Winter Footwear and Traction Devices

crossover GTX 2.0

La Sportiva CrossOver GTX 2.0

For winter running, there is no such thing as poor footing, but just poor footwear choices!

I get a lot of questions about winter running, footwear and traction devices. Being someone who sticks to the trails all winter, I’m going to share with you my go-to footwear winter choices.

Trail Running Shoes:
Be sure to wear shoes that have an aggressive outsole for winter running. Regular road running shoes and many trail shoes just don’t give you the traction that you need, and/or keep you upright.

The La Sportiva Mutant outsole is the best that I’ve found for winter running. These soles grip the snow extremely well and are good in most winter conditions, even without the addition of other traction devices. The same outsole as the Mutant can also be found on the La Sportiva Anaconda and Crossover GTX 2.0. I particularly like the Crossover GTX 2.0 for winter running because the upper is made of Goretex and provides more protection from the snow/cold, and it also has a built in gaiter to prevent snow from getting in your shoes.


Hobnails inserted in outersole

Icy Conditions:
On days when there is a lot of ice on the trail, or if you like running on frozen lakes like I do, I would highly recommend La Sportiva Hobnails. Hobnails are screwed into your trail shoes and give you the grip on ice like what you would find on track spikes. I have used sheet metal screws in the past (#8 1/2 inch hex head) and screwed them into my outsole, but the grip that you get from hobnails is far superior…especially on icy ascents/descents.

Snow and Ice:
When more snow has fallen or there is a combination of snow and ice on the trails (especially ice under a thin layer of snow), I’ll reach for my Kahtoola Microspikes. Microspikes are like a running crampon and give fantastic traction when you are running in conditions where there might not be quite enough snow for snowshoe running, but still slippery conditions. Microspikes are great for running on hardpacked packed snowmobile trails.


Dion 121 Running Snowshoes with interchangeable cleats for different conditions

Running Snowshoes:
After a good base of snow, it’s time to go with Dion Running Snowshoes so that I can still enjoy the trails, even in deeper snow. The great thing about Dion Snowshoes is that there are 3 different cleat options, so depending on the snow conditions, you can choose the type of cleat that you need on your snowshoes that day (cleats can be changed easily within seconds). Standard Cleats are versatile for many conditions, but great for packed snow, Deep Cleat are more suited for deeper snow or off trail, and Ice Cleat are great for icy conditions or if there are some exposed rocks.

So, don’t let winter conditions keep you off the trails. You can still enjoy the same great trails that you run on during the summer as long as you chose the proper footwear and devices.


Kahtoola Microspikes on Ice Highway in Yellowknife

Dion Snowshoes and Kahtoola MicroSpikes are available in Canada at Spafford Health and Adventure.



  1. Nice reference.
    I get shivers thinking of that ice highway. Good times. :)

  2. So far I’ve been able to use the micro spikes and my Dions this year. Great traction with the micro spikes on snow packed covered country dirt roads here I’m Merrickville.

  3. Todd Sinclair says:

    Good ideas. I will second the Katoolas…. you could run up anything icy in those. About the Hobnails, do you run them only on the perimeter of your shoe (like we’ve done with the #8 screws)?

  4. Todd – You can just use the hobnails on the outside edge of your shoes, but I actually like to position a few in the middle of the forefoot as well to give better grip at toe off and uphills (see photo). Crosslites actually have little grooves for them to fit in nicely, but they will fit in any brand too.

  5. The other side of the coin is to learn to run on ice and snow without traction. Running on ice without grip promotes a form with high cadence, bent knees, upright posture and low torque foot landings / push off. Good fun!

  6. True….to a certain extent Paul, however I’d say that performance wise/quality-wise especially you will never be able to run as fast without traction than with, which could increase the risk of injury and take away from what you’re trying to attain.
    I would stay that for the occasional form work/drills, like barefoot running, that it may be helpful to run without traction, but not necessarily the best for all runs in my opinion.

  7. Agreed it is hard to imagine running up icy hills without traction. So yesterday I went tobogganing with my kids in watershoes and wool socks, I could have done a little better with grippy soles, still lots of fun to try


  8. Hey Ali.You have a code sample for purchasing stating, that with it, I can upload to my own server.Does this mean, that the image won’t also be uploaded to is important since my client does not want the photo anywere else but on their own server.Thanks in advance

Speak Your Mind