There is something very special about winter running. The trails lit only by the beam of a headlamp and covered in snow. Every trail feels like a new adventure, a first time. It feels a lot more spiritual in some ways than Summer running.
The Bow Valley is a little tricky when it comes to trail conditions. Typically, the shallow snowpack melts and freezes or packs down to ice very quickly and turns many descents in some terrifying slip n' slides. Proper gear, and especially a well adapted pair of running shoes, is essential to avoid those death-defying moments and keep the fun... well, fun. Here are some of our favourite Winter running tools to stay upright in any kind of terrain.
GripStuds have the ability to turn virtually any trail or road shoe into ice running weapons. If you only wear one or two specific models or you don't want to invest in a permanently studded shoe, these are the solution. For $35 to $40, we can stud your shoes at the store or you can purchase a kit (which includes a tool) and do your own installation. Gripstuds are removable which means that you can still use a pair of studded shoes by simply removing the carbide tips. More information here.
Inov-8 Arctictalon, Mudclaw and X-Talon
Winter running and overall just gnarly and slick conditions are one of the areas where Inov-8 really shines. Aggressive lugs, carbide tips and sturdy upper materials are on the menu for this Winter. While these shoes used to be only offered in narrow or "precision" lasts, we now have access to a bunch of different lasts to fit all foot shapes.
First, the classic Roclite 315 Gore-tex, your indestructible, Gripstud compatible, waterproof tank. At 315 grams, it is still a lightweight shoe given all the features it has. The outsole is one of the longest-lasting ones we've ever seen! Available in both men's and women's colour. If Gore-Tex is too warm for you, the non-waterproof version of the Roclite 315 can be treated with a waterproofing spray to make it water-resistant.
From the Roclite, we move to the mud and snow category. These shoes are my favourites for anything soft where traction is key. I also like that the Mudclaw and X-Talon collections have a lower profile and a softer midsole which increases ground sensitivity and running in snow doesn't need as much cushioning. My top choice is the Mudclaw 300. They removed the shank and designed it as a precise fit with super aggressive lugs. Expect a medium to narrow last and a tighter heel than other Inov-8 shoes. Again, the upper can be treated with a spray to make it water-resistant. And that green colour is on point! After all, it's all about the looks ;)
If you like the idea of the aggressive lugs, a sturdy upper and the lower stack height but you have trouble finding a wide enough shoe; the X-Talon 260 Ultra is your solution. It offeres enough room that it will fit very wide feet, but it has the same features as the Mudclaw 300 with the exception of a slightly different drop and stack height. Available in men's and women's colour and easily made water-resistant with a spray treatment.
Last but definitely not least, the Arctictalon 275. This is the shoe that you want if you are on the hunt for a studded Winter runner at a competitive price. The Arctictalon takes the Mudclaw platform, adds a rockshield shank, some spikes and a lower drop to make it the perfect snow and ice shoe. It isn't Gore-Tex, but as most other Inov-8, you can treat it easily and it will keep you dry in most situations (puddles excluded). Available in the new men's and women's colour and also on sale for $99 at the moment (last year's colour).
Sizing Hint: Inov-8 shoes size a bit smaller than most. Compared to Salomon, you will need about 1 full size bigger in Inov-8. Compared to most other companies (Brooks, New Balance, Saucony, etc) you will need 1/2 size bigger in most models.
La Sportiva: Mutant and Uragano GTX
Ever tried a Contagrip outsole on slick or wet rocks? Yes, it is terrifying. This is where the La Sportiva magic lies. Their Frixion rubber is both extra-sticky and incredibly durable and this is what you want on your feet when things get technical or very slippery. The Mutant is a classic for this Italian company. The agressive trail shoe features the signature Frixion XF rubber compound and a very deep lug pattern. It even has some pre-marked areas where grip studs can be added to the outsole for extra-safety. More details here: men's version, women's version.
If you are into post-holing and deep snow, La Sportiva has snow-specific version of the Mutant, the Uragano GTX. Integrated gaiter, sock-like design, Frixion rubber, Gore-Tex membrane, what more could you want? This shoe is designed for the wildest winter-running adventures, or just to stay really warm, dry and on your feet at all times. Easily studded with Gripstuds. More details here.
Do you use Winter-specific running shoes? Or are you one of those courageous people who run in road shoes year-round? Let us know in the comments below! What is your favourite Winter running shoe?