Use this guide to help understand the different types of snowshoes on the market, and to guide you towards the best snowshoe for your intended use.
While not all snowshoes come in men's and women's specific versions, you should seek out snowshoes that are designed for your body. A women's specific snowshoe should include a narrower frame shape to accommodate a woman's narrow stance, as well as a binding that is molded to a women's boot shape.
Primary Intended Use
Whether you plan to compete in snowshoe races, take leisurely strolls around your local lake, or scale icy pitches in the Rockies, there is a snowshoe for you. Use this FACT platform to better understand how snowshoes are designed to conquer different tasks:
- Flotation is a function of a snowshoe's surface area, user weight (including gear), and snow conditions.
- The larger a snowshoe is, the more flotation it will provide, but choosing a snowshoe that is too large will add weight and may be more awkward to walk on.
- If you plan to go off trail into powder snow conditions, make sure to consult a sizing guide to pick the right length.
- If you plan to stay on primarily packed or icy terrain, flotation is less of a concern in your buying decision.
- Articulation defines the way your binding moves on the snowshoe.
- A fixed-rotation or fixed toe cord system limits the amount of rotation on your binding, keeping the snowshoe close underfoot. A fixed system provides greater maneuverability for activities like running or racing.
- A full-rotation or rotating toe cord system allows the tail of the snowshoe to drop when the foot is lifted, shedding snow and reducing muscle fatigue.
- A hybrid, or suspended system gives you the maneuverability of a fixed system, but also adds articulation for comfort on rough terrain and deeper crampon penetration.
- Control generally describes the binding, the interface between your foot and the snowshoe. The difference between a loose, difficult or uncomfortable binding and a comfortable, secure binding can seriously impact your snowshoeing experience.
- When trying on a snowshoe in a store, try walking around if the ground is soft or has carpet. You should be able to tell if the snowshoe is going to move around or come lose when you hit the snow.
- Check to make sure there are no painful pressure points when you get the binding securely on.
- Traction refers to the amount of grip snowshoes have on the snow. Almost all snowshoes have a crampon directly below the binding. Some more aggressive snowshoes have additional traction elements near the tail of the snowshoe or along each edge.
- For casual, recreational or flat terrain, you may not need an aggressive traction system.
- For steep, firm snow or backcountry terrain, an aggressive crampon system with long tangs will provide more security. Tail or side-rail traction elements will also help with steep uphill, downhill and sidehill terrain.
- For running and racing you want a traction system that is secure enough for slip-free grip, but as lightweight as possible.
Weight With Gear
If you are planning on venturing in to the wilderness off trail you should be sure to select a snowshoe that is the right size for your weight. Having a snowshoe that is too small will cause you to sink deeply into soft snow. A snowshoe that is too large, conversely, will be heavy and clunky. Always consult the product hangtag, website or a shop employee to learn what the best size for your weight is. And don't forget to add 10-25 lbs. depending on how much gear you plan to take with you!