Asics Gel-Arctic WR 2 Review

I live in the Northeast, so this time of year I tend to think a lot about the tires on my car. That and the shoes on my feet. Lately, the two lines of thought have started to merge: I see the winter running shoe options as three types of snow tires for my feet:

  • tire chains (strap-on traction devices)
  • studded snow tires (shoes with built-in spikes or, to the Brits, “dobs”)
  • snow tires (shoes with soles and other features to help out in the snow, but no metal parts)

iRunFar has already done a series on the tire chains of the running world: devices that attach to your shoe, put a lot of metal between you and the icy ground, and will get you through the gnarliest winter conditions. They’re not a great solution for mixed conditions, though, and they’re on the heavy side. So I’m beginning what I hope will be a similar series on the “studded snow tires” type of winter-running shoe: basically a standard shoe with built-in or removable metal spikes. Before reviewing the Asics Gel-Arctic WR 2 5/8″ monsters.

As you’d expect, the smallish standard-issue spikes mean less grip on ice and hard-packed snow than a screwshoe. But the Arctic is way closer to a screwshoe than a regular shoe is to the Arctic. I feel secure in the Arctics on all but the hardest ice, where I’d rather be in a pair of screwshoes with fresh screws. Today was a beautiful day for the Arctics here. I was at work, so I had to sneak in a lunchtime run, which means a mix of pavement and dirt roads or snowmobile trails. It rained all day yesterday, then was near zero last night with high winds. The ice on the roads this morning was everywhere and very hard, and the trails are all frozen solid. As I’ve noticed before, the little studs in the Arctic definitely feel way more secure than regular trail shoes, but on the hardest black ice they’re noticeably less grippy than a screwshoe. I can’t remember ever slipping with screwshoes, but I’ve definitely had some slippage with the Arctics.

Asics Gel-Arctic WR 2 soleThe Asics Arctic WR 2’s studded outsole

So far it seems like the Arctic spikes are a bit more durable than the screws in my screwshoes, particularly if I spend a lot of time on pavement. And the Arctic’s spikes are removable, but I wouldn’t recommend running without the spikes in. The threaded “female” connectors in the spike plate are just bound to collect pebbles and the screw threads will strip the next time you try and reinsert the spikes, leaving you with a very heavy pair of regular old training shoes.

Inov-8 Mudclaw 340 O+The major downside of the Arctics for me is that the spike plate makes them heavy (14.3 oz., as compared with 11.0 oz. for the GT-2140). It also makes them noticeably stiffer than your average shoe. I’m not a heavy-shoe guy, and it seems like some of the extra weight could be avoided simply by making the spikes non-removable. As noted above, I don’t see much benefit in removing the Arctic’s spikes anyway. Inov-8 uses non-removable “metal dobs” in the very intriguing Inov-8 Mudclaw 340 0+, which weighs in at 2.3 ounces less than the Arctic (and, lets be honest, looks a whole lot more rip-snortin’). There have been some complaints about the durability of the Mudclaw dobs, though. And that’s one thing that isn’t a problem so far with my Asics Arctic WRs – I’ve got a few hundred miles on them, much of it on icy pavement, and the studs are all intact and in pretty good shape (and, of course, I can always get more).

The bottom line is that if you’re happy with screwshoes but could do with a bit less of that golf-cleat feel on pavement, the Arctic is a very able pick at a very decent price. It provides much of the same traction as a screwshoe in a water-resistant package that provides good grip on ice and snow, and a bit less noise on pavement.

Like I said, we’re hoping get our hands on the other two “studded snow tires” of the winter running shoe world: the aforementioned Mudclaw 340 O+ and the IceBug range from Sweden. I’m especially looking forward to getting to know the “squish unit” and “bounce unit” in the Icebug PYTHO. Because mmmmm…..squishy! Like a donut.

And, readers, if you know of any other running-specific studded footwear (does anyone do any training in orienteering shoes?), do let us know and we’ll do our best to put ’em through their paces.

Happy trails!

The Squish Unit (a/k/a Gavin)

Overall Impression

  • Great traction on snow and solid traction on ice
  • More traction on pavement than screwshoes
  • Durable and replaceable spikes
  • Heavy and someone stiff due to the spike plate
  • A very good value for winter running

[Disclaimer: Purchases made through the Amazon links in this article help support iRunFar.]

There are 8 comments

  1. Ultrarunning-Edge

    I can't believe Asics hasn't thought to offer short, hard plastic, replacement 'dobs' to protect the dob sockets and allow the Gel-Arctic to be used during the rest of the season. In fact if you know someone with a tap and die set, you could probably do this yourself. Find some nylon or HDPE a little bigger than the sockets and use the appropriate die to thread the 'replacement' dobs.

  2. Denise

    I just found your blog while looking for ultra training plans. I'm running a 24 hour race this summer with hopes of completing 50 miles. Thanks for the info on your blog!

  3. Bryon Powell

    Ultrarunning-Edge,Thanks for giving me a pleasant image of my grandfather tinkering with running shoes. He spent his working life (aside from the Navy in WWII) as a tool and die maker at GE.Denise,Congratulations on signing up for the 24 hour race. You can surely hit your 50-mile goal. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions.

  4. Bryon Powell

    Keith Fouts wrote me the following off-blog and I'm posting it here with his permission:"Those are the same shoes I brought to Antarctica with me for running outside. Some of my runs have taken me on and off ice/snow (volcanic rock) and I have enjoyed the shoes for both. I do agree that hard packed ice can be tricky."

  5. Gavin Boyles

    Ultrarunning-edge – such things do exist commercially – they're made to go in track spikes. I don't know anyone w/ a tap and die, so I might go the commercial route – thanks for the idea!

  6. Robert

    I have found the best shoe for a combination of packed snow (which is easy in any case) and ice are traditional orienteering shoes from company's like Olway/Jalas. The Inov8s may be good (I use them, but not the studded version) but I would guess that the studs are supported on too soft rubber. Orienteering shoes that I have used from Olway are very well constructed and fit what I like in a shoe.

  7. Joe

    I live in the UP of Michigan and have run on NOTHING but ice and snow for 4 months. That's right, no mud, or dirt! I've used the Arctic WR-2 almost exclusively. Overall it is a good shoe for these conditions. A mix of packed snowy gravel roads, icy patches, snowmobile trails. Yes, they are a little stiff. Probably wouldn't use them at all in dirt or mud. On the other hand, the aggressive tread and spikes are great for my conditions around here, and the upper is more resistant to snow (I don't think it is gortex) and is warmer than standard trail shoes. I like the replaceable spikes as any pavement will make them dull over time. I would replace the spikes with slightly longer ones, especially in the heel.

  8. Steve Collier

    BTW the Arctics have two different spike lengths available. the longer set protude about 2mm from the sole level, the shorter ones are flush. They are removable from their sockets with a simple wrench. I prefer the onger ones because they are safer on a surface with flat ice, for example run-off from gutters, frozen puddles, re-frozen sloping wet surfaces.

  9. Paul Grosswiler

    I bought these shoes two or three years ago when my feet started feeling cold during winter runs in Maine and when my doctor said she didn't want me running on ice because of my recently diagnosed osteoporosis. When you live in Maine, though, you have to run on ice if you run outside in the winter.

    I hated the Artcic WR2 at first because it cut into the side of my foot. I also run in motion control Sauconies because of flat feet and overpronation, and these are not a motion control shoe. But over time I grew used to them, the pain disappeared, and now I like them more than the Sauconies and I am trying to find out what shoe the WR2 is based on so I can use them the rest of the year.

    Saucony just tells me the WR4, and the GT 2000, which doesn't look that similar. If anyone knows the lineage of the WR2 and which shoe it is based on, I would appreciate your help.

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