The Best Running Shoes for Winter Miles

·12 min read
Photo credit: Stephen Matera
Photo credit: Stephen Matera


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Just because it’s cold, snowy, rainy, or a downright blizzard outside doesn’t mean the treadmill is your only option. There are plenty of winter running shoes that boast weatherproof features and can keep you on your favorite outdoor routes all season. Whether you’re hitting slushy sidewalks, roads slicked with black ice, or frozen singletrack piled with snow and mud, there’s a shoe that offers the grip and protection you’ll need.

Check out quick info on our five top tested shoes below, then scroll deeper for even more options plus additional buying advice from our gear experts and links to the full reviews.

Cold Temps, Hot Features

One thing to keep in mind when shopping for winter shoes is preventing soggy socks before they lead to frozen feet. Many brands create “GTX” versions of their most popular shoes—like Brooks’s Ghost or Nike’s Pegasus—with a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane on the upper so that the trainer can withstand rain, snow, and sludge. Another feature to seek out when choosing winter running footwear is a reliable outsole with grippy lugs. If you’re slogging through whatever weathered terrain Mother Nature has laid out for you, outsoles with pronounced lugs will guard against slipping and sliding.

Finally, of course, you want your winter shoes to keep your feet warm. Shoes with an integrated knit sock, plus a durable upper mesh with overlays, will provide warmth as well as extra protection. Many of the shoes below even offer integrated gaiter attachments (because no one likes getting snow in their shoes). If you know you’ll be running through stretches of deep snow, opt for a “mid” style of your favorite running shoe or fast hiker, if its available. The higher cut will keep you covered past the ankle.

How We Chose These Shoes

Every shoe on this list has been vetted or tested by our editors here at Runner’s World or by members of our capable wear-test team. In addition to our own research, we’ve spoken with product engineers, consulted user feedback and reviews, and utilized our own extensive experience with the running shoe industry. We also analyze data from our RW Shoe Lab and mechanical tests, where we’ve checked and re-checked each shoe’s energy return, measured its midsole softness and flexibility, and assessed its stability features. We’ve handpicked each of the 12 pairs below based on value, test impressions, expert recommendations, and how the shoe performs overall in cold temperatures and wintry conditions.

Brooks Divide 2

As its name implies, the Divide 2 is for runners who split their workouts between the road and trail. Like its predecessor, it still comes at a bargain price for multi-terrain newbies venturing off smoother surfaces. A rock plate in the forefoot shields your foot from whatever obstacles await you on a less-groomed path. Though its tread pattern is less aggressive compared to the brand’s other offerings—like the Caldera and Cascadia—the Divide’s sticky lugs and wide, stable heel made it feel surprisingly grippy and secure to our testers. “This shoe had great traction without feeling cumbersome,” one said. “Transitions from road to trail felt seamless, and it performed well on both wet and dry terrain.”

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On Cloudflyer Waterproof

Marrying a fashionable waterproof upper with an unconventional midsole, On’s Cloudflyer delivers a mix of weather-resistance, cushioning, and lightweight stability that won’t slow you down. Though not pillowy soft, the cushioning still feels forgiving thanks to the hollow CloudTec units underfoot, which collapse individually with each footstrike to absorb impact. These “clouds” provide a stable base, and they’re shaped to be softer on the outer edge of the heel and firmer on the inner edge to combat overpronation without heavily interfering with your stride. Now the sole has been updated with a forked groove down the middle for improved flexibility. “The Cloudflyer’s ride is up there with the best tempo shoes I’ve worn—you get a quick turnover and springy liftoff,” said one tester. “There may not be a lot of cushioning in the heel, but I’ll definitely be wearing it in my next 5K or 10K race.”

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Topo Athletic MTN Racer 2

The second MTN Racer shares the same Vibram rubber outsole that earned the shoe’s debut model high praise for its excellent traction. “I ran on all imaginable East Coast trail surfaces—runnable flats, wicked climbs, technical downs, muddy spots,” said a tester. “The shoe responded perfectly to each and every one of them. The grip of the shoe is perhaps its best feature.” But this update is better suited for whatever Jack Frost might dish out this winter. A sturdy TPU heel counter lends more support over icy patches, and a new midsole foam feels softer and more responsive underfoot. (It’s also less likely to firm up and deaden, as some EVA-based materials can when the temperatures plunge below freezing.) Though the MTN Racer doesn’t have a rock plate, testers found there’s just enough cushioning to protect your feet on all but the rockiest terrain.

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Merrell Moab Flight

Over the years, Merrell’s Moab—short for “Mother Of All Boots”—has become the most popular and most sold hiking boot in the world. The Flight is a recent evolution of the best-selling hiker that’s been pared-down and lightened-up to give trail runners a taste of the Moab action. A taller drop and stout build preserve some of that “fast hiker” feel, but also make the Flight more accessible to runners coming from high-offset road trainers like Brooks’s Ghost or Asics’s Kayano. The Flight uses none of the dense EVA foam found on the original Moab, and instead recruits Merrell’s new FloatPro midsole. This material feels lighter and softer, and relies on its thickness rather than a rock plate to add protection underfoot. It results in a burlier ride, but offers a seriously appealing amount of cush per dollar. “I run on gravely and muddy bridle paths, dirt roads and pavement, and general trail slop both up hills and down. These Merrells were grippy, supportive, and crazy durable,” one tester said.

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Brooks Ghost 14 GTX

Brooks removed the BioMoGo DNA portion of the Ghost 14’s midsole, so now the shoe uses entirely DNA Loft underfoot. (You’ll find the same construction on the Ghost’s plusher sibling, the Glycerin.) As the brand’s softest foam, Loft gives the 14th version of this shoe a forgiving ride over long distances, but doesn’t feel slow or mushy. Our testers didn’t detect any loss of energy return with the new midsole foam adjustment. “The Ghost had a nice balance of cushioning and firmness during turnover,” said a tester, adding that the shoe felt more responsive than the Glycerin and Adrenaline GTS. “I personally won’t use these for speedwork or short-distance races, but it was faster than I expected.” Heel and midfoot strikers described the cushioning as not too soft, yet appreciated how fresh their legs felt as they ran high mileage on hard surfaces. The GTX version preserves the smooth ride of the standard model, but keeps out slush while you’re dodging snowbanks and splashing through puddles.

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VJ Ultra

While VJ models like the Maxx and the XTRM are specifically built for obstacle course racing and trail running, the Ultra is the first shoe from the brand that is specifically designed for mega-distance. It adds considerably more cushioning underfoot for spending hours to days on the trail. The butyl-rubber outsole is studded with 4mm, chevron-shaped lugs, which give the Ultra a really tacky hold on wet, jagged surfaces. “The traction this shoe had in all conditions was insane,” said one tester. “I ran these shoes through everything from bone-dry trails to monsoon summer rainstorms and was blown away—definitely the most grip I’ve had on a trail shoe, hands down. On short road stretches, the feeling is like walking across a dirty dive bar floor on a hot summer day—sticky.”

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Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270

A thin layer of Inov-8’s Graphene-infused outsole rubber and water-dispersing 4mm lugs let the TerraUltra tackle all the frozen slop you’ll hit on the streets post-snowstorm. Though the upper’s exterior doesn’t incorporate rugged ballistic nylon—the same material used in the construction of bulletproof vests—like that of the brand’s X-Talon G 235, it doesn’t lack durability. Its slick rubber overlays quickly shed any splattered slush that might weigh you down, and its lighter AdapterFit mesh with a widened toe box allows for a more comfortable fit over longer distances. You’ll also find a 3mm-thicker stack of softer PowerFlow Max foam underfoot, which feels bouncier on unforgiving frosted dirt and gravel. “This shoe offers the perfect marriage of a hiking boot’s grip and the smooth, firmly cushioned ride of a road shoe,” one tester said.

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Salomon Ultra Glide

Traditionally, Salomon’s speedy kicks earn their reputation for being fast, for sure, but also are quite firm, aggressive, and narrow—better suited for elites than mid-pack runners. The Ultra Glide is Salomon’s most cushioned and most accessible trail shoe. “The first time I wore the shoe was on day 5 of a 327-mile FKT run in April 2021,” said our video producer, Pat Heine. “The upper provided enough protection for my tired feet when I inevitably kicked rocks and roots, while the rockered sole and extra cushion underfoot took the sting out of pavement and extra-rocky sections—enough for me to keep the shoe on for 75 miles.” However, we found that it stumbles a bit on big mountains. The shoe held firm while scrambling on dirt trails, but the traction didn’t inspire confidence on wet slabs of rock near the Adirondack summits. Save the Ultra Glide for off-road treks where you’ll be hitting portions of deep snow on the trail rather than sheets of ice on the sidewalk.

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La Sportiva Karacal

With many of the same features and even similar-sounding names, the Jackal and the Karacal are mountain-running kin. But, the newer Karacal takes some important learnings from its older sibling by dropping a bit of weight and adding a touch of breathability. Its lightened web of overlays still shield against snags and offer stability through the midfoot and heel. Both shoes use 3mm impact-braking lugs with rectangular shapes, spilt into two opposing triangles, to increase the treads’ ground contact area. This staggered design helps the outsoles absorb shock and also boost traction; each lug bites into uphills like a tooth chomping into an apple, and brakes like a car on the downhills so you don’t slide in ice and snow. However, the Karacal uses a harder rubber that trades some of the Jackal’s tacky grip for increased durability—a fair swap for runners who want a shoe that will last through long and brutal winters. “I most liked this shoe’s rock protection for tough, technical mountain training. Anybody who has run a trail in Pennsylvania understands the treachery of our particular geology,” one tester said. “The foot sits deep and snug in the Karacal while the embedded rock plate and reinforced forefoot bumper protect against the inevitable toe buster.”

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Saucony Peregrine 11 ST

A wide platform and low drop give the Peregrine 11 ST a stable feel, an upgrade to premium Pwrrun+ topsole cushioning offers more go-fast energy return, and a forefoot rock plate shields against protruding roots and stones. But you’ll also find those features on the standard Peregrine 11 model. What sets the ST apart is its muck-loving outsole and upper, which make the 11 ST ideal for slogging through slush and muddy trails. The toothy lugs are 1.5mm longer, with more spacing between each to shed snow quickly, and the upper uses abrasion-resistant mesh outfitted with quick lacing. (To secure the shoe, just cinch the skinny bungee cords and stow them inside the tongue—there’s no fiddling with frozen bunny ears.) Plus, the entire shoe is cloaked in its own mud guard, an outer debris-resistant mesh bolstered by overlays to block seepage. “This Saucony was exceptional across the board,” said one tester, “wonderfully responsive and capable across deep mud and loose gravel to snow, with an amazing fit that needed none of my usual lacing tricks.”

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Hoka Challenger ATR 6

With its sticky 4mm lugs providing traction in snow and mud, the Challenger ATR excels in winter conditions for its versatility. “On a single trail run, I was moving over rocks, roots, leaves, and then into fields and a long road section,” one tester said. “These shoes did well across all conditions.” Though the upper isn’t waterproof, you can grab a GTX version for both men and women. However, when paired with a thick wool sock, we found even the non-GTX model provided solid warmth and protection in all but frigid temps. The tall, plush midsole feels soft—but not mushy—while keeping your feet far from the cold ground. The Speedgoat 4 is another Hoka favorite among our testers, but they liked that the Challenger comes in a full ounce lighter.

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Altra Lone Peak 5

Though not as light as its speedier sibling, Altra’s Superior, the flexible Lone Peak is nimble on rock-strewn surfaces and provides reliable traction. (It shares the Superior’s grippy MaxTrac outsole with angled TrailClaw lugs for navigating slushy paths.) With its fifth iteration, the shoe has received an overhaul of updates, including a new Ego midsole—which was previously dual-layered EVA. This switch is a boon for runners who want more cushioning without the extra weight. “The midsole provides many happy miles of running on technical trails,” said a tester, “but it’s not over-cushioned where it adds unnecessary bulk, making the shoe feel heavy or clumsy underfoot.” If you’re expecting especially dicey trail conditions, grab the men’s or women’s Lone Peak All-Wthr Low instead. This version incorporates a more resilient and water-repellant bootie upper that performs better in sleet and mud.

Full Review Buy Men’s Buy Women’s

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