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Winter Running: Part IV - Socks and Winter Weather Shoes

When thinking about warmth head to toe, of course one wants to think about warm socks and shoes. The key here is to think of these things as a system with components to adjust for maximum comfort and traction.


Because all running shoes have breathable mesh uppers, warm socks are a must for winter running. (Mesh is great for keeping your feet cooler in the summer, but in the winter, this design feature might be a drawback.) One way to achieve an ideal balance between breathability and warmth is to wear a merino wool sock. Merino wool is soft, comfortable, warm, and odor-resistant, making it an ideal addition to your low-temp running wardrobe. Feetures makes merino wool running socks in a variety of weights, as does SmartWool PhD. Most running sock brands also produce merino wool-polyester blend versions that will keep your foot warmer even when your feet get wet. If you are allergic to wool, however, I’d recommend trying Mizuno’s Breath Thermo range of running socks. As the socks absorb perspiration, the material heats up. That’s an awesome plus that makes this sock useful for all your outdoor activities.

You probably want to go with a longer crew-length sock in the winter. Otherwise, you’ll have a gap between your running tights and your socks, leaving you four inches of frostbitten misery just above your ankle. Mizuno literally has you covered! The Breath Thermo sock comes in a crew version.


Feetures Merino Wool                      SmartWool PhD               Mizuno Breath Thermo

Winter Weather Shoes

When conditions get particularly severe –– snow and ice covered roads and sidewalks, for instance –– you might prefer a running shoe designed for superior traction and water resistance. Trail running shoes are an excellent option for winter conditions because of their more aggressive outsole tread. Luckily, most running shoe companies produce trail models that will provide sufficient traction on snow and ice.

If the roads look like this…

Try these…


New Balance Summit             Brooks Cascadia                              Nike Terra Kiger

Running shoe companies are also producing shoes with uppers that provide more protection from the elements. Brooks offers its popular neutral shoe, The Ghost, in a Gore-Tex version that will keep your feet drier while allowing them to breathe. The popular Asics Cumulus comes in a Gore-Tex option as well. Nike produces several of its popular running shoes in Shield versions that have a DWR water-repellent finish and a water-repellent inner bootie to help keep feet drier in challenging conditions.

Need a more water-repellent upper? Try these options:


Brooks Gore-Tex Ghost          Asics Gore-Tex Cumulus           Nike LunarGlide Shield



If it looks like this outside, it might be time to check out a new variety of trail shoes specifically engineered for winter activity. Saucony has just released two trail running shoes that will see you through the worst winter conditions. Both the Peregrine ICE+ and the Razor ICE+ feature Vibram’s Arctic Grip outsole material in high contact areas. This material will allow you to stick to icy surfaces. Arctic grip for running shoes is only available on these two Saucony models. The Peregrine ICE+ also features a FLEXSHELL upper that’s highly water-resistant. If you find yourself wading through snow, however, you should check out the Razor ICE+s upper that features a fleece-lined neoprene bootie to help keep your feet warm and dry.


                Peregrine ICE+                                                            Razor ICE+

Add-on Traction 

Has someone told you that you have too many running shoes? There is no such thing! However, if you are happy with the shoes you have now and don’t want to buy a winter-specific shoe, consider adding on some Yaktrax. The RUN model is essentially a crampon designed for running shoes. They feature carbide steel spikes and steel coils for maximum traction on icy and snowy surfaces. Conveniently, they work with just about any running shoe. The Yaktrax website tells us that the RUN model can be worn in temperatures as low as ‑41° Fahrenheit. (Uh, I guess there are no longer any excuses to prevent us from running outside this winter…) 


No such thing as too many running shoes                            Yaktrax Run

Gear-wise you should now be set to run outdoors this winter in relative comfort –– no treadmills for you. Be sure to keep to the mantra of dressing 20 degrees warmer than it is so that you won’t overheat. If you are running in low light conditions be sure to have a combination of active (headlamp, clip-on strobe light, flashlight) and passive (reflective vest, reflective clothing) visibility.



Now that you have no more gear-related excuses, you’re going to have to find extra motivation to roll out of a comfy warm bed at 5:30 AM for a morning run. I’ll write about this critical part of winter running next time.

How do you keep your tootsies toasty in the winter? Any tips to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments.

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