Our Favorite Winter Trail Running Shoes
Chill out and get outside with our editors’ top gear picks for December.
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Winter is here.
Snow is falling, temperatures are dropping. But here at Trail Runner, we’re still hitting the trails.
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Winter trail running shoes differ from their three-season counterparts in some key ways. Many include an integrated gaiter for keeping snow out and lugs that can easily accept ice screws for even burlier traction. Some might even have tech like Gore-Tex built in to help with weather-proofing (be aware that without a gaiter, your feet will likely still get wet if snow creeps in through the shoe’s opening).
When traction is essential, temperature management is mandatory, and you need a shoe that’s up to the task of winter trail running, these are the kicks our editorial staff recommends.
The North Face Flight VECTIV™ Guard FUTURELIGHT™ Shoes – $250
BEST FOR: Carbon plate for propulsion even in tricky conditions
There’s a reason these babies come with that price tag: these shoes are great for getting it done in sloppy terrain. Lightweight but sturdy, they combine TNF’s springy carbon-plate VECTIV technology with a waterproof-breathable Futurelight membrane and integrated gaiter.
A rockered midsole creates a sporty toe-off so that you’re not stuck slogging through the snow. The zippered Futurelight upper provides next-level protection so trail runners can rock their snowy, muddy runs without overheating. We love this shoe for it’s carbon-plate and quickness, though when conditions are truly gnarly, there’s only so much you can do.
Zoë Rom, Trail Runner Editor in Chief
RELATED: Our Coaches Answer Common Winter Training Questions
Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Low – $170
BEST FOR: Dancing nimbly over sloppy single-track
Running in the Lone Peak never ceases to surprise and delight me with how naturally my feet land, roll, grip and propel fearlessly over every type of terrain. I appreciate the fit most, its snug heel and midfoot opening up to a forefoot so generous I can sense my feet spreading out and grabbing the earth with each step.
Comfort and performance are enhanced by the smooth cushioning of the AltraEGO foam that compresses and coddles on touchdown then firms up quickly before delivering a lively, bouncy boost on push-off. I feel more protected while simultaneously closer and more in touch with the ground than the 25 millimeter stack height would suggest. And winter slop poses no threat for the toothy, grippy tread and the eVent upper that sheds water without feeling stiff or getting stuffy.
Jonathan Beverly, Outside Senior Running Gear Editor
La Sportiva Cyklon Cross GTX – $270 Winter came early here in western Montana, and that means ice. That means snow drifts. That means biting cold and windy ridgelines and frozen toes. Sure, I have microspikes. Sure, I’ve added sheetrock screws to the bottoms of an older pair, but who really wants to run in those for hours? The Cyklon Cross GTX offers a next-level experience on every front: the traction, the warmth, the durability. When I first took these out, it felt like I’d been driving a beat-up Honda Civic my whole life and all of a sudden was handed keys to a Land Rover. The BOA cinch lacing wraps the foot with great precision, while the Gor-Tex breathable membrane outer layer zips up the foot, snug as a gaiter, holding in warmth and shedding any moisture or snow that you run through. Be sure to wear long socks or tights because this gaiter can rub the ankle. The FriXion traction underfoot was enough to not need microspikes (though for steep and icy conditions, you may need some metal cleating.) This shoe raises the bar on winter running, and I’m here for it. – Nicholas Triolo, Senior Editor, Trail Runner and Outside Run