Winter poses enough challenges for runners. Between the frigid temps, variable weather and short days, just mustering up the will to step foot outdoors can cause even the most motivated runner to think twice — or retreat to the hamster wheel known as the treadmill.
At the same time, there’s also a refreshing, lively feeling one gets when forgoing climate control in favor of braving the elements. The sense of pride and knowing nod from each runner you pass solidifies the notion: I’m a real runner. But while mental fortitude may get you out the door, it won’t keep you warm and dry. Only the right winter running gear can do that. We're talking jackets, hats, gloves, tights and, perhaps most important, shoes.
BEST OVERALL WINTER RUNNING SHOEInov-8 Roclite G 315 GTX Read More
BEST UPGRADE WINTER RUNNING SHOEAdidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro Read More
BEST BUDGET WINTER RUNNING SHOEMerrell Moab Flight Read More
MOST VERSATILE WINTER RUNNING SHOEHoka Challenger ATR 6 GTX Read More
BEST WINTER RUNNING SHOE FOR DAILY TRAININGBrooks Ghost 14 GTX Read More
What to Consider When Choosing Winter Running Shoes
Like any piece of winter-ready garb, there are a few features to look for in winter running shoes so you can more easily combat the elements. While running performance and comfort is still key, there are three components to consider when choosing the right snowtime sneakers.
Winter brings with it a lot of errant, unpleasant weather in the form of slush, rain and snow. To ensure your feet aren’t left soaked by the end of your jog, look for winter running shoes that feature some form of waterproofing across the upper. There are plenty of silhouettes that feature a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane to help your feet stay dry through the conditions. Additionally, gaiter-style liners can be great at keeping snowfall from entering the shoe’s interior around your ankle, closing up the opening for a tighter, next-to-skin fit. While not every product will feature this build, if you’re adamant about training snow-free, it’s a good idea to search for this component.
Grip and Traction
Another feature to think about when choosing winter running shoes is your traction underfoot. Most road running shoes can be fantastic at tackling clean, dry miles but often leave you slipping and sliding when traversing through inclement weather. To help alleviate this kicks designed for winter running implement deeper lugs that allow you to dig into the snow and slush for better grip. These pronounced outsoles are very similar to that of trail running shoes — you can even wear your favorite trail runners for wintertime jaunts, provided they have ample waterproofing and a bit of insulation.
Lastly, you want to choose winter running shoes that blend breathability with warmth. Now, you don’t need to go for well-insulated winter boots since you will be moving and working up a sweat, but silhouettes that feature a hearty upper that have some breathable features can be perfect for these needs. Think of it as adding a blanket over top of your seat when lounging on a brisk January afternoon. Let your body heat do most of the heavy lifting, and have your sneakers provide that extra comforting layer for cozy strides ahead.
How We Tested
While snowfall hasn’t hit my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania just yet, I was still able to take in some miles in less than desirable weather to get a feel for these top winter running shoes. Combine the brisk temperatures with some rather rainy road conditions, and I was able to get a full scope of the waterproofing features of each silhouette, as well as the traction employed underfoot. I also wore these kicks for multiple days to test their breathability and warmth. After all, if a sneaker can keep my toes tepid throughout daily wear, they should be able to pair nicely with the rising body heat experienced mid-run.
Now, let’s bundle up and get into these cold weather kicks for extended outdoor training.
Inov-8 Roclite G 315 GTX
Inov-8 is known for durability and taking on the tough demands of training, but these impressive trail runners honestly blew me away in testing. Not only did my feet stay dry and warm thanks to the Gore-Tex membrane, but the graphene-enhanced G-GRIP outsole was more than capable of taking on any obstacles, including slippery sidewalks and washed-out corners.
Another perk of the Inov-8 Roclite G 315 GTX is the surprising energy return exhibited in the POWERFLOW midsole. Despite the 10.67-ounce frame, I was able to maintain a rather fast pace with plenty of spring in each step. While the forefoot is a little narrow, which isn’t uncommon for Inov-8 silhouettes, this has easily become my tried and trusted go-to when my runs call for battling the elements.
Adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro
If you want full coverage for those particularly blustery days, the Adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro is ready for the winter miles. Featuring a water-repellent bootie design and BOA lacing system, this high-top runner provides excellent traction thanks to the Continental Rubber outsole that’s similar to the grip you’d experience with a brand-new set of all-terrain tires.
Despite the ankle-covering silhouette of these kicks, I found them to be very nimble, due in part to the Boost-cushioned midsole that gives a good mix of cushioning and responsiveness. The BOA lacing makes it easy to find that snug fit, too, but don’t expect to kick these puppies off easily, especially after completing a route in frigid temps. The bootie still has a zippered entry, which I found was somewhat rigid and could be a nuisance if you’re trying to undo the enclosure with frost-riddled digits.
Merrell Moab Flight
Serving as a trail runner by nature, the Moab Flights from Merrell are just as comfortable when the temps drop below 50 degrees. I enjoyed the breathable mesh upper, especially on days that didn’t feature overcast (these aren’t waterproof, so be mindful of your conditions). Additionally, the Vibram EcoStep Recycle outsole is grippy beyond belief — every step was confident, no matter the terrain.
The Moab Flights are a wonderfully comfy shoe, as well — almost too comfy. The collar, for example, is plush, cozy and prime for walking paces, but I did feel a slip or two in security when quickening my strides. For this reason, I recommend employing a heel lock lace system — finally use that extra eyelet — for a better lockdown feel in every step.
Hoka Challenger ATR 6 GTX
This versatile silhouette from Hoka is a great option for athletes wanting a mix of trail and road. I admired the cushioning presented in the compression-molded foam midsole and found the Gore-Tex bootie was just the right touch — not too hot, not too breathable. If you’re a fan of the Clifton stable — which we named one of our favorite neutral running shoes — this would be a great companion piece to keep your outdoor training on pace all year.
The lone hiccup I found in the Challenger ATR 6 GTX was in the outsole. The rubber showcases some deep lugs that are plenty grippy, but they aren’t Vibram like other Hoka trail runners, which can lead to some durability issues down the road. Plus, there’s an exposed foam section in the midfoot, which I noticed was getting quite beat up when trekking through washed-out, gravel-ridden intersections.
Brooks Ghost 14 GTX
Like the Ghost stable for its neutral, forgiving feel? You’ll love the waterproof addition offered up in the Ghost 14 GTX. Building off the already impressive Ghost 14 foundation and upgrading the upper with a lightweight Gore-Tex Invisible Fit membrane, this is a great silhouette to keep your training on the move throughout the winter months.
There’s no denying the plush underfoot feel in any Ghost sneaker, and this one is no different. I liked the cushioning of the DNA LOFT midsole and favor this as a daily trainer in less than ideal weather conditions. The Gore-Tex membrane, though, can create a warmer sensation than others, which can lead to unpleasant sweat across your feet. While warmth is ideal in winter training scenarios, these kicks crank the heat up a little too much when you embark on extended jogs.
Altra Lone Peak All-Wthr Low
If you want that next-to-ground, natural vibe in every step, perhaps you’d fancy a zero-drop running shoe. While there’s plenty that caters to this aesthetic, in wintertime, there’s no better option than Altra’s Lone Peak All-Wthr Low. I enjoyed the FootShape Fit of these kicks that allowed my toes to splay easily on push-offs, and the balanced cushioning was comfortable enough while still promoting that natural feel.
The Lone Peak All-Wthr Lows also boast Altra’s Trailclaw canted lugs for superior grip, which made trudging through mud and washout much easier. While the zero-drop style can take some getting used to, if you are a follower of this discipline, these sneakers can help keep you on the roads, no matter the forecast this winter.
Salomon Speedcross 6 Gore-Tex
Running through areas that have a lot of slip and slide? The Speedcross 6 GTXs from Salomon are just the right amount of aggressive traction for the job. Durable Mud Contragrip sheds any debris easily, making it great for trudging through snowfall. Plus, the Gore-Tex membrane keeps your feet dry and when accompanied by the anti-debris mesh, proves to be an excellent barrier against the elements.
When running in the Speedcross 6 GTXs, I definitely felt that intense grip underfoot, almost to the level that I was elevated from the ground due to the pronounced tread. This can be a welcome feeling when stepping through snow banks and rain-soaked puddles. I think of these as snow tires for my running needs — similar performance with a little added weight and plenty of dependable grip.
Asics Novablast 3 TR
Winter running shoes, much like their winter-specific boot cousins, can begin to get heavy thanks to increased tread patterns and additional membranes. The Novablast 3 TRs shed all that poundage for a silhouette that’s easy to pick up and plenty of fun to run in. I thoroughly enjoyed every step atop the durable AHAR outsole and found nothing but plush comfort thanks to the FF Blast Plus cushioning.
As entertaining a ride as they are, however, I would save these Asics runners for winter mornings where the conditions aren’t as strenuous. These sneakers lack any waterproofing agent and the lugs, while grippy, aren’t as deep as others on this list. If you run in an environment that has a lot of snowfall, you might want to forego this pick, but if you think you can manage, you’re in for a featherweight treat.
Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex
Who said winter gear needs to emphasize function over form? The Peg Trail 3 Gore-Tex provides a great hint of style, whether you’re logging miles through the tundra or carving up the summertime trails. I found the upper of these aesthetically-pleasing sneakers to be exceptionally durable, and there’s no denying the pop they add to any ensemble.
The ride of the Peg Trail 3 Gore-Tex is buttery smooth, too, thanks to the React foam midsole and 10mm heel-to-toe drop. Be cautious, however, as I did feel this underfoot vibe morph once the temperatures began to drop. Because of the frigid conditions, the React foam can be prone to stiffening. Still, if you’re okay with a little less plush, these are more than capable of setting off any snow-ridden running fit.