Flash Freeze: The 7 Best Winter Running Shoes

Serious trainers and marathon runners know that they can’t stop just because the weather is cold or there is snow on the ground or their running partner died of “hypothermia” like a whiner. Going for the gold means keeping a training regimen that cannot be interrupted. That gusto isn’t going to grab itself, and you know who isn’t going to get it? The guy in his warm house when it comes time to start training for winter running. To do that, you need to strap on your winter running shoes and hit the pavement.

Choosing a pair of shoes built for the winter weather conditions  is probably one of the most difficult purchases that any runner will make. These need to have traction that can handle shifting temperatures as well as conditions that could change from moment to moment. They need to complement the training regimen done the other three seasons of the year. They need to have warmth and water protection to keep their feet healthy and dry. They need grips that can handle the snow without striking the pavement too hard. Whether you’re planning on a light jog or setting a new record up the mountain, we’ve got the 7 best winter running shoes for you.

Nike Lunarglide Plus 5 Shield

Nike Lunarglide +5 Shield

Pro: Lightweight
Con: Minimal cold defense

Street Sweeper: Just because you prefer to hit the road during the colder months doesn’t mean you’re going to be tackling tough terrain or climbing the highest hill. You might just want a good shoe that gives you responsive street performance even when conditions are less than ideal. The limited tread won’t work on mountainsides but also won’t drag you down when heading out for a light jog. You’ll find your ankle hugged by a fleece collar that keeps the cold out but doesn’t trap foot sweat in. With a flywire upper that made the original Lunarglide popular you’ll find excellent support while a reflective exterior keeps you safe at night or during the gloom of the coldest part of the year. [Purchase: $105+]

Saucony Xodus 4.0 GTX

Saucony Xodus 4.0 GTX

Pro: Large lugs
Con: Heavy

Complete Climber: Mountain men who aren’t happy with just a street shoe and are seeking something with the soul – and sole – of a hiking boot will be able to get their fix with the Xodus running shoe. The outsole is aggressive with wide treads that will prevent snowpack while also avoiding slips on the trail. The Gore-Tex liner with gusseted tongue and tough waterproofing can be used in small snowpack, but they aren’t meant to replace a good pair of winter boots. With lugs that go in every direction, no matter how you land with each stride you’ll find it cushioned with softness and guarded from the elements. Though the armored exterior can be misleading, you’ll find responsive feeling from the upper thanks to its layered construction that won’t feel too stiff. [Purchase: $130]

Asics Gel-Arctic 4 WR

Asics Gel-Arctic 4 WR

Pro: Retractable spikes
Con: Gel insole can limit reading the road

Greater Grip: Built for icy and snowy conditions these offer water resistance rather than true water proofing, but where they skimp a little in protection from the wet, they more than compensate by being warm enough to take a run in the freezing winds off the great lakes while also being able to snag onto slippery surfaces with a set of retractable spines on the outsole that can be easily adjusted depending on conditions. The gel offers exquisite protection for running on hard conditions but will reduce your feel of the road which can affect balance. The low back end is better paired with a set of thermal socks which will help keep the cold from cutting your workout time short. Even in cold weather, the gel won’t harden and work against you. [Purchase: $65]

Salomon Snowcross CS

Salomon Snowcross CS

Pro: Extreme protection
Con: Get very warm

Frost Fighter: Largely thought by most to be the best winter running shoe, the Snowcross CS combines an included gaiter exterior that will keep your feet warm and dry wherever you may roam. They have a hard-core interior to protect against impacts with rocks, ice, or just a curb buried in the winter wonderland. Their design is for the hard core user or someone training in extreme conditions, so don’t expect any of that friendly ventilation stuff that allows your foot to breathe. The contagrip outsole carries ice grips for dealing with the worst conditions that you can expect to encounter while still keeping your footing. You won’t find a better mix of of running weight with heavy-duty protection from another shoe. Any shoe that does is either called a “boot” or not meant for winter wear. [Purchase: $200]

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Pro: Zero drop platform
Con: Not waterproof

Minimalist: It’s hard to find a minimalist running shoe that can keep both the winter running and barefoot running sets happy, but the Lone Peak manages to hit the most selling points of anything on the market. They have a zero drop platform which allows them to ride at just 23 millimeters, as low as anything we could recommend for standard winter wear. They can handle trails that have plenty of snow by using wide-spaced lugs coupled with a tougher center that looks like a cute little footprint. They aren’t good for heading out into the teeth of a storm nor for trudging through high snows since the body built with quick-drying fabric with limited protection from the elements. They fight off wind very well and the drying fabric minimizes sweat pooling in your shoe so you won’t be cooling your heels at the end of a workout. [Purchase: $88+]

Brooks Adrenaline ASR 11 GTX

Brooks Adrenaline ASR 11 GTX

Pro: Equally efficient on trail and pavement
Con: Better against rain than snow

Road and Trail: The winter months make finding a good trail running shoe that can also work on wet and icy pavement a difficult proposition. From where we stand, with one foot planted on asphalt and another on a hillside, there’s few options that give the tread you need to take a hike without wearing you down once you switch to doing roadwork on a flat surface. These use the smooth lines of the Adrenaline shoe line out into the cold for a heavy-duty winter shoe with Gore-Tex liner that keeps water, snow, and weather from ruining a good run. The outsole is tough enough to scramble while you also won’t lose a step even when switching to wet pavement. You won’t find your feet stopping short when you swap between wet and dry conditions either so when you don’t know what the weather will bring or where your path will take you, these are the ideal companion. [Purchase: $146]

Merrell Mix Master Move

Merrell Mix Master Move

Pro: Excellent waterproofing
Con: Not extremely comfortable

Dry Dock: This was a difficult inclusion since it works much better as a water shoe than an actual running shoe. Nonetheless this is impressive for people who don’t suffer winters so much as they have rainy or muddy seasons. Climates where there is true snow can use these during the summer months, but for fighting off mud and keeping traction when wet, these perform their service gladly. The weight is low and street runners or speed trainers won’t have too much trouble adjusting to them. The function is to keep water off of your feet no matter how much punishment you want to dish out. Comfort is kept to a minimum since claiming they are for “winter” is to insult winter anywhere but the Caribbean. [Purchase: $99]

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