Whether you love hitting the trails or prefer running on roads, when the seasons change, it’s time to decide which shoes are best for winter running.
It’s not just a question of keeping warm. In fact, runners who do interval training and faster workouts all year round will be looking for shoes with good breathability that don’t keep their feet sweaty despite the cold temperatures.
You should also look for shoes with good traction, especially on wet pavement or in the snow and ice if you prefer to run off-road. Finally, the degree of waterproofing is also essential.
Which are the best winter running shoes, based on these criteria? We’ve picked 9 favorites, including both road and trail options to keep you running happily through spring.
Leading winter sneakers
1. Salomon Speedcross 6 GTX
There’s no need to tell you the advantages of a Gore-Tex membrane. It’s one of the key elements of trail shoes, especially in winter when your runs will most likely be wet or muddy. Most of the shoes on our list will feature some sort of waterproof membrane, as does this fantastic all-arounder.
But there is so much more to enjoy when you hit the trails in the Salomon Speedcross 6 GTX. The trail icon has been updated to a lighter version compared to its predecessor, and still features some of the best bits of Salomon engineering.
We love the Quicklace system for lacing up easily and quickly in the cold, then be reassured that you won’t need to revisit those laces your whole run. The grip is very good in mud and loose terrain and the balanced cushioning makes this shoe an everyday trail runner, especially if you live in a muddy area.
We wouldn’t take it out in deep snow or on hard-packed trails, but otherwise, the Speedcross continues to deliver excellence in its category on muddy, cold, and wet trails!
2. Men's Lone Peak All Weather Low
It’s impossible to put together a “best of” list of winter shoes without adding on the Altra Lone Peak. This year, however, we feel they deserve second place given that most trail runners will need some getting used to before they can be comfortable in zero drop.
Without a doubt, however, this is the best zero drop shoe on the market. It is also ideal for those looking for a more natural, minimalist shoe design.
Altra has been retailing the Lone Peak trail running shoes for a while now and they’re consistently highly ranked thanks to their excellent grip, provided by the MaxTrac outsole. They are comfortable and responsive at the same time and give you good clearance off the ground thanks to a 25 mm stack height.
To keep feet dry, the weather-resistant eVent upper is actually constructed like a bootie, cradling your feet and adding to the feeling of comfort. Since eVent appears to be more breathable than Gore-Tex, it makes these shoes ideal for running faster, too!
3. Hoka One One Women's Speedgoat 4 GTX
If you’re looking to benefit from Gore Tex technology on the trails, the best all-arounder for long distances remains the Hoka Speedgoat 4 GTX. The brand has come out with another stellar iteration of this shoe, the Speedgoat 5, but that doesn’t come in a GTX declination, yet.
As we’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the Speedgoat 4 GTX is weather resistant and waterproof, on top of an excellent all-weather Vibram outsole that will give you great grip wherever you’re running. The 5 mm “stepped” lugs will help you make it up and down hills, through mud or light snow, and they’re obviously great in rugged terrain.
We’ve found the Speedgoat to be the best trail running shoe for long distances. There’s ample cushioning, a hydrophobic upper, a roomy toe box, and an outsole that is both long-lasting and effective. What’s not to like?!
4. Brooks Men’s Divide 3 Trail Running Shoes
If you’re looking for a do-it-all versatile shoe that’s good value all year round, the Brooks Divide 3 is made for you. The name is actually meant to signify the split between road and trail, so if you do a little of both, or you have mixed terrain running routes, these shoes are perfect for that.
The Divide 3 features decent lugs and a grippy outsole, made from Brooks’ proprietary TrailTack rubber. Cushioning is moderate, good enough for running on the road without getting shin splints, and flexible enough to move on to easy trails. With an 8 mm drop, they’ll fit newbies and more experienced runners alike. And the air-mesh upper is breathable and drains well, while the TPU mudguards protect the feet through trail debris.
5. Merrell Moab Flight Hiking Shoe - Women's Lichen
Did you know that Moab stands for “Mother of all Boots” in the Merrell Moab shoe range? This shoe manufacturer has been the go-to for hiking comfort and reliability for decades, and the Merrell Moab hiking shoe is one of the premier options for all types of conditions.
When it comes to trail running, Merrell are now transferring their excellent technology and features to a new line of shoes, the Moab Flight.
These shoes have a high drop (10 mm), making them perfect for beginners in trail running. They feature a fantastic Vibram compound in the outsole – the EcoDura, with great traction and environmental credentials (30% recycled rubber).
Comfort is paramount in the Moab Flight, with a lightweight midsole foam that gives enough cushioning and doesn’t weigh you down. We love the traction on these and the overall feel, as well as the competitive price tag!
6. La Sportiva Men’s Blizzard GTX
While the Salomon Speedcross and the Altra Lone Peak will get you through mud, ice, and cold weather, you need to bring out the big guns if you are going at higher altitudes and in deep snow. This is where the La Sportiva Blizzard GTX comes in. They are pricey but worth it!
With integrated tungsten alloy spikes, the Blizzard GTX ensures you won’t slip on any terrain. They also feature dynamic gaiters, offering protection from rocks and the wet. With a Gore Tex Extended Comfort membrane, you are guaranteed to have dry feet all day long.
They have 7 mm lugs and a durable outsole, too. All this in a deceptively light package! The absolute best option for snowy mountain runs.
7. Topo Athletic MTN Racer 2 Trail Running Shoes
Topo Athletic has made a name for itself in the trail running world recently, and they excel at creating comfortable shoes for wider feet. The MTN Racer 2 is a perfect shoe for muddy, rugged terrain, and a great pick for those winter trail runs.
Featuring Vibram Megagrip outsoles and a relatively large stack height (30 mm under the heel and 25 mm under the toes), these shoes are designed to keep you clear of trail debris and obstacles, while helping you deal with muddy and uneven terrain.
If you love Altras but don’t want to deal with the zero drop, the 5 mm drop of the MTN Racer 2 will put you at ease, while giving you the same comfortable ride that suits wider feet.
The midsole of this shoe is designed for being speedy, too, with EVA foam to inject some propulsion, and more resilience underfoot from the ZipFoam. They are also partly made with recycled materials.
8. Brooks Ghost 14 GTX
We’ve always admired Brooks for their excellent range of road running shoes, and the winterized versions of the Brooks Ghost are always excellent quality. The Brooks Ghost 14 GTX features Gore Tex technology that renders them waterproof and great in the rain.
A lot of running shoes featuring Gore Tex end up heavier and less breathable, but this Invisible Fit membrane fits directly onto the upper for a lightweight and flexible fit. This makes the shoes more comfortable overall. Additionally, Brooks has upgraded the foam in the midsole to their excellent DNA Loft, enhancing the soft feel when you run on roads.
Finally, the outsoles have two types of rubber, softer under the forefoot and firmer under the heel. That makes the ride stable and comfortable, but it’s important to note the lack of proper lugs to give you traction in the snow. You can still count on the Ghost 14 GTX in the rain and slush, however!
9. Women’s ASICS Gel-Kayano 29
Asics’ Gel Kayano shoes are in a league of their own for everyday training on the road. The GEL technology and EVA foam used in the cushioning make these comfortable and plush to run in, without getting stiff in the cold.
On uneven terrain in winter, the Gel Kayano 29 gives you some extra support especially around the heel, with a light level of support against overpronation (but not so much to make these a stability shoe – neutral runners will enjoy them!).
The grip is moderately good and will be fine for winter roads, but you should avoid taking these out if the snowplows haven’t gone past yet. However, thanks to the support and comfort levels, as well as the reflective strips that help you be seen when you run later in the day (which could be complete night-time in the winter!), these are a great pick for winter training in the city.
How to choose running shoes for winter
These are the primary features that we considered when we tested the shoes on our list. Each item on our list excels in these categories and is perfect for any winter runner.
Whenever you’re shopping for quality winter running shoes, these are the main features you should consider before buying:
Whether it’s just recently rained, or the snow has turned to slush, having quality traction on the road is important. Shoes with poor traction will leave you susceptible to slipping and you become one quick turn away from some pretty painful scrapes.
Quality winter running shoes should be able to withstand a solid layer of snow to prevent these tumbles. Several road shoes come equipped with the same technology used in snowshoes to help prevent this slipping.
The bottom cross-stitching allows the shoes to avoid becoming slippery and helps to push the snow as if it were regular concrete. Don’t let slush get in the way of a nice winter run, buy shoes that come with a traction guarantee – that’s what they’re made for.
Along with the snow and ice comes the need for a nice waterproof layer. Without this, you could find yourself catching some pretty nasty colds as your shoes get soggy and wet.
If your winter trail shoes aren’t waterproof, then you’re leaving yourself open to the elements and even the smallest puddle can ruin the rest of your run as you’re dealing with the soggy nature of a wet shoe.
Another issue with shoes that aren’t waterproof is the smell of soggy shoes. Shoes that hold water are more likely to build up mold and can lead to some pretty gross smells.
Make sure that your running shoes are waterproof to avoid the inevitable build-up of bad smells. You’ll be running through a lot of snow and slush.
Fit and comfort
Just because you’re buying a pair of shoes that can withstand the elements doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort and fit. You might find the perfect winter running shoe that can find traction on black ice, is completely water-repellent, and perfect for winter conditions.
However, if it doesn’t support your foot or fit your style, your running experience will still be ruined. Don’t compromise just because a shoe is perfect for the snow. There are plenty of options available and you’re sure to find one that works in snowy conditions but feels great on your feet.
Fit and comfort are just as important as any other feature of a winter running shoe. Blisters can be bad and if your shoe doesn’t fit properly, you’ll be suffering from them quite often.
Frequently asked questions by winter runners
There can be a lot of confusion about what makes a great winter running shoe, so we wanted to clear up any questions that you may have. Here are some of the web’s most common questions regarding finding a quality winter running shoe.
How cold is too cold to run?
We’ve all heard the warning of going outside will cause you to catch a cold. While there is certainly some truth behind that, many experts say running in the cold can be a good thing. The lower temperatures are excellent for your immune system.
The more time you spend outside running, while properly bundled up, the more resilient your immune system could become. It is important to continue dressing appropriately for the cold temperatures.
Should you exercise caution while running in the cold?
If you have asthma or other breathing problems, then running in the cold could pose a health risk. The cold air makes breathing difficult, even for runners without breathing problems.
So, should the temperatures start to drop, decreasing the time outside running should be on your radar. When temperatures drop below 0, that’s when you should consider doing some indoor activities.
Are waterproof running shoes worth it?
Yes, waterproof running shoes are very much worth it. Waterproof running shoes are more than just a nice thing to have, they will prevent you from sore feet and colds.
When water gets into your shoes early on a run, your feet are left to soak in the cold water for however long you have left running. This can lead to sickness, sores, and a couple of days off from your running schedule.
Is running in cold harder?
Running in the cold requires much more from your system than in the heat. While you might not be sweating as much, your body is working harder to accommodate for the lack of air that you’re receiving.
Cold air is harsh, and it can be quite difficult to swallow, especially when you’re already out of breath from the run. Because of this, your respiratory system must double down on providing your body with air and you can find yourself breathing heavily, soon after your run has started.
Is running in the cold bad for the lungs?
Cold air is known to irritate and dry out the passageways that lead to your lungs, making it more difficult to swallow the air that you’re breathing. Your upper airways tend to narrow when inhaling cold air and the moisture layer in your lungs evaporates faster than it can replenish itself.
This doesn’t necessarily harm your lungs, but it can lead to some difficult running conditions and an irritated respiratory system.
Running in the cold doesn’t lead to lifelong breathing problems, but it can be an issue at the moment as it makes breathing difficult. If you’re going to start running as the temperature drops, be safe and take the necessary precautions. If you have breathing problems, take additional steps to get the most out of your run.