Winter conditions, like ice and snow, make running conditions more challenging when compared to the dry heat of summer. What used to be clear trails can be made impassable during the winter months. But stopping your training can severely hinder your spring performance. To keep up your training and enhance your safety, you should use a pair of the best outdoor running shoes for the winter.
Shoes for running during winter feature a unique design that has been augmented to tackle snowy and icy conditions. A pair of shoes for running during winter should be durable, reliable, and functional so that you get the traction you need to conquer the path. However, finding quality shoes can be difficult. To help runners get on track, we’ve made a comprehensive buying guide and selected the eight best winter trail running shoes to get you started. With our guide, you’ll find a pair of shoes that make running during winter enjoyable.
How To Choose The Best Winter Trail Running Shoe – Buying Guide
Traction is the most important feature of shoes for running during winter because runners want their shoes to be able to grip the slippery surfaces of the winter season. Summer trail running shoes don’t have a design that is capable of tackling harsh and slick terrain, which is why runners use shoes for running during winter. Before you consider any other features of shoes for running in the snow, you want to be sure that they have good traction.
But what does traction mean? Traction for winter shoes is affected by the outsole of the shoe. You will want an outsole that has deep grooves and lines, which is what provides the traction. An uneven outsole gives you better traction so that you can easily run on ice and snow. The grooves of the outsole should dig into the surface and grip, which gives you a secure step to push yourself forward.
Some runners may be curious about using crampons or shoe spikes, but those aren’t a great idea for running. Instead of having to add additional gear to your shoes, the design should incorporate strong traction, which will also save your carrying weight for other essential gear like water bottles.
The traction of your shoes will work best in soft snow because it can mold to the form of your shoe and give you a secure grip. On ice and hard-packed snow, you will have to be more careful where you step because you can easily slip and fall. But the best shoes for running during winter will have a traction that saves you from falling, even on ice.
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Alongside traction, stability is another important factor of shoes for running during winter because you’ll want good stability for running during this period of the year. Often, you’ll experience slippery terrain, which can lead to falls or rolled ankles. An injury can set you back or knock you out for the season, so they should be avoided at all costs. Stable insulated shoes should have a design that reinforces the arch which provides additional support to your foot and ankle.
Most brands that make winter trail shoes understand that stability is key and will incorporate it into the design, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding stable shoes. However, some runners may have conditions like overpronation or under pronation, which requires more stability. Some shoes have “motion control”, which is heavier and not as flexible to provide the stiffness and stability they need. Runners with flat feet can also benefit from higher stability.
For most runners, the stability that is featured in the majority of shoes for running in snow should be enough to keep them secure on their feet and drastically decrease the chance of injury. If you are concerned about the stability of a shoe, consider reading shoes reviews. Many buyers will comment on the stability of a design, so you know if it is worth the investment or if you should look for another pair.
Support is another feature that makes comfortable shoes for running during winter. It is related to stability and works to give you a better running experience. Support in a show means that you will feel comfortable for the duration of your run and also prevents your feet or back from feeling sore.
Ideally, the support of running shoes for the winter should be strong enough that your foot and ankle can’t twist when you run. Twisting is dangerous because it can lead to injuries or falls, and it is more common in during the winter with slick ice.
Sneakers for snow should put the support into the midsole and heel counter. The midsole of your waterproof shoes should be stiff and rigid so that it cannot twist. If your trail running shoe twists too much, it lacks the support you need for running during winter. A way to test the rigidity of the shoe is to grasp it by the ball and heel. Then you can twist the shoe like you’re wringing out water. If the shoe easily twists without resistance, it is not supportive.
The heel counter is located in the shoe’s heel cup and is a small piece of plastic that is inserted to reinforce the heel area. The heel counter is incorporated into the material of the shoe so that it cannot be seen, but it can be felt. To test the heel counter, you can apply pressure on the heel cup and see how much effort it takes to fold and bend the heel. If it folds or bends easily, it lacks the support you need. A rigid heel cup with work along the midsole to provide strong support for slick running conditions.
If you are shopping online, again, shoes reviews are a great place to find out more information about the support of a specific design.
A proper assumption about running during winter is that you will face cold temperatures. To combat the cold temperatures, you should consider insulation as a feature of your shoes for winter weather. You will want to balance insulation with weight, so don’t look for fleece-lined or wool-lined shoes, but look for material that provides a little protection from the cold. Waterproof running shoes may have the features you need to beat the snow, but they won’t have the construction to keep your feet warm.
Instead, look for cold weather shoes that have an inner liner that is designed to protect your feet from the cold and keep them from freezing on your run. The inner liner should be lightweight because a material that is too thick can trap the sweat. If sweat is trapped, you will quickly be uncomfortable and feel colder than before. Therefore, your insulated shoes should also be breathable to wick away the moisture. By keeping your feet dry and ventilated, you are providing the insulation you need to stay comfortable for the duration of your run, day after day.
Another great way to add insulation to your shoes is with the socks you wear. Waterproof socks may even be your go-to choice but again, you want them to be breathable. A pair of good running socks should provide additional insulation for your feet and keep them warm throughout your run. Socks are also a great way to add a little more cushion to your step.
Winter conditions often bring wet weather from ice and snow to puddles. Even if you aren’t going to run through the snow, you still want shoes that are weather or waterproof. Wet feet can quickly make you uncomfortable and cold, which can cut your training session short. To eliminate wet feet, you should look for waterproof shoes or a design that is at least water-resistant.
While water-resistant and waterproof are not the same, they are similar. The difference is the degree at which they can repel water and keep your feet dry. Water-resistant winter athletic shoes should be able to keep your feet dry if you’re sticking to urban paths. If you want to go trail running or on a more rugged course, consider a fully waterproof winter running shoe. The fully waterproof design will provide better protection so that your feet stay completely dry during your run.
Gore-Tex is a famous material that provides excellent water protection from a variety of wet elements. However, Gore-Tex can be expensive and may not fit all runner’s budgets. Other and more affordable waterproof materials include polyurethane, rubber, and neoprene. Or you may find a material that has been treated to be water-resistant or waterproof.
However, contrary to belief, you do need the material of your trail running shoe to let water out. A build-up of sweat can quickly make your feet wet and trap the moisture inside, which creates the same problem as a shoe that doesn’t keep out the water: wet feet. So, your waterproof material also needs to be breathable so that moisture can dry and evaporate inside the shoe.
Running is already hard on the body and having sore feet would quickly make training frustrating. To eliminate sore feet, your shoes for running in snow need to be comfortable. The features we have discussed like stability, support, insulation, and water resistance contribute to the overall comfort of your feet.
But to ensure your feet are comfortable, you should also be sure that the shoes fit correctly. If the shoe doesn’t fit well on your foot and is too tight, it can lead to blisters, chaffing, and cramped toes. However, a trail running shoe that is too loose won’t provide the support you need, and you can quickly slip out and trip on the shoe.
Shoes for running during winter should have a little room in the front for your toes to move. You don’t want your toes to be crammed into a small space. But you don’t want so much room that your heel slips. It’s a delicate balance, but a professional can help you find the right size. Keep in mind that the best women’s running shoes will be sized differently from the best men’s ones.
Additionally, the outsole and the insole of your shoes can greatly impact the level of comfort. A sturdy outsole will provide the support you need to run on rough terrain, while a soft insole will provide the comfort you need to keep pushing forward. It can be worth it to spend the time and find a comfortable shoe with the proper fit, but if you are struggling, shoe reviews are another great resource to read the first-hand experience with the comfort a shoe design offers.
You can also purchase separate insoles and place them in your shoes to achieve maximum comfort for your feet. Gel insoles are a great accessory that can enhance your comfort and provide a good fit. Socks are another great way to enhance your comfort. A pair of cushioning socks can provide additional shock absorption and padding to your feet.
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Winter conditions are tough, and you need a shoe that can last through the snow, ice, and sleet. Your shoes for running in snow need to be durable in their design and construction. The best shoes for running during winter will have a strong outsole that can withstand the snow and any bangs, scrapes, or small collisions with debris on the trail. The insole needs to be cushioning so that your feet get the support they need to step safely on slick terrain. Finally, a waterproof layer can help your shoes last longer and resist any damage.
Overall, you want your shoes to last. If you are a frequent runner, you may find yourself replacing shoes regularly, but you still need durability in every pair you purchase for comfort and safety. With a durable pair of shoes for low temperatures, you can confidently train in the off-season and be ready when spring comes around.
Another tip for finding durable cold-weather shoes is to look at the materials used in construction and design. High-quality material will have better durability than a cheap countertype. Most well-known brands will use premium quality materials to ensure that they offer the best winter trail running shoes. While lesser-known brands may still be worth the investment, check the quality of the material to gauge how durable the shoes are and how long they will last.
There are a variety of styles available in shoes, so the style-conscious runners shouldn’t have an issue finding a pair they love. From the sleek to the athletic, brands understand that personal style is important for runners to show off their flair. You may like the style of a specific brand of shoe that you’re proud to wear. But you shouldn’t let style hold you back from finding a shoe that has the other features incorporated into the design. After all, the style won’t help you run a trail. Style or the various color options should be the last feature that concerns you in your ice shoes design.
Q: What is the difference between summer and winter shoes for running?
Runners may wonder why they need a separate pair of shoes for winter training if they see a perfectly good pair of summer shoes waiting by the door. But consider the difference in weather conditions between summer and winter. In the summer, you have lots of heat and occasional rain. In winter, you face cold temperatures, snow, and ice. Rain can be slippery on certain surfaces, but it’s not as slick as hard-packed snow or smooth ice. To get the best out of your winter training, you should invest in a pair of top-rated shoes.
The biggest differences between summer and winter shoes will be the material and the outsole of the shoe. Summer shoes often feature mesh as a staple material because it makes the shoes breathable, which helps dry sweat. While you also want your winter shoes to be breathable for the same reason, they cannot use an open mesh, like summer shoes, or your feet will get wet from the elements. Instead, shoes for the winter perfectly balance breathability and waterproofing in their design.
Additionally, you should take a look at the outsole of your summer shoes and compare them to shoes for the winter. Summer shoes often have minimal traction, whereas shoes for the winter will have deep grooves and lines. The deeper grooves and lines provide better traction on slick surfaces like ice. The outsole of a winter trail running shoe may also be thicker to provide additional protection against the elements.
If you do try to use your summer shoes in winter, you will often find yourself unsure of your steps and dangerously close to falling. For your safety, we highly recommend that you choose shoes for the winter for better traction and stability.
Q: How to stay safe while running in winter?
Even with the best shoes for running during winter, certain areas can be dangerous to run on because they are slippery or uneven. One of the best places to run during the winter is on the road. Roads are often the first surfaces that will be cleared of snow, so you have a chance of running without slipping and falling.
Sidewalks are also another great option for running during winter because they too will often be cleared of snow. But not all sidewalks will be cleared, and it will depend on the city’s laws of how soon after a snowfall that a private sidewalk must be cleared. On both the road and sidewalks, you will still want to keep an eye out for icy patches. Sometimes not all the ice can be cleared and hitting an ice patch can send you suddenly to the ground. Look for overly glistening patches or overly dark patches, which could indicate black ice.
If you want to run the trails in winter, you should look for paths that have a minimal amount of ice. Trails are often not cleared and left to the will of Mother Nature. If a trail is well used, it may be worn down by other people so that it is safer to travel on and be secure in your steps. If you ever have to run through snow, you should go through the soft snow. Hard packed snow can quickly turn into ice, which means you’ll likely fall.
Q: Are there other safe practices for running during winter?
Alongside having a pair of top-rated shoes for the winter, there are other safe practices that can make winter running better. The first has to do with the time that you run. In winter, the sun sets earlier so that it gets dark by late afternoon instead of late evening. Running at night can be dangerous because you can be hard to spot and could get injured by a car. Running in the daytime is the safest practice, so you’ll want to adjust your schedule to fit the changing sun.
If you do choose to run at night, you should wear reflective pieces of clothing so that you can be easily seen by others on the road. Reflectors and even headlamps are a great way to boost your visibility at night. Many brands offer great accessories that are geared towards making night runners visible so that everyone stays safe while they are training.
Another safe practice is to stretch and warm-up before your run. Running with cold muscles can lead to a higher risk of injury, and once you’re out in the cold, your muscles will take longer to warm up. By warming up beforehand, your muscles will be ready to conquer the cold temperatures and stay fluid for quick movements. You should also remember to hydrate because your body will heat up as you run and dehydrate faster.
As we mentioned before, you will also want to dress in layers. Layers are a great way to maintain temperature control so that if you get too hot, you can remove a few. Generally, you will want to dress for temperatures that are 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. This should help reduce overheating and take into consideration the heat of your body as you run.
Finally, you should take steps closer to the ground in winter. In summer, many people raise their feet high to run, which is safe on secure terrain. In winter, smaller steps keep your feet close to the ground, which can help reduce the risk of slipping and falling on snow or ice. If you must run through snow, run through the fresh snow because you’ll get more traction than packed snow.
Q: Do I need spikes on my shoes for running?
Shoes for running in snow have been designed with a strong tread so that you don’t have to use spikes or chains. Spikes and chains can actually make you more uncomfortable as you run because they can dig into the shoe and cause pressure points. Additionally, if you ever do slip and fall, the chances of being injured by the spikes are higher.
The best winter and snow running shoes will have a design that eliminates the need for additional snow accessories like spikes and chains. If you are sticking to urban paths or groomed trails, you shouldn’t need to use the spike and chains for extra stability and traction. The design of the shoe should provide everything you need to train confidently in the winter elements.
However, that considered, if you know you are going to a tough location that is rugged and off-trail, you will probably know what extra equipment you need. If you like to go to the backwoods and run on difficult trails, you may consider using spikes or chains.
Q: How to properly clean and take care of my shoes for running in the winter?
We all like to imagine winter with a perfect blanket of white snow enveloping the landscape, but that isn’t always what we get. Winter can be just as dirty as the summertime with snow getting dirtied by cars, people, and animals. Your winter shoes may not stay as pristine as you would like them too, which brings the question of how best to clean them?
Most shoes for the winter don’t need to be cleaned often, but when they do, you should check the label or product information for instructions. Your first instinct would be to throw them in the washing machine and some designs are capable of being washed that way, but others aren’t. Some need to be hand-washed and air-dried.
If your shoes can be added to a wash cycle, you should take out the insoles and shoelaces and wash those separate. With just the shoe, you can add it to a load of laundry, though it’s probably best to have it be a delicate cycle so that the spinning doesn’t damage the shoe. Additionally, you will have to check if it can be dried in the dryer. We highly suggest that you leave your shoes to air-dry and minimize the risk of damage from the dryer.
If you need to clean your shoes by hand, you can do so with a soft toothbrush, sponge, and mild soap. With the brush, you can gently scrape away any accumulated dirt and give it an extra scrub down with the soft side of a sponge. The mild soap should work to eliminate the dirt, as well as any odors. Again, you should take out the insoles and shoelaces to wash separately. Air-dry the shoes and they should be ready to go. You should always store your winter shoes fully dry, which reduces the risk of mildew.
Q: How to best prepare for winter running?
Winter can bring a range of cold temperatures from mild to extreme. While we don’t suggest you try to train at extremely low temperatures, you do need to be prepared for freezing temperatures and cold days. Warmth is the biggest concern when you train in the wintertime because you don’t want to get hypothermia, which is a dangerous health condition that can lead to serious consequences.
Shoes for running during winter are important gear pieces, but so are your other clothing pieces that will keep the rest of your body warm. We highly suggest that you use a layering system to prepare for running during winter. With layers, you can take off a few if you get too hot and tie them around your waist. But it’s also important to remember that you will heat up with the movement and exercise of your body.
Using base layers made of merino wool or cotton can be a great place to start. If you overheat easily, consider a few light layers with a down vest to keep you warm instead of a full jacket. You should also consider using winter gloves and scarves to protect the sensitive skin around your face and neck. Or you can even use a ski hat to stop heat from escaping through the top of your head.
Ultimately the best way to prepare for running during winter is to prepare for the cold. You want to keep your core temperature protected and your extremities warm too. How much clothing or winter gear you use is up to you, but still, consider your safety. No one should be training in shorts and a t-shirt during winter weather conditions.
Globo Surf Overview
Running during winter is a great activity that can keep you on track for your spring competitions and marathons. But an additional benefit of training in the winter is also that it helps you train for skiing too. In order to train properly in the winter, you need the right running gear. As you can see from our guide, a pair of top rated shoes can drastically enhance your performance and safety in winter conditions.
Your feet are your engines that keep you moving forward and to stay functioning they need to be warm and dry. By choosing the best winter trail running shoes, you will get the warmth and comfort you need to stay on track with your training. The most important thing is finding a pair of shoes that are durable and can withstand slippery conditions.
With our guide, you have all the information you need to make finding a quality pair of shoes easy. With the tested and proven designs on our list, you are guaranteed to find a pair of the best outdoor running shoes that keep you motivated to conquer the harsh winter landscape.
More Snow Reviews:
- Ski Pant
- All Mountain Snowboard
- Heated Gloves
- Beginner Snowboard
- Snowboard Gloves
- Kids Snow Boots
- Heated Socks
- Ice Scraper
- Snowmobile Boots
Do you own a pair of shoes for running during winter that made it onto our list? Has it imporoved your winter training and performance? Let us know how it has enhaced your winter runs in the comments section below.