The three best runners for the worst conditions.
The North Face Ultra MT Winter
Best For: Ankle-deep snow.
The Test: Our eyes immediately went to the integrated gaiter, designed to keep you going while everyone else is indoors. So it was nice to discover that the shoe beneath it was no mere afterthought. The Ultra MT Winter is a highly protective, highly responsive trainer with a moderately thick midsole, a waterproof toe, and a definite spring in its step, despite slower turnover. The narrow performance last might be rough on wide feet, but it offers a solidly locked-in fit over chunky, refrozen crud, with Vibram’s IceTrek outsole adding some extra tackiness on ice. Bonus: glove-friendly one-pull laces deliver a snug fit.
The Verdict: A midwinter soldier that still feels like a real runner. 11.9 oz; 8 mm drop
Icebug DTS2 BugGrip GTX
Best For: Frozen pavement and trails.
The Test: It was no surprise that the 19 carbide spikes on the BugGrip let us fly on ice-packed roads. What pushed this shoe to the top of our list was how well it ran on dry turf, too. Fast, low, nimble, and smooth, this amply protected, waterproof trainer felt perfectly at ease ripping along at a 6:15-mile pace or parkouring over slick boulders and slimy logs—the best ride we’ve seen so far from Icebug. “I ran where once I walked,” a tester said. The moderately high volume can feel a little bit loose on fast, steep downhills, but that’s nothing a thicker winter sock won’t fix. Save up—these ain’t cheap.
The Verdict: Puts the speed and fun back in winter runs. 12.3 oz; 12 mm drop (though it feels like less)
Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid
Best For: Run hikes.
The Test: Surprised to see a hiking boot make the grade? So were we. While the Lone Peak’s midcut, thickly padded collar looks like it limits this shoe to fastpacking missions and snowshoe jaunts, we were floored by how fluid and effortless it was running on dry mountain trails. That ankle-bracing heel collar is remarkably inconspicuous on flats and climbs but powerfully protective on rough, technical downhills. The (big) plus: the breathable NeoShell exterior waterproofing. But despite the cushy 25-millimeter midsole, we missed having a rock plate in the fore on stony sections.
The Verdict: A legit, fast running shoe with solid ankle support. 11.9 oz; zero drop