The Best Traction for Winter Running

Winter running can be scary. I’m not talking about the windchill. There are lots of ways to stay warm and toasty on a run. Everybody, new and experienced runners alike, worries about the ice.

As soon as the first thaw/freeze cycle hits Saskatoon, the phones at Brainsport light up. Our customers want to know how to stay safe on the sidewalks and trails. Run Streakers, I want to share my best traction advice with you.

First of all, understand that you can’t plan for everything. There will be days that are dangerous, in spite of the best equipment and planning. Be prepared to cut a run short and move it indoors if it’s one of those days. Also, there is no product on the market that will make ice 100% safe. Now let’s talk about what you can do.


In the winter, think about running surfaces when you make your workout plan. Gravel roads and trails tend to resist icing because of their uneven surface. City trails, the ones in and around parks, including the MVA trail, are usually cleared before the roads are after a snow event. However, the city will not typically sand or salt icy sections. The condition of roads and sidewalks will vary by location, and they’re frequently the worst choice. Remember that if you’re running on the road, wear some high-visibility gear (check out Arrowhere) and run facing traffic.

Specialty Shoes

Winter running shoes will give you an extra measure of comfort and security, just like winter tires do for your car. The shoes are better than ever, but unfortunately, there still aren’t many options available in widths or fringe sizes. We lobby our suppliers every year to make more available.

Many of our shoe suppliers have made a breathable waterproof version of their top styles. For example, the New Balance 880 and Brooks Ghost come in Gore-Tex. These will usually have softer, grippier rubber on the outsoles.

We have a couple of shoes, though, that are made specifically for snow and ice. They’re pictured above. My personal favourite is the Peregrine Ice+ from Saucony. Not only is it a lightweight and responsive shoe, but it has an outsole that was developed by Vibram to reduce falls on ice. Unlike spikes, that same outsole is perfectly comfortable when you’re running on bare pavement and when you go indoors afterward.

The ultimate in traction is Salomon’s Spikecross. The outsole digs deep into soft surfaces and the built-in spikes bite into ice underneath. It was updated this year for more stability and more width in the forefoot. The spikes are loud and a little slow feeling on pavement. This shoe feels best with a little snow underfoot, but it won’t wear out prematurely if you hit a few patches of bare concrete. It is not a good shoe to wear indoors.

Special winter running shoes might feel like a luxury at first, but they’re as sensible as warm mittens or your favourite jacket. They keep you safe and comfortable while you enjoy the outdoors.

Traction Aids

If a special winter runner isn’t an option, the next best thing is a traction aid. My favourite two models for running are pictured above. They fit over almost any running shoe and instantly add confidence on bad surfaces. When the danger is over, you slip them off and your shoes are back in summer mode.

They can alter your running gait, so take some time to get used to them before doing a long run.

Now that you’ve got your “winter legs”, you can really conquer winter by entering The Brainfreeze (5k, 10k and Half Marathon, March 1).