Last Updated December 2018: We’ve added new picks and insights. Prices and links have also been updated.
Winter runners are a hardy breed. They’re acclimated to face-numbing winds and sub-freezing temperatures. They possess the extra fortitude needed to get outdoors during the year’s darker days. Such people require a like-minded shoe that’s able to cope with winter’s full assault. Amid everything from straight-up powder to icy rain and perpetual mud, they need shoes that grip, retain warmth and stay dry. Let it be known: the following running shoes are not to be used on treadmills or indoor tracks.
Adidas Ultraboost All Terrain
Boost foam isn’t just sequestered to summer running shoes and casual kicks. The Ultraboost now features a water-repellent coating and an ankle splash guard. The Primeknit upper is easy to get wet, so it was surprising to run through the aftermath of a hot day post-snowstorm melt and have dry socks afterward. The Continental rubber outsole lets you stop, pivot and go in one fluid motion without being too grippy or too loose. Word to the wise: Don’t let the high cut deceive you. You should still wear socks with this model.
Weight: 12 oz.
Waterproof: ultra-thin film on Primeknit Upper
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Shield
As the lead sponsor of Tough Mudder races, Merrell knows how to make shoes that will take you through a football field of mud, over a massive wall and in and out of an ice bath. The brand has worked hard to perfect shoes that help you succeed and avoid ending the challenge with chunks of dirt in your shoes — whatever it takes to get that orange headband. The Trail Glove 4 Shield mimics barefoot running, so if that’s your prefernce, these are for you. The shield treatment is water-resistant and the burrito tongue wraps around the top of your foot to prevent water and debris from sneaking in.
Weight: 8 oz.
Water-resistance: M Select Shield Treatment
New Balance 880v8 GTX
The NB 880v8 GTX, like the MQM Flex, comes complete with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane. That means you’ll still have a breathable knit upper while maintaining the weatherproofing. Plus, the two layers of foam on the sole give you the cushioned ride you’d expect from New Balance. The no-sew overlays mean less stitching, thus fewer holes for water to seep inside, and result in a slightly lighter weight package as compared to version seven. Take these out on long runs in the harshest environments.
Weight: 10.8 oz.
Waterproof: Upper with Gore-tex
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 Shield
While I’m a big fan of the Pegasus 34 Shield, the shoe underwent an overhaul this year. These wind-proof and waterproof dark kicks are sleek and warm and won’t look like they were ruined after one wear through puddles and slush. One of our testers wrote that “these are perfect winter trainers. They’re ideal for cold and snowy days. The watertight upper prevents ventilation which creates an unusual amount of heat…ironically perfect for a cold day.” The toggle lacing system takes some getting used to, but the sealed seams are worth it.
Weight: 9.4 oz.
Waterproof: Water-repellent upper
On Running Cloudflyer
Instead of treating the fabric with something that could eventually wash or wear off, Swiss brand On Running chose to do something decidedly more Swiss and create an upper that’s stretchy, breathable and made of water- and wind-proof material. The Cloudflyer wants to support you over hundreds of miles, so expect a comfortable first feel when you lace up. And reflective details like laces, and markings on the forefoot, heel and sole are important as the sun sets earlier and earlier.
Weight: 10.3 oz
Waterproof: On membrane is 100% water-proof
Salomon XA Elevate GTX
Salomon’s sneakers are engineered to tackle the toughest trails and now the road as well. This trail runner glides through mud and dirt, just as well as it does over rocks and mulch. Salomon sticks with its quicklace technology on these so you can just pull the laces together to tighten, plus they won’t slip and loosen along the way.
Weight: 11 oz
Waterproof: Water-resistant Gore-Tex mesh upper
UA HOVR GCR Connected
The adaptive Cold Gear Reactor (Under Armour’s proprietary material) inside these Under Armour shoes heats up in the cold, then breathes when your feet are warm enough. A smart upper is paired with Michelin rubber (the same on many car tires) on the sole so you don’t have to worry about black ice. And, UA’s proprietary HOVR foam allows for a soft landing with every footfall.
Weight: 11.7 oz
Waterproof: UA Storm technology upper
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