To keep you motoring in mud and snow, we found shoes that'll work no matter where you liveor how sloppy it gets. For you northerners, there's the 16-spike IceBug Pytho BUGrip, which can handle even the slickest iced-over trails. Southerners who crave speed should consider the svelte New Balance 800, a nimble cross-country-style flat. And then there's Salomon's SpeedCross 2, which earns Gear of the Year honors because it simply runs the best in most conditions.
Salomon SpeedCross 2 (9 oz) $110 salomonsports.com
1. Most shoes are either racers or trainers. The lightweight SpeedCross 2 manages to be both: Shock-absorbing rubber outsole lugs compensate for the minimal midsole cushioning. And because it's soft-flexing, with a low-to-the-ground profile, it "hugs" all types of terrain.
2. Salomon designers took inspiration from the legendary grip of British fell-running shoes, the minimalist, knobby-soled racing shoes that excel on grassy hill courses in the soggy United Kingdom. They nailed it. The soft, dual-direction lugs gripped even the slickest trails.
3. The foot-hugging mesh upper cinches through the midfoot by a one-pull lacing system and, combined with a narrow heel cup, provides a secure, wraparound snugness from heel strike to toe-off. "It has the agility and reliable traction of a climbing shoe," said one tester.
4. The breathable, tightly woven mesh uppers offer adequate weather-proofing for all but the sloppiest conditions. The SpeedCross 2 easily keeps trail debris out, yet lacks the problemsnamely increased weight and overheatingtypical of most waterproof running shoes.
5. Light and nimble does not mean flimsy and unstable, thanks to construction that's much like a motion-control road shoe's. The SpeedCross 2 has a stabilizing cushion in the heel with a stiff medial posting to minimize pronation and keep momentum moving forward.