All Types of Snowshoes and How to Choose the Right One

Before you go ahead and get the first pair of snowshoes you see, it’s important that you do some research first.

Read on below to know the different types of snowshoes and how to find the one more suited to your needs.

Types of Snowshoes

There are three different kinds of snowshoes that are differentiated according to the purpose they are used for. These include:

Recreational Snowshoes – For Beginners and Occasional Hikers

Recreational snowshoes are perfect for a moderate hiking trail and are designed for rolling hills and flat terrain. These snowshoes are not ideal for steep mountains or going into the backcountry.

When it comes to their build, these snowshoes are shorter than backcountry ones since you do not need a lot of flotation on flat surfaces. Also, these shoes have simple traction and heel lifts, which distinguishes them from other snowshoes.

Running Snowshoes – For Fitness Lovers

If you love running in the summer and want to continue when winter comes, these running snowshoes are what you need. When it comes to the build, running snowshoes make use of lightweight material and have a trimmed frame that provides you with speed instead of flotation.

It also comes with special traction that keeps you moving, but with these shoes, you cannot run through powder; it is only good for small amounts of fresh snow.


Backcountry Snowshoes – For Adventurers

Backcountry snowshoes are designed for excellent performance and are ideal for challenging terrain, going out in powder, and spending longer times on snow. These snowshoes float deeper in the snow and have better traction, which allows them to deal with various different conditions, including steep ice and terrain.

How to Size Snowshoes

Snowshoe Sizing by Snow Conditions

When it comes to snowshoe sizing according to the snow conditions, the key is to get the most fitting length. For the ideal length, you must make sure that you are able to walk comfortably with the right balance and have good flotation so that you don’t sink in the snow with every step.

Most snowshoes range from 22 inches, which is small (short), and 36 inches, which is a longer length. As a general rule, shorter snowshoes are ideal for in-trail usage, whereas the longer models are ideal for use in the backcountry and deeper snow. You must know what you are planning on doing before you settle on a size.

Snowshoe Sizing by Weight

The rule of thumb here is that the heavier you are, the larger snowshoe you need. The snowshoe’s surface area is proportional to the weight of the person and his or her pack.

Also, most snowshoes have their maximum load indicated next to its size, so make sure that you calculate your own weight plus the maximum weight your pack might have.


Types of Snowshoe Bindings

As important as the length is, the bindings of the snowshoe also play a very important part. The binding system is linked to comfort and stability. A binding is able to hold your feet for hours without needing any readjustments. There are three different bindings, including:

Multiple Straps Bindings: These are individual straps that secure your foot and go around your heel.

Boa Bindings: This makes use of a wrapped webbing along with wiring that you can tighten via a dial.

Single Pull Bindings: This includes a plastic wraparound that makes it easy to wear and take off with a single pull.

Materials and Weight of Snowshoes

When it comes to the weight of the snowshoes, then one thing you should know is that the weight depends entirely on the material. Snowshoes can be made of three different materials for the frame and decking that determine the weight of the snowshoe and how much it can withstand. The top three materials commonly found in snowshoes are:

1. Aluminum Snowshoes

Traditional aluminum frame shoes are what most people prefer. These snowshoes have a very functional design and a strong frame that protects them from other trail hazards. Aluminum shoes have a decking made from tough nylon, which ensures that you are able to cover long distances comfortably.

2. Plastic or Composite Snowshoes

The main advantage of having composite or plastic decking is that it is cheap. It not only costs less than aluminum but also incorporates good traction on the sides. This material provides users with a harsher and louder heel impact so that you can enjoy your snow activities!

3. EVA Foam Snowshoes

Unlike aluminum frame models or hard plastic, EVA snowshoes are made with two layers of foam. They come with a softer compound on top that absorbs shock and a firmer layer present at the bottom that provides you with toughness. It is also good for durability and is ideal for beginners.


Some other snowshoe accessories and features you need to look out for include the following:

Crampons and Side Rails for Traction

Good traction is what you need when you buy snowshoes, and for this reason, snowshoe manufacturers provide specific features to achieve that traction. These features include crampons present underneath the shoes and side rails.

Cheaper snowshoes have small steel crampons right under the toes and some extra cleats in the middle. On the other hand, some shoes have lightweight steel spikes instead of crampons and allow you to walk on the snow casually.


In addition to these crampons, most snowshoes designed for backcountry come with frame rails to add traction on different terrain. These frame rails run along the side of the snowshoes and provide the stability you need when traversing any slope.

When looking for good traction, you need to keep an eye on the depth and material of the traction crampons present; it should be more aggressive for better grip.

Flotation Tails

These add-ons are a great way to get all you need in a single pair of snowshoes. You can use these trails for better flotation in the soft snow, and if you are walking on firm snow, you can take them off.

Heel Lift Bars

Most recreational and backcountry snowshoes come with heel lifting bars that are known as risers. These are a single bar of metal under the heel so that it can be raised up and kept in place when climbing. It keeps you from dropping your heel while climbing up and also reduces calf fatigue.

Find the Right Snowshoes for You

Although it might sound unnecessary to get into all that trouble for finding the right pair of snowshoes, but when you are out there in the cold of winter, you always need to consider your safety. Having a pair of snowshoes with the right fit and size, as well as the matching the conditions out there, it’s not an option but a requirement.

To aid your decision, check out the reviews of our favorite snowshoes this year.