How to Choose the Perfect Snowshoes

Gentle or Rolling Terrain

When heading into the woods and onto trails that won't be groomed, you'll need a pair of snowshoes with more aggressive crampons. Some more aggressive pairs also have crampons along the sides, known as traction rails, or on the tail. You might also want a heel lift, which you can engage or disengage depending on the terrain you'll be climbing. If you aren't sure what kind of trekking you'll be doing, opt for a shoe that has enough traction and versatility to cover both groomed and ungroomed terrain.

For deeper snow, you'll need a larger frame, slightly wider and longer in scope than what you'll target for trail walking. McCullough says to look for a pair that isn't so big that they bang together when you walk, but has enough flotation that you can easily traverse soft snow.

For any hike that will be a few hours or is on harder terrain think about using adjustable trekking poles for stability, and gaiters to help keep snow out of your boots.

Mountain or Heavy Snow Terrain

"This is when the different binding options come into play," McCullough says. "If you start climbing, there is a high probability that if your boot is not properly fixed into the binding, it will move around. You'll typically see a more aggressive, high-end binding on mountain snowshoes."

Other differences include a heel lift for increased climbing performance and amped up bindings that will be more secure and durable to outlast nature's elements. You'll also see aggressive crampons underfoot, along the sides, and possibly beneath the tail for enhanced grip on inconsistent and side-hill terrain.

More: Tips for Winter Hiking

Running or Racing

If you run throughout the warmer seasons but can't get yourself to lace up in the winter months, don't forget that there are snowshoe races and run-specific snowshoes. Running or racing snowshoes are extremely light, have a smaller footprint, and a tapered tail so that you can run with a consistent stride and without the shoes clicking together. These speed series are meant to be worn with running shoes, not hiking boots.

More: Give Snowshoe Running a Try

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