Snowshoes Types and How to Choose the Right One For You

Snowshoes Types and How to Choose the Right One For You

It’s that time of year again when the snow starts to fall, and we all begin to think about getting our winter gear out of storage.

And one essential item for a fun winter is a good set of snowshoes.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter scenery, whether going for a leisurely walk in the woods or trying to burn some calories on a more challenging hike.

Basically, snowshoeing is hiking in the snow. But instead of regular shoes, you wear snowshoes. These special shoes give you extra traction and floatation so you can walk on top of the snow instead of sinking into it with every step.

But with so many different types and designs on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are right for you. This article will help you understand the different types of snowshoes available and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Why you should trust my advice: I am an expert in the field of winter sports and have been working with different types of outdoor settings for over 10 years. In that time, I have worked as a salesperson, guide, and instructor, helping people choose the right pair of snowshoes and teaching them how to use them.

1. What are Snowshoes?

1. What are Snowshoes

Snowshoes are platform shoes that you strap over your regular shoes or boots. They have long been used by people who need to walk in deep snow, as they distribute your weight evenly over a larger surface area, preventing you from sinking into the snow.

With the rise in popularity of winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowboarding, snowshoes have become more popular as a recreational activity in recent years. They are relatively easy to use and don’t require special training or equipment, making them a great way to enjoy the winter scenery.

2. The History of the Snowshoe and How it has Evolved Over Time

2. The History of the Snowshoe and How it has Evolved Over Time

The snowshoe is an ancient invention, with the first known examples dating back over 4,000 years. The earliest snowshoes were made from wood and animal skins, shaped like a teardrop or an elongated oval.

Although the basic design has remained the same, the materials and construction of snowshoes have evolved significantly over the years. Modern snowshoes are made from aluminium or plastic and are much lighter and easier to use than their ancestors.

3. What are the Different Snowshoes Types Available on the Market Today?

3. What are the Different Dnowshoes Types Available on the Market Today

There are three main types of snowshoes available today: flat terrain, rolling terrain, and mountain terrain.

Flat terrain snowshoes are best for walking on relatively flat surfaces, such as frozen lakes or well-trodden paths in the woods. They are also suitable for beginners, as they are easy to use and don’t require any special skills or training.

Rolling terrain snowshoes are designed for more rugged terrain and are perfect for hiking in the mountains or cross-country skiing. They have a more aggressive tread pattern that helps you to stay on your feet when walking over rough or uneven surfaces.

Mountain terrain snowshoes are the most robust type of snowshoe designed for extreme conditions. They have a very aggressive tread pattern that helps you climb steep hills and navigate through dense forests. They are also much more sophisticated, with features such as built-in crampons and braking systems that help you control your speed when going downhill.

4. How do You Choose the Right Snowshoe Type for Your Needs?

4. How do You Choose the Right Snowshoe Type for Your Needs

To choose the right snowshoes, you’ll want to factor in three simple things:

Have an idea of where you plan to go: Knowing where you plan to go will be the best indicator of what type of snowshoe is right for you.

Have an estimate of how much you’ll weigh (including gear): The rule of thumb is that the heavier you are (and the more equipment you carry), the larger your snowshoes should be. The flotation they provide (i.e., how well they keep you from sinking into deep powder) depends on their size.

What type of snow you’ll be snowshoeing in: If you plan on walking through soft powder snow, you’ll want a larger snowshoe with more surface area to help prevent you from sinking. If the snow is more packed down, like on trails, a smaller snowshoe will be just fine.

Now that you know what to consider when choosing a pair of snowshoes, you can start to narrow down your choices. Once you have those answers, you can look at specific models and brands that best suit your needs.

5. Snowshoe Type by Performance Feature

5. Snowshoe Type by Performance Feature

Frames and Decking

The two main components of any snowshoe are the frame and the decking. The frame is the metal or plastic structure that provides support and stability, while the decking is the material that makes up the body of the snowshoe and provides flotation.

There are three different types of frames:

  • Aluminium: Aluminium is the most common type of frame material used in entry-level and high-end snowshoes. It is lightweight and durable, making it an excellent choice for all types of snowshoeing.
  • Plastic: Plastic frames are less expensive than aluminium frames and are often found in entry-level snowshoes. They are not as durable as aluminium frames, but they are lighter in weight, making them a good choice for lighter users.
  • Composite: Composite frames are made from a combination of materials, such as aluminium and plastic. They offer the best of both worlds, with the durability of aluminium and the lightweight feel of plastic.

Traction Devices

Traction devices are an essential feature of any snowshoe, as they help to keep you from slipping and falling on icy or slippery surfaces. There are three different types of traction devices:

Screw-in spikes: Screw-in spikes are the most common type of traction device. They provide good traction on icy and slippery surfaces and are easy to replace if they become worn out.

Studded rubber: Studded rubber is another type of traction device that is often found on entry-level snowshoes. They provide good traction on icy and slippery surfaces but are not as durable as screw-in spikes and can be more difficult to replace.

Carbon steel crampons: Carbon steel crampons are the most aggressive type of traction device and are typically only found on high-end snowshoes. They provide excellent traction on icy and slippery surfaces but are also the most expensive type of traction device.


The binding is the snowshoe part that attaches to your boot and keeps your foot in place. There are two different types of bindings:

Rotating toe: Rotating toe bindings are the most common type of binding. They allow your foot to rotate freely, making them a great choice for all types of snowshoeing.

Fixed heel: Fixed heel bindings are less common than rotating toe bindings. They do not allow your foot to rotate, which makes them a better choice for downhill walking or running.

Heel Lifts

Heel lifts are a feature that is often found on high-end snowshoes. They help reduce the fatigue of walking uphill by lifting your heel up, making walking easier with a natural gait.

Now that you know what to look for in a pair of snowshoes let’s look at the sizings.

6. Snowshoe Sizing Reference Guide

6. Snowshoe Sizing Reference Guide

When it comes to snowshoes, size does matter. Not only do you want to make sure that you select the right size for your foot, but also for the type of terrain you will be traversing. A poorly fitted pair of snowshoes can lead to an unfortunate experience on the trail, so it’s essential to take the time to find the perfect pair for your needs.

Here is a reference chart for snowshoe sizing:

WEIGHT:                      LENGTH:

80-160 LBS                 21-23 INCHES

120-200 LBS               25-27 INCHES

150-260 LBS               30 INCHES

180-300+  LBS           35-36 INCHES

7. Why are more people choosing to go snowshoeing these days?

7. Why are more people choosing to go snowshoeing these days

According to research, In 2021, 53 per cent of Americans ages 6 and over participated in outdoor recreation at least once, the highest participation rate on record. And it’s no wonder why. Being in nature is well-documented and includes improved mental health, increased creativity, decreased stress levels, and better sleep.

In the same report, I found that the popularity of snowshoeing in the United States declined to 3.2 million enthusiasts in 2021, comparatively to 4.1 million in 2012. Even still, this number doesn’t reflect the total number of people who have tried snowshoeing at least once.

Why the decline? The main reason seems to be a lack of time. In our fast-paced world, it’s hard to find the time to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life.

8. The Health Benefits of Snowshoeing

8. The Health Benefits of Snowshoeing

Undeniably, one of the best things about snowshoeing is that it gets you outside in the fresh air and winter scenery. But did you know that snowshoeing is also a great workout? It provides many of the same health benefits as running but without the impact on your joints.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn calories, and it’s also an excellent way to build lower body strength,

Below are the main benefits of snowshoeing:

Improved circulation

Walking in deep snow helps improve circulation and gets the blood flowing.

Reduced stress levels

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being.

Improved cardio workout

Snowshoes are a great way to get a cardio workout during winter.

Less impact on the joints

Walking in deep snow can be tough on the joints, but snowshoes distribute your weight more evenly, taking some of the strain off your joints.

Increased traction and stability

Snowshoes provide extra traction and stability, which can be helpful when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces.

A fun way to explore the outdoors

Snowshoes are a great way to explore the great outdoors in the wintertime. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy.

9. How do you start snowshoeing if you’ve never done it?

9. How do you start snowshoeing if you've never done it

Okay, so now you know a little bit about what to consider when purchasing snowshoes. But how do you go about using them?

It’s actually very simple – you just have to take them on and walk. It might be a good idea to stick to groomed trails or packed-down areas when starting out. You can venture into more challenging terrain as you get more comfortable with snowshoeing.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

When first starting, it’s best to start small. Try going out for a short walk and gradually build up your endurance.

It’s important to stay light on your feet when snowshoeing, as this will help you move more quickly and avoid sinking into deep snow.

When walking in deep snow, it’s important to take it slow and steady. This will help prevent you from tiring out quickly.

Use trekking poles. Trekking poles can be helpful when snowshoeing, as they provide extra stability and balance.

10. Snowshoeing Safety Tips

10. Snowshoeing Safety Tips

As with any outdoor activity, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind when snowshoeing. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while snowshoeing:

Wear proper clothing and footwear. It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Make sure to wear warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy boots.

Be aware of your surroundings. When snowshoeing, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and know what’s ahead of you. Watch out for obstacles such as trees, rocks, and drop-offs. Moreover, if you see a wild animal nearby, give it plenty of space and don’t approach it.

Carry a map and compass. Always carry a map and compass when snowshoeing in case you get lost.

Don’t go alone. It’s always best to go snowshoeing with a friend or group. That way, if something happens, there’s someone there to help.

11. Snowshoeing is Fun!

11. Snowshoeing is Fun!

I hope this guide has helped you learn more about snowshoe types and how to use them. Remember, snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter scenery. It’s also a great workout that provides many health benefits. And if you follow the safety tips, it’s a safe activity to enjoy.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and give snowshoeing a try!

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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