Winter Running Equipment – On the Feet

By Eric Carter, Ryan Kerrigan, Gary Robbins

A big chunk of our athletes spend at least some portion of the winter running on wet or snowy ground. There’s lots of advice out there for different footwear setups and sock combinations for winter running. We wanted to refocus on some of the issues that we find our athletes being caught unaware of, and some simple tips for buying winter gear.

Burlier micro-spikes with chains and large cleats are heavier but hold up well on difficult terrain and against embedded rocks. The cleats give good grip on ice and firm snow.

Wire based micro-spikes are lighter but less robust against damage. They also do not have as good grip on really firm snow and ice.

  • If you’re running on packed snow, it’s going to get icy and slippery. An aggressively lugged shoe will do well in powder snow but if you hit ice, you need studs installed on the shoes or strap-on micro-spikes.
  • Studs are a great solution if you’re in an area with several months or more of snow on the ground. This is because the studs are installed permanently and require their own dedicated pair of shoes.
  • Micro-spikes are better if you have shorter periods of running on snow or intermittent snow in the winter and want a removable option.
  • Choose a low-profile set of micro-spikes that fit tightly to your shoes to prevent snagging. Some models are designed as chains that hold together cleats. These are burly and strong with a bit more bite thanks to the cleat but slightly heavier and potential for tripping. Other models are wire based and slightly lower profile. These are lower profile and give better grip in snow but may still not provide grip on pure ice.
  • Running for extended periods in studded shoes or shoes with micro-spikes often results in calf, achilles, or foot pain. When you switch to snow running, dial back the volume slightly to allow your feet to become used to the different gait.
  • An insulated gore-tex shoe may not keep your foot completely dry (snow can still get in and you might actually sweat) but it does help keep you significantly warmer. A good pair of shoes will make a huge difference in what temperatures you can tolerate.
  • If you’re just visiting somewhere snowy or don’t yet have a pair of warmer winter shoes, adding a slightly thicker wool sock and then putting a plastic shopping bag over it will add significant insulation. It’s not perfect, but a good temporary fix.
  • Running poles with a large snow basket will help with balance on more difficult trails.

Wherever you are training this winter, choose a shoe/spike combo that will give you good grip and take your time getting used to training in the snow. It’s totally worth the effort!

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