The conditions outside don’t just get colder in the winter—they also get slicker. That’s a problem for cars and runners alike when loose footing and poor traction can lead to crashes and the injuries that follow. If you live in an area where roads and running paths get slick and iced over in the winter, you probably find yourself doing one of two things: Staying indoors to avoid the pain, or braving the outdoors and collecting some scrapes and bruises along the way.
But there’s no need to settle for either of these sub-par options. If you want to conquer the slick sidewalks of winter, your best bet is finding a good pair of shoes designed to handle icy and snowy terrain. Many shoe manufacturers have developed models to handle slippery surfaces. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the ideal running footwear for the winter season.
First step: Get a grip
When it comes to surviving the winter as a runner, traction is essential. A smooth rubber sole will feel more like an ice skate when you’re trying to power through snow, slush, and ice. A good sole for the winter will likely be similar to what you see in trail running footwear.
You need exaggerated treads that will help you find footing on questionable terrain. If you have a pair of trail running shoes already, you might consider using these during the winter when your normal running paths are obstructed by the elements. Otherwise, seek out shoes designed for cold-weather terrain.
Key winter running features
While the tread is important, it’s not the only factor that matters. Because you’ll be running through cold, wet conditions, you need to take steps to make sure your feet will be protected at all times. Extra insulation matters greatly in the winter running shoe, and waterproofing—or at least a water-resistant outer layer—will keep cold water from seeping into the shoe’s inner layers and chilling your toes to the bone.
You can further boost your comfort by wearing wool socks for an added layer of insulation, but make sure the shoe will remain waterproof. If there are holes or a poor outer layer that fails to keep water out of the shoe’s interior, it won’t matter what kind of socks you’re wearing—your feet will be cold anyway.
Remember reflective coating
Even if you live in a warmer climate, the winter months bring on shorter days and longer nights. With the sun rising later and setting earlier, you’re more likely to find yourself running in the dark. That reduced visibility combined with slick roadways can put runners at a particular risk of being involved in a car accident. A good pair of shoes should offer reflective coating to make you more visible to oncoming traffic. If your shoes don’t feature any reflective materials, you might want to add reflective tape on your own.