. But in general, to find a pair of good winter running shoes to fit heftier socks into with comfort, you will want to opt for shoes that have a bit of a wider toe box.
When selecting the best winter running shoes for your outdoor pursuits, you’ll need to consider the type of running you’ll be doing, the terrain you’re likely to encounter, and the likely weather conditions. After that, you’ll want to figure out your foot size and shape so you can help figure out which types and brands of shoes will fit your foot best and help you stay comfortable throughout your run. Features like weather protection and cushioning will also be important, but some of the criteria you need to evaluate you’ll have to judge based on personal opinion. It’s always a good idea to try shoes on and contact a local footwear specialist to figure out which brands will suit you best before you buy your winter running shoes.