It’s human nature to want to hibernate when the weather gets frosty. More dark days tell our bodies to sleep an increasing amount. The icy chill tells us we need to eat more heavy, hearty meals to pad out our midsection and protect our bodies from dying of hypothermia. Everything in our innate wiring wants us to stay in, bundle up, get cozy, get fat, and wait for the warmth to find us again.
That’s the siren’s song of weakness being sung, sisters and brothers! It’s telling you to give up, give in, and live in creature comforts when in fact you should be doing the opposite. You should be out there on the trail, out there on the street, out there in the world. The cold helps you burn extra calories so you can eat, drink, and be merry without losing that swimsuit physique. The increased darkness is trying to depress you, and we all know that nothing is anathema to depression like a nice runner’s high. So don’t let winter win, get a set of snowbound winter running shoes and fight back!
How to Choose A Winter Running Shoe
Every running shoe geared for winter – or those that will work during a cold snap – all have a few things in common. Follow the basic guidelines and you can find any number of track shoes that work in the cold so that you don’t need a specialized pair during the cold seasons.
Along with winter comes snow and dirt, or at the very least increased rain. The fastest way to get cold is to have wet feet, so the first thing you should do is seek out shoes that shrug off water. Those that have DWR (Durable Water Repellent) are good, or you can add some yourself. Waterproofing also reduces the amount of weight your shoes will have, meaning they won’t suddenly feel leaden on your feet as you grind out that last K. You won’t find anything that will stay completely dry, but minimizing the wet effect is the first step toward surviving a frosty jog. Rugged outsoles and tough uppers are what to look for here.
While conditions will differ depending on where you live, cold weather typically means reduced grip on the roads as ice, frost, wetness, or piles of snow hide the ridges of the asphalt and sidewalk. That means you’re going to want deeper treads and more pronounced bumps and grooves in the bottom of your shoe. Many have found that switching to a basic trail shoe is enough to keep from sliding, but this can vary greatly depending on where you’re going to be doing your roadwork. More grip is universally safer, and more likely to keep you on your feet, so don’t skimp here.
When you’re more likely to slip, your ankles are more likely to end up at odd angles. If you get a standard running shoe, consider adding in an ankle brace, or select a high-top model that will help stop injury before you’re laid up with a sprain.
Size and Breathability
A handy thing to remember when you buy a winter running shoe is that you’re probably going to be wearing thicker socks, so going up half a size might not be a terrible idea. The advantage to the additional socks is you can then get them in merino wool or an equally wonderful wicking material. This will give you the airflow you need, reduce foot sweat, and allow you to buy shoes with less mesh, which adds warmth and cuts down on the ingress of water.
Winter time means more darkness and nights that fall more quickly. That means you need shoes that are brighter and more colorful than their summer brethren. Ugly as they may be, they could save your life.
Consider these five things, and you’ll be ready to run. Or, just pick and purchase.
Montrail Fluid Flex ST
Go from road to trail and back again, the Fluid Flex has a neutral landing pad that allows for transitioning from surface to surface, and can manage equally well on extended stretches of pavement as tackling most trails or footpaths. Purchase: $57
New Balance Vazee Protect Pack v2
360-degree visibility, a weather-resistant upper, and firm padding underfoot make the Vazee an intensely comfortable choice for those who want to avoid the hard landings and jarring hits that feel so much worse when the mercury plummets. They also look respectable and use a dual mesh screen on the top for fighting water while still circulating air. Purchase: $70+
Topo Athletic ST-2
As minimalistic as you should go with a winter shoe, this is not recommended for beginners. If you’re sure you’ve got your rhythm down and require the closest thing to barefoot that’s out there, then here’s your choice. Just tread lightly. Purchase: $90
Nike Air Zoom Structure 20
Soft, strong, snazzy, and simple, if winter doesn’t hit too hard where you live, the Structure 20 will keep you covered. Lightweight with a gentle socklike interior, the base is supportive, molded foam meant for adding stability in the worst conditions. Purchase: $100
Reebok One Guide 3.0
Exceptional maneuverability for changing direction at speed, the One Guide can handle basic trails, park runs, or grinding away on slick pavement equally well. Triple mesh on top keeps weather at bay, triple padding underneath makes the midsole extra comfortable, even when taking a winding route home. Purchase: $100
Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N3
Perhaps one of the few runners that can be worn year-round, depending on where you live, the N3 are zippy, fun, and can transition from working out to running errands without missing a step. Purchase: $130
Another in the line of year-round running shoes, wearing these sockless in summer, then adding in a warm layer during winter is often all you need. Though they won’t snag on snow and ice, the exceptional lightness and neutral build tend to make these feel like nothing at all in the best way possible. Purchase: $140
Nike LunarEpic Flyknit Shield
Built with momentum in mind, the heel-toe action makes running a breeze while the LunarEpic grips gravel, dirt, and pavement equally well, whether snowy or wet. They’re responsive off the ground, and provide exceptional coverage all the way around, with sock-like comfort that delivers. Purchase: $170
Icebug Aurora BUGrip Traction Running Shoe
The name isn’t big in the states, but Icebug is well known in the frozen land of Sweden, where real winter happens. Incorporated into the shoe are studs that grip and rip through snow, and can take on ice like a pair of junior YakTrax. They feel like LaCrosse cleats, with loads of bend where it counts and insulation to spare. Purchase: $171
Saucony RAZOR ICE+
Though they look like a set of snow boot liners, the ICE+ performs where it counts. Their high-top design adds in ankle support and a little compression at the ankle, which helps circulation and warmth going out to your toes. The Vibram sole is pleasant padding with each stride, and the deep tread goes wherever the road – or path – takes you. Purchase: $180
La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX
Built for peak bagging, the Crossover has a gaiter built right into its waterproof Gore-Tex body, giving it the hands-down award for trail running. The internal laces are smart and quick, supporting you from calf to toes with a few tugs. Purchase: $190
Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine
Though technically a mountain attack shoe, the Alpine is as close to a hiking boot as you can get while still bearing the heart and sole of a trail runner. Way more than you need if you stay on the beaten path, those who live dangerously frolicking through drifts should give this a go. Purchase: $250
Adidas Y-3 Sport Approach
Torsion control and sweet softness on the inside and the smashing looks on the out are an incomparable combination. Under the hood is the Boost sole that offers up a bit of bounce every time you land, helping keep a spring in your step for miles, while your tootsies stay dry as houses. Purchase: $435