How to Choose Snowshoes

At Eastern Mountain Sports, there's a snowshoe for every individual, in every terrain, on every adventure. How do you find the best pair for you? Consider our expert tips on how to buy snowshoes...

Who Are You?

Some snowshoes are designed specifically for women or children. So start your snowshoe search by going to the Snowshoe category, and looking in the Men's Snowshoes, Women's Snowshoes, or Kids' Snowshoes section.

Snowshoe Bindings

Bindings secure your footwear to the snowshoes. Footwear recommendations are simple: wear what keeps your feet warm and comfortable. Big bulky boots may not be necessary if you're going to be moving quickly. Most snowshoe bindings work with any kind of boot. Bindings are an important part of the snowshoe; make sure you can get them on and off your feet with relative ease once you learn the technique.

Bindings attach to the snowshoe in two ways: fixed and rotating toe cords. Fixed toe cords keep the snowshoe close to the bottom of your foot when you pick up your feet. This is advantageous when stepping over fallen trees, and the minor drawback is that light snow on the tail of the snowshoe can get flipped up on your back when you move quickly. Rotating toe cords allow the snowshow tail to drop away from your heel when you lift your foot, which lets the snow drain off, and may require better technique stepping over obstacles.

Consider Adjustable Poles

Poles are handy for balance. Snowshoeing incorporates more of your hip muscles and poles can help relieve some of the strain as you begin the sport. Negotiating steep terrain, both uphill and down, is easier with poles, and poles add an extra element to your workout by using your upper body.

Snowshoe Crampons

All our snowshoes have crampons for traction. Even recreational models will dig into the snow to climb uphill and control you speed on the downhill, and models for steep mountainous terrain have enough big teeth on the bottom to mimic ice climbing crampons.

Snowshoe Frames & Decking

Most snowshoes have aluminum frames to support your weight, as well as a durable decking material. All styles work well. Hard-core snowshoers, however, may look for higher grade aluminum (e.g., "7075 aluminum") or lighter weight decking, such as Hypalon. Non-tubular aluminum frames and composite decked snowshoes are more common today and offer equal durability.

Where Will You Snowshoe?

Snowshoes come in different styles determined by where you will use them. With simple bindings and good traction, Gentle terrain snowshoes allow you to explore bike paths, fields, and frozen swamps. If you need something more versatile, to range from fields to foothills and back, both on and off trail, then check out the Rolling terrain snowshoes. If it is high peaks you're after, you'll need Steep terrain snowshoes. With aggressive crampons and heel bars for climbing, these snowshoes go anywhere.

Running snowshoes are light and small for great maneuverability. Optimized for an efficient stride, running snowshoes excel on snowmobile trails and packed open trails. Running snowshoes are not an ultralight alternative to heavier snowshoes for backpacking trips, as they are not designed to fit over winter boots or to use in harsh trail conditions such as rocks above treeline.

Your Weight & Where You Go

Notice that each snowshoe provides a "user weight" range. Include the weight of your gear and consider the density of the snow you'll normally encounter. If you expect loose, dry powder or if you often break trails, choose a larger snowshoe than the one recommended for your weight. If you expect wet, heavy snow or if you follow packed trails, a smaller snowshoe will provide enough support, and give you excellent traction.

To Learn More

Try renting a pair in our stores! (Please call for rental availability.) Or call our Winter Sports School for expert instruction and fun outings. Float on!