Hiking - Gear/Equipment

All You Need to Know About How to Choose Snowshoes

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These days most of the mountain enthusiasts use snowshoes so as to get access to frozen waterfalls or those fun snowboard runs. For other people, these snowshoes are a means so as to go for a walk or run. No matter what the reason is, snowshoeing is a fun activity. In fact, this is what you should choose if you wish to go outdoors in the chilly winters. Walking in the snowshoe might seem to be difficult for the first few times but after that, you would be a pro at it. If you are a beginner, the question – How to choose snowshoes must be bothering you.

However, everything becomes quite easy if you know what you are looking for. When you are selecting one, you need to consider the terrain as well as the type of activities that you wish to undertake. All this would help you in choosing the best snowshoe.

How to Choose Snowshoes

Check our complete guide on how to choose snowshoes!

Types of Snowshoes

Before we move on, you must know the various types of snowshoes that are available in the market these days. These days you can easily find a lot of designs in the market. The one that you choose would be dependent on how much you weigh, how deep the snow is, how rocky or steep your usual terrain is and how much of a hurry you are in.
Listed below are a few kinds of snowshoes that you can choose from.

1. Recreational/Hiking Snowshoes

The most popular kind of snowshoes is undoubtedly the recreational or hiking shoes. These kinds of shoes have been designed mostly for the flat to rolling hills. These shoes are a basic selection and therefore make it perfect for the first-timers.

Hiking Snowshoes
Recreational/Hiking Snowshoes

The snowshoe’s binding and the features are often webbing-based with less aggressive traction systems. They work amazingly well on simple terrain which doesn’t require a lot of climbing on steep areas.

2. Running Snowshoes

When you are confused and are wondering how to choose snowshoes that is perfect for running, you would be glad to know that there exist running snowshoes. Snowshoes are starting to become increasingly popular as people are beginning to realize the benefits of working out in the snow.

Running Snowshoes
Running Snowshoes

These shoes are best suited for people who are rather active snowshoers like cross-country trainers or runners. This kind of shoe has a sleek design and is tougher than most of the other ones. With these shoes, floatation isn’t the main focus, it is the speed and the ability to run and walk easily that matters.

3. Backcountry Snowshoes

These kinds of snowshoes have been made for those who like the powder and have a bit more experience when it comes to snowshoeing. They have been designed for the steep, icy and deep snow kind of terrain. These kinds of shoes are most suitable for backpacking, winter summits, hiking or backcountry snowboarding.

Backcountry Snowshoes
Backcountry Snowshoes

These shoes have aggressive crampons, strong aluminum frame, versatile bindings and a durable material for floatation. These shoes also have better bindings which are sized so as to accommodate snowboard boots or burly winter boots.

Snowshoe Sizing

The snowshoes are able to offer floatation by spreading your total weight over a flat, large surface area. The snowshoe sizing is an important factor to consider when it comes to getting the perfect amount of floatation. The snowshoes are generally available in the size ranges that vary from 20 to 36 inches in length. The proper size would be dependent on two things:

1. Snow Condition

The kind of snow in your terrain and your location itself would be a determinant factor in deciding the shoe’s size. In case you plan to tread off-trail through dry, powdery and deep conditions, you would need more floatation. However, if you plan to cross a bit more compacted, dense, groomed trails, you wouldn’t need much of floatation.

2. Weight

Each and every snowshoe comes with a recommended weight range for that particular shoe. These specifications, of course, do vary from model to model. But, the general ranges are as follows:

  • [20 inches] 80-150lb; Lightweight, doing more on hard packed, or when trying to travel light and fast
  • [25 inches] 120-200lb (54-91kg)
  • [30 inches] 170-250lb (77-113kg)
  • [36 inches] 220-300lb (100-136kg)

If you are on the snowshoe’s upper-end weight range or live somewhere where you need to spend more time in dry powder or deep, sizing up would be a wise option.

Investing in hiking shoes? Do read 9 Tips to Keep in Mind while Choosing Hiking Shoes

How to Choose Snow Shoes – Features to Consider

There are several features you need to consider in case you are thinking about how to choose snowshoes.

1. Crampons/ Traction

What is the one thing that you should look for in hiking snowshoes?

Yes, you are right, it’s the grip that would help you hike through uphills and downhills. So, the grip is provided by the crampons that are on the outsole of the shoes. When buying, flip the snowshoes and look out for grips, you would notice two-prong design at the toes which would help you hike easily.

how to choose snowshoes

Moreover, backcountry snowshoes provide double grip! They have a row of teeth at the heel that would give you perfect grip during downhill. Opt for snowshoes that have plastic decking with traction rails as they provide right traction during steep terrains, hard surfaces.

2. Frame Type

how to choose snow shoes

Mostly the snowshoes are made up with a tubular aluminum frame which has rather flexible, thin decking material. However, newer designs are gaining traction, consisting of those made entirely out of plastic as well as those with a flat metal frame.

  • Flat Stock Frames

    Going for an adventurous steep hiking? Then you ought to invest in flat stock frames that have a metal frame with rubber decking and saw-toothed edges which would provide right grip to your legs.

  • Tubular Frames

    This is perfect for hikes on smooth surfaces. You can use these frames with your recreational shoes and have a hassle free hike in the snow. For deep snow regions and terrain, it is ideal to prefer backcountry snowshoes and even on these shoes you can add the tubular frame and have a fun filled hiking.

  • Frames and Decking

    The partial decking with partial tubular frames is an emerging hybrid. This kind of frame offers more of the float of tubular frames and a plastic decking grip.

  • Plastic Decking

    If floatation isn’t your main concern then this one might just be perfect for you. They are lightweight frames that are usually made from plastic and the best thing is that they occupy less space. However, on snow packed surfaces, the plastic frame can be slippery!

You can choose any of the above-listed types in case you are wondering how to choose snowshoes. Keep all of the above types of frames in mind and you would be able to get your hands on the best snowshoes for yourself.

3. Heel Lifts

These are also often referred to as climbing bars. These are essentially wire bails that can easily be flipped up under the heels of your shoes so as to make getting down or ascending from a steep terrain easier.

Heel Lifts
Heel Lifts

4. Materials

Material is also a factor that you need to consider. Most of the snowshoes these days use a frame that has a synthetic decking material which is very tough. Durable materials are used so as to resist cracking in very cold temperatures. The frame-style snowshoes are popular as the way that they flex, helps an individual to maintain their balance even on the most uneven of terrains.

A plastic, solid frame is not only versatile but also quite inexpensive. If you at times travel with a heavy pack, you can choose to adjust the floatation by actually clipping on a tail extension. You would find that the stride isn’t as smooth and this is because the extensions aren’t as flexible as the snowshoes.

Planning for a snow hike then read Ice Axe Guide: Everything to Know About the Ice Tool

5. Bindings

Bindings ensure that your footwear is clasped to the snow shoes. The snowshoe bindings available in the market have been designed in a way so as to fit all kinds of footwear and mostly the waterproof boots which are chosen by most people. You have to ensure that the binding would be able to accommodate the extra length or width in case you ever hope to use snowboarding or mountaineering boots.

Bindings and features
  • Hinged Bindings

    Looking for bindings for deep snow hiking? Then we suggest you opt for hinged bindings that are perfect for hiking in deep snow, climbing. The hinged bindings will keep your foot secure and would make hiking in deep snow a hassle free experience. The only issue with this type of binding is that it can be difficult to move backward.

  • Floating Bindings

    This is considered as one of the flexible and efficient bindings for snow hiking. They are attached to the frame with flexible webbing that would let you walk easily in the snow. Also, every time you lift your foot, the bindings make sure that even the snowshoe’s tail gets lifted.

  • Climbing Bars

    If you are looking for bindings for climbing snow capped mountains then climbing bars is what you invest in. These climbing come in wire bails that can be used to rest the heels and reduce the calf strain. It can also help to push the back of the shoe down so as to offer more traction.

Women’s Snowshoe

If you are a woman and are wondering how to choose snowshoes, you need to understand that in order to accommodate the anatomical differences; the women’s snowshoes are made in a certain way:

how to choose snowshoes
Women Snowshoes
  • Tapered and Thinner Shoes

    Women’s thigh bones usually curve inward from the hips to that of the knees, and so the stride happens to be narrow. Therefore, the snowshoes for women are tapered and thinner. This ensures that there isn’t any strain on the calf and that the gait feels natural.

  • Lesser Surface Area

    Most women are generally lighter and therefore require lesser floatation and so the shoes for women are designed to be smaller and have lesser surface area. The placement, size, and angle of the heel crampons and toe and the traction rails suit smaller feet which have a narrow stride.

  • Narrow Bindings

    The bindings are much narrow and have been designed in a way that the arch of the leg gets complete support. This is because the women are more likely to have arches which pronate.

Other Things to Consider

Some of the other necessary factors on how to buy snowshoes are:

1. Determine our Needs

Consider if you are going to need recreational, backcountry or running snowshoes. How to choose snowshoes are most of the people’s basic problem that they face and by determining our needs you are already half way through.

2. Check if you have Appropriate Boots

You need to ensure that you have the appropriate shoes for snowshoeing. The boots that you need would be dependent on the kind of snowshoeing that you are interested in. Listed below are the most popular types of boots that people choose:

  • Winter Boots

    These are insulated and warm. Flotation remains one of the main concerns when snowshoeing. It is basically the ability to walk on the snow instead of sinking in it.

    how to choose snowshoes
    Winter Boots

    These winter boots have rather high ankles for deep snow. So, in case you aren’t expecting much floatation, they would be perfect. The boots are rather bulkier and there are gender-specific models that you can choose from.

  • Waterproof Hiking Boots

    They tend to be more lightweight and hence more comfortable. Waterproofing is essential when you are walking on the snow. These kinds of boots are more versatile and offer larger support. The exterior, however, would get soaked and may get into the binding straps.

    Waterproof Hiking Boots
  • Mountaineering Boots

    If you are planning to go on a difficult terrain or somewhere off-trail, these boots are what you need. The men’s snowshoe boots are insulated, warm and can offer additional traction. They are rather hard and stiff to move around in and are also more expensive than the others.

    how to choose snowshoes
    Mountaineering Boots Source

Other than all of the above-mentioned factors also consider your budget. However, remember to never buy cheap as you would need to replace them on a frequent basis. Invest wisely and you would see that last you for a really long time. Don’t forget to try walking in snowshoes before buying them.

We really hope this article helps you pick the right snowshoe for your snow hiking. If you have more tips on snowshoes, then do share with us in the comments below.

Check out the 10 Best Hiking Boots for Mountain Trials: Pick the Right One!

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