How to Pick the Best Winter Running Shoes For You

02-13-2024

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What are the best winter running shoes?

Runners are a different breed so it’s not surprising to see a jogger in shorts, gloves, and a hat trotting down an icy sidewalk in the middle of a blizzard. While we encourage runners to get out in the winter, whether it’s cold, snowy, or icy, there are ways to be prepared. Choosing the best winter running shoes before heading out in freezing temperatures is one way to set yourself up for a fun (albeit cold) run.

When you’re shopping for the best winter running shoes, there are several features to be aware of that can help you establish grip and keep your feet warm. Consider the environment you’ll be tackling on your winter runs and shoe features that may help negate the cold, wind, or wet. 

Water-resistant or waterproof running shoes are helpful in the winter, especially if snow has begun the melting process. When you encounter puddles on your run, you won’t need to take a detour with waterproof running shoes because they’ll help keep your feet dry. 

If you’re tackling a run in the cold and know you may encounter slippery snow or ice, traction will be your best friend. Consider winter running shoes that have traction in the outsole and will help you grip the pavement more efficiently. 

With so many shoes focused on winter running, it can be hard to choose the right pair for you. Analyzing your environment and what you’re likely to encounter helps you narrow down your choices. 

man running through a field in fall

Considerations for cold and snowy climates

Running in the snow can be an exhilarating challenge that many runners enjoy. There are generally three factors to consider in winter running shoes if you plan to run in a cold and snowy climate: 

  • Traction 

  • Warmth 

  • Water resistance

Traction 

To ensure you stay upright and don’t get injured during a snowy run, wear shoes with traction. You want to ensure your feet get a good grip on the ground, whether it’s covered in snow, ice, water, or slush. 

Winter running shoes should be equipped with lugs, which are small points of raised rubber lining on the outsole of the shoe. You’ll find lugs on most trail shoes to ensure trail runners can maintain traction on slippery dirt or muddy trails. The bigger and more aggressive the lugs and lug pattern, the more traction and grip you’ll experience while running.

Alternatively, you can purchase your own lug kit and attach lugs to existing running shoes. However, keep in mind, there’s usually no way to easily reverse this process. 

Warmth 

Most running shoes aren’t known for their warmth since runners are generally looking for fast, lightweight shoes. However, with winter running, you should consider the upper material of the shoe and ensure it’ll keep your feet relatively warm in a cold and windy environment. The water-resistant membrane material is also generally thicker than mesh, which is another consideration to factor in when buying winter running shoes.

Water resistance 

Shoes that are waterproof keep your feet happier in the winter, especially if you’re moving through snow or slush. In freezing temperatures, keeping your feet dry is the key to warmth and safety. Shoes that are water-resistant and not waterproof are helpful for dry feet but if you encounter deep puddles or relentless slush, your feet may get a little damp throughout your run.

Keep in mind, the traction, warmth, and water resistance you need in your winter running shoes depends on your location’s climate.

lone peak 7 and timp 4 split image

For truly frigid conditions

In truly cold temperatures that experience snow, you’re likely to encounter ice and uneven surfaces due to snowpack. You may want to consider winter running shoes made for trail running since they’re designed for uneven terrain. If you plan to wear gaiters to keep the snow out of your shoes and off your legs, purchase a running shoe with a gaiter attachment. 

Your winter running shoes should have an aggressive lug pattern for traction and should provide you with some warmth to combat freezing temperatures. While water-resistant shoes aren’t mandatory for winter running, you may want to consider this feature, in case you encounter snowmelt on your run. 

For cold, slushy conditions

While running in freezing temperatures may seem more extreme than a warmer winter run, slushy conditions can sometimes be just as tough. Again, you’ll need to focus on traction since melting snow can be slippery. Slushy conditions also call for water resistance in your winter running shoes, so your feet stay dry. However, warmth won’t be as important if you’re not dealing with extremely frigid conditions. 

 

 

Considerations for milder, rainy winters

If your winter is less snow and ice and more wet and chill, it’s important to focus on staying dry and warm on your winter runs. While you may not need a shoe that’s waterproof for your winter runs, you should consider shoes that are quick dry to keep your feet from getting soggy. This is especially important if you live in a high-humidity climate. 

Before choosing your ideal winter running shoe, think about the issues you’ve experienced with past shoes. Did they soak through quickly and get your feet wet? Did the waterproof membrane feel too heavy on your run? It’s easier to choose the new running shoe features that are your top priority when you can identify the issues that you need to address with your current shoes. 

lone peak 7 and timp 4 split image

Your running surface and foot shape determine your shoe needs

 
Running surface 
 

Pavement, asphalt, dirt, or mud? Your running surface plays a big role in the amount of traction you need from your running shoes. When you run on a treadmill or dry sidewalk, you’re probably not too worried about how heavy duty your running shoes are or if they’re waterproof. Your focus may be on a breathable upper and a lightweight outsole that keeps you moving fast. 

However, if you’re tackling a trail run on a wet or snowy trail, water resistance and lugs for traction will be top priority. If you’re an all-season runner, you may need to consider buying lightweight shoes suitable for the warmer months and more heavy-duty sneakers for your winter runs. 

Foot shape

When you’re shopping for the right running shoes, your foot shape is an important factor to consider. Finding shoes that were made to fit your feet ensure you’ll have a comfortable and sustainable run. Altra shoes with FootShape™ comfort give you enough room in the toe box to allow your feet to move naturally, which is crucial whether you’re running on a snowy or sunny day.

Natural movement is also important for a comfortable stride, whether you’re setting out for an easy 5K or toeing the starting line of your first ultra-marathon. Altra shoes feature Balanced Cushioning™, which is sometimes referred to in the running shoe industry as “zero drop.” With an even platform, these shoes position your heel and forefoot at an equal distance from the ground to encourage better alignment and better running form. 

BEST SHOES FOR WINTER RUNNING ON ROADS 

Torin 7

Made for any road and any run

Features a molded heel collar for a locked-in feel 

Paradigm 7

The support you need on the road

Features GuideRail™ technology, medial support for natural foot placement

Outroad 2

Built for the road but equipped for the trail 

Features a grippy but not overly aggressive outsole for traction

BEST WINTER TRAIL RUNNING SHOES 

Lone Peak 8

Legendary on the trail, with room to run 

Features a lightweight upper and grippy outsole

Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Low 2

Your classic Lone Peak trail runner made for all conditions

Features water-resistant bootie construction

Olympus 5

Our plushest trail runner, designed for comfort

Featuring a max cushion midsole and grippy outsole

Best shoes for multi-terrain (on and off-road) 

Outroad 2

Built for the road but equipped for the trail 

Features a grippy but not overly aggressive outsole for traction

Superior 6

Our lightweight trail-hugging speedster 

Featuring a multi-directional lug pattern for all terrain 

Timp 5

High-cushioned, trail-ready performer

Featuring a grippy outsole and lighter weight for all-day comfort

Best shoes for everyday winter wear and running 

Outroad 2

Built for the road but equipped for the trail 

Features a grippy but not overly aggressive outsole for traction

Lone Peak 8

Legendary on the trail, with room to run 

Features a lightweight upper and grippy outsole

Best winter running shoes for flat feet 

Paradigm 7

The support you need on the road

Features GuideRail™ technology, medial support for natural foot placement

Provision 8

A versatile road shoe with guidance when you need it

Featuring a plush midsole cushion and GuideRail™ technology

The best zero drop running shoes for winter 

Outroad 2

Built for the road but equipped for the trail 

Features a grippy but not overly aggressive outsole for traction

Torin 7

Made for any road and any run

Features a molded heel collar for a locked-in feel 

Paradigm 7

The support you need on the road

Features GuideRail™ technology, medial support for natural foot placement

The best winter running shoes for wide feet 

VIA Olympus 2

Your max cushioned runner designed for efficiency

Featuring our Original FootShape™ Fit for space in the toe box 

Torin 7

Made for any road and any run

Features a molded heel collar for a locked-in feel 

Lone Peak 8

Legendary on the trail, with room to run 

Features a lightweight upper and grippy outsole

Best shoe for running in deep snow 

Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Low 2

Your classic Lone Peak trail runner made for all conditions

Features water-resistant bootie construction

Best shoes for running on shallow snow (snowy streets & sidewalks)

Timp 5

High-cushioned, trail-ready performer

Featuring a grippy outsole and lighter weight for all-day comfort

Outroad 2

Built for the road but equipped for the trail 

Features a grippy but not overly aggressive outsole for traction

Best shoes for winter hiking/running (people who run and hike)

Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Low 2

Your classic Lone Peak trail runner made for all conditions

Features water-resistant bootie construction

Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX

A trail runner/hiker that’s ready for all terrain and all conditions 

Featuring a grippy outsole and waterproof GORE-TEX product technology

Best marathon shoe for cold weather

Vanish Carbon

Your speedy race-day shoe 

Featuring a carbon fiber half-plate for fast, long-distance racing

Vanish Tempo

A lightweight shoe made for fast training and racing

Featuring rocker shape to propel you with every stride

Best treadmill shoe for indoor running in winter

Torin 7

Made for any road and any run

Features a molded heel collar for a locked-in feel 

Provision 8

A versatile road shoe with guidance when you need it

Featuring a plush midsole cushion and GuideRail™ technology

Rivera 4

Made for comfortable, everyday miles

Featuring soft yet responsive foam, for every type of runner

Best winter shoes with GORE-TEX

Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX

A trail runner/hiker that’s ready for all terrain and all conditions 

Featuring a grippy outsole and waterproof GORE-TEX product technology

Timp Hiker GTX

A cushioned, grippy hiker, ready for muddy, wet trails

Featuring waterproof GORE-TEX Invisible Fit upper and a Vibram® Megagrip outsole

Olympus 5 Hike Mid GTX

A waterproof hiker with mid-ankle support

Featuring a grippy outsole and space for your toes to spread naturally

FAQ’S

 

What to wear running in the winter? 

When it comes to winter running and clothing, warmth is the name of the game. If you know you’ll encounter windy or snowy conditions on your run, focus on keeping your core and extremities warm. Gloves, a hat that covers your ears, and a neck warmer you can pull over your face will help combat the wind. 

By decreasing your amount of skin exposure, you’ll ensure your body stays warm, even in freezing temperatures. Thick socks and waterproof winter running shoes also help.

In increasing temperatures or warmer winter conditions, layering is key. Consider wearing a quick dry top and layering on a vest and windbreaker. As your core temperature heats up during your workout, you can begin to shed layers to stay comfortable. 

How to run in the winter? 

You can run in the winter the same way you run in every other season: one foot in front of the other. However, you may encounter more challenges in winter running than you will when you take off for a run in the summer. 

Dialing in your gear and winter running shoes is important for the season to keep you comfortable, warm, and safe. You may also need to check ground conditions before you head out to avoid icy sidewalks or muddy trails. When you choose a route that seems safe, consider slowing down your pace. Slushy snow and ice are slippery so keeping a slow pace may help you maintain your balance. 

Are trail running shoes good for winter? 

Many winter runners use trail shoes because they may provide better traction than road shoes. Road running shoes are made for smooth sidewalks and are usually constructed with lightweight materials that aren’t meant to be particularly waterproof or warm. Running shoes for the road also usually don’t feature lugs on their outsoles because traction isn’t really an issue on a dry sidewalk.

Since trail running shoes were made to tackle muddy trails or slippery dirt with lugs and sticky materials in the outsole, runners generally find better traction in wintery running conditions when wearing trail runners.

Do you need winter running shoes? 

Some runners find it perfectly acceptable to tackle road runs in the winter with their everyday road running shoes. However, it can be dangerous, especially if you know you’ll encounter ice, snow, or frigid temperatures. Winter running shoes generally offer more traction, warmth, and in some cases, a water-resistant membrane, or waterproof materials to keep you safe and comfortable. 

It’s important to analyze conditions, including the temperature, wind chill, and ground traction, when choosing which shoes to wear for a winter run. You may not need winter running shoes for every single run you attempt in the chilly season. However, if you live in an environment that experiences snow and freezing temperatures, you may want to consider adding winter running shoes to your rotation. 

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