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During winter, hikers face the problem of either finding trail that allows winter hiking or waiting it out for the season. Most of the trails transition into snowshoe trails, or skiing trails.
If you are thinking about trying out snowshoeing, don’t grab the first pair you see at Sam Club or Costco.
Depending on what type of snowshoeing you are planning on doing, you may end up bringing home the wrong pair. Here are six of the best snowshoes for hiking this winter, and what makes them so special.
What Are Snowshoes for Hiking and Why You Need Them?
Snowshoes have been around for thousands of years as a way to get around in the snow. They provide a wider base for your foot, allowing you to float above the snow.
This fun winter activity is also a great way to extend your hiking season. When winter hits, only a handful of trails are groomed for winter hikers. But with snowshoes, you don’t have to limit yourself.
They are also a lower-cost alternative to some of the other winter sports, requiring no trail or lift fees at most parks.
Using A Snowshoes to Improve your Hiking
Low impact aerobic exercise that extends your winter hiking season. When snow hits, there is no reason to stay inside. The hiking trails are still there, just buried under a layer of snow. Having snowshoes is another activity that keeps you on your favorite trails.
Snowshoeing makes you a better runner and hiker. According to RoadRunnerSports the similarities and pattern movements, along with the added resistance of having snow on your feet, keeps you in shape for hiking or running.
Snow provides a lower impact ground than asphalt or dirt. During summer, you’ll be ready to hit the trail without tripping on roots.
Snowshoeing is relativity inexpensive compared to other winter activities like Skiing or snowboarding. You don’t need to pay for lift tickets or pay fees to use groomed trails. All your winter hiking gear can be used for snowshoeing as well.
The Different Types of Snowshoes
Generally speaking, there are two different types of snowshoes. A traditional wood style shoe and a modern style made with aluminum, foam, or plastics. Both types are still used today.
The traditional wooden or synthetic snowshoe has a wider surface area that supports more weight. They are much quieter in the snow, making them easier for people to hunt with.
The decking of the snowshoes can handle lower temperatures. You can still find them online, but most stores are carrying the modern variation.
A modern snowshoe is made with a variety of different materials. They often have cleats on the bottom, making them easier to manage in icy conditions. The frame has easy to put on bindings.
Their smaller design makes it easier to get into tighter spaces. Snowshoes have different classifications, Recreational, Technical/Hiking, Racing.
How often do you plan on taking them out? Recreational snowshoes are designed for the casual user and usually cost less.
For this article, the best snowshoes for hiking are beginner snowshoes. Once you commit to the activity; I recommend getting a Technical Set.
Technical or Hiking Snowshoes
Technical Snowshoes are designed for hikers experienced with winter hiking. They do better for backcountry trails with tighter spaces and hilly terrain. The bottoms of the shoe have more grip.
Designed for backcountry runners. These have a narrower design and are designed for speed. Only take these out on groomed trails.
Things To Look For In A Good Snowshoes
When selecting a pair of snowshoes there are a few things to keep in mind. Each type of shoe is designed for a specific type of activity. And each one is designed for a different body type.
Size of Snowshoe
Before buying, you need to know how much you weigh with your pack. Each snowshoe has a load recommendation. The more weight, the longer the size.
Snow conditions affect the type of shoe. Powered snow needs a longer snowshoe. Compact wet snow on a packed trail can use a smaller shoe. If you have a steep slope and ice, smaller snowshoes work best.
Men’s vs Women’s Snowshoes
Snowshoes are sometimes labeled for men and women. Snowshoes labeled women have narrower giants, otherwise. If you are buying for a younger child or pre-teen consider these factors when selecting the size.
Modern Types of Snowshoes
There are many different types of snowshoe styles. Each has it’s own frame and decking combination with its own benefits.
Aluminum or Alloy Frames
Aluminum framed shoes are lightweight and strong. They have plastic, HTPE, or nylon decking.
Composite snowshoes are constructed of a hard decking. They are a bit noisier than other model shoes.
These are the quietest shoes around. They do not have the crampon style bottom. If you have a dog, this is ideal in case you accidentally step on your pet’s paw.
Floating bindings pivot near the ball of your feed. There is usually a crampon near the toe, allowing you to dig in and get extra traction. The teetering motion let powdery snow fall right off. It also doesn’t require as much lifting.
The binding is fixed flat against the snowshoe. Foot is fixed flat to the bottom. This work best in compact or hard packed conditions. Crampons are usually evenly distributed under the shoe.
These tether to your foot with straps. A good set is one that can easily be adjusted and tighten quickly.
The Best 6 Snowshoes for hiking
Uses: Day Hiking, Trail Walking
Max Load Ratings: Up to 210 Lbs.
Pros: Unisex snowshoes. They offer a lot of good features and are budget friendly at just over $50. They use two ratchet straps over the top of the foot, and one behind the heel.
It has an aluminum alloy frame and full floating pivot system. There is a touch polyethylene HTPE deck for support on the snow.
Cons: This is an entry level pair of snowshoes. The bindings might be challenging with gloves and traction control is just ok.
Bottom Line: Best Budget-Friendly Snowshoe. The Retrospect Lynx Snowshoe has a great binding system, and crampon on the bottom to meet anyone’s needs. Their design is easily maneuverable, for hiking. It meets most recreational needs.
Uses: Walking, Trail Hiking
Max Load Ratings: Up to 300lbs
Shoe Weight: 4-5lbs
Pros: The shoes have an alloy steel frame, and a hook and loop closure. The deck of the shoes is made from a durable HDPE decking and coated in hardening steel crampons, giving the user extra traction.
The heel strap makes getting and out simple. The foot bindings pivot weight each step.
Cons: This set of snowshoes was designed as a walking shoe due to its length. If you are in a hilly or confined hiking space, you might find it more challenging.
Bottom Line: This is a great mid style walking shoe. It provides good stability on multiple terrains with its crampons. It has a great strapping system and overall a good snowshoe.
Uses: Backcountry, Day Hiking, Trail Walking
Max Load Ratings: Up to 350lbs
Shoe Weight: 3lbs 6oz
Pros: The Tubbs Wayfinder Snowshoe is a great walking shoe. It has an aluminum frame with a soft-tec decking. The toe portion rotates. There are both two and heal crampons. This model is good for light soft snow.
Cons: This hiking model is designed for recreational use. It does have some traction capabilities if you run into ice.
Bottom Line: Best Company with Variety. My favorite part about the company is their snowshoe finder tool, allowing you to get the perfect fit.
Tubbs makes a wide variety including some serious mountaineering shoes. They sell Men’s, Women’s, and Youth shoes for all different activity levels.
Uses: Recreational Backcountry, Day Hiking
Max Load Ratings: Up to 250 lbs
Shoe Weight: 3lbs 9oz
Pros: They make snowshoes for every budget. Steel traction rails and brake bars molded directly into snowshoe decks. The bindings are freeze-proof and glove-friendly latches that easily accommodate a wide range of footwear.
Cons: The only complaint people have is the type of strap they use. It takes some getting used to.
Bottom Line: Best beginner style composite shoes. Most buyers love these beginner style shoes and have used them year over year.
Their composite decking throws people off at first, but they are durable, light and great for small spaces and challenging hills. When you are ready for more serious snowshoeing, upgrade to the MRS EVO Ascent Background & Mountaineering Shoes.
Uses: Recreational Backcountry, Day Hiking
Max Load Ratings: Up to 80-235 lbs
Shoe Weight: 5lbs 4oz
Pros: Aluminum Frame design. Reinforced ratchet bindings for easy adjustments mid-trail. The back-strap auto locks, and has boot grip to cradle your foot in place.
The foot floats, allowing you to climb easier. They also have a steep incline heal lift rise, designed to give extra balance while climbing hills.
The snowshoes have both toe crampons and another set around the back of the foot. The manufacturer WildHorn Outfitters listens to feedback from their customers and is always looking for new ways to improve their shoes.
They also come with a 90 day warranty.
Cons: The biggest issue people have with these snowshoes is the back-locking mechanism. It sometimes gets loos are failed altogether. I’m hoping this will be something they improve on their 2020 model.
Bottom Line: Great background shoe. The Sawtooth Snowshoes make shoes is two different sizes, covering a wide range of hikers. They also break their models out between men’s and women’s sizes. Their lightweight nature makes them easy to hike with. These shoes provide a good balance between new technology and ruggedness.
Uses: Recreational Backcountry, Day Hiking
Max Load Ratings: Up to 100-235 lbs
Shoe Weight: 4lbs 7oz
Pros: It uses an Infinity Decking, designed to take a beating. It has a spring-loaded suspension that keeps the snowshoe underfoot for easy maneuvering.
It’s suspension also absorbs impact letting your foot naturally flex side-to-side.
The shoes have a Reactiv-Track construction with a curved design to help get up hills.
The foot toe has crampons. The edges of the frame also has additional traction points.
Cons: The biggest issue people have with these snowshoes is the back-locking mechanism. It sometimes gets loos are fails altogether. I’m hoping this will be something they improve on their 2020 model.
Bottom Line: The APEX_MTN Snowshoes are the most rugged. They are designed to get in to some of the roughest parts of the trail. If you are looking at doing some serious snowshoeing, these are the ones you need to get.
What’s the best snowshoe for hiking for you?
Snowshoeing is such a fun way to get out and enjoy the winter season. There is no reason to stay inside. There is no one type of snowshoe that is best. It all depends on your personal needs.
The most common style isn’t always the best one. Depending on where you live, and the type of activities you want to do, you may need more than one type of snowshoe.
Enjoy keeping up your skills during the winter with the best snowshoes for hiking.