Buying Guide for Snowshoes


By Steve Kopitz


Snowshoes may seem basic enough to buy as a first timer but as avid snowshoe enthusiasts would beg to differ. Although from the outside looking in it seems pretty cut and dry there are some major things to consider when purchasing a set of snowshoes. Things like; what type of snowshoe is going to work best for me, what other than snowshoes will I need to purchase and exactly how do I get started snowshoeing? All of these are adequate questions to ask when buying snowshoes and these are all things we look to answer here in this Snowshoe buying guide.


Click on a section below to jump ahead to that section:

Types of Snowshoes Snowshoe Accessories Getting Started Snowshoeing


Types of Snowshoes


There are 3 main types of different snowshoes and there are also women’s models in each of these styles. The main styles are recreational, backcountry, race and of course women’s in each of these.


Recreational Snowshoes

Backcountry Snowshoes

Race Snowshoes


Recreational Snowshoes- Recreational snowshoes are going to be the most popular model of snowshoes as these are the most widely used and adapt in many different situations and terrain. When you get a recreational snowshoe you get a less aggressive snowshoe that works well for flat or light rolling terrain like golf courses, packed trails and just walking around in lighter snow cover.

Recreational Snowshoes

Recreational snowshoes are great for walking the dog and a lot of people keep them in there cars in case of a snow emergency. Recreational snowshoes work best on harder packed snow but you can occasionally break your own path if you need to get through some deeper snow or rougher terrain. Equipped with moderate crampons, the metal attachment on the bottom that grips the snow, you can still dig in and get a great grip on most all icy terrain. Recreational snowshoes are typically geared towards entry level to intermediate snowshoe enthusiasts and are available at great prices.


Backcountry Snowshoes- Generally beefed up all throughout backcountry snowshoes are the Megatron of snowshoes. These snowshoes are going to allow you to break your own trail and explore deeper more rough terrain without issue. Backcountry snowshoes are really the SUV of snowshoes; you can be comfortable on a packed down trail at your favorite state park or golf course and then take the shoes over to the backcountry and be at home in the deeper snow and more adverse terrain.

Backcountry Snowshoes

Built with beefier bindings and larger crampons backcountry snowshoes are built like tanks to not only perform but to actually last through many uses. If you stay only on the packed down path and don’t stray it’d probably be best to stay with recreational snowshoes but if you like to make your own path or live in a part of the world that gets hit with harsh winters take the step up to backcountry snowshoes.


Running Snowshoes- Running snowshoes or fitness snowshoes are built for speed and easy control. Typically more streamline and lighter weight these snowshoes are able to be used on harder packed terrain at higher speeds. Built with training, running and even winter marathons in mind these snowshoes are definitely performance minded.

Running Snowshoes

Bindings offered on this style of snowshoes are smaller and offer a tighter adjustment so you can snuggly wrap them around athletic shoes. These snowshoes having a smaller, lightweight design and athletic shoe binding wrap make them absolutely great for racing and training but are not suggested for backcountry or adverse terrain. Hard packed trails and tracks are where these snowshoes will excel.


Snowshoe Accessories


Snowshoeing as a sport does not require as much gear as many other sports making it easier for more people to get involved. You will need good winter gear like a good ski jacket, ski pants, gloves and a hat but there are also a few snowshoe accessories that will greatly increase your fun and safety while snowshoeing. These accessories include snowshoe poles, boot gaiters, flotation tails and carrying cases.


Snowshoe Poles- Snowshoe poles serve a very important purpose while snowshoeing. By using snowshoe poles you stabilize your upper body which is great for building confidence. The poles will give you more balance and increased stability in all conditions including more difficult terrain. The usage of poles will alleviate some pressure felt by your ankles, knees and feet. For those looking for a workout poles work great to involve the upper body meaning you get a lower and upper body workout just by incorporating poles.


Boot Gaiters- When snowshoeing you will be going through some more slushy and adverse conditions which means to stay dry you will need some protection. No matter the conditions boot gaiters will protect your boots and pants (in higher gaiters) from snow and wetness.  On top of keeping the unwanted away from your boots gaiters also keep you a bit warmer working as a shield for wind and cold. This added warmth is great for race snowshoe enthusiasts wearing only athletic shoes.


Floating Tails- For increased float for a powder day or a trip to some new terrain you will need some powder tails. Powder tails act as an extension to your snowshoes that can be easily added to increase the size of the shoe. This gives you added float in deeper and softer snow and will allow you to carry a larger pack/weight if necessary.


Carrying Case- Not necessary for all snowshoe enthusiasts; cases work great to keep tabs on all your gear and to carry it from place to place. Cases also prevent the snowshoes sharp metal teeth from ravaging any of your other gear as it is safely placed in its own case.

Snowshoe Accessories


Getting Started Snowshoeing


Now that you know all you need to know to confidently purchase snowshoes you can get some and get out there! The beautiful thing about snowshoeing is you don’t need to go to a specific snowshoe area like skiers need to go to a ski hill. You can go around the neighborhood, the park or anywhere with snow. Getting started on a level and easy to navigate terrain is the best and then gradually add more diverse terrain as your level of confidence increases.


So what can you do when you go snowshoeing? Anything! You can walk the dog, take photographs, get the mail, walk to the store, hike, camp or any combination or activity you like. Snowshoeing can often time enable another one of your hobbies like marathons, running, photography, etc. Have something you like to do in the summer, get involved in the winter with the help of snowshoes!


Happy Snowshoeing!

Snowshoe Action Shots



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