Winter Running - Footwear Edition

Winter Running. Is it even possible? Yep!

While some of our conditions are not ideal for training outdoors, it is possible to keep up with your training even when nature has decided to supply some white stuff to add to the conditions.

We deal with a tremendous amount of fluctuation in Calgary. One run can be on clear paths and then 24 hours later, we have a foot of snow.  There are some things to assess before you choose your shoes and head out the door:

  1. What is the temperature? The sole of a shoe can change as the temperature drops. Brands do not supply the freezing point of their rubber compounds but usually if we stick to a "sticky" rubber, we have less of a chance of the shoe freezing and loosing traction when we need it most (Yes, like your car tires).
  2. Where are you running and are the paths cleared? Some pathways get cleared down to the concrete while others paths are "cleared" but still snow covered (and can be great to run on). Others paths may not be on the list to get cleared are reliant on the users to tamp down the snow with their feet. These three conditions can make the difference on choosing a road shoe, a trail shoe or a spiked shoe (or shoe with added spikes).

Using that criteria, here is what we would suggest for footwear for different scenarios:

Pathways are clear:Wear your normal road shoes and have a great run! If it is cold or there is chance of coming across ice, choose a road shoe with a decent grip. Some road shoes have limited high abrasion rubber on the bottom (mostly to keep the weight down) and utilize more blown rubber, which wouldn't be the best choice for winter. 

Pathways are snow covered but packed:Either a trail shoe or a grippy-er road shoe. Trail shoes can be a great way to gain some traction on snow but as trail shoes tend to be stiffer and firmer for cushion, at certain colder temperatures, they can feel very stiff and hard. If you have the option of trail shoes, go with a softer cushion and a sticky rubber bottom as both stay more soft in cold temps.

Pathways are snow covered and not clear at all: Trail shoes all the way! These will help you keep traction and give you some extra stability in the snow. Depending on how much snow, potentially added a grip or spikes to the shoe might be a good option.

Pathways are snow covered and have the potential of ice:Spikes! These can be in the form of a shoe that has carbide spikes built into it, or a shoe that you've added a spike to.  Using traction devices like cleats or spikes can help provide better grip in these conditions, but they may not be suitable for all types of feet (they can be tight for a wide foot). Traction devices can fit over top of most running shoes and doesn't matter if it is a road shoe or a trail shoe but make sure you get one that has a durable spike (carbide) and a sticky rubber surround so that it doesn't become slippery on dry pavement. 

So, what shoes do we think will be great for winter running? Here is some great choices:

Road Shoes: Any thing that has a decent amount of high abrasion rubber on the sole - you can feel the difference between high abrasion rubber and blown rubber. High abrasion rubber has a more substantial feel. Most moderate cushion road shoes and high cushion road shoes will have a decent amount of traction on the bottom. Lightweight shoes typically have more blown rubber and can become slippery.
Saucony makes a specific winter running shoe, the Peregrine ICE+ which has the Arctic Ice Grip from Vibram and features a special rubber compound that provides excellent traction on icy and slippery surfaces.

Trail Shoes: Anything with a sticky rubber bottom to it. It's important to note that the lug depth can also be a factor: lug depth greater 4mm does great for mud or deep snow but isn't always comfortable on hard surfaces.

  • Saucony: Peregrine (Peregrine ICE would also be great) and Xodus
  • New Balance: Trail Hierro and Summit Unknown
  • Hoka: Speedgoat, Challenger ATR and Torrent
  • Brooks: Cascadia and Caldera
  • Mizuno: Rider TT
  • Salomon: Speedcross

Spiked Shoes: These have a carbide spike embedded into them!

  • Salomon: Spikecross GTX
  • IceBug: Speed2 and NewRun

Traction Devices:

  • Nordic Grips (best for urban areas)
  • Kahtoola Microspikes (trail surfaces only)
  • IceSpikes: screw in microspikes that you can add to any shoe (we do prefer putting them into trail shoes)

It's important to note that conditions in Calgary (and Canada) can vary greatly, and it's best to choose shoes that are appropriate for the specific conditions in which you plan to run.

There is a lot to choose from and if you are just getting started, using a traction device is the best option. If you like having a bunch of shoes to choose from (or a shoe addiction.....ahem Lauren), having a road shoe, a trail shoe and a spiked shoe give you a great combination for running year round. Spiked shoes tend to last quite a while as you only use them when you need them. Jeremy (our wonderful owner) is on his 7th year with his and Lauren (our Fish Creek manager) is on her 5th.

Hopefully this helps navigate the options for winter running! Check weather network for temperatures and a lot of social media run groups will post updates on the condition of pathways.

Happy Running!