how to choose the best snowshoes

If you want to keep hiking all winter, you’ll need snowshoes more than anything else. Snowshoeing is like having an all-access pass to the backcountry in the winter, and choosing the right pair of snowshoes can make or break your experience. It turns out that knowing your shoe size isn’t enough to know how to choose the best snowshoes. We are here to break it down so you don’t get stuck in the snow this winter.

What are snowshoes? 

Snowshoes are shoes that go over your hiking boots and keep you from “post-holing” or sinking up to your thighs in the snow when you’re hiking.

Snowshoes have a wide shape like a tennis racquet and help you stay above the snow, so you don’t sink. They have a binding that holds the snowshoe to your hiking boot. You want a binding that keeps the book together and is easy to put in and take. Think about pulling one tab to make the snowshoe fit your foot instead of fiddling with it for five minutes in the cold. On the bottom of the snowshoe is a crampon to help you dig into the snow and sometimes a heel lift, depending on the terrain you plan to use.

  • Snowshoes with an aluminium frame

These are more traditional, like nylon. Most of the time, these are light and strong.

  • Snowshoes made of plastic

Where the frame and flotation area are all made of the same rigid material, it can be a little noisier to hike in.

  • Sledges made of EVA foam

These newer inventions are quiet, warm, and easy to move around. However, they don’t have as much grip and are probably better for casual use.

What size snowshoes to buy

Snowshoes work because they cover more ground than your boots do on their own. Most snowshoes are about the same width, but their lengths are different. You should choose a size that gives you enough floatation for your weight and the type of snow you’ll be skiing on, such as deep powder or packed trails.

Follow these steps to figure out what size snowshoes you need:

Find out your fully laden weight.

The suggested user weight for snowshoes is not your typical weight-on-the-scale weight. It’s the total weight of everything the snowshoes will transport. That includes you, your winter clothing, your boots, and your gear-laden bag. If you’re holding a lot of stuff or are heavy, you’ll need a snowshoe with a larger surface area.

Think about the snow conditions

You’ll need more buoyancy in fresh powder than in wet, heavy snow or on trails. So, if you usually snowshoe in an area with a lot of fluffy snow, choose a snowshoe that is bigger than your weight to cover more ground. On the other hand, if you typically snowshoe on hard-packed routes or wet snow, a smaller snowshoe for your weight is sufficient.

Find the ideal fit

Once you know what size snowshoes will work best for your weight and the snow conditions, you should try them out. Bring the boots you plan to wear when you go to your local MEC store to try on snowshoes. This will assist you in getting the best fit. Try out different brands and styles of binding to find the one you like best. Make sure there are no hurting pressure points when you stand up in the snowshoes. If you can’t decide, you can try out different styles and brands by renting gear in your area.

Best Snowshoes for children

Snowshoes for children are available in tiny sizes that match the child’s weight. They’re built of more durable and less costly materials and offer kid-friendly traction that’s robust enough to handle steep terrain but not sharp enough to pierce snowsuits.

Best Snowshoes for women

In terms of fit, snowshoes explicitly created for women are typical:

  • Smaller, smaller surface area since lighter weights often need less floatation.
  • Thinner and tapered, with a stride that is thinner in mind.
  • Designed with thinner bindings and increased arch support to accommodate smaller feet
  • Designed with crampons and traction rails to accommodate smaller feet and strides

The Number of Choices, You Have

There are several designs available nowadays. The most suitable one for you will rely on how thick, and stiff the snow is where you usually go, how steep or rocky your regular terrain is, and even how much you weigh and how much time you have.

Hiking/Recreational Snowshoes

Hiking or recreational snowshoes are the most popular and widely used form of snowshoes. Their designs differ, yet they have specific characteristics:

  • The geography varies from flat to rolling hills.
  • Simpler, generally webbing-based bindings and less aggressive traction systems are characteristics.
  • They are more likely to be entry-level (and therefore lower-priced)

Backcountry Snowshoes

Backcountry snowshoes are the most technically sophisticated, with more advanced features and a higher price range than other snowshoes.

  • Terrain, Intended for use on ice, steep terrain with thick snow.
  • Aggressive crampons, featuring gripping edges on the sides of the deck and back crampons in certain instances, and improved bindings suited to handle robust winter boots or snowboard boots.
  • Day hiking, winter summiting, backpacking, or backcountry snowboarding are all possibilities.

Running Snowshoes

Snowshoe running is becoming more popular as more people learn about the health benefits of working in the snow. People with joint problems also like it because it is less impactful than running. Snowshoe races are also springing up all over the country as runners try to stay in shape during the winter. In this case, speed is more critical than floatation.

  • Flat or rolling, and most of the time groomed or packed down.
  • Generally, they are shorter and narrower than other snowshoes so that you can walk more naturally.
  • Here, speed and walking or running are more important than being able to float.


  • Frame

Most snowshoes have a tubular aluminium frame and a thin, flexible material for the decking. But new designs, like those with a flat metal frame or those made entirely of plastic, are becoming more popular.

  • Tubular Frames

This classic style works well on soft surfaces where you don’t need much grip. Most recreational snowshoes and backcountry snowshoes made for deep powder are in this style.

  • Frames flat stock

The MSR Lightning range exemplifies this new sort of design. They have a metal frame with serrated edges and long-lasting rubber decking. When hanging on a steep, slippery slope, this kind of shoe is worth its weight in gold.

  • Decking made of plastic

This lightweight design often lacks a separate frame; the decking is composed of plastic or a stiff composite. They might be a touch sticky on slick surfaces due to their rigidity. These are ideal when buoyancy is not a primary concern, or there is limited space.


The most prevalent are steel or steel composites, which provide a robust foundation with excellent grip. Aluminium is another lightweight material. Most crampons have two prongs at the toe, but others have three for improved grip. Backcountry snowshoes may also include a row of teeth on the bottom of the heel for different holds. Many, if not most, plastic-decked snowshoes have ‘traction rails’ down the side that may assist you securely navigating steep, hardpacked areas.

Binding System

The bindings on a pair of snowshoes can make or break the deal to buy them. When looking at snowshoes, you should consider the shoes you’ll probably be wearing and how you’ll use them. For instance, the bindings on backcountry snowshoes are stiffer and offer more side support. They are also usually made to fit more enormous boots. Running snowshoes must also be sturdy and have a good connection between the foot and the snowshoe.

  • Nylon webbing straps: Found on more entry-level snowshoes webbing straps are lightweight and allow a lot of flexibility (and hence the ability to function with various shoes/boots). Still, they are not as supportive as other varieties and stretch when wet.
  • Rubber/polyurethane straps: The most popular strap form, seen on various bindings. These benefit from not sagging when wet or freezing in cold temperatures.
  • Ratchet straps: Ratchet straps, like those used on snowboard bindings, provide great adjustability and convenience.
  • Boa closure: This relatively new form of binding provides a secure, wraparound fit and is very easy to use. 

Unlike the old strap bindings that kept your foot firmly on the flat surface of the snowshoe, most modern bindings pivot so that you can walk more commonly, especially in deep snow and on slopes. On running snowshoes, you might find bindings that don’t move. This is because if you’re running on hard-packed snow, you won’t need to move the bindings as much. Plus, you don’t want the snowshoes flapping around on your feet while running.

One last note

If you intend to spend time in the mountains, please acquire avalanche training to keep yourself safe. Avalanche training can help you make wise judgments in the snow.

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