How to buy Snowshoes 101

How to buy Snowshoes 101

There are dozens of options out there if you are in the market for snowshoes and if you are considering your first purchase it can be quite daunting, so here is some information to consider.

Snowshoeing Up Silver StarFirst consideration should be what type of snowshoeing you are going to do and once you have that answer then you can look at the different types that are out there?  Keep in mind you can not buy one snowshoe that will be perfect in every snowshoe outing.


Types of snowshoes

All styles of snowshoes allow you to travel across snow-covered ground without sinking or struggling. They provide flotation by spreading your weight evenly over a larger flat surface area. This flotation allows you to hike, climb or even run! Generally, the heavier the person or the lighter and drier the snow, the larger the surface area of the snowshoe needs to be.


These snowshoes are smaller recreational snowshoes that are suitable for total weights not exceeding 50 kgs. Many styles are as durable as adult models, and can also be used by small adults. My choice if you are considering this smaller style for children is to buy second hand ones either from a second hand sports store or even from a rental shop at the end of the season as they often sell off used stock.


These snowshoes are ideal for walking or hiking on terrain that is not very steep or rugged.  Most are styles are now made from aluminum or hard moulded plastic.


These snowshoes are more technical in design and usually made with highly durable materials that can withstand harsh conditions and terrain. They are aimed at the more aggressive snowshoer who wants to blaze trails for a day hiking, tackle winter summits, backpacking or backcountry snowboarding. Often outfitted with snowboard-type bindings or climbing crampons, these are intended for steep ascents and uneven or icy ground. Always most expensive.


  • These snowshoes are made for cross-training and competitive snowshoeing on packed trails. They are lightweight, durable and more manageable, many times with a cut out inside tail section so you won’t step on your inside toe section.

Some typical snowshoe options

Frame- the outer edge of the snowshoe to which the decking is attached

Most frames are made from anodized aluminum frame or moulded plastic deck & frame, the later being cheaper.  Other options may also be made of wood or high-tech materials such as carbon fiber (most expensive).  Although wooden snowshoes perform well, they require a lot of maintenance and are prone to breakage

Upturned toe for easier management and minimizing snow build-up, a must have!

Decking – the flat surface of the snowshoe that allows you to walk on the snow without sinking – used to be made of rawhide, but is now commonly made of synthetic materials such as Hypalon, Quadex, polypropylene or plastic

These materials are strong, light, good at shedding snow, offer good floatation and require next to no upkeep

Traction Devices- Although your weight provides some traction by pushing snowshoes into the snow, most modern aluminum styles feature crampons or cleats. These allow you to maintain a good grip on packed, icy or steep snow.

Bindings- harnesses that attach your boots to your snowshoes

Most bindings can accommodate a variety of footwear, from hiking and snowboard boots to technical mountaineering boots, sometimes good idea to bring your boots in

Some bindings are lighter and fit snugly, such as those made for running, while others are designed to be worn with heavy boots and have ratcheting straps.  These types usually consist of a platform with nylon straps that go over the foot and around the heel; 3 points that get tighten individually.

Rotating Bindings pivot where they attach to the decking, under the balls of the feet. This allows you to walk easily and climb hills.

Fixed bindings are connected with rubber or neoprene bands that spring back up with each step, allowing a comfortable stride

All bindings should be adjustable, best to choose a and have some rotation to minimize tail drag on groomed snow,  the two point side attachment really only works for low level flat packed terrain and should be avoided as its too limiting.

Size does matter, so here is a quick guide to finding the right snowshoe for your weight

Please keep in mind your true weight plus clothing plus your load, snow conditions and terrain, and then choose the smallest shoe possible. The smaller the shoe, the easier to navigate:
Up to 65 Kg. – 8 inches x 21 inches

Up to 80 kg. – 8” x 25 ”

Up to 90 kg – 9” x 30”

Over 90 Kg. –10” x 36”

Other considerations to think about that will affect size:

Hiking alone or breaking trail for a group?  Is the snow deep and powdery? Then size up. As a rule, you’ll need a in the range of 9” x 30” or 10 “x 36”

Hiking with a group and sharing trail breaking duty? Then you’ll probably do fine with a shoe in the range of 8” x 21” or 8” x 25”

Planning on running, then opt for one of the running-specific designs.  There are a number of 5 km to 10 km races at local mountains in and around BC
A quick word on poles:

Ski poles can be a valuable accessory if you’re a beginner to snowshoeing. They are great for helping you manage your balance, and can reduce the strain on your back while walking.  Many poles are telescopic which make which make them more versatile in all terrains, but generally speaking most poles should be at least mid way between your elbow and armpit

As you can see snowshoes are no longer the huge clumsy wooden bear trapper styles you may remember from years ago. Modern snowshoes are sleek, light and very effective for walking through the snow. If you like getting outside during snowy winter weather, a pair of snowshoes can help open up many new winter-time activities from simple low level shoeing on a frozen lake to part of the Kettle Rail Way to Geo Caching, just keep in mind that most of those treasures will be well hidden under snow but that should not stop you from getting off the couch and getting out there and having some fun!

Visit Osprey Lake Retreat to enjoy a winter retreat and to try out your new snowshoes.