Winter is officially here. Oh yes, it is! When I say "officially" I'm obviously not looking at my calendar; I'm looking at the scene out my window right now. Wow!
Switching to winter mode means more than just putting your snow tires on the car, tuning up your skis and searching out your tights and gloves from the depths of your closet. For runners, it sometimes means cross-training in sports like skate-skiing, snowshoeing, or that Truckee favorite, snow shoveling. Even when heading out for a run, it sometimes holds different footwear needs than summertime.
Following, are some thoughts about what to put on your feet this winter.
Pretty obvious, right? 'Tis the season when trail shoes become road shoes! This isn't much of a change for me, since I run almost completely on trails during the summer season. In winter though, I find myself more frequently on roads simply out of necessity. And this time of year, trail shoes are your best bet on snowy, icy roads.
I also use them on well-packed, snowy trails. If it's not fresh, deep snow, there's usually no need for anything more! If it's icy trail, then I add my Yaktrax for awesome traction, and I feel totally confident flying. As a side note on the Yaktrax, I don't advise wearing them on the road, no matter how icy it is. The inevitable spots of bare (or nearly bare) pavement are basically unrunnable with Yaktrax on your shoes.
GoreTex Trail Shoes
For those days when Old Man Winter is especially nasty. These GTX Wildcats are bomber! I typically only use them on really wet, slushy days, or with my snowshoes (see below).
And if it's bad enough for GoreTex, then you're probably going to want a pair of gaiters.
You can use ankle gaiters most of the time, but if you're snowshoeing through deep powder you may want full-length knee gaiters. Either way, be sure they're waterproof. Spandex gaiters are great for keeping the rocks out in the summer, but pretty worthless when it comes to snow and water.
Snowshoes come in all shapes and sizes these days, from tiny racing snowshoes, to big, backcountry beasts. A good rule of thumb is that the bigger the shoe, the more snow it can handle. I like my Atlas Elektra 11 Series (pictured) because they are so versatile. I can use them to hike in fresh snow, but they're small and light enough to run with on packed trails. As previously mentioned, these are accompanied by my Wildcats and a pair of gaiters.
Mukluks are the traditional winter footwear of the Inuit. These people know something about cold and snow. Mine, made by Steger Mukluks in Ely, Minnesota, are warm, comfortable and durable. I absolutely LOVE these things!
I bought my mukluks 12 years ago to use for a winter of dogsledding in northern Minnesota, and they're still treating me right. Because they're a moccasin-style shoe, they're soft soled, and that is their secret to warmth. They don't restrict the motion of your foot, which allows for good circulation, and thus, toasty tootsies! Buy them a size up so you have plenty of room to wear an extra pair of socks for those truly frigid northern days.
Mukluks are great in deep snow because they're so tall, and they get good traction on the soft stuff. Running in them is particularly fun because you can actually feel the snow compacting beneath your feet. When it's super snowy out like it is now, I use them for walking the dogs, snowshoeing, digging out my car, having snowball fights or snowblower wars with the neighbors, and pretty much anything else that happens outside. My husband wears his to work up on the mountain every day.
And if your play-time activities include skiing (as they should), then I'm right there with you. Those footwear choices, however, are well beyond the scope of this blog post!
What are your favorite shoes for playing in the winter?