- Snowshoeing is a fun and casual winter activity that's easy to pick up, but it can also be extremely challenging.
- Snowshoes vary in style with some designed for runners, those meant for walking around town, and others with added traction for slick terrain.
- Our top pick, the MSR EVO Ascent, is a great all-around snowshoe with a high level of traction, and a stable, comfortable fit.
Snowshoeing is one of the best ways to get outside and enjoy the winter landscape, whether you're out for a run, enjoying a hike, or traversing town after a snowstorm. The shoes keep you afloat while treading through packed snow or powder and provide much-needed traction in slippery conditions.
Each pair of snowshoes has its own recommended range of use, not unlike the way some pairs of hiking boots are better for varied terrain than others. Some snowshoes are made for walking while others are designed specifically for winter running or serious backcountry expeditions. Though this level of variety is welcome, it does make it a little difficult to pick out the right pair.
To narrow down the best currently available, we tested a number of options from a who's who in the snowshoe industry, including brands like Atlas, Crescent Moon, and MSR. During our testing, we found snowshoes fit for a range of use cases, ranging from those meant casual outings to others intended for steep inclines or difficult terrain.
At the end of this guide, we've included some insight on how to shop for a pair of snowshoes and what to keep in mind, as well as information about our testing methodology and the answers to some frequently asked questions. With our advice below, you'll be able to more confidently choose a snowshoe that'll have you better prepared for whatever winter throws at you.
Here are the best snowshoes:
For walkers and hikers looking for one pair of snowshoes for every kind of adventure, MSR's EVO Ascent is what you need. It's a user-friendly snowshoe that's easy to adjust and highly versatile.
Pros: Highly stable, provides excellent traction on a variety of terrain, great for day hikes or casual strolls
Cons: Its highly useful tail extender isn't included, the rigid deck was loud on icy terrain
A great do-everything snowshoe, MSR's stable and high-traction Evo Ascent has enough traction for backcountry adventures without feeling too aggressive when worn on day hikes. The shoes feature toothy underfoot rails that work in tandem with an aggressive toe claw to offer incredible traction, whether you're on ice and hardpack, or just soft snow.
The EVO Ascent is built on a highly durable, injection-molded plastic deck that supports both big and smaller feet equally well. The binding fits almost any boot but because of its unique attachment system, which needs to be extremely tight to keep this shoe on, it worked best with hiking boots and shoes, or even bulky winter boots. When I was wearing sneakers or sneaker-like hikers, the tightened straps felt too tight. Once the straps were secured, they stayed tight through hours of ups and downs, even on stretches of off-camber side hilling. When it got steep, I was even able to flip up the heel lifter without taking off my gloves.
Another feature that made these shoes so versatile was its modular tail. By adding MSR's six-inch deck extender (unfortunately, sold separately) I could turn my everyday snowshoe into one capable of handling deeper powder or that would hold up when I'd carry a heavy pack for winter camping.
And although it has aggressive traction, it's designed in such a way that on more mellow adventures, it was fun, not a burden. The EVO Ascent has been my favorite snowshoe this season.$199.95 from REI
Best for steep climbs and rugged terrain
The Helium MTN from Atlas is the most comfortable snowshoe I've worn, and, it's one I'd depend on in challenging conditions and advanced, rough terrain.
Pros: Comfortable and supportive even in rough terrain, lightweight at just over 3 lbs., uses a Boa binding to dial in a perfect fit
Light, tough, and aggressive, Atlas' Helium MTN is a comfortable and supportive snowshoe, even in the most challenging terrain. It has some of the best traction of any snowshoe I tested, too, capable of getting me through a particularly icy hike up a mountain without the need for added traction via crampons.
The Helium's composite deck is flexible at both the tip and tail which allows the vertical rows of ice-biting teeth and an under-toe claw to always be in contact with the surface you're walking on. This makes icy stretches of open rock far easier to navigate. As the shoe flexes, it also sheds snow so there's never heavy buildup on the deck weighing your foot down as you haul it along.
The deck also features several big cutouts throughout, but Atlas kept enough deck material to keep the shoe afloat in soft and deep snow. This unique design also let Atlas keep the shoe light as it weights around just 3 lbs. 3 oz. per pair.
The Helium MTN's Boa-tightened binding slides on flexible plastic rails that wrapped across my foot securely while comfortably cradling it even on rugged terrain. The binding avoids any pressure points caused by individual forefoot straps, too. The pull-to-tighten Voile-style heel strap was secure and didn't slip off my boot heel regardless of what I was wearing on my feet — be it standard hiking boots or bulky, insulated winter footwear.
Under the heel, these shoes have a wire heel lift that takes the stress out of steep climbs, and can be adjusted without taking gloves off (though, when I was wearing mittens, I did need to remove one to pull up the lift). When I was back on flat ground, I was able to click the lift down with my gloves (and mittens) still on.
Even though these are some of the most expensive snowshoes, they're highly worth it. They work with a wide variety of footwear, deliver both great float and excellent traction, and avoid unnecessary no snow buildup, making them a great winter investment.$219.95 from Atlas
Best for beginners
For easy cruising and mellow outings, Crescent Moon's EVA Snowshoes welcome anyone to the sport.
Pros: Easy to put on and take off, rockered design propels you forward, works well on packed powder or pre-groomed trails
Cons: Only come in one adjustable size, light to moderate grip doesn't do well on icy inclines
The Crocs of the snowshoe world, Crescent Moon's EVA Snowshoe is molded from the same rubbery, spongey material used in sneaker midsoles instead of composite, plastic, or aluminum like most other snowshoes. It has a simple and user-friendly binding and isn't intimidating to use, even for newbies headed out for winter walks on hard-packed snow and groomed trails.
Like a running shoe, Crescent Moon's EVA Foam Snowshoe features a rockered design, so it actually propels you forward as you walk. The snowshoe's platform flexes with each step to roll you into the next one while simultaneously keeping you afloat.
These are best for packed powder and groomed trails as foam sneaker treads do well to grip those kinds of surfaces. The grip is enhanced by seven low profile underfoot ice spikes set in the foam tread that can also keep you striding with confidence when it gets a little slick underfoot.
Because this snowshoe is made from foam, not only is it shock-absorbing but it insulates your foot from the cold snow underneath. It's also aggressively curved, which is hard to get used to right at first but when you do, its curved chassis is a dream on uneven terrain (and it doesn't kick snow up your back like others do).
The EVA's simple Velcro strap binding was secure enough for flat to rolling terrain but it doesn't fit bulky footwear that well, so you'll want to wear a low-profile boot or regular shoes. It's important to keep snow out of the Velcro, too, as the bindings are much more inclined to come undone if that happens.
Its Velcro bindings are intuitive and the metal spike-enhanced foam traction lugs provide plenty of float and make the snowshoeing a breeze. Its aggressively rockered sole rolls you right into the next step, so you'll never felt like you're dragging any extra weight on your feet. It helps that these are virtually unbreakable, too.$159.00 from REI
Best for traction
MicroSpikes are an excellent tool for icy hikes, or when there's a lack of deep snow but you still need added traction.
Pros: Highly portable, easy to slip on, they provide incredible traction, perfect for hikes that mix both snow and ice
Cons: Not a traditional snowshoe that provides float
When you don't need float, but you do need traction, Kahtoola's spike and chain shoe covers serve up exactly what you're looking for. I've used these for years for winter hiking throughout the Northeast and continue to make sure these are stashed in my winter kit any time I leave the house.
Each Microspike has 12 triangular hardened-steel spikes attached to ice-biting chains threaded onto a stretchy, silicone-rubber harness through reinforced eyelets. The spikes are 3/8 inches long and heat-treated to avoid bending under strenuous conditions.
To put the Microspikes on, you just need to loop the front edge of the harness over the toe of your shoe or boot and stretch the Microspike until you're able to hook it around your heel. Metal toe bales hold the spikes in place once they're on, and when you're done, it takes just a few seconds to remove them. They're even compact enough that they pack easily into a tote sack about the size of a small orange, and they weigh just 11.9 oz. in size medium.
MicroSpikes have been one of my most trusted winter walking aids for years and they were even recently updated with a significantly lighter elastomer harness than previous versions. Now, the attachment stays stretchy down to -22°F.
Because Microspikes use flexible chains to connect the spikes, I never once had them break on me, and I've used them for years for hikes across New York's Adirondacks or through Vermont's exposed, rocky highest peaks.$69.95 from REI
Best for runners
TSL's Symbioz Hyperflex is a great shoe for runners. They're efficient, light, and have plenty of traction on packed trails while also providing added grip on the occasional patch of ice.
Pros: Flexible frame makes running feel relatively natural, binding can be pre-set
Cons: Hard to fit on those with big feet/shoes
Running snowshoes have their own set of specific design demands. When running on snow, not only do you need float but you want a binding that won't pinch your feet through lightweight running shoes. You need enough traction to avoid slipping on ice yet you want to be able to move fast (so you can't be weighed down).
Few snowshoes check these boxes but TSL's Symbioz Hyperflex does it all. Made for snowshoe racers and runners, these have a composite frame that flex as you push off the snow. That flex makes running feel much more natural than when wearing a stiff snowshoe, even if it's a small one. It does take a few minutes to get used to them, but you'll quickly settle into a natural running stride (or, about as natural as it can be with a snowshoe strapped to your foot).
Most snowshoe bindings I've tried haven't worked with my running shoes, either crushing my foot by the time they're tight enough or coming lose despite feeling just right. The Symbioz Hyperflex has an adjustable webbing binding riveted to a flexible toe cup that holds sneakers firmly without squeezing. It's quick to get on and off and also lets you pre-set it for your sneaker size so you won't have to fiddle with adjusting straps when you just want to head out the door. The webbing easily extends, too, if you want to take these on a casual walk and sport hikers instead of running shoes.
Four steel spikes on the Symbioz base deliver enough traction to run up slick hills and can prevent you from wiping out on icy straightaways. Cutouts and molded snow-probing cleats in the composite deck gripped on hardpack and packed powder providing enough stable footing to efficiently propel forward with each step.
The exaggerated turned-up toe helps prevent you from catching a toe on a chunk of ice or snow, and it's rockered design helps maintain momentum (and doesn't fling snow everywhere). They're an incredibly light 1.4 lbs. per pair (less than half the weight of other snowshoes), which help feel like there's barely anything strapped to your feet.$199.95 from Backcountry
What are the different types of snowshoes?
There are several variations of snowshoes and some are better for walking on beginner-friendly trails, while others are best for those who want to go off the trail entirely.
Recreational/flat terrain: Entry-level models fit in this category, as these snowshoes are aimed at beginners. They're made for walking across a field or on a novice trail. They have simple systems for gaining traction and work well for hard-packed snow. You'll often see a wide tail on these types of shoes to help with balance.
Running/rolling terrain: When hiking on normal trails in hilly areas, these types of snowshoes have a nice mixture of performance and comfort. They aren't made for the steepest conditions, but they do have solid bindings and mid-level crampons. This will be the most common style of snowshoe for most people. If you want more of an aerobic workout, look for a shoe in this category with a tapered tail.
Backcountry/mountain terrain: When hiking on difficult trails or when hiking to a remote area for snowboarding, you'll want some top-end snowshoes. These shoes often are small, allowing the wearer to have more control while hiking on icy and steep terrain. You'll find strong, highly adjustable bindings on these shoes to ensure they stay on your feet, as well as aggressive crampons for maximum control.
How do you pick out the right size of snowshoes?
When you think of the size of the snowshoe, you don't want to think about the fit on the foot, as you do with other types of shoes. A snowshoe size refers to the amount of coverage area the snowshoe has. Use the right size of snowshoe and you'll enjoy wearing it a lot more.
Larger shoes: A larger snowshoe will be one that has a lot of surface area, such as 10 by 30 to 36 inches. Men's snowshoes will be larger than those designed for kids or women, so they can carry more weight. You'll also want a larger surface area if you plan to be carrying a large backpack while hiking. Aluminum shoes offer the largest surface area, although composite snowshoes can accommodate tails to gain a larger surface area. Snowshoes with larger surface areas work better on powdery snow.
Medium-sized shoes: For average-sized people, you can make use of an average-sized surface area, such as 9 by 25 to 30 inches. If you're going to be hiking with a day pack, an average-sized snowshoe should work well. Aluminum sized shoes are available in this size, or you can use a composite style shoe with a smaller tail.
Smaller shoes: Kids snowshoes and some women's shoes will fit in this category, where you'll see shoes 8 by 25 inches and smaller. If you are going for a day hike with little to no extra gear, a small size of snowshoe works well. Both aluminum and composite snowshoes fit in this category. If you'll be walking on icy surfaces or hard-packed snow, a smaller sized snowshoe will work well. You'll likely want to use the smallest shoe or boot you can because smaller shoes are easier to control.
When seeking a snowshoe, you should see a recommended load or a user weight range for individual pairs of snowshoes. This number can help you figure out the best snowshoe for your weight and the load you'll be carrying. Some people even own multiple sizes of snowshoes to accommodate different snow conditions and loads that they'll be carrying on a particular day.
How to shop for snowshoes
When shopping, it's important to keep in mind that the bigger the snowshoe, the more float it will have. In deep snow, a larger surface area keeps you from sinking into powder. Conversely, the size of your shoe is less important in shallow snow, though it's worth noting that a smaller shoe will be lighter and much easier to maneuver. We recommend opting for a small shoe if you're trying to move quickly in packed snow, or if you're snowshoe running.
Most snowshoes come in a range of sizes, and each size has its own specific weight rating. The correct size of snowshoe depends on your trail weight, which includes not just your body weight but also whatever you're carrying, like a backpack, a set of skis, or something similar.
You'll find that many snowshoes come standard with ice-gripping metal teeth, or spikes, on the bottom. Some also have molded plastic or foam ridges that help improve grip in soft snow. A heel lifter also comes in handy when traversing uphill. These are small wires that flip up to raise your heel off the deck of the snowshoe, making inclines far easier while taking the bulk of the stress off your calves.
Picking out the right snowshoe binding is also important. You'll notice these come in a variety of sizes, as some are meant for running shoes (and are inherently smaller) while others are for big winter boots. You'll want to choose a snowshoe with a binding that matches your preferred footwear, and one that's suited to the kind of walking or hiking you plan to do. Also, If you're hiking strictly on ice (and not on snow), spiked traction that slips over your shoes are a much better choice than a full-on snowshoe.
How we test snowshoes
Each pair of snowshoes in this guide went through a series of on-foot and on-snow tests to see how well they compared based on these four categories: Performance, fit, durability, and value. Here's how we specifically considered each category while testing:
Performance: Though we tested a variety of snowshoes with a range of use cases, there were still a few key performance traits we looked for in each pair: traction and stability. For the pairs meant to give you float on deeper snow, we looked at how well these held up on both fluffy powder, as well as packed snow, along with how well they did in terms of providing traction and stability underfoot. For those meant strictly for hardpack (like the pairs intended for runners), stability and traction were the highest priority.
Fit: An ill-fitting snowshoe can make even a casual jaunt around town an annoying affair. To judge this, we looked at how easy the fit system was to use, whether the straps stayed snug or go loose over time, and how the system fared across a variety of shoe and boot choices. We've noted where some shoes fit tighter than others, as well as how they worked with regular tennis shoes or hiking boots.
Durability: Most snowshoes are designed to take a bit of a beating, as they're essentially extensions of your hiking boot (and are built to take on rugged terrain). However, testing for durability is more than just assessing build strength but also how well the fit system holds up to long-term use, if the built-in or attached spikes chip away on rougher terrain, and if the structure of the shoe can handle constant stress.
Value: A snowshoe's value is a combination of the three categories above, as well as how much of an investment it entails. We often recommend that it's better to spend more on a premium pair of snowshoes than to spend less, more often on an inferior product.
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