Running in the winter presents a tough choice: You could wear your normal running shoes, but if there’s even the slightest bit of snow or slush, your feet are going to be wet and freezing within the first ten minutes. There are waterproof shoes out there, but I just don’t run enough to justify it; I would only need them for a few months a year. Instead, I started running in my hiking boots.
The Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid boot is made for fast, lightweight hiking, even thru-hiking, especially when the weather is a lot less than perfect. They have a waterproof upper, an aggressive tread pattern, and a wide, comfortable toe box. And they make every run feel like it’s the middle of spring. For my feet, at least.
I’ve been a fan of Altra (a brand that Strategist has included in its best trail running gear and best women’s hiking shoes) for nearly a decade. When I ran track in college, they were the only shoes I relied on to train for the heptathlon. Unlike many running shoes, which narrow at the toe, Altras have plenty of room for your toes to splay out for balance. I also like that the heel and toe are at the same height (a design called zero drop), which encourages you to maintain a more natural, barefoot-style gait. This helped limit pain from my running injuries, such as shin splints and sever’s disease. And unlike many zero-drop shoes, Altra’s shoes still have some comfortable cushioning to lessen the impact on my joints.
When it came time to find hiking boots, I was looking for something a little sturdier than a regular shoe, but not as heavy and clunky as most boots, so that I could move quickly across muddy Vermont trails. I found the higher cut Lone Peak 4 Mids, and they changed everything. With these shoes, I have the running bona fides I’ve come to love from Altra, but with the warmth, flexibility, waterproofing, and extra traction that winter demands, whether I’m running five miles or just trying to make it from my truck to the grocery store.
The Lone Peak 4 Mid has the same zero drop, wide toe box, and cushioning as the rest of Altra’s shoes, but the upper rises above the ankles — and it’s ready for anything. The shoe is made with Altra’s waterproof eVent membrane. Like Gore-Tex, this stuff is waterproof, able to handle whatever puddles, slush, mud, and snow you step in. But it also allows moisture, like sweat, to vent out of the shoe to keep you from soaking yourself from the inside out. The upper is also soft and flexible, so it moves with my foot and ankle without any tightness or pinch points, a problem I’ve frequently run into testing cheaper, and stiffer, hiking boots. The supremely aggressive DuraTread rubber tread has clawlike design that puts lugs immediately below the balls of your feet and under each toe for unreal traction. Those lugs grip supremely well, even on ice and snow, and give me confidence in each step.
Along with running, hiking, shoveling the driveway, and doing errands, I’ve also worn these boots for snowshoeing. They’re perfect for the sport, keeping your feet warm while still letting you move quickly. In more modern aluminum snowshoes, I can even run. Back before COVID, I wore these boots to play winter football with friends, cutting and running as if it were the middle of summer — and as if I were on turf, instead of a snow-covered field. It was a real advantage over my slippery-footed opponents. When it’s safe to do that again, I know exactly which boots I’ll be wearing. In the meantime, I know exactly which boots I’ll be wearing while I wait.
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