In the event that the weather clears after a blizzard and you're sick of staying indoors, a pair of snowshoes will allow you to go for a walk in your backyard or on your favorite trail without sinking to your knees. Snowshoes prevent your feet from pounding through the snowpack by distributing your weight over a larger surface area.
The demand for snowshoes skyrocketed in 2022, but supply constraints prevented us from testing a new model. However, because our team has tried on practically every pair of shoes that matters, we figured we'd write up some recommendations based on our own experience. As soon as snowshoes become more widely available, we will update this guidance with more rigorous testing. Our top choices may be sold out, but we hope that the information in "How we picked and tested" will help you evaluate whatever snowshoes you find.
- BrandTHE NORTH FACE
- BrandTHE NORTH FACE
Mens Womens Winter Warm Snow Boots Slip On Waterproof Outdoor Casual Walking Hiking Shoes Black 10.5 Women/8.5 MenView on Amazon
WHITIN Men's Winter Shoes Snow Boots Outdoor Trekking for Weather Warm Work Rubber Insulated Fully Fur Lined Nubuck Leather Hiking Waterproof Lace Up Anti-Slip Backpacking Tan Brown Size 9.5View on Amazon
UPSOLO Mens Winter Backpacking Mountaineering Hiker Field Anti-Slip Water Resistant Trekking Fully Fur Lined Shoes Walking Lightweight Hiking Boots(6118 Black 42)View on Amazon
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Last update on 2023-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images, Product Titles, and Product Highlights from Amazon Product Advertising API
When snowshoeing, the shoes you wear make a significant difference in how you feel. Our go-to hiking footwear is a pair of lightweight, waterproof, and minimally insulated boots.
Keeping your feet above the snow becomes much simpler with longer and wider snowshoes. However, if your snowshoes are too wide or too lengthy, you may find it more difficult to walk normally. To achieve a happy medium between float and maneuverability, our go-to snowshoe size is 25 inches in length and has a tapered form. In order to quickly adjust the length of your MSR snowshoes to the snow pack, the company offers an accessory called Flotation Tails.
You can tell what kind of snowshoes they are best suited for by looking at the decking material and crampon design. Your best bet for walking on ice and packed snow is a pair of toe crampons, namely a pair made of deep, steel spikes. Most snowshoes have side rails, also known as traction bars, which aid in lateral traction and keep you stable while you walk across a slope. If you need to gain grip on steep inclines, snowshoes with crampons and siderail teeth that go in numerous directions are your best bet.
The length of your snowshoes should be determined not only by the snow type and terrain, but also by your weight. Each pair of snowshoes often has a listed weight range (or "recommended load") from the manufacturer, which accounts for your own weight in addition to any gear you want to bring along. Longer snowshoes are more stable while carrying more weight, so choose a pair whose length corresponds to your body mass. The 200-pound capacity of the shortest 26-inch Atlas Range-Trail, the 250-pound capacity of the largest 30-inch model, and the 300-plus-pound capacity of the longest 35-inch model are all examples. Finally, certain snowshoes (such as the widely used MSR Lightning, Revo, and Evo series) have removable tails that can be used to extend length depending on the user and conditions.
You can't have trail comfort or stability without the binding system. A decent binding should keep your feet in place for the duration of your hike without requiring frequent adjusting. One of the few areas where manufacturers truly differentiate themselves from one another is in the systems they offer. Regardless of the manufacturer, you should expect an increase in both comfort and adjustability alongside the increase in price.
Multiple Straps or Single-Pull
The two most frequent kinds of bindings are the plastic wraparound kind that is fastened with crisscrossing webbing, and the single strap kind that is fastened over the foot and around the heel. Unlike MSR, whose primary models have strap systems, Atlas and Tubbs use the more conventional binding and webbing design. In many ways, Crescent Moon's binding mechanism is a hybrid of the two, but the one-pull loop design leans more toward the traditional style.
The breakdown of the systems shows that the binding is not always directly connected with overall snowshoe quality, despite the crucial relevance of a comfortable design. We think MSR makes great snowshoes, but their bindings are a weak point (excluding the Paragon binding on the Revo and Lightning Ascent). They've dedicated themselves to a strap cinch system, which is a big factor. The bindings' flat packability is a smart design choice, but it comes at the expense of mediocre comfort and hold no matter which level of strapping system you choose. This vulnerability has long puzzled us, yet it has in no way prevented them from being market leaders.
The Boa binding system is the third popular option. This method employs a wrapped binding similar to what might be found on a typical ski, but instead of webbing, it uses wiring that can be adjusted with a knob (the entire system cinches down on you simultaneously for impressive evenness and comfort). Popularized by snowboard boots, the technology is now found on an increasing number of snowshoe models from Atlas, Tubbs, and others. When compared to MSR's three- or four-strap systems, putting on and taking off snowshoes like the Tubbs Panoramic is a breeze. The lack of granular adjustment makes it difficult to achieve a customized fit by, for example, tightening one area while leaving another loose. Yet that is a non-factor for the vast majority of people.
Features and Accessories
Heel Lift (Climb) Bars
Heel lifts, also called risers, are standard on nearly all backcountry snowshoes and the vast majority of high-end recreational snowshoes. It's exactly what it sounds like: a metal bar that can be raised and locked under your heel so you can use it to ascend. Like a sturdy mountaineering boot, the elevated bar prevents you from letting your heel drop while ascending a steep slope. Having this function may be helpful because it lessens calf strain, but it may not be worth the cost. Because most consumers don't require them, several organizations, including Crescent Moon, were hesitant to add them to their roster. However, as consumer demand has remained high, Crescent Moon has included a heel lift as an optional extra on most of their models.
On long ascents, such as a spring snowshoe to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier, we've found that heel lift bars are really helpful. But in the vast majority of cases, we don't. Not worth the effort to bend over and raise and lower the bar unless the hill is steep and will continue steep. We think this feature is overrated because a gripping snowshoe and poles make climbing considerably simpler. Sometimes useful, that's for sure. Imperative? Not at all.
The extra snowshoe tails that come included with MSR snowshoes are among of our favorites, and they're seriously undervalued. All three of their snowshoe lines—the Evo, the Revo, and the Lightning—benefit from the addition of these accessories. For more buoyancy in deeper snow, don the tails, and stow them away for firmer snow travel. It's no wonder that Seattle-based MSR is at the vanguard because they're perfect for the Pacific Northwest and Colorado, where snow conditions can change drastically from one season to the next.
Different sized snowshoes will float to different degrees. Size matters when it comes to flotation, so go big or go home. If you plan to stomp through heavy snow, you'll need a sturdy pair of snowshoes.
However, larger snowshoes tend to be bulkier and less maneuverable than their smaller counterparts. You can get away with a smaller, more natural-feeling model if you stick to packed snow or groomed terrain.
Another factor to think about is that snowshoes of varying sizes typically have varying weight limitations. These guidelines are not set in stone, but rather reflect the manufacturer's opinion of how much weight the shoe may safely support before it stops functioning (floating) as intended. It takes more surface area to keep heavier hikers and hikers carrying a lot of stuff afloat in deep snow.
Snowshoes are often designed in three distinct styles: unisex, women's, and men's. To better understand women's snowshoes, think about snowshoes for those with smaller stances. They're broader in the forepart and narrower at the back, making for a more normal walking motion. This design lessens the strain on your hips and knees and decreases the likelihood of a painful snowshoe frame-to-ankle collision.
Hikers with a wider stance may prefer men's snowshoes because they don't taper like women's.
A snowshoe, if it can be called that, is probably not overwhelmingly popular with either gender.
Aluminum and plastic are commonly used to make the cheapest snowshoes, while nylon and steel are used for the most expensive ones.
The material of the spikes under your foot is the most important consideration for the casual hiker. Low-quality footwear often has metal shanks and spikes. Metal "rails" serve as a base for the skateboarder's feet, and the spikes are frequently welded into these rails (though not always). Those parts can get worn out, warped, and break if not maintained properly. If a shoe has steel rails or spikes, it's likely of higher quality and can withstand more abuse.
As usual, the disadvantage of steel is its heaviness. Snowshoe frames (not the spikes) are often made of aluminum, especially when they are particularly long (to help the user float in deep, fluffy snow).
The most common method of securing a snowshoe to your boot is with plastic straps. Yes, this is a positive development. Strong straps are what keep your shoes on even after your boot has pulled on them dozens of times.
They can be secured with a ratchet mechanism or buckles. Straps can be composed of a variety of materials, including nylon and metal cables. Slide your foot in between the snowshoes' straps and pull them tight to put them on.
You'll be putting your snowshoes through surprising amounts of damage, whether you're clomping endlessly in the snow, making casual slips, or simply banging them around on the pavement before and after your trip, so it's vital that your foot is secure in the shoe.
What size snowshoe should I get?
Most snowshoes are one size fits all because of the importance of weight in determining the appropriate size. Women's specialized models exist from select manufacturers, however, and these boards, like the Crescent Moon Gold, are tailored to women's feet and strides with narrower bindings and a teardrop shape.
In my opinion, the "shrink it and pink it" tendency is not a problem in this particular sport. Snowshoes designed for ladies are equally as durable as those designed for males, and they come in a wide range of colors. All you have to do is select a pair that works for your body type and you'll be good to go.
Here are some models of snowshoes that will keep you afloat even if you're carrying a big pack or person, as recommended by Snowshoe Magazine.
Take note that the women's Crescent Moon Gold snowshoes have a more restrictive shoe size range than typical models. Women's shoe sizes 6 through 12 can be worn there.
Do I need poles to snowshoe?
This is a common inquiry, and the short answer is: it is context dependent. The use of snowshoe poles is optional, but here are some questions to help you decide.
If you choose to use poles, you can make use of your existing trekking poles. Snow baskets are the only thing missing (just be sure to get the right brand). Find out which trekking poles we think are the best if you don't already have some.
In particular, when dealing with deep snow, an aluminum trekking pole will prove more useful than its titanium counterpart. Torsion can cause lightweight poles to break in heavy snow. Ski poles are built to handle a wider range of snow conditions.
Do I need special boots to go snowshoeing?
On the contrary, regular boots that will keep your feet warm and dry are what we suggest. Wearing lightweight, waterproof hiking boots with wool or synthetic stockings is recommended. In order to protect the snow from entering your boots and to add some warmth, you should wear low gaiters. Ski socks are recommended, as they are taller than hiking socks and have additional padding, cushioning, and insulation where your feet would be exposed to snow the most.
Hikers can experience a whole new universe with the help of a decent pair of snowshoes. You won't have to slog through the snow in quest of a decent mountain track; instead, you can simply float above the snow and reach previously inaccessible locations. We hope this review will help you zero in on the best pair for your needs and budget so you can spend less time researching and more time enjoying the snow.