Winter is here in full force, and for many trail runners that means stomping through snow and slippery ice. If you’d rather chase Old Man Winter down a frosty trail than log miles on the dreadmill, now’s the time to start thinking about outfitting your feet for winter running.
The two major things to consider when it comes to winter running shoes are traction and waterproofing. Enhanced traction will help prevent slipping on ice and potential injuries resulting from that, and waterproofing gear designed to keep your feet warm and dry is crucial to avoiding frostbite and hypothermia.
Oregon-based professional ultrarunner and 2014 100 km World Champion Max King offered some tips and tricks on the best shoe winterization methods to keep you on your feet this season.
Winter-specific running shoes
Before we dive into how to winterize your existing fair weather shoes, the easiest — but most costly — solution to running in the cold, wet, and possibly slick months is to buy a shoe designed by the manufacturer for such conditions.
“Buying a winterized version of a shoe has its advantages because usually they have a waterproof or water-resistant upper that doesn’t allow snow and water to get in,” said King.
The Snowcross offers weather protection through a waterproof bootie with a zip gaiter, and enhanced traction courtesy of nine carbide-tipped spikes.
The Lone Peak NeoShell Mid is Altra’s new winter shoe that takes the NeoShell low to new heights, using Polartec waterproof breathable uppers to keep feet warm and dry. These bad boys don’t come with spikes, but utilize Maxtrac rubber traction technology with TrailClaw lugs for a solid grip. All Altra running shoes also come with a built-in gaiter trap to attach an extra layer of weatherproofing.
A couple of winter shoe options that don’t incorporate a bootie, but do use waterproof materials and traction technology designed to prevent slipping include the Saucony Peregrine ICE+ and Inov8 Arcticclaw 300.
The new Saucony Peregrine ICE+ uses the same PWRTRAC outsole that provide the aggressive traction three-season Peregrines are famous for, but the ICE+ integrates Vibram’s cutting-edge Arctic Grip technology in high impact foot zones. Arctic Grip is specifically engineered to provide traction on wet ice and is so remarkable that it took home the Digital Trends Outdoors Best Product of 2016 award.
The Arcticclaw 300 comes in both regular and Thermo, which adds a Primaloft insulation liner to keep your feet extra warm. Both models feature 16 tungsten carbide spikes spread throughout the forefoot and heel of the nobby outsole. Inov8’s 4-finger polymer PROTEC-SHANK technology runs along the traction spikes to shield your metatarsals from additional impact.
Although the weather-specific technologies used in designing winterized running shoes can drive up their retail price, keep in mind that you probably won’t be using them nearly as much as your regular running shoes, so one pair might last more than one season. The decision to purchase a new pair of running shoes made to handle ice and cold weather or modify the pair you’ve been running in all year is based on personal preference, and may vary depending on regional climates and runner’s lifestyles.