Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Winter Mountain climbing in Path Runners

Winter Hiking in Trail Runners

If you happen to use path runners for climbing and backpacking in three-season climate, it’s potential to maintain utilizing them in winter as an alternative of insulated winter climbing boots or mountaineering boots. There are some benefits to doing this. Path runners are considerably lighter weight than boots, so you’ll be able to hike farther and sooner with much less fatigue, they usually normally trigger fewer climbing blisters than boots, when you’re liable to that sort of factor.

However on the subject of winter footwear, your sneakers, be they boots or path runners, are only one part of an built-in winter footwear system that should handle 4 key necessities:

  • insulation
  • waterproofing
  • traction
  • flotation

Granted, it’s simpler to construct a winter footwear system round insulated waterproof boots as a result of that’s the established order. However there are methods to assemble a functionally equal system round path runners when you’re prepared to do a variety of experimentation and also you’re moderately conservative in your testing of its limitations. Failure shouldn’t be an possibility on the subject of chilly accidents brought on by inadequately insulated or waterproof winter footwear.

Beneath, I enumerate a number of the choices obtainable to you if you wish to construct a cold-weather footwear system round path runners, together with some observations about how they carry out in numerous winter circumstances.


There are a few methods so as to add insulation to a path runner. Many individuals put on Neoprene socks or waterproof socks inside their path runners to insulate their ft and supply some moisture safety. These can be found in numerous thicknesses and heights and also you’ll wish to experiment with a number of completely different ones to determine what works for various temperatures. You might also have to regulate your shoe dimension to accommodate an insulated sock.

NRS 2mm Neoprene Wetsock
NRS 2mm Neoprene Wetsock

Try the Neoprene and waterproof sock choice from NRS, Showers Go, and Sealskinz. It’s also possible to simply put on plastic luggage over thick woolen socks. The plastic will hold your ft hotter as a result of it prevents evaporative cooling, a course of that pulls physique warmth away out of your pores and skin.

One other method is to put on a Neoprene overboot, just like the Forty Beneath Gentle Power Tr Shorty Overboot which is worn over a path runner and has a foam insole for added insulation. I’ve used these for winter climbing they usually’re simple to make use of with microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes. Sadly, they’re onerous to get this 12 months as a result of there’s a worldwide scarcity of Neoprene.

Forty Below Neoprene Overboot
Forty Beneath Neoprene Overboot


You wish to keep away from getting water into path runners in winter as a result of it’s going to freeze inside your sneakers. The best solution to hold them dry is to get a water-proof/breathable path runner lined with Gore-Tex, eVent, or another proprietary membrane. The waterproof/breathable liner will create a cushion of heat air round your ft, however I wouldn’t put a lot inventory of their breathability: what you care about is their waterproofness.

You additionally want to stop snow from getting into the highest of your sneakers from above and wetting your socks, particularly when you’re climbing on trails that haven’t been damaged out (packed down) by different hikers. Gaiters are the apparent resolution, however there are additionally winterized path runners which have built-in gaiters to stop snow from getting into above. A few of these have deep lugs and tungsten spikes for traction, which is an attention-grabbing mixture utilized by winter path runners on packed trails.

The La Sportiva Blizzard GTX has a built in snow gaiter
The La Sportiva Blizzard GTX has a built-in snow gaiter

I as soon as used a pair of La Sportiva Crossover GTX Path Runners (now not made) with a built-in gaiter and it was fairly efficient. The La Sportiva Blizzard GTX Path Runner, obtainable immediately, has one, as do the Salomon Snowspike Climasalomon Waterproof Path Runners.

Traction Aids

When climbing on packed trails, you’ll need a light-weight traction help like microspikes to stop slips and to assist grip the strolling floor. For thicker and moderate-angle ice, you’ll need a extra aggressive crampon with longer spikes, however one which’s designed to be used with very soft-soled sneakers.

Light-weight Traction Aids

Sadly, Kahtoola Microspikes and Hillsound Path Crampon Ultras might be uncomfortable when worn with path runners.  Each have free-floating metallic spikes connected by chains to a stretchy elastomer harness. However the harness squeezes the toebox and may trigger blisters, whilst you can really feel the spikes by means of the delicate soles of path runners.

One various is so as to add hobnails or screws to the soles of your path runners so the screw heads act like tire studs. The 2 winter path runners talked about above, the La Sportiva Blizzard GTX and the Salomon Snowspike Climasalomon Waterproof additionally include factory-installed spikes, which is nice, so long as you keep in mind to take them off earlier than you stroll throughout wood flooring (they’ll additionally shred snowshoe decking). The Blizzard has 7mm lugs, so it actually wears like a studded snow tire!

Kahtoola Nanospikes DO NOT exert any extra pressure over the ties which can lead to blisters
Kahtoola Nanospikes DO NOT exert any additional stress over the toes which may result in blisters

There are additionally all numerous traction aids which can be designed to be used with soft-soled path runners, like Kahtoola Nanospikes, Kahtoola EXOSpikes, Hillsound Flexstep Crampons, Black Diamond’s Blitz Spike Traction System, the Black Diamond Distance Spike Traction System, Vargo Pocket Cleats, and quite a few others. These present extra flexibility as a result of they’re simply eliminated after they’re not wanted or when it’s essential to change to a extra aggressive crampon, or snowshoe, under. The important thing variables to think about when evaluating these mild traction gadgets are consolation, particularly within the toe field and from under by means of the only, and spike size, since this determines how a lot traction they supply.

Crampons for Path Runners

When selecting crampons for path runners, you need a pair which can be suitable with very soft-soled sneakers. These usually are not inflexible climbing crampons, however ones designed for climbing on flat terrain and average inclines when an extended, sharper spike is required.

The important thing function to search for is a really flexible flex bar (additionally referred to as a leaf spring) connecting the entrance crampon to the heel crampon. The bindings must also be suitable with a delicate heel and decrease profile toe field. The very best ones I’ve discovered for soft-soled path runners are Kahtoola’s Ok-10 crampons which have a binding system that’s tailored for a low-toe field and heel counter. A lot of the different crampons on the market have bindings designed to be used with soft-soled boots as an alternative.

Kahtoola K-10 Crampons
Kahtoola Ok-10 Crampons

If you order the Ok-10’s, they arrive with “snow launch skins” (typically referred to as anti-balling plates) that you just’ll wish to connect to the crampons. These hold moist snow from clumping to the underside of the crampons, making it inconceivable to stroll.


Snowshoes are designed for flotation, to allow you to hike on the floor of the snow with out sinking into it. However one of many challenges of outfitting your self for winter climbing is that you just typically don’t know what the snow depth in your route is until you hike on closely used trails which can be damaged out by different hikers. If that’s the case, you’ll be able to normally forgo snowshoes utterly and simply hike with mild traction.

Northern Lites Elite 25” Snowshoes
Northern Lites Elite 25” Snowshoes

If there’s a lightweight coating of packed snow, you’ll be able to typically get away with a really light-weight racing snowshoe, just like the Atlas Run Snowshoe (2 lbs 5 ouncespr) or Dion Snowshoes 121 Fast Match (2 lbs 4.9 ouncespr). But when there’s considerably extra snow, you’ll need a snowshoe that has extra floor space and gives extra flotation. For flat and rolling terrain, Northern Lites Elite Snowshoes (2 lbs 5 ouncespr) are a great light-weight possibility.  If you happen to hike in steeper mountainous terrain, you’ll need snowshoes with giant crampons and a televator bar (for climbing hills) just like the Atlas Helium Path Snowshoes (3 lbs 2 ouncespr), which is among the lightest snowshoes obtainable for that sort of terrain (there’s a brand new mannequin out that has an improved binding.)

Because it stands, path runners are suitable with nearly each snowshoe binding made immediately, so that you shouldn’t have any issues discovering snowshoes that match right into a path runner-based winter footwear system. However it’s going to additionally take some experimentation to search out the lightest weight snowshoe you want in your native circumstances.

Wrap Up

If you happen to’re excited about constructing a winter footwear system round path runners, it may be carried out. Nevertheless, it’s going to in all probability take a variety of trial-and-error experimentation to place collectively a whole system that fits your wants. I’d focus first on discovering a water-proof path runner, insulated sock, gaiter, and traction mixture that works for winter climbing earlier than you strive to spend so much of time optimizing snowshoe weight.

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In regards to the creator

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8500 miles in the US and the UK and written over 3000 articles because the founding father of, famous for its backpacking gear critiques and climbing FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine climbing and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails within the White Mountains twice and has accomplished 8 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 checklist with over 470 summits. He’s additionally the creator of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free on-line guidebook of one of the best backpacking journeys within the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click on right here to subscribe to the SectionHiker e-newsletter.


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