Buying snowshoeing gear — types of snowshoes and more

Types of snowshoes vary! Choose the pair that's best for you.

There are hundreds of types of snowshoes, and the choice often feels overwhelming to beginners. To help you narrow your options, here’s a buying guide to determine the types of snowshoes that would work best for you.

What are some popular types of snowshoes?

When choosing a pair of snowshoes, the main consideration to take into account is what you are going to be using them for. There are four main types of snowshoes:

  • Recreational snowshoes – Great for beginners, these snowshoes are flexible and easy to adjust, with small crampons underneath. They are perfect for people who enjoy relaxed days on gentle, rolling terrain. Recreational snowshoes are generally cheaper and shorter than backcountry snowshoes, as they do not require the extra length to float in powder.
  • Backcountry snowshoes – These have more durable bindings and larger crampons for tackling steeper, icier slopes. They’re more appropriate for people who do lots of snowshoeing, especially for hut-to-hut treks.
  • Racing snowshoes – This sleek option is great for people who are interested in snowshoe racing! These snowshoes are generally much shorter, as  no one requires extra surface area on the groomed tracks where races occur.
  • Women’s specific snowshoes – This variety is slimmer and lighter, with smaller bindings to suit women’s smaller foot sizes. These snowshoes are often more colorful than men’s options are.

Which snow type will you be snowshoeing on?

If you are going to do most of your snowshoeing somewhere like Utah or Colarado, then you will want a long snowshoe that can float in deep powder. On the other hand, if you are planning a snowshoe holiday to the Swiss Alps, then you will travel on hard-packed snow. In those circumstances, it’s more efficient to wear short snowshoes.

Some snowshoes have optional tails to add length, depending on the user and conditions.

Different types of snowshoes are suited to different outings and locations.
Snowshoeing on hard packed snow in Cranz Montana, Switzerland

How much do you weigh?

The heavier you are, the longer snowshoes you will need to spread your weight over a larger surface area. That will reduce the amount that you sink into the snow.

How easy are the snowshoes to put on?

When you try on a pair of snowshoes, remember to take a pair of thick gloves to the store. That way, you can simulate trail conditions and test how easy it is to adjust bindings.

How comfortable are the snowshoes?

Comfort is key for an enjoyable day out. It’s important to check that there are no pressure points where your snowshoe bindings touch your boots. Your boots shouldn’t shift around in the bindings either, as this will cause pain in your feet and knees during long outings.

How well do the snowshoes fit?

To try on a pair of snowshoes, undo the bindings and step into the snowshoe with your toes snug against the front most part where it is indicated for your foot to go. Tighten the bindings first near your toes, then the heel strap, and lastly the binding that goes over the top of your foot. The snowshoes should feel snug against your boot and shouldn’t slide from side to side when you move your foot. Even if the snowshoe feels secure, check that there aren’t any gaps between the binding and the boots. If there are, your snowshoe will collect snow on your walk — leaving you with wet, cold feet.

Do you want a heel raiser?

Most new types of snowshoes incorporate a heel raiser to reduce calf fatigue on steep climbs. The raiser is a small bar you can lift under your heel to reduce how far your heel drops with each step. These are great for sustained climbs and really reduce the strain on your Achilles tendons and calves.

Try before you buy

Most resorts offer inexpensive snowshoe rentals, which is the perfect way to try out a few pairs before committing to a purchase.

Looking for a snowshoe adventure?

If you are looking for a winter getaway, then you may want to check out our week long luxury snowshoe adventures to the French and Swiss Alps. Read more about our Swiss Alps Winter Hiking Adventure.

Jennifer Stretton
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