Cold weather running isn’t just for the pros. With the right pair of shoes, anyone can get a grip on winter running (see what I did there?). That’s why we’ve rounded up the very best winter running shoes of 2021. Read on to discover our personal favourites alongside tips for choosing the perfect pair to suit your needs!

Our choice for best overall winter running shoes goes to the Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX. The streamlined upper is highly waterproof and breathable, while the Contagrip TA outsole features aggressive lugs that grip ice and snow. With over five generations of Speedcross models, Salomon has all but perfected the winter running shoe.

The Best Winter Running Shoes

Best Overall Winter Running Shoes

The Aerios GTX shoe from Arc'teryx is made using a durable GORE-TEX membrane and offers you enhanced comfort with a minimalist look revisited for this new edition of the iconic trail running shoe. The Vibram outsole offers maximum grip on all surfaces and works in both mud and icy conditions. 

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BEST RUNNING SHOES FOR SNOW

The XA Pro 3D v8 GTX shoe is the perfect shoe for trail runners, and it performs just as well on the road. Perfect on the road or trails after a snowfall, it features a waterproof GORE-TEX membrane and a Premium Wet Traction Contagrip outsole, which performs on wet snow and prevents water from seeping into the shoe. Maximum grip and performance make this one of our best shoes for winter running.

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BEST RUNNING SHOES FOR ICE

The Peregrine Ice+ shoe's advanced ARCTIC GRIP Vibram rubber sole helps you keep pace in the toughest conditions. For those who don't let snow and ice slow down their outdoor adventures, Peregrine ICE+ offers protection and traction in winter. This winter running shoe is one of the toughest on the market.

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BEST WINTER RUNNING SHOES FOR TRAILS

No matter the weather, the Supercross Blast GTX Shoes by Salomon keep you ruling the trails in adverse conditions—including snow. Light and flexible, the upper’s membrane offers full GORE-TEX weather protection yet feels like traditional mesh. The studs claw through any winter conditions, and the ContaGrip outsole provides just enough sticky grip.

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BEST MINIMALIST WINTER RUNNING SHOES

Ultralight, the Norvan LD 2 GTX by Arc’teryx is a comfortable trail running shoe with a great fit and enough weather protection to run the cold months. The upper features a breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX membrane, and the GORE Fit ensures the right contour around your foot. Made with TPU mesh, it’s easy to carry on all your adventures. Square ergonomic lugs and sticky Vibram outsoles offer traction to keep you running all year long.

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Best Running Shoes for Women

Zero drop enthusiasts will be delighted with this new Altra model. Designed with a fairly wide forefoot, typical of the brand, this shoe is ultra-comfortable. Reinforced to protect the foot from trail debris or small rocks on your path, it has a studded sole that allows you to run on snow and frozen surfaces. It is not waterproof but provides good resistance for running on roads and trails. 

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BEST WINTER RUNNING SHOES FOR MEN

In collaboration with GORE-TEX, Brooks has created the perfect shoe for all conditions. It features a GORE-TEX mesh upper and Brooks' DNA LOFT technology, which combine to offer exceptional comfort. No matter where you like to run, this shoe is ready for any weather.

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Best add-on for full protection

Chuck this on pretty much any pair of trail runners and romp through snowy conditions to your heart's content. GORE-TEX weather protection gives you the edge. 

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Have a great run!

You can get the low-down on how to dress for winter running right here on the blog. We help you drill down into the details with our choice of the best running pants and tights for winter running and our favourite winter running jackets.

How to Choose Your Running Shoes

Finding the right winter running shoes or winter trail running shoes is crucial. Adequate traction is necessary so you don’t end up slipping all over the place. Look for lug soles (soles with indentations) that dig into snow and offer a good grip in various conditions.  Vibram soles also offer excellent traction on mixed surfaces.

A shoe with a waterproof membrane like GORE-TEX (also indicated GTX) will keep your feet dry if you’re running through slushy puddles or ankle-deep snow. 

What to look for when buying winter running shoes

For optimal safety and comfort, pay attention to these key features when choosing a winter running shoe.

Consider the Terrain

Even in winter, there are some major differences between urban and trail running. Despite the slipperiness of both, trails have the added difficulty of being uneven. That’s why it’s crucial to determine the style of running you’ll be doing this winter before buying a shoe. Below, we talk about the main factors to consider when evaluating any model.

Waterproof Uppers

Whenever you say “I like the look of that shoe,” you’re talking about its upper. It’s the part of the shoe that encases your foot, but excludes the sole. In cold weather, a running shoe’s upper needs to be both breathable and waterproof. The former prevents the build up of condensation from within, while the latter prevents water penetration from without. 

Many waterproof uppers are constructed using GORE-TEX (GTX) or something similar. GORE-TEX offers excellent waterproofing in addition to being breathable. 

We seriously wouldn’t recommend purchasing a winter running shoe that isn’t waterproof—no matter how much money you think you’ve saved. After a few runs, you’ll be ready to fork over another few bills for one that is. In the meantime, a non-waterproof shoe increases your risk of experiencing numb feet, blisters, and even frostbite. All that can certainly put a damper on your winter running experience.

Proper Traction

Aggressive lugs are the rule, not the exception, when it comes to winter running shoes. Technologies like Contagrip and Vibram set the bar high among competitors. Here we take a closer look at both.

Contagrip

Salomon’s Contragrip technology has become an industry standard for high-traction and durable outsoles for any weather conditions. The company has applied a thorough understanding of density, materials, and geometry to engineer an unbeatable sole. You’ll find it on all their winter running shoe models, including our pick for best overall winter running shoe, the Speedcross 5 GTX.

If you’re something of a materials science geek, you can read all about the fascinating innovation that went into designing the Contagrip technology here.

Vibram

Since 1937, Vibram has been making high-quality soles that are renowned for both their comfort and durability. Many brands have incorporated Vibram soles into their products, including the likes of New Balance, La Sportiva, Timberland, and many more. Vibram was also the first to bring the Five-Finger Shoe to market in 2005.

For winter running, companies like Saucony use Vibram’s Arctic Soles on their Peregrine Ice+, our personal favourite for best running shoes on icy surfaces. Arc’teryx also uses Vibram soles for their Norvan SL GTX, which we voted best minimalist winter running shoe in 2021.

Lacing

The two main lacing systems you’ll encounter are traditional laces and Salomon’s patented Quicklace. Quicklace is a system designed to never come undone. It’s made with thin elastic laces that have a high tensile strength. A small plastic tab near the tongue allows you to quickly tighten the shoe before a run and effortlessly loosen it after.

Gaiters & Ankle Protection

Gaiters can be purchased as after-market devices to optimize your winter running experience. They’re waterproof garments that protect your feet and legs from incoming water and debris. Simply hook the clip under the heel of your shoe and tighten the velcro along the leg. 

Gaiters come in a variety of sizes, from ones that sit just above the heel to ones that rise to just below the knee. They’re an excellent investment for any sort of winter running terrain, but are especially useful for trail running.

Other Features

If you can’t quite afford a pair of winter running shoes just yet, consider purchasing a pair of NANOspikes and hooking them on to your current runners. These spikes are made from tungsten carbide which is both lightweight and durable. They perform best in mixed conditions of snow, ice, and pavement.

FAQs for winter running shoes

Can you wear regular running shoes in winter?

Wearing regular running shoes in winter will not only slow you down—it will increase the risk of injury. The soles on standard running shoes are simply not made to handle slippery surfaces like ice and snow.  

A proper winter running shoe has a studded sole. This helps keep each step stable and aligned below your hips. Without a gripping sole, you’ll be placing extra strain on your joints and ligaments, especially the lateral ankle ligaments.

If you haven’t already purchased a pair of winter running shoes, best advice is to wait until you do. Otherwise you risk ruining your entire running season with—quite literally—a single misstep.

Are trail running shoes good for winter?

Trail running shoes are more rigid and feature more aggressive treading than regular running shoes. That said, they’re still a far cry from an ideal winter running shoe. For lightly snowed paths, a trail running shoe may suffice. But they’re made for soft and slippery surfaces (like mud), as opposed to dense, slippery surfaces (like ice).

Are waterproof running shoes necessary?

Waterproof running shoes are an absolute must. They’ll protect your feet from freezing cold puddles and icy precipitation. By keeping your feet dry, this also allows your socks to insulate as efficiently as possible. Like your fingers, ears, and nose, your toes are an extremity. This means they’re always at the frontlines of frostbite. Take all the precautions you can to ensure they stay dry and toasty or you can say au revoir to winter running.

Conclusion

Remember to pair your winter running shoes with the right socks. A wool sock is a great choice, as it will continue to insulate when wet. If your feet tend to stay cold, try layering a sock liner under your wool sock for added warmth. Just make sure your feet aren’t too snug inside your shoe. If they are, you’ll actually decrease thermal capacity by restricting airflow.

We hope our guide has answered any questions you had about winter running shoes. Now the only thing left to do is pick up a pair of your own and wait for the season’s first snowfall. See y’all on the trail!