Size & Buying Guides

How to Choose Snowshoes

Carol Ching

    How to Choose Snowshoes
    When you’re buying snowshoes, use these factors to help you make your decision:
    • Where you plan to snowshoe: Will you be on mellow terrain, climbing steep slopes or running?
    • What size snowshoes to buy: Follow our guide to get the right snowshoe size.
    • Different materials and bindings: They each have their pros and cons.
    • Snowshoe add-ons and extras: Find out what other gear you might need.

    Shop the Atlas Stratus

    Snowshoes for Trails, Groomed Ski Hills, and Flat Terrain

    You’ll want snowshoes that have enough traction to get up the occasional steep or icy slope, but work best on gentle terrain.
    These types of snowshoes are:
    - Best for beginners or casual snowshoers.
    - Great for established trails and flat terrain since they have moderate traction.
    - Ideal for snowshoeing in eastern and central Canada.

    Snowshoes for Running

    Snowshoes for running are designed for moving fast on packed snow and on firm trails, so they have less flotation than other types. They’re narrower than other kinds of snowshoes and have an asymmetric shape that helps you run with an efficient stride and a natural gait.Running snowshoes are:
    - Awesome for runners who want to keep going through winter.
    - Designed with a smaller footprint and asymmetrical shape to prevent you from kicking yourself as you run.
    - Great for packed trails anywhere there’s snow.

    Women's Snowshoes

    The Atas Elektra women specific designs grew from a two-year biomechanics research program to a deep line of successful women’s snowshoes that continue to lead the industry. Elektra frames are shaped to accommodate a woman’s natural gait, with tapered tails, a narrower nose and outside rolling bends that nest the snowshoes together comfortably.

    Since women’s needs are more than frame-deep, Elektra binding designs are molded around a women’s boot last, offer increased arch support and use carefully-placed strapping and padding to eliminate pressure points and keep circulation moving in the cold.

    Kids Snowshoes

    Snowshoes for kids come in small sizes that correspond to the weight of the child. They’re made of more durable and less expensive materials and have child-friendly traction that’s tough enough to tackle sloped terrain but not sharp enough to puncture snowsuits.

    Snowshoe Sizing

    Snowshoes work by creating more surface area than your boots alone. That extra surface area spreads out your weight so you don’t sink into the snow. Most snowshoe widths are quite similar, but where they vary is in length. You want to choose a length that has enough flotation for your weight and the snow conditions you’ll be in (deep powder versus packed trails, for example).
    The recommended user weight for snowshoes isn’t your normal, just-hop-on-the-scale weight. It’s actually the weight of everything the snowshoes will carry. So that includes you, your winter clothes, your boots, and your backpack loaded up with gear. If you’re heavier or carrying lots of gear, you’ll need a snowshoe with more surface area.
    Snowshoes size for your weight (including your gear):
    [20in] Lightweight, doing more on hardpack, or trying to travel light and fast: 80-150lb ‍
    [25in] 120-200lb (54-91kg) ‍
    [30in] 170-250lb (77-113kg) ‍
    [36in] 220-300lb (100-136kg)

    Snow Conditions

    You’ll need more flotation in freshly fallen powder than in wet, heavy snow or on hard packed trails. So if your local snowshoe zone usually has lots of fluffy snow, choose a larger snowshoe for your weight to give you more surface area. On the flip side, if you usually snowshoe on hard-packed trails or in wet snow, you can get by with a smaller snowshoe for your weight.


    Skiis & Biikes stocks Atlas Snowshoes. Most of the snowshoes from Atlas are constructed from an outer metal frame with a lightweight and super durable flexible synthetic fabric deck (the deck is the part inside the frame). This type of design is lightweight, quiet and feels natural when you’re walking, since they flex as you step.


    Bindings can make or break a purchase on a pair of snowshoes. When looking at a snowshoe, consider the footwear you will most likely be using, and the demands you will be putting on the snowshoe. Running snowshoes need to be supportive and offer a good foot/snowshoe connection, but they are usually designed to fit running shoes or light hikers.
    There are several different types of binding materials and designs; Sometimes a binding will feature multiple types of straps/fastenings (e.g. Boa in the toe and ratchet at the heel).
    - Nylon webbing straps: Generally found on more entry-level snowshoes, webbing straps are lightweight and can offer a lot of adjustability (and thus the ability to work with many different types of shoes/boots) but they are not as supportive as other types and they tend to stretch when wet.
    - Rubber/polyurethane straps: This is probably the most common type of strap, found on a range of bindings. These have the advantage of not stretching much when wet or freezing in cold temps.
    - Ratchet straps: Similar to straps found on snowboard bindings, ratchet straps offer a high degree of adjustability and ease of use.
    - Boa closure: This relatively new type of binding offers a secure, wraparound fit and extreme ease of use. Keep in mind, though, that its components are exposed to constant snow and ice.

    Heel Lifts

    Wire bars that you flip up and rest your heels on. On long climbs, you can rest your heel on the bar to give your calves a bit of a break. It also helps with traction, since it pushes the back of the snowshoe down on steep terrain.

    Trekking Poles

    Trekking poles or adjustable ski poles can help you stay stable and balanced. They’re especially helpful with steep ascents, powder-filled descents and sketchy side-hill sections. Choose poles with large baskets that won’t sink into the snow.

    Snowshoe Storage Bag

    Show your snowshoes you love them by storing them in a storage bag. Not only can you keep your snowshoe accessories organized (poles, hat, gloves), but the storage bags have integrated mesh windows to keep them dry.
    If you’re giving snowshoes as a gift, there’s nothing worse than trying to wrap them. A good solution is to buy a storage bag to wrap the snowshoes in and give the recipient a bonus gift!

    What to Wear while Snowshoeing

    Snow Boots

    Warm, waterproof snow boots or insulated hiking boots are ideal for snowshoeing. Almost any waterproof boots with adequate insulation can serve as snowshoeing boots. However, boots designed specifically for hiking are generally best. For better protection in deeper snow, consider adding a pair of gaiters.

    Running Shoes/Hiking Shoes

    Waterproof running shoes, trail running shoes, or hiking shoes will work well with snowshoes for when you want to move quickly on your snowshoes or when you are going to be working up a sweat. You want to avoid stiff shoes with full shanks because you’ll want your the ball and toes of your foot to be able to bend and flex in the snowshoe. Consider adding gaiters for more warmth and protection against wetness and snow.


    If you’re out hiking through the snow, you’ll need some outerwear designed to protect you from the elements. Even if the weather is mild when you head out on the trail, conditions could change. So always have adequate gear on hand. Waterproof breathable jackets and pants are ideal for snowshoeing in winter conditions. At the very least, you should have a water-repellent shell and pants.


    Layered clothing items like wool or technical fabric socks, long underwear, and insulating layers are essential for an enjoyable day of snowshoeing.

    Hats and Gloves

    Hats, gloves, neck warmers and other accessories that cover your extremities are a good option while snowshoeing. On most winter days, you can get away with thin water-repellent gloves and a light breathable hat. Neck warmers and facemasks are a good option for those extremely cold days or for when you are not likely to work up a sweat. A buff is always a great accessory to wear to ward off wind, snow, and a running nose.