The 12 Best Winter Running Shoes, As Tested by a Running Coach

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Whether you’re ready or not, cold, shorter days are upon us. That means it’s time to change out your favorite shorts and tank tops for the warmth and protection of jackets, long tights and gloves. While all runners eventually succumb to the seasonal tradition of changing their running wardrobe, most overlook an integral part – their footwear. It may not seem as obvious as the need for winter apparel, but trading your summer running shoes for winter-specific ones is just as important, perhaps even more so. Here’s why.

Do I need winter running shoes?

I’ve been a running coach for the past 10 years, and undoubtedly every winter, I have at least one runner who injures themselves running on snow and ice. The unfortunate thing is it likely could have been avoided with proper winter footwear. So while technically you don’t need winter running shoes, it will make your winter running safer and more enjoyable.

“When you’re heading out for a run in the winter, you’ll often need to deal with snow, slush, ice, puddles and cold temperatures,” says Brian Metzler, running journalist and author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes.” He goes on to explain that “running in shoes that are stable and secure with some ability to keep your feet warm and dry will go a long way in helping to endure those wintry elements, thus making your run a much better experience.”

What to look for in winter running shoes

Waterproof Uppers: Winter running means you’re highly likely to encounter moisture. Whether it’s rain, snow or ice, having a waterproof winter running shoe helps keep your feet dry. The most common type of waterproof material used in uppers is Gore-Tex, the same material found in waterproof jackets. Some brands will choose to use a proprietary waterproof or water-resistant material to guard against moisture. Waterproof means the material is 100% resistant to moisture, whereas water resistant-material is only partially waterproof.

Insulated Uppers: The majority of running shoe uppers are designed for maximum breathability. This means they’re made with a light mesh material that allows heat to escape freely to help combat sweaty feet. In the summer, that’s a great feature. However, in the winter, that can leave your feet cold. Some winter shoes will add extra insulation to the upper to keep your feet warm.

High Grip Soles: While the prevailing thinking is that a waterproof upper is the number one thing to look for in winter running shoes, a grippy sole is far more important. Having predominant lugs on the bottom of your shoes will give you better grip and stability over snow and ice, thus reducing the risk of slipping or falling. Road shoes have flat soles, which are great for smooth surfaces, but slick and hazardous on snow and ice. A better option when running on snow or ice is trail shoes. Trail shoes have large lugs on the soles designed to grip the trail, which also do an excellent job on snow and ice. Some shoes will go a step further and have metal spikes as lugs. These offer the best traction over snow and ice.

Ahead, the 12 best winter running shoes — many of which I’ve tested — are yours for the taking.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 Shield Shoes

Best Winter Road Shoes

Embrace cold, wet winter day runs with open arms and a sense of confidence with Nike’s winterized version of their tried-and-true trainer, the Pegasus 38 Shield. Nike went all-out in making sure the Peg 38 Shield performs in the nastiest of winter conditions. It starts with an altered outsole that was inspired by winter car tires for better grip on wet and snowy surfaces. Making sure your feet stay dry and warm, the upper is coated with a water-resistant PFC-free treatment and insulated for added warmth. As if all that isn’t enough, the Nike Pegasus is one of the best Nike running shoes and all-around running shoes on the market.

Type: Road
Weight: 10.2 ounces men’s; 8.5 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 33 millimeters/23 millimeters
Drop: 10 millimeters

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 Shield
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nordstrom

Brooks Ghost 14 GTX Shoes

Best Runner-Up Winter Road Shoes

This waterproof Gore-tex version of Brooks’ best-selling everyday neutral trainer is perfect for ticking off mile after mile in cold, wintery conditions. Rest assured your feet will stay dry with the help of Gore-tex’s Invisible Fit membrane that’s seamlessly incorporated into the upper as one piece so as to not compromise fit. Underfoot, the ride quality is phenomenal thanks to the cushioned feeling of Brooks’ DNA Loft midsole. A segmented sole allows the shoe to flex naturally with each runner’s unique footstrike for silky smooth touchdowns and toe-offs. It doesn’t have grippy lugs for snow and ice, but if most of your winter running is on wet concrete, this should be your go-to trainer.

Type: Road
Weight: 10.7 ounces men’s; 9.3 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 36 millimeters/24 millimeters
Drop: 12 millimeters

Brooks Ghost 14 GTX
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Salomon Spikecross 5 Gore-tex Shoes

Best Winter Trail Running Shoes

No need to be timid on treacherous snow-covered trails in Salomon’s winter version of its iconic Speedcross. The Spikecross 5 features five-millimeter lugs with a winter-tuned Contagrip compound outsole and 12 tungsten spikes for the best grip over ice and snow of any shoe on the market. While the tacky outsole keeps you glued to any slippery surface, the fully wrapped Gore-tex upper promises to keep your feet warm and dry. If you’re looking for a true trail winter warrior, look no further. The Spikecross 5 will give you a sense of sure-footedness that’s second to none.

Type: Trail
Weight: 12.8 ounces unisex
Stack Height: 37 millimeters/27 millimeters
Drop: 10 millimeters

Salomon Spikecross 5 Gore-tex
CREDIT: Courtesy of Salomon

La Sportiva Men’s Blizzard GTX Shoes

Best Winter Running Shoes With Spikes 

This is my go-to winter running shoe over snow and ice. It has the best grip over sheer ice of any shoe I’ve tested, hands down. That’s attributed to extra large seven-millimeter lugs with protruding tungsten alloy spikes that dig deep into ice and snow. Winter protection isn’t limited to underfoot. A Gore-tex lined upper keeps your feet and socks warm and dry, while a four-way stretch ankle-high gator guards against snow and debris. It’s best to save these primarily for runs on snow and ice; the alloy spikes will wear down with too much concrete running. Still, if you live somewhere snowy, get these. You’ll thank me.

Type: Trail, Suitable for ice-covered roads
Weight: 13 ounces unisex
Stack Height: 18 millimeters/12 millimeters
Drop: 6 millimeters

La Sportiva Men's Blizzard GTX
CREDIT: Courtesy of Zappos

Hoka Speedgoat 4 Gore-tex 2 Shoes

Best Cushioned Winter Running Shoes

If you enjoy soft, cushioned landings and thick slabs of foam between your feet and the ground, the Hoka Speedgoat 4 is for you. This maximum cushioned trail shoe has a whopping 39.5 millimeter of Hoka’s Injected EVA midsole under the heel. It’s not a fast shoe, but it’s a comfortable shoe — perhaps one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve tested. The grippy outsole is made with Vibram Megagrip Hi-Traction with large five-millimeter lugs that perform beautifully in both snow-covered trails and roads. While technically a trail shoe, given the shoe nature of the midsole, it’s perfectly suitable for road running, too. It also comes in a high-top version for those extra snowy days.

Type: Trail, Suitable for roads
Weight: 12.2 ounces men’s; 10.2 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 39.5 millimeters/35.5 millimeters
Drop: 4 millimeters

Hoka Speedgoat 4 Gore-tex 2
CREDIT: Courtesy of REI

Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX Shoes

Best Runner-Up Winter Trail Shoes

Grip and rip wintery trails in complete confidence with these aggressively lugged snow monsters. This neutral trail shoe takes a few runs to break in, but once it is, it’s a blast to wear. You’ll plow through snow and mud with the ease of a snowmobile. Between its toothy outsole, PWRRUN midsole and heavy weight, the shoes run on the firmer end of the spectrum, making them a great option for heavier runners who need a stable shoe. No winter running shoe would be complete without a waterproof upper. Saucony went with the best — the lightweight and formfitting Gore-tex Invisible Fit.

Type: Trail, Suitable for snowy roads
Weight: 12.8 ounces men’s; 9.3 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 27 millimeters/23 millimeters
Drop: 4 millimeters

Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nordstrom

Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex Shoes

Best Hybrid Trail/Road Winter Shoes

Some trail shoes inherently run well on roads in addition to off-road. It’s no surprise that the Nike Pegasus Trail, the trail version of our best winter road shoe, would be one such shoe. A modest lug depth gives just enough traction when there’s a dusting of snow on the ground without feeling too harsh on concrete. The midsole features Nike React foam, which I’ve been a fan of since it was introduced in 2017 for its seemingly contradictory soft yet responsive and durable characteristics. The sharp-looking waterproof Gore-tex upper is as good-looking as it is functional. If you split your time between road and trails and don’t like the idea of buying two dedicated winter shoes, the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex is your solution.

Type: Trail, Suitable for roads
Weight: 11.1 ounces men’s; Unknown women’s
Stack Height: 24.5 millimeters/15 millimeters
Drop: 9.5 millimeters

Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nordstrom

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 RunShield Shoes

Best for Speed Workouts

Just because it’s cold, dark and snowy doesn’t mean you have to skip your speed session. Nail your pace in complete confidence with dry, warm feet in this water-resistant version of Saucony’s premier speedster. An extra thermal layer in the upper keeps your feet warm. Underfoot, the ride quality is fast, fun and nicely cushioned. A full-length nylon plate sandwiched between Saucony’s ultralight PWRRUN PB midsole is fine-tuned for speed workouts. This winterized version retains everything I love about the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, but with a warmer and water-resistant upper.

Type: Road
Weight: 7.9 ounces men’s; 7 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 35.5 millimeters/27.5 millimeters
Drop: 8 millimeters

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 RunShield
CREDIT: Courtesy of Saucony

Asics Gel-Kayano 28 AWL Shoes

Best Stability Winter Running Shoes

Ever since its inception, the Asics Gel-Kayano has long been thought of as the gold standard for stability and supportive shoes. Now, this flagship stability shoe is available in a winterized version with a water-resistant upper with added reflectivity for better visibility in the dark. While still a firmer riding shoe, the newer versions are more forgiving and smoother than the earlier models thanks to the FF Blast midsole. A TPU external heel counter cradles and stabilizes the heel, while the Dynamic DuoMax Support System controls inward rolling.

Type: Road
Weight: 11.9 ounces men’s; 10 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 23 millimeters/13 millimeters men’s; 25 millimeters/12 millimeters
Drop: 10 millimeters men’s; 13 millimeters women’s

Asics Gel-Kayano 28 AWL
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Inov-8 Oroc Ultra 290 Shoes

Best Winter Minimalist Running Shoes

While this may not be a minimalist zero-drop shoe in pure form, it’s a great alternative when it comes to wet, winter slop and muddy terrain. With a very modest low-to-the-ground 13-millimeter heel/seven-millimeter toe stack height, it’s got outstanding ground sensitivity with one heck of a grippy outsole. It gets its traction from an aggressive five-millimeter lug with two spikes protruding from each lug, something inov-8 calls Twin-Spike technology. If the six-millimeter drop is a deal-breaker, I suggest checking out the zero drop Altra Lone Peak RSM.

Type: Trail, Suitable for snow-covered roads
Weight: 10.1 ounces unisex
Stack Height: 13 millimeters/7 millimeters
Drop: 6 millimeters

Inov-8 Oroc Ultra 290
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

The North Face Women’s Flight Vectiv Guard FutureLight Shoes

Best Waterproof Running Shoes

Stomp through the deepest of puddles with the utmost confidence your feet will stay dry in these fully sealed and waterproof trail shoes. They feature an ankle-high zippered gaiter made with The North Face’s proprietary breathable-waterproof FutureLight membrane that keeps your feet protected from snow and water. The midsole runs on the firmer side of the cushioning spectrum, composed of a dual-density high rebound foam with a 3D carbon fiber plate featuring a rocker profile that gently propels you forward with each footstrike. For damp and wet conditions, these are hands down the best waterproof shoes I’ve ever tested.

Type: Trail, Suitable for snowy roads
Weight: 12.5 ounces men’s; 10.8 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 27 millimeters/21 millimeters
Drop: 6 millimeters

The North Face Flight Vectiv Guard FutureLight
CREDIT: Courtesy of Backcountry

Under Armour Hovr Sonic 4 Storm Shoes

Best High-Tech Winter Running Shoes

The Sonic was one of Under Armour’s first running shoes to feature a Hovr midsole, and I’ve been hooked from the beginning. It’s no doubt one of the smoothest and most responsive midsoles on the market. Now you can enjoy the same smooth and responsive ride that I love so much in a water-repellant version. It’s outfitted with a UA Storm technology-treated upper that repels water while maintaining excellent breathability. For all the high-tech data fanatics, there’s a small Bluetooth chip embedded in the heel that keeps track of key run data and automatically uploads to MapMyRun.

Type: Road
Weight: 9.9 ounces men’s; 8.8 ounces women’s
Stack Height: 31 millimeters/23 millimeters
Drop: 8 millimeters

Under Armour Hovr Sonic 4 Storm
CREDIT: Courtesy of Under Armour

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