Hiking is a lot of fun, but most hikers hang up their hiking shoes when the bad weather starts, and wait for spring. But if you just cant wait to get back out and hiking again, there is an alternative, and that alternative is snowshoes.
Snowshoes enable you to go hiking or walking even when there are multiple feet of snow on the ground, and make it so you can enjoy the outdoors all year round. Of course hiking isn’t the only thing you can do with a pair of snowshoes. Many people go on multi-day backpacking trips with them, and there are even people that go running with snowshoes on.
These different uses for snowshoes, however, means that there are different kinds, and you should figure out what you want to do with your snowshoes before you buy, if you don’t already have a pair of them available to you.
Backpacking and hiking snowshoes will be fairly similar, with the exception that when you are backpacking you will be carrying a heavy backpack, and will need extra weight capacity to accommodate your backpack. Snowshoes work on the principle of weight displacement, so if you weigh more, that is if you have a heavy backpack on, the snowshoes need to be bigger, to displace the larger amount of weight. Many snowshoes have optional tails available, which can be attached to increase their surface area. If you want a pair of snowshoes for backpacking, a model with optional tails would be a good choice.
Running snowshoes, however, are very different from the hiking and backpacking kind. They are lightweight, first and foremost, to make your feet as light as possible. They are also typically quite small, with a minimal amount of cleats. Finally, running snowshoes also typically have a spring-loaded suspension system of some kind, so that they don’t flop around too much and get in the way of your running gait.
Finally, you should know that most snowshoes are gender specific. There are a few snowshoes out there that are unisex, but many that you will find are meant for one gender or the other. Besides aesthetics, the main difference between male and female snowshoes is the size. Women tend to weigh less, and need less weight displaced, and so women’s snowshoes don’t need to be as big as men’s. So smaller men are perfectly able to wear women’s snowshoes, just as long as they don’t mind the more feminine paint job of most women’s snowshoes.