Summary List Placement
- Winter running means slick, wet conditions, so you need shoes designed to keep you warm, dry, and safe.
- We tested 15 running shoes and connected with a run coach to narrow down our top 7 picks.
- Our top pick, Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Shield, is a bouncy, waterproof road shoe with superb traction.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Running any time of year can feel hard, but during the winter you have the added taxation of temperatures that drop below freezing and slick, dangerous road conditions. To start or maintain a regular run routine, though, all you need is a collection of reliable gear. Quality winter running shoes will carry you for miles over snow, salt, water, and mud while keeping you warm and dry.
As an avid runner in New York City, I know firsthand how the cold months can deter you from lacing up and getting outside. But I’ve found having a set of sturdy winter running shoes definitely keeps me motivated to move.
While you can add a few accessories to your regular running shoes to winterize them, investing in a pair of winter running shoes with thicker lugs for better traction, Gore-Tex or other kinds of waterproofing, and special drainage features go a long way in keeping you safe in wet, slick conditions.
I spoke with Linnley Sweeney, RRCA-certified running coach, ACE-certified personal trainer, and run coach at Salt Lake City Running Company about what to look for in a quality pair of winter running shoes, and used those parameters to test 15 pairs of shoes alongside Insider’s health and fitness updates editor, Rachael Schultz.
To narrow down the list of the best winter running shoes, I not only wore them on snowy and muddy runs in New York City and Pennsylvania but also tested their waterproof and traction skills in the bathtub to see what stood up to super wet conditions and slick surfaces. Rachael tested our trail-specific picks on the snowy, rocky trails of Colorado’s mountains.
I’ve included more specifics about how we tested below, as well as some insight into what to look for in a winter running shoe and tips for safer winter running. And although we exclusively tested the women’s version of the following sneakers, each one also comes in a men’s size, as well.
Here are the best winter running shoes:
- Best overall: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Shield
- Best on a budget: Altra Superior 4.5
- Best for wide feet: Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 GORE-TEX
- Best for narrow feet: Saucony Peregrine ICE+
- Best for long tuns: New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1
- Best for speed runs: NOBULL Trail Runner
- Best for trail runs: Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Shield provides bounce back as you run, so you don’t sacrifice speed or comfort, while also offering protection from the winter elements.
Pros: Lightweight, springy, great waterproofing, superior traction
Cons: Can feel a little tight around the top of the midfoot, will feel narrow for wide feet
Every other shoe on this list is a trail shoe with thick lugs on the outsole, but the Pegasus 37 Shield, is designed specifically to take on slick road conditions — and it does not disappoint.
While running over slushy and slightly snowy spots (as well as carefully jogging over icy patches), these shoes still made me feel confident and steady on my feet. The traction — what Nike dubs Storm-Tread — actually replicates the textures you’d find on tires, so the shoes are super grippy, even without lugs.
Stepping into the snow, these shoes not only kept my feet dry, and during the tub test, they actually still stayed totally dry even as I kicked them around in water. The toe area and most of the top of this sneaker is water repellent in a way that makes moisture bead up and runoff. Even with that H2O shield, the shoe doesn’t have a stiff or air-blocking upper. You get flexibility with each step.
Above all, this shoe stands out for its energy return, providing a little bounce to your stride, which you won’t get from other shoes on the list. It definitely feels like a running shoe you could wear every day and one that’ll keep your feet comfortable through many, cold miles.
One caveat: These Nikes give a squeeze of support from the upper, which can feel a little too tight at times. I simply loosened up the laces and all felt good, but something to keep in mind if you have a wider foot shape.
Best on a budget
For a wallet-friendly shoe option that still has winterized features, the Altra Superior 4.5 stands out as a top choice.
Pros: Less expensive, super lightweight, springy, good traction
Cons: Runs narrow at the midfoot, has good drainage but not full water resistance
Slipping into these shoes feels like your feet are getting a hug — which sounds cheesy, but it’s also true. Rather than pulling straight out, the tongue of the shoe wraps around the top of the foot which makes the shoe overall feel snug. And thanks to the stretchy material on the upper and in the lining of the shoe, it’s also super soft under and around the foot.
When it comes to handling winter weather, the outsole and multi-directional lugs of the Superior keep you steady on your feet so you’re not slipping all over the roads as you run. The one big downside is these shoes aren’t fully water-resistant, let alone waterproof. However, they will keep your feet dry on lightly wet roads. If it’s really raining, the drainage vents in the front of the shoe also stop you from having to slog through each step.
Though these do run narrow, the shoe still holds Altra’s signature foot shape, giving you room in the toe box for your digits to splay so you can push off your big toe as you run. It also has zero drop, meaning the heel and forefoot are equal distance from the ground, giving you a more natural, barefoot feel.
Because these are so lightweight, flexible, and bouncy, they work well for sprint workouts or when you’re simply looking to feel light and fast on your feet. Best yet, you get all these features for just over $100.
Best for wide feet
If you’re looking for a roomier shoe, complete with water resistance and lugs for traction, the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 GORE-TEX makes your match.
Pros: Spacious, lightweight, water-resistant, good traction
Cons: A little stiff
With a broad shape and lots of room in the toe area, the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 GORE-TEX works well for people with a wider foot. These Hokas also stand out for offering both softness and stability, courtesy of the foam midsole, internal heel counter, and solid support underfoot. They also feature Hoka’s signature cushioning, which combines a lightweight feel (despite the thick look) and shock absorbency.
The GORE-TEX bootie on these sneakers translates to superb waterproofing (plus you get water-resistant mesh up top), so you can run through puddles and light snow without your feet getting soaked. The lugs and outsole design also keep you from slipping on slick surfaces and help you safely glide over snow patches and other uneven terrains.
Despite the thicker outsole, these shoes feel light, weighing in at 9 ounces (that’s with the water-repelling finish that typically adds some weight to shoes). The biggest downside is that these shoes do feel a little stiff underfoot, particularly when you first put them on, but it doesn’t hold you back from clocking miles or pushing your pace.
Best for narrow feet
Get winter protection, like water-repellency, traction, and warmth from the Saucony Peregrine ICE+, which offers a tight fit for those with slender feet.
Pros: Superior water protection and traction, warm, soft feel, snug fit
Cons: Tighter fit might not work for some
These shoes feel soft as soon as you step into them, which makes you want to go out and run. I love that the plush, cushiony feel lasted through the miles too, giving me support and warmth as I tackled my winter runs.
To fight off the elements, this shoe has a water-resistant upper. When put through the tub test, water droplets simply rolled right off, keeping my feet dry (even in heavily wet conditions). These shoes also have a Vibram outsole, complete with what the brand calls Arctic Grip. That definitely showed up as I trekked over slick snow and slush — the grip grabbed onto the surface and made me feel steady.
To add to the comfort level, these Sauconys are flexible and don’t feel bulky, despite the added winter-friendly features. Because of their snug fit, these work well for those with slender feet. But keep in mind they do run small, so if you’re making your purchase and don’t have a narrow foot shape, you’ll want to size up.
Best for long runs
The run coach-recommended New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1 offers lots of cushioning and room for your feet to move freely — a great combo for long runs.
Pros: Superior cushioning and traction, roomy around forefoot and toes, super comfortable
Cons: They can carry some wetness
These New Balance shoes felt almost sock-like when I first laced ’em up. And they stood up to that comfort level as I moved through miles, too, offering a plush feel on the landing of each step. It’s New Balance’s Fresh Foam thick outsole that creates this cushy feel and that also shields you from debris, like salt on the roads or pieces of ice you might encounter as you move.
Even though these shoes look like they’d be heavy, they’re still lightweight, weighing just under nine ounces.
With a lugged outsole, the More Trail shoe also strongly grips the ground, which you need for the snow and rain — both conditions that these sneakers stood up against.
The biggest drawback of these shoes is their water-resistance. But When kicked around in an inch of water for the tub test, they did take in some water and weren’t able to drainage much, so they won’t keep you dry on super rainy days or if you’re dashing big puddles. However, when I tested them outside on snow and lightly wet conditions, they stayed dry just fine, so it’s only an issue if you’re looking for a shoe to handle wetter winter weather.
Sweeney recommended these shoes as one of her go-tos for winter running. The combo of traction, cushioning, and softness make them a smart choice.
Best for speed
For a super lightweight running shoe that’ll help you catch some speed (without slipping), go for the NOBULL Trail Runner.
Pros: Lightweight, superior traction, reflectivity, ultra-breathable, small business
Cons: Not water-resistant, can be chilly if you’re not moving fast
Weighing just under eight ounces, these lightweight runners make you feel fast on your feet. I loved that they didn’t hold me back from quicker speed runs on wet-but-not-icy days, and still made me feel safe with the durable outsole and lugs that offer top-notch tread. You also get flexibility in the forefoot, support through the midfoot, and lots of breathability throughout. (If you’re walking in these shoes, the breathability can feel cold, so they’re not for non-running days in winter.)
One feature that other winter running shoes on the list don’t offer: reflectivity. That makes the NOBULLs a smart option for anyone running in low light conditions, like the early morning or later evening. You’ll find reflection in the yarns throughout the upper, on the brand label, and in the laces.
These shoes don’t offer as much water protection as other shoes on the list, though they are water-resistant. They’re just not the top choice for super rainy or wet conditions. They also take some time to dry, so wouldn’t be the best for running in wet conditions day after day.
Best for trail runs
If you’re running technical, rocky trails that are currently covered in snow, mud, or slush, Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX will keep your feet dry, stable, and comfortable for miles year-round.
Pros: Super lightweight, unbeatable traction, well-cushioned, fully waterproof, multi-season, fits many foot shapes
Cons: Not suitable for road, some people don’t like the Quicklace system
The Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX‘s aggressive lugs have no trouble digging into mud, snow, or rocky terrain, and fight back against ice really well, so they’re ideal whether your trails are fully covered in powder or you’re working with ever-changing conditions on half-melted paths.
They’re fully protected with GORE-TEX, which is ideal when you’re kicking up a lot of snow or working with wetness. After a dozen runs in these on snowy, slushy, and muddy trails, I have yet to get my feet wet. And while GTX can sometimes make a shoe heavy and stiff, these feel neither on-trail.
Despite not having a rockplate, I’ve never had an issue with rocks jutting into them; the deep multi-directional lugs, durable exterior, and welded overlay toe bumper work well enough to keep you protected on all sides.
The Speedcross 5s features a very comfortable, cushioned outsole; floating tongue (which is both more comfortable and helps keep water out); and the brand’s signature Quicklace system. Some people don’t like the Quicklace simply because it’s different than the habitual tying-a-bow, but the technology actually helps your shoe tighten around the sides of your feet so it fits more comfortably. As someone with a wider toe box, I love the customization of fit here. I also love the Quicklace system on a winter runner since it’s an easier way to loosen or tighten your shoes when your fingers are frozen.
The Speedcross 5 have a 10mm drop, which is common in trail runners but way deeper than the more common 0-4mm drop on road runners. If you already run on a lower drop, your biomechanics would be better off with something like the Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX. But if you’re an avid trail runner, particularly on hilly terrain, it probably isn’t a con at all.
I particularly like the Speedcross 5s because their reliable traction makes them multi-purpose in a mountain town — I wear them regularly off-trail when walking the dog or grabbing a coffee on icy days to feel safe underfoot. And since they’re pretty breathable and very lightweight, they’ll also serve you well as waterproof trail runners in the summer. I wouldn’t wear these on-road runs, though (they’re way too stiff). –Rachael Schultz
What else we tested
What else we recommend
- La Sportiva Jackal GTX Women’s ($170): If I could choose one more shoe to go on the list above it would be this one. It’s super comfy right out of the box — I love the heel cup and how snug it felt on my foot, while still giving my toes room to breathe. The setback is that they’re a bit heavy and on the pricier side. If you’re looking for a shoe to transport you through the seasons, from winter running to spring hiking, or to go super long distance, these would be a solid go-to. I’ll definitely be wearing these on the trails post-snow.
- Under Armour UA HOVR Phantom 2 ColdGear Reactor Running Shoes ($170): These also get a major honorable mention, specifically for the water-repellant finish, higher-cut construction, and rebound abilities. The winter features just didn’t quite stand up to the competitors. Since UA has a partnership with MapMuRun and these have built-in tracking technology, these shoes are a nice option if you live in a warmer state and want a shoe that automatically records your stats.
- Brooks Cascadia 15 GTX ($160): If you love Brooks and want added, next-level traction, these could match your run needs. They have amazing arch support underfoot and a GORE-TEX waterproof finish that keeps wetness out. But they’re pretty stuff underfoot, so they didn’t make our list.
- Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 ($135): These shoes almost beat out Hoka for the wide feet option, but they aren’t water resistant and held onto the water that seeped into the shoe. This could certainly lead to running with uncomfortably wet feet. However, they are super spacious, particularly in the forefoot and toe area, have great arch support and a stable heel cup, plus their traction stand outs on slippery terrain. Another pro: They’re a small business, so you can feel extra good about supporting.
- Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX ($150): These beloved trail runners are waterproof; have reliable, multidirectional lugs; and fit and feel much more like a road runner than a trail runner. For rocky, mountain terrain, the Speedcross are more reliable underfoot, but if you are running softer, lower-incline trails, or you want the cushioning and lower drop (4mm) of a road runner, the Peregrine will be a better pick for you. —Rachael Schultz
What we don’t recommend
- Under Armour UA HOVR Infinite 2 Storm Running Shoes ($130): I’m a big fan of the HOVR Infinite shoes and often run in them for phone-free tracking of my runs (these also have built-in MapMyRun integration). This edition offers the same spacious toe box and arch support I love about the HOVR Infinite, along with winter features. But they feel a little stiffer and less responsive than other sneakers on the list, so they didn’t make the cut.
- Merrell Antora 2 GORE-TEX ($140): These shoes fit a little lower around the ankle, which makes them feel less stable around the foot. They’re also stiffer than others on the list, likely due to the rock plate meant for the trails. Underneath, however, they have great tread (they feature a Vibram outsole), and a GORE-TEX waterproof finish, and still feel lightweight.
- Brooks Ghost 13 GTX ($160): While we generally love Brooks for road running, the GORE-TEX on the Ghost are heavy and stiff. These actually make for pretty decent light hikers since the traction is reliable and they’re waterproof, but this pair doesn’t have enough flexibility for a comfortable run — especially not enough to justify the higher price point. —Rachael Schultz
What we look forward to testing
One shoe that was not available for testing at the time of publication, but we look forward to trying in the future:
- The North Face Flight Vectiv ($199): The North Face’s latest athlete-approved trail shoe features a carbon plate and a design meant to propel you forward, while adding extra energy to your step and support underneath your feet.
How we tested
For starters, we took note of how each shoe felt right out of the box, as well as how they felt walking around. Because comfort is so key to running longer and stronger, we wanted to make sure they simply felt good on my feet.
We also took each shoe out for several runs of varying distances, from one mile to six miles, to see if the comfort lasted through each step. While comfort is a subjective test, we wanted to make sure these shoes didn’t cause blisters, rub in weird places or cause pain while running (or after running).
To figure out how well these shoes stood up to the elements, we wore these in snow, rain, and mud in New York City and Pennsylvania, and the trail runners in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We also kicked them around in deeper water in the bathtub to test how dry my feet stayed, plus pummeled with water under the faucet for an extra waterproof challenge.
Finally, a crucial feature you want in a shoe that stands up against winter terrain: extra traction. We took note of how stable it felt in these shoes while running on muddy, wet, and snowy roads and trails. We also tested the no-slip grips of each shoe in a slick bathtub and on wet bathroom tile to make sure they each had a solid shot at keeping us on our feet.
What to look for in winter running shoes
When looking for winter-friendly running shoes, Linnley Sweeney, RRCA-certified running coach, ACE-certified personal trainer, and run coach at Salt Lake City Running Company told Insider you actually want to look for hybrid trail shoes — the kind designed to work on both pavement and trail.
Most road shoes have a slick bottom, but trail shoes have large lugs (deep indentations in the rubber sole) meant to keep you from slipping on wooded or rocky trails. Opting for a hybrid shoe with heavy cushioning will deliver reliable tread without as much stiffness or as a full trail shoe, Sweeney said.
When searching for the perfect running shoes to take on winter weather, I knew we needed features like top-notch traction, durability, a waterproof finish, and reflective details when possible. But comfort is also a priority for running in any season. Sweeney suggests heading to a local running store to actually try the shoes on your feet. Many places will let you take them out for a test run, so you can make sure they fit well and feel comfy.
How to winterize regular runners
If you just don’t want to give up your regular road shoes (or buy a whole separate pair for the cold season), there are a few accessories that can make your summer pair safer in the snow. Sliding Yaktracks Run Traction Cleats or Kahtoola NANOspikes Traction System over your regular road shoes can add more spikey grip to your feet as you stride.
To keep snow or other wetness out of your sneakers, you can also opt for gaiters, like the Topo Performance Gaiter that goes around the top of your shoe and ankle and secures in place.
Tips for safer winter running
The most important thing to keep in mind before you head out to chase miles in the cold, no matter what shoes you’re wearing: Wait until it’s warm enough that you won’t slide on sneaky black ice, Sweeney said.
The other option, perhaps surprisingly, is to head out before the snow is plowed, since the roads are often less slippery than post-plow too, she added. To stay safe on the streets, Sweeney also suggested making sure you’re visible in low-light conditions, whether you’re wearing reflective shoes or clothes.