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How to Buy Snowshoes

Updated on November 4, 2007

Spending time outside during the winter may not be everyone's idea of a good time. Cold weather enjoyment is an acquired taste. One of the problems of going out during the winter is having to slog through the snow. Activities like hiking, walking, camping or even geocaching are so much more difficult when you are knee-deep in snow.

The simple answer is: snowshoes. They are not the huge clumsy wooden things you may remember from years ago. Modern snowshoes are sleek, light and very effective for walking through the snow. If you like getting outside during snowy weather, a pair of snowshoes can help open up many new winter-time activities. They are a unique piece of sporting equipment, so you need to know a bit before getting a pair.


Snowshoes are not a one-size-fits-all item. But they are not sized like boots are either. Snowshoes are sized by the weight they will have to carry, which is both your weight AND the weight of your gear. You don't need to know the weight down to the exact pound, but knowing that you usually travel with a heavily loaded pack will make a difference compared to travelling with no equipment. Depending on the model, there are only about 4 sizes to choose from. The straps and bindings that fasten the snowshoes to your boots are fully adjustable, so your boot size isn't generally a factor.


The binding is the part of the snowshoe that attaches to your shoe or boot. There are basically 2 kinds of bindings available for modern snowshoes: rotating or fixed. The fixed binding fasten your boot tightly to the snowshoe and allow for less pivoting when you step. The back end of the snowshoe comes up along with your heel, which can toss snow around and make your walking more tiring. The rotating type of bindings let your foot pivot with each step, so that the back of the snowshoe doesn't lift when you walk. Must less tiring, but can make it harder to navigate in rough terrain.


If you plan to use your snowshoes in a variety of places, then you should look for a mid-range type of shoe. But if you know that you are likely going to use them in a particular sort of area, then you should try to get the most appropriate style. Snowshoeing off the trail in uneven or brush-covered areas will require a smaller shoe to help with manoeuvring. Knowing your terrain will help decide on the bindings, as mentioned already.

Other Features to Look For

The toe of the snowshoe should be turned upwards to help reduce snow accumulation on the front of the shoe. A shoe made with an aluminium or carbon frame, with synthetic decking (the flat part of the shoe) will provide the lightest shoe with greatest durability.

Think About Poles

Ski poles can be a valuable accessory if you start to go out snowshoeing. They are great for helping you manage your balance, and can reduce the strain on your back while walking.


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      dr. 7 years ago

      Good stuff, I recently went out to the alps. I felt like Davy Crocket or something marching out with these on my feet. =D