Best snowshoes of 2022
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Updated Nov 3, 2022 4: 10 PM
Hiking through deep snow can be a lot of fun but requires special gear, such as snowshoes. Snowshoes distribute the wearer’s weight evenly over a larger area, so that the foot doesn’t sink completely. They also prevent you from getting stuck or fatigued. Although snowshoes are not recommended for trails with dense snowpack or on roads that are very popular, they can be used to navigate through unfamiliar terrain and fresh snowfall. They are durable, reliable, and easy to use, though it may take some time to get used to for the first timers. Snowshoeing can be a great form of exercise and is suitable for all levels and intensity-seekers. And if you want to stay super-toasty while you adventure through snow-laden trails, check out our roundups of the best snow boots, heated socks, heated insoles, winter gloves, and even winter hats.
It’s important to pick a pair of snowshoes that fit all your needs on the trail. These are some things to consider before you buy snowshoes.
- Best for recreational/rolling terrain: TSL Snowshoes 325 Phoenix Snowshoes
- Best for beginner/flat terrain: Franklin Sports Arctic Trails Adult Snowshoes
- Best for mountain terrain: Yukon Charlie’s Advanced Snowshoes
- Best for backcountry powder: Yukon Charlie’s Elite Spin Snowshoes
- Best for packed-trail running: Black Diamond Distance Spike Traction Devices
- Best budget: YakTrax Traction Cleats
Best snowshoes: Reviews & Recommendations
Best for recreational/rolling terrain: TSL Snowshoes 325 Phoenix Snowshoes
This snowshoe from TSL is supportive and flexible, allowing your foot to move naturally while keeping you on top of the snow. The steel crampons provide great traction both uphill and downhill. The built-in heel lifts are available and Boa Fit system bindings can be used to relieve pressure on the foot’s front. This 23.5-inch model can support up to 260 pounds.
Best for beginner/flat terrain: Franklin Sports Arctic Trails Adult Snowshoes
These 36-inch snowshoes are a great option for flat terrain. The lightweight aluminum frame is light and easy to slip any boot into. This model supports up to 300 pounds.
Best for mountain terrain: Yukon Charlie’s Advanced Snowshoes
Yukon Charlie’s Advanced Snowshoes are famous for their success on mountain terrain. This one comes in three different lengths: 22, 25, and 30 inches with load support between 180 to 280 pounds and the option to add additional flotation supports. It has built-in heel lifts and Paragon freeze-resistant bindings.
Best for backcountry powder: Yukon Charlie’s Elite Spin Snowshoes
Yukon Charlie’s Elite Spin snowshoes are fantastic for both deep powder and mountain terrain. This 30-inch option is equipped with sharp, forged steel crampons, a precise Spin(tm) by Northwave dial binding system for a comfortable fit, and Tech Weave decking, which delivers lightweight flotation.
Best for packed-trail running: Black Diamond Distance Spike Traction Devices
The Black Diamond Distance Spike Traction Device is perfect for snowshoe races and runners. The ultra-light frame will make it easy to move for miles ahead. They weigh just under half a pound and are equipped with 14 stainless steel spikes for increased traction. This model also includes a front-toe spike that will help you push off.
Best budget: YakTrax Traction Cleats
YakTrax, which aren’t technically snowshoes, are a great, inexpensive option for hikers who need to increase their grip on well-traveled trails. These cleats are available in many sizes to reduce your chance of falling on snowy paths. They are made from abrasion-resistant, 1.4-millimeter steel coils and fasten to your shoes using a durable rubber outerband.
Features to consider when shopping for the best snowshoes
The most important things to consider before buying snowshoes are your experience level and the type of terrain you plan to hike on. Are you a beginner, a seasoned hiker, or an expert mountaineer? Are you going to run in your snowshoes, or trek through the backcountry with them? These are the keys to finding the right pair of snowshoes.
Let’s start with the basics: recreational snowshoes
First things first: It’s important to understand how snowshoes work. The binding, frame and deck are the main components of snowshoes. Bindings connect your hiking boot to the skishoe. The frame, which is usually made of aluminum, plastic, and wood, is responsible for the snow’s flotation. The deck is the material that runs across the frame and pushes the snow beneath. It is important to consider the recommended weight of a snowshoe, and whether you will be adding weight to your body by carrying a heavy backpack. The deck should be larger if you are carrying more weight. The crampons are the spikes on the sole of the shoe that improve grip and footing.
The most popular form of snowshoe is used primarily for recreational use; this means hiking or walking on designated trails without running or climbing. If this sounds like you, then look for a snowshoe that has easily adjustable bindings, moderate crampons and possibly a heel lift depending on the slope. The heel lifts are small bars that lie flat under the heel. They can be flipped up to provide extra support and help create a natural foot position. This helps to reduce strain and lift the Achilles heel. This is not necessary if you’re going on a longer hike, or if the trail is mostly uphill. You should choose something shorter if you are primarily walking on snow that has been lightly packed on a popular trail. The shoe that is shorter makes it easier to walk.
Are you a true beginner?
While recreational snowshoes like the ones listed above are generally suitable for hikers of all abilities, you might want something a little less heavy-duty if you plan to hike through well-groomed winter trails. It may take some time to get used the adjustments your body will need to make if you have never snowshoed before. The best snowshoes, unlike regular shoes or hiking boots, require you to place your feet and legs slightly apart. This allows for enough space for the shoe’s area and prevents falls. Your heel will lift up as you walk, leaving your snowshoe’s deck on the ground. This can feel disorienting, almost like something is hanging off your shoes, but you’ll soon get used to it. It is a good idea not to speed up and to follow the lead of anyone in front of you. This will help you keep your balance. Snowshoeing can be more tiring than a normal walk or hike. It’s harder to run on the beach than it is on a paved sidewalk.
If you’ve decided to go ahead and purchase your first pair of snowshoes, we suggest going after a flat-terrain pair. These snowshoes are shorter than those made for mountain or rolling terrain and have a wider tail to aid in balance. They are lightweight and easy-to-adjust, although they don’t have many features. Make sure to grab other important gear like poles, gaiters, and warm clothes once you have selected a snowshoe.
Are you embarking on alpine ascents and steep terrain?
If you’re already an avid snowshoer and you’re hoping to add to your collection or finally grab a pair of your own, make sure you purchase a model that is going to help you scramble up steep terrain. Snowshoes made for steep ascents will come with more features and add-ons that their flat-terrain counterparts. A heel lift is essential for long hikes on steep trails. It will reduce calf fatigue and improve your traction. To ensure that you don’t lose your balance while adjusting on a steep trail, make sure your bindings are secure. Toe stops are a great option to help you place your feet correctly and improve stability while climbing. You should make sure that the crampons on your snowshoe are strong if you anticipate encountering icy sections or summits. Some snowshoe teeth are not strong enough to climb up icy terrain. You might consider purchasing a model that can carry additional flotation attachments if you expect to encounter a lot of powder.
If you’re more of a recreational snowshoer or looking to take on something new and challenging, or you’re a skilled hiker wanting to stay in shape during the winter, make sure you take into account the inherently slow pace of snowshoeing. Safety-wise, make sure you are familiar with proper avalanche protocols and have the right techniques to get out of deep snow if you fall or trip.
Are you going to break a new trail in deep powder snow?
Some snowshoers might not be climbing up steep mountain trails but rather going off-trail to trek in deep, backcountry powder snow. This is a more advanced type of snowshoeing and you will need a pair that is designed for it.
Generally speaking, backcountry snowshoes can do without intense crampons because they primarily need to focus on flotation rather than grip. The larger the platform, it means that more mass is covered. Snowshoes that are larger can support heavier loads and save you energy when trying to get out of deep snowfall. Remember that larger snowshoes are more likely to trip than smaller ones. Before you head out into the backcountry, make sure to practice your runs and stomp around the backyard. The following sections will help you find the best snowshoes for mountaineering in deep snow. It is possible to find a snowshoe which will work well in different terrains and conditions. We’ve listed our favorite below.
Do you plan to race across the mountain trails?
The world is full of amazing athletes, and snowshoe runners are no exception. Although snowshoeing is not for the faint-hearted, it offers beautiful surroundings, challenging cardio work, and a great community. There are many races for professionals, as well as trail running groups for enthusiasts. The United States Snowshoe Association supports and encourages snowshoeing.
Unlike regular snowshoeing, runners can’t afford to be bogged down by weighty frames or tripped up by giant surfaces areas. It is important to purchase snowshoes specifically made for running. Running snowshoes are typically slim silhouettes with simple soles. They have a tight suspension system to ensure your feet and shoes don’t slip around too much. Running pairs are made asymmetrically, so you won’t have to remember which shoe is which. It may be worthwhile to test out several models. Pay attention to the one that feels most comfortable and places the least strain on your foot. The binding should be well-insulated, adjustable, and freeze-resistant. You want to be able keep your gloves on during race adjustments and be able to do them quickly. It’s a good idea, just like backcountry models, to practice running in your new shoes before you head out on your next race on the mountain trails.
What you can get for under $100
Truth be told, it’s pretty difficult to find a sturdy pair of snowshoes for under $100. If you don’t plan to snowshoe often, renting from an outdoor gear shop or adventure center is a great option. It’s a great way for you to try out different models and ensure that you are satisfied with the fit and function of each model before making a purchase. You can also buy a pair of used snowshoes for a fraction of the cost. If you are looking for traction on packed trails and slippery terrain, you might consider skimming full-size snowshoes. Slip-on cleats are much more affordable.
Q: What other winter sports equipment do I need to snowshoe?
Before you hit the trails in your new snowshoes, you’ll want to grab some trekking poles, especially if you plan on adventuring into deep snow. If you fall or trip, poles are essential for getting up. Warm gloves are next, as you won’t want to be able stick your hands into your pockets. A five-finger mitten liner is ideal if you anticipate making many adjustments to your bindings. To keep your ankles and legs dry, you might also consider purchasing snowshoe gaiters. Although it may seem like a lot of equipment for winter sports, it will keep your feet dry, warm, and mobile.
Q: What should I know before buying snowshoes?
Before buying snowshoes, you need to know what kind of terrain you will be walking or climbing through to determine the features your pair needs. To ensure you choose the right size shoe, you will need to know how heavy you plan to carry and your body weight. To get a feel for the bindings, frame structure and weight, it’s a good idea try on several pairs either in the shop or as rentals.
Q: How do I know what size snowshoes I need?
Size can mean a few different things when it comes to snowshoes. Before you shop for snowshoes, it is important to know how much weight they will support. You should also consider the weight of your gear. This will affect the shoe’s overall size. A lighter shoe will be more comfortable. Most bindings can be adjusted to fit most regular shoe sizes. Many models can also be made to fit “men’s” or “women’s” shoes. This is often due to the size and weight of the bindings.
A final word on shopping for snowshoes
The best snowshoes will support you as you trek through the tundra, lifting you on top of the snow, and helping you arrive at beautiful winter destinations. They will fit your terrain, your pack weight, as well as your experience level. There are a variety of pairs available for novice hikers, racers and avid hikers. So get ready to explore and strap in!
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.