SNOW SPORTS

The Best Snowshoes for Beginners: Tackle those Snowy Trails

snowshoes for beginners
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

You may love winter time, however, the idea of dashing down the slopes at high speeds may not be your thing. So what else is there to do other than skiing or snowboarding? Well, lucky for you, there’s snowshoeing. It’s definitely the calmer activity, and it’s lets you explore through the mountainous winter wonderland that’s waiting for you.

But, that being said, you’re going to need a solid pair of snowshoes. If you’re new to the world of snowshoeing, you’ll need to catch up on some essential information before buying a pair. So, let’s look at the best snowshoes for beginners.

Why Snowshoe?

So many people want to enjoy winter, however, for one reason or another they’re not able to ski or snowboard. For some people, skiing and snowboarding can cause a fairly large dent in the piggy bank, as you’ll need season passes, ski/snowboarding equipment and proper apparel.

Adventures of the snow shoes

Other people are unable to ski or snowboard because of health issues. If you have weak joints or bad knees, well, these two activities are definitely out of the question. So, what’s so good about snowshoeing? Well, snowshoeing reaps a bunch of benefits:

  • It’s an inexpensive activity, you don’t need special apparel and you can purchase a pair of snowshoes for relatively little money.
  • They’re long lasting, so if you buy a pair of snowshoes, you’ll have them for years to come.
  • It’s an amazing fat-burning workout, burning approximately 420-1000 calories per hour.
  • There are a variety of trails available for beginner to advanced snowshoers.
  • It builds muscles, working out your hamstrings, quads, and calves.
  • If there’s snow, you can snowshoe. You don’t need a certain amount of snow to be able to take part in snowshoeing.
  • It’s a low impact sport. This is because the snow acts as a cushion and absorbs the shock. It’s great if you have knee issues.
  • You don’t have to stay on trail unlike skiing or snowboarding, you have the freedom to snowshoe wherever you like.

Types of snowshoes

Shockingly, you probably thought there was only one type of snowshoe, but you would be wrong. See which type of snowshoeing you prefer and then you’ll be able to narrow down your options.

Hiking/Recreational Snowshoes

These are the most common and popular snowshoes, especially for beginners. You’ll be able to wear these snowshoes for recreational use. They’re ideal for flat or rolling hills due to their simplistic design.

Snowy uphill hike

They have aggressive traction, however, providing less binding than backcountry snowshoes. They’re definitely the least expensive snowshoes because they’re for beginners and recreational use.

Backcountry Snowshoes

If you’re into a more challenging hike through the wintery mountains, then you should consider backcountry snowshoes. These snowshoes are specifically designed for more rugged terrain including ice, deep snow and steep slopes.

The snowshoes are designed with aggressive crampons and stronger binding which are meant for more heavy duty winter boots. With these snowshoes, you’ll be able to walk through almost anything.

Running Snowshoes

As you read above, snowshoeing has so many amazing health benefits, no wonder it’s becoming so popular. So, if you’re into running, but can’t handle the concrete, you can opt for running snowshoes. These snowshoes are not directed at flotation but moreso based on giving you speed.

Snowshoe for running

They’re ideally made for flat or rolling terrain that is usually groomed, so they’re not recommended for backcountry snowshoeing. These snowshoes tend to be shorter and narrower in comparison to your classic snowshoe.

Features

So, now that you figured out what kind of snowshoeing you’d like to do, you now have one step out of the way. However, now you have to keep in mind of some essential features that you’ll be needing when out in the snow.

Snowshoe Bindings

Snowshoe bindings are what keep your boots connected to your snowshoe. They typically come in two forms: rotating bindings and fixed bindings.

  • Rotating Bindings: have a pivot point where they attach to the decking, which is under your feet. This gives you more of a relaxed fit and allows you to walk more naturally. They ideal for when you’re in deep snow or going down steep slopes. However, if you’re walking over logs, you’ll have some awkwardness.
  • Fixed Bindings: they’re connected with a sturdy rubber or neoprene band. They’re not as flexible and decrease the pivot. You’ll be able to walk comfortably with fixed bindings and you’ll be able to walk over logs with ease. However, they do kick the snow up the back of your legs

Snowshoe Frames and Decking

Snowshoes typically come in aluminum frames with synthetic decking. These materials allow the snowshoe to be lightweight and highly responsive, two things that you’ll definitely want in a pair of snowshoes.

Snowshoe Traction Systems

Your body weight will provide your snowshoes traction, however, snowshoes also come with cleats or crampons which give you a sturdy grip. Naturally, flat terrain hiking snowshoes give you moderate traction and increase with aggressiveness if you’re doing backcountry snowshoeing. You have a couple various traction systems that are available.

  • Heel lifts: they’re also known as climbing bars, televators or MSR models. These are wire bails that are placed under your heel. They prevent calf strain while you’re walking up steep slows.They’re ideal for those with calf pain and Achilles issues.
  • Heel crampons: these are placed on the undersides of your deckings. They’re typically shaped as a V, which fills with snow, allowing you a slowly and safely descend down slopes.
  • Toe or instep crampons: they’re placed on the undersides of your bindings which allow them to pivot with your feet for more flexibility and movement. They’re typically the most used form of traction.
  • Side rails: as known as traction bars, they’re placed on the undersides of your deckings and give you more stability, reducing your odds of slipping.
  • Braking bars: they’re apart of your decking’s undersides and give you forward traction while preventing backsliding.

Snowshoe Footwear

The great thing about snowshoes is that you don’t need any special footwear. If you’re doing backcountry snowshoeing, you’ll need a sturdy winter boot, however, with a hiking/recreational snowshoe, you’ll be able to wear either a hiking or snowboarding boot. Just make sure that your boots are stiff enough to give you proper ankle support.

Snowshoe comes with footwear

Now that you know about the important features in a snowshoe, let’s move onto reviewing the best snowshoes on the market.

Review

Looking for a pair of snowshoes can be somewhat confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re a beginner. So, we did the work for you and found the seven best snowshoes. Let’s take a closer look!

MSR Evo

MSR Evo SnowshoesWeight: 3lbs 9 oz / 1.63kg

Dimensions: sizes 4.5M – 15M

Special Features: Unibody traction, all-condition adaptability, made in the USA.

Best Used: hiking/recreational snowshoeing

Description: MSR is a well-known and highly reputable company that makes exceptional snowshoes and the Evo is a perfect example of their craftsmanship. The Evo Snowshoes is made of unibody traction which is steel traction rails and brake bars that were built right into the snowshoe decks, meaning it’s highly durable and will give you a strong grip.

The Duofit bindings will give you a freeze-proof and glove friendly accessibility, allowing almost any boot to be secured down. The all-condition adaptability will provide you on-demand flotation in snow packed conditions.These snowshoes are ideal for flat or rolling terrain and will be able to withstand a day trip or a multi-day trip through your winter wonderland.

Related: These snowshoes are a little pricer than a normal day rental, so if you want your own pair but want to keep the price at a minimum, MSR also has the Shift Snowshoe which are a little easier on the wallet. They’re made with steel traction bars and highly durable injection-molded decks, so these snowshoes will be around for a while.

Fimbulvetr Hikr

Fimbulvetr Hikr SnowshoesWeight: 4.9lbs / 2.2kg

Dimensions: one size: 24 x 13 x 11 in.

Special Features: DuPont Hytrel frame, stainless steel crampon, All-direction hinge.

Best Used: backcountry snowshoeing

Description: The Fimbulvetr is meant to tackle aggressive terrain. This pair of snowshoes were designed so that the Hikr would handle post-apocalyptic winters (yeah, they were kidding around). They’re super lightweight in comparison to normal snowshoes, however, have outstanding traction.

The frame is made of fully recycled DuPont Hytrel which is highly durable and flexible, two things you’ll be needing when battling the elements. The frame is a 3D-mapped, asymmetrical design which propels ergonomic capability.

Their patented all-directional hinge allows your weight to be evenly distributed so you can easily manage through rough terrain. These snowshoes aren’t the cheapest, however, if you’ll be going through backcountry, these are your best investment.

Related: Fimbulvetr make exceptional snowshoes, so if you’re making this a hobby, spend the extra dollars and get something that’ll last you some solid years. Another great snowshoe by Fimbulvetr is the Rangr. It’ll be able to get through the deepest of snow without weighing you down.

Atlas Rendezvous

Atlas Rendezvous SnowshoesWeight: 4.9lbs / 2.2kg

Dimensions: 17.9 x 10.9 x 14.6 in.

Special Features: v-frame design, heel cleat, light-ride suspension

Best Used: hiking /recreational snowshoeing

Description: Atlas is another well-known company that specializes in winter gear, including snowshoes. The Rendezvous is a great option if you’re looking for a pair of hiking/recreational snowshoes. The V-shaped design allows your feet to roll easily with each step, giving you a natural movement. The flexible Nytex decking is freeze-proof and durable.

The performance heel cleat gives you additional traction while you’re climbing. Another great features is the toe crampons support that prevent your feet from twisting. The light-ride suspension gives you impact absorption and dexterity. They do cost slightly more, however, they’re highly reliable and well-built snowshoes.

Related: If you’re looking for women snowshoes, Atlas has the Elektra 10 series designed specifically for women. It comes with spring loaded suspension, wrap swift binding, women specific frame and climbing bars. It’s fully loaded, so there’s nothing to complain about.

Redfeather Hike

Redfeather Hike SnowshoesWeight: 7lbs / 3.17kg

Special Features: USA made, SV2 binding, live action hinge lifts.

Best Used: hiking/recreational snowshoeing

Description: Women are built differently than men, so, of course, it plays a part in the way they walk and distribute weight in snowshoes. So, Redfeather designed a pair of snowshoes specifically made for women. It comes with SV2 control bindings that feature a polymer heel plate and a urethane heel strap for securing the boot.

The biothane live action hinge lifts the tail of the shoe, allowing more mobility while walking. The frame is made of 6000 series aluminum with Western Round Tail for ultimate floatation. It’s also fully loaded with crampons, so this snowshoe will give you superior traction and support while on your hike. It’s fully packed with all the features that you’ll need for a successful and safe trip.

Related: If you’re a man and you’re interested in Redfeather’s snowshoes, well, they also have them for men as well. The Redfeather Hike snowshoe comes with the exact same features, however, is built for a man’s body.

MSR Evo Ascent

MSR Evo AscentWeight: 4 lbs 1 oz / 1.84kg

Dimensions: sizes 4.5M – 15M

Special Features: Televator heel lifts, modular floatation tails, tri fit bindings.

Best Used: backcountry snowshoeing

Description: If you have a little more experience under your belt and want to explore the world of backcountry snowshoeing, then the Ascent will be the snowshoes that’ll safely and successfully take you off-trail. The steel traction rails and brake bars are molded right onto the decks, so they provide you with a secure grip.

The tri-fit bindings of the EVO Ascent will give you freeze-proof and glove-friendly control, so you won’t have any problems readjusting or taking off your snowshoes. The televator heel lifts will help you walk through the snow with ease, increasing traction and preventing your legs from getting tired. Though it’s sold separately, the modular floatation trails will let you carry heavy loads, which will come in handy especially when you’re in backcountry.

Related: If you’re looking for a snowshoe that’s designed specifically for women, then try out the Elektra Montane Snowshoe by Atlas. It’s engineered specifically for a woman’s natural gait and is made in a V shape to better track through deep snow. If you’re into backcountry snowshoeing, these will certainly get you through the tough terrain.

TSL Symbioz Elite

TSL Symbioz EliteWeight: 4.5lbs / 2kg

Special Features: HyperFlex technology, lightweight, 4-point binding.

Best Used: hiking/recreational snowshoeing

Description: First off, the TSL Symbioz Elite is highly modern and trendy in design, in comparison to traditional snowshoes. However, there are more to these shoes than just the look. This pair of snowshoes are one of the most technologically advanced snowshoes on the market.

It features HyperFlex technology which actually allows the frame to mold to any terrain while still providing superior grip. The toe adjustment binding system allows users to easily and quickly adjust their fit within a couple of minutes.

The ratcheting instep strap also provides you extra comfort and security. What’s great about this pair of shoes is that they also come with a storage bag, so that won’t be an additional cost for you.

Related: Again, these shoes are slightly higher in price, so if you want a less expensive pair of shoes that’ll get you safely through the snow, try out thePansel Performance snowshoe. They’re sturdy and lightweight and come with all the basic features you need in a pair of snowshoes.

Tubbs Wilderness

Tubbs Wilderness SnowshoesWeight: 4.5lbs / 2.04kg

Dimensions: sizes: 25, 30, 36

Special Features: ActiveLift Heel, Fit-Step frame, 180Pro binding.

Best Used: backcountry snowshoeing

Description: Tubbs catch phrase for the wilderness snowshoes is, “the snowshoe that can do it all.” And you know what, they’re not wrong on that one. Tubb’s wilderness snowshoe will be able to get you through whatever terrain you put it in. It comes with 180Pro binding and Control Wings which is a locking heel strap that’s contoured around your foot for superior comfort.

The Rotating Toe Cord allows the tails of the snowshoe to drop and remove excess snow on the tail, which reduces fatigue and strain by 7%. The underfoot pivot point also allows the snowshoe to dig deep into the ground for ultimate grip.

The fit-step frame is specifically designed to reduce the muscular impact on your joints by 10%. In addition, the SoftTex decking also gives you lightweight yet durable floatation. This snowshoe has it all.

Related: If you like Tubbs, however, want something smaller in price range, go for the Tubbs Flex Ridge Snowshoe. It comes with all the amazing features such as Flex tail technology, a molded torsion deck frame, and active lift.

Conclusion

You now know the importance of snowshoeing, the types of snowshoes available and the features to look for when buying a pair. We did the homework for you and found the seven best snowshoes available on the market.

Long snowy walk

So, go out and try some of these on. Make sure you look for a pair which matches your needs and fits comfortably. But, we know you won’t have a problem finding your snowshoes from our list. So, what are you waiting for?

And if you find a product that matches your style and needs, please feel free to share your comments with us below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Zoey Hansen

    So this past winter, my boyfriend decided he wanted to start snowshoeing. He enjoyed doing some back country snowshoeing I think, on a couple of different occasions. I didn’t want to hear about it, since I hate going out in the cold, and am content to put in my miles on the treadmill when it’s snowed too much to run the trails for a day or two. He finally convinced me to do it by saying that I could run the trails and feel like it was a whole new scene. I’ve agreed but now we haven’t had enough snow to really get out there, so I think I am probably okay holding off on buying something until next winter. What I would like to know is what you think would be the best running snowshoe for someone short (I’m only 5’1″)?

  • Daniel Carraway

    You can opt to choose women’s snowshoes which is lighter and have a narrower width. This is suitable for users who have a narrower gait or shorter legs.

  • John Jacobs

    I lived up north for a little bit. And it is COLD up there. And the snow is everywhere. I couldn’t even pull my car out after we had a 5 feet snowfall in a day. Best thing to do to get around? Snowshoe. I can’t stand to be kept inside and I really need to get out. It’s not only an amazing way to exercise, but it’s good to help with cabin fever; which is completely a real thing when winters are almost all year long. Are there specific kinds of snow shoes made for that kind winter? Or would almost any kind of snow shoe do? I’m just asking because that is a lot of snow and it would get very cold. I’d have to invest in a good pair to find out they are more for casual winters.

  • Veronica Archer

    This looks like so much fun. Any recommendation about snow shoes for drier areas? Just assuming but would you wear the same kind for fluffy snow that doesn’t pack well that you would for thick wet snow you can use to build snowmen? Or does it matter?

  • Daniel Carraway

    Think functionality. What do you plan to do out there? It’s easier if you know what activities you will be doing, since you can now narrow down the features of your snowshoes. Consider your needs and activities, then pick the snowshoes of your choice accordingly.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Do you mean recreational or hiking snowshoes? Well, these are certainly different from backcountry snowshoeing, which are designed for more aggressive terrain.

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