Selecting the right snowshoes can be an overwhelming task if you are starting from scratch. Once you read through all the logic regarding shape, size, style, materials, intended use, etc. you will realize that the selection is actually quite easy to sift through.
When I walk someone through the snowshoe selection process, the first question I always ask is, “what will you be using your snowshoes for?” The answer to this question usually eliminates ¾ of the snowshoe selection.
“I plan on snowshoeing for fun with my family, and don’t intend to use them regularly or on difficult terrain.”
If your answer sounds something like this, you are probably in the market for a recreation snowshoe. This snowshoe is designed for the casual/beginner/all around snowshoer. The shoe has comfortable, easy-to-adjust bindings and conservative traction systems for gentler terrain, for example the park, golf course, or field in your neighborhood. This snowshoe category is also a good value for you if you are not sure you will use them often or year after year.
“I plan on snowshoeing frequently and may go off trail from time to time or on steep slopes. I probably won’t be climbing peaks, or backpacking, but I want a high quality, durable shoe.”
If your answer sounds something like this, you are probably in the market for a hiking snowshoe. This snowshoe is designed for the casual to frequent snowshoer and is the largest category of snowshoes on the market. This snowshoe will be the best value, as you will see a step up in decking material, crampon quality and frame design. This snowshoe is a great all around shoe for the person who may be snowshoeing in the park one day and on the local mountain trails the next.
“I plan on snowshoeing on challenging terrain. I might be carrying a heavy pack or ski/snowboard equipment, and I often wear bulky boots when I snowshoe. I could be in deep snow or on an icy slope on the same day.”
If your answer sounds something like this, you are probably in the market for a backcountry/mountaineering snowshoe. This snowshoe is designed for the backcountry enthusiast/aggressive snowshoer. The shoe has a heavy-duty binding, (often ratcheted) to accommodate a bulkier boot. The traction system is more aggressive with larger crampons for icy and steep terrain. The decking material is highly durable for varying weather and terrain conditions.
“I plan on running to stay in shape during the winter and want to hit some of the local trails in the area. I might even enter a snowshoe race this season.”
If your answer sounds something like this, you are probably in the market for a racing/running snowshoe. This snowshoe is designed for the fitness enthusiast. It typically has lighter-weight construction and bindings than your average snowshoe. The bindings are designed with running shoes vs. boots in mind. They lace up and cup athletic footwear well. There is typically an extra cleat under the toe for additional traction while running on packed trails.
Our Next Article will cover How to Pick the right Snowshoe Size.
This is part of a larger article covering all aspects of purchasing snowshoes. This is one section of that series on how to pick the perfect pair of snowshoes. To read the entire article, please click here.