Buying Your First Snowshoe

It’s that time of year when we’re dusting off our gear and planning for the first snowfall (who’s excited?). This is also a great time to check your equipment, make sure everything’s in working order, and replacing the items that need it. (Note: you should check your gear before every excursion!) Conveniently, now is also the time to stock up on the newest snowshoes. Here’s your annual reminder on how to shop for snowshoes; great for a new snowshoer or an experienced adventurer.

snowshoe diagram

Buying your first, or a new, snowshoe can seem a little daunting (so much technology!) but we’ll try to simplify it for you here. We like to tell you to look at the FACT (Flotation, Articulation, Control, Traction). These are factors you need to consider when looking at the shoe’s features, and knowing where you’ll be using the shoes. Are you hiking mountains in the backcountry? Well you’ll need stronger traction. Are you going up hills? A heel lift might be nice. Hate fiddling with straps? A BOA binding might be for you. Yes there are lots of factors to consider, but taking it step by step–no pun intended–will make it easier.

First, where will you be using the shoes? Our snowshoes are split into categories so you know exactly where to start. We have Backcountry shoes, which are equipped with strong traction, frames that absorb impact, and heel bars that keep your feet stable on the uphill. Day Hiking shoes are for rolling terrain; still good traction but not quite the level you’d need for a backcountry expedition. Trail Walking shoes are for groomed, flat, terrain; still comfortable and easy to use, but with less features you don’t need for an easy day out.

Within each category are several options for a binding. This is where you get to make a personal choice: do you like a BOA binding, do you prefer straps, do you like EVA foam? Take a look at your options, and even better if you can try them out in person–many of our local retailers can help you make the choice!

Now, you’ve found the shoe for the right activity, but what size do you need? Snowshoes don’t run like regular shoe sizes (certainly you wouldn’t wear a 25 shoe in the US!). Snowshoe sizing is based on load–NOT your weight, but the weight of you, plus anything you’re carrying. This could include a pack, a child in a carrier, equipment, etc. Make sure you add it all together before you pick your size.

Now, go out and enjoy them! That’s the most important part of the process, after all.

Still not sure? Our site has a handy dandy Snowshoe Finder!