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Snowshoes work by providing flotation-spreading weight evenly over a large surface area.

Consider the following factors when choosing the pair that's right for you:

  • Terrain: Snowshoe categories include flat (most affordable), rolling (more traction) and mountain (most expensive and greatest traction).
  • Weight: Each size has a maximum load (weight of you plus gear).
  • Conditions: Larger (longer) sizes are better on powdery snow; smaller sizes are better on hard-packed snow. 

 Snowshoe Materials

  • Aluminum frame: Light and strong, with supportive decking material.
  • Composite: The most affordable and the noisiest as you walk. Rigid deck material negates the need for an outer frame.
  • EVA foam: Quiet and flexible for striding comfort, but offers less traction than other types of snowshoes.

Snowshoe Bindings

Consisting of a platform and straps that go over the tops and around the heels of your boots, more sophisticated bindings adjust and close easily-and cost more.

Rotating (floating) bindings pivot near the balls of your feet to minimize leg fatigue on climbs; they also allow you to kick steps into slopes.

Fixed bindings secure the deck to your boot, relying on it to flex for striding comfort. They are less efficient at climbing but allow a natural walking motion on flat, hard-packed terrain.

Snowshoe Traction and Climbing Features

Depending on their specific design, snowshoes can have a combination of the following:

  • Toe or instep crampons: The main source of traction on most snowshoes, these are metal teeth you use to dig in as you step. (Note: Though called "crampons" they do not provide as much traction as ones used for mountaineering.)
  • Heel crampons near the back of your boots offer additional traction. (See note above.)
  • Side rails (also called traction bars) under the decking provide lateral stability and reduce side-slipping as you cross slopes.
  • Braking bars under composite-deck snowshoes help prevent backsliding on slopes.
  • Heel lifts are wire bails that you flip up under your heels to reduce calf fatigue on climbs. Flip them down and out of the way on descents or flat terrain.
  • Flotation Accessories

Snowshoe tails can be purchased and attached (on MSR snowshoes) to create more flotation on dry snow.

Shop REI for Snowshoes

We have top snowshoe brands like Atlas, MSR and more.