Walking through deep snow can be tough. With regular snow boots, you can sink and struggle with every step, making you wonder why you didn’t opt for a cozy afternoon indoors instead.
But what if there was a better way? What if you could almost “float” across the snow as you explored the winter scenery?
That’s where snowshoes come into play.
A snowshoe is a specialty piece of footwear that distributes your weight evenly, helping you stay above the snow. Snowshoes are ideal for a wide range of winter activities, including trail walking, hiking, backcountry exploring and even running.
In this Pro Tips guide, we break down the seven key factors to consider when purchasing snowshoes. In addition, you can browse our top snowshoe picks for 2020-21 to get you gliding across the terrain in style.
“In this Pro Tips guide, we break down the seven key factors to consider when purchasing snowshoes. In addition, you can browse our top snowshoe picks for 2020-21 to get you gliding across the terrain in style.
How to Buy Snowshoes
1. Know Your Snowshoe Materials
There are two main types of snowshoe frames: aluminum and composite.
“Composite tends to be more compact and better for packed snow or icy conditions,” says Dan Fischer, a buyer on the DICK’S Sporting Goods lodge team. “Aluminum-framed shoes tend to float better in deep powder, but tails can be attached to composite shoes to assist in floating.”
2. Find Your Fit
The most important factor when choosing snowshoe size is weight. Check the specs. On the DICK’S Sporting Goods website, the suggested “load” is typically listed with each snowshoe. Use that figure to guide your selection. Remember to account for the weight of your gear as well.
Generally, the heavier you are, the larger your snowshoes should be. Aluminum snowshoes can be as long as 36 inches. Composite snowshoes are more compact — the 8 by 22-inch size is typical. But you can add the aforementioned tails to extend the length and get more flotation.
It’s also important to consider the type of snow and terrain you’ll be traversing. Choose larger snowshoes for light, powdery snow — they will help keep you afloat. You can go with smaller, more compact shoes for hard, packed-down snow. For steep, icy surfaces, use smaller snowshoes as well.
Finally, snowshoe sizes do vary by gender. Men’s snowshoes are built larger to hold bigger boots and heavier weight. Women’s snowshoes are generally smaller and narrower, which helps prevent stepping on the insides of the frames. You’ll find kids’ snowshoes designed for casual play as well as larger sizes with some of the same features you’d find on adult snowshoes.
3. Understand Binding Basics
There are two main types of snowshoe bindings: free-rotation bindings and fixed bindings.
- Fixed-rotation bindings provide a secure fit that is ideal for clearing obstructions and walking backward.
- Free-rotation bindings pivot and move with the natural motion of your feet. They also prevent snow pile-up.
4. Types of Snowshoe Traction
Snowshoes feature crampons, or cleats, to provide superior traction as you walk. These cleats may be located on various parts of the snowshoes:
- Toe Crampons: Located on the undersides of the bindings, these cleats pivot with your feet as you move.
- Heel Crampons: You will find the cleats underneath the decking. They are used help keep you steady as you traverse downhill.
- Side Rails/Traction Bars: Also located on the undersides of the decking, these provide lateral stability.
5. Need a Lift?
One of the coolest features snowshoes offer are heel lifts, also known as climbing bars. When climbing steep terrain, you can flip up wire bars under your heels to help reduce calf and Achilles strain.
6. What Type of Footwear Should You Wear with Snowshoes?
Good news: snowshoes are designed to work with virtually all types of boots and shoes. Some are even specifically designed for running shoes.
7. Snowshoe Accessories
There are a few accessories you’ll want to have before you head out. Snow gaiters are important — they can help keep snow out of your boots. Another key accessory is a pair of snowshoe poles. They can give you the added stability you need to traverse difficult terrain, while also providing an upper-body workout.
While you can buy snowshoe poles and snowshoes individually, they are often sold together as part of a kit. Purchasing a kit is an easy way to ensure you have everything you need for your snow day activities. Most come with an additional travel bag for added convenience, too.
Best Snowshoes of 2020-21
Take on your next adventure in our top snowshoe picks for men, women and kids. These kits come complete with snowshoes, snowshoe poles and travel bags.
Whether you are a newcomer or considered yourself advanced in the world of snowshoeing, the Yukon Charlie’s Adult Advanced Snowshoe Kit has everything you need to hit the trails. Perfect for backcountry trekking, these snowshoes are designed with a quick entry and exit binding system. The Snow Motion Axle System is made to help improve balance and support through the toughest terrain as well.
Add some flair to your performance with the Yukon Charlie’s Women’s Advanced Float Snowshoe Kit. This hot pink kit will have you standing out against the powder. Designed specifically with women in mind, the Advanced Float Snowshoe Kit lives up to its name, offering a natural stride as you glide across the slopes. These snowshoes are also designed with a Snow Motion™ Axle System, helping you stay balanced as you conquer the slopes. With trekking poles and a travel bag included, this kit will help you conquer the snow.
Harsh conditions are no match for the Yukon Charlie’s Women’s Advanced Spin Float Snowshoe Kit. These snowshoes are designed for effortless performance in harsh conditions and feature a SPIN™ by Northwave dial binding system to for precise tension and fit,This turquoise and purple set is complete with snowshoes, trekking poles and a travel bag. Designed for women, these snowshoes feature a rocker frame and V-tail allowing for a natural stride and effortless performance.
With the Yukon Charlie’s Youth Sno-Bash Snowshoe Kit, your little one will be ready for the trails in no time. Equipped with trekking poles and a travel bag, this kit is a perfect way to introduce your child to snowshoeing. Ideal for kids between the ages of six and 10, the Yukon Charlie’s Youth Sno-Bash Snowshoes fit shoe sizes ranging from 11 in kids’ to six in adults. Designed with a durable HDPE deck and ENERGY FLEX axle system, they will be ready to keep up during the next family snow adventure.
Now that you know how to find the snowshoe for your next winter adventure, it’s time to strap in. Learn how to properly put your snowshoes on with these Pro Tips.