Snowshoeing for the first time might make you both excited and nervous. You don’t want to ruin your experience by not putting on your snowshoes correctly. Let us help with that.
First, Pick the Right Sized Snowshoes
Snowshoes won’t automatically keep you above the snow’s surface. Obviously, they won’t perform well if you’re on fluffy ground. In that case, you might as well go skiing instead. Snowshoes work best on harder, near-frozen snow.
Length for Your Weight
Standard size recommendations by reputable vendors may not account for people who may come in at a little below or a little above average height for their weight.
Regardless, it’s your weight that makes the most difference when choosing the right snowshoes. Keep that in mind before you choose a pair.
Less Than 80 Pounds
A person, usually a child, that weighs less than 80 pounds should wear a 20-inch pair.
Less Than 125 Pounds
Some children, teens and adults could get away with 21-inch shoes. Once you start to become more than 80 but less than 125 pounds, consider this length.
Less Than 150 Pounds
As you grow, you may need longer snowshoes. By the time you weigh almost 150 pounds and more than 125 pounds, you’ll be better off with the 22-inch pair.
Less Than 175 Pounds
If you’re maturing and now weigh up to almost 175 pounds but more than 150 pounds, you may need snowshoes that are 25 inches long.
Less than 220 Pounds
If you weigh more than 175 pounds but less than 220, some experts recommend the 30-inch length.
Less Than 250 Pounds
The 35- or 36-inch snowshoes will work for most people who weigh more than 220 but less than 250 pounds.
Women and children often wear narrower snowshoes than men. However, you may require a broad-foot one. This can cause problems if you don’t fit into the standard sized pairs. Some cases may call for custom width and length proportioning.
Downside Of Wearing Snowshoes Incorrectly
So many things can go wrong if you don’t wear your snowshoes correctly. Here’s some of the most common examples of what happens when you don’t put your shoes on right.
Wearing the Wrong Size
Wearing snowshoes that are too small for you will cause you to sink into the snow more than you should. You won’t have as much coverage on the snow’s surface, and it will make it hard for you to walk.
If you sink into the snow when wearing snowshoes that are too large for you, you’ll have trouble taking your next steps. You will need more strength to pull your snowshoes out of the sinking snow. Getting “stuck” in the snow could happen too.
Straps Are Facing Inward
Many snowshoes are universal, so you can wear them on either foot if you want to. However, it’s best to wear them with the straps facing out and not inward. If you don’t, they could get tangled, and you could trip.
If you don’t have universal snowshoes, look for the “L” and “R” on the bottom of your snowshoes. These right versus left labels are usually on the top of the binding, where the ball of your foot goes.
The ball of your foot, which is the part directly on the back of your toes and before the foot arc, should slide over the crampon. This will give you the foot movement control you need when walking.
By the way, the “crampon” is the part that has “teeth” on the bottom of it, so it grips onto ice or frozen ground. Over the top of it, that’s where the binding is. If you don’t put your foot right in the “sweet spot” for maximum pivoting potential, you could lose your balance.
Setting the ball of your foot in the right spot provides you with the best support for staying as close to the snow’s surface as possible. It also makes turns easier.
Wearing the wrong size sometimes contributes to not buckling your snowshoes right. However, it can also happen by accident. This could result in losing a shoe in the snow, and you’ll have to risk frostbite while walking back to your cabin.
Insecure shoe fastening could cause you to trip. This could result in a bone fracture.
How to Wear Snowshoes Correctly
Bonus Step: Make sure you’re on flat ground when putting on your snowshoes. This will prevent awkward stepping during your hike.
Get a chair to sit in.
A standard kitchen or shop chair should do the trick. It’s so you have balance when trying to put your foot into your snowshoes.
Otherwise, if you’re at a cabin, perhaps grab a large log you can use to put yourself in a comfortable position for putting on your snowshoes. You’ll sit in it after you place your snowshoes in the correct position for placement on your feet.
Set the snowshoes on the ground.
When you set the snowshoes on the ground, put the “toe” end forward, preferably in the direction you plan to walk if you’re a beginner. This first positioning step prepares you for easy “dressing.”
Point the snowshoe straps outward.
If your snowshoes don’t have left and right markings, place the snowshoes down with the straps on the outside of your foot. For your right foot, the straps will be on the right. For your left foot, the straps will be on the left.
Move the straps out of the way.
Unbuckle the snowshoe straps and move them out of the way. Don’t tangle the straps in the process. Laying them horizontally outward is best. This will make room for you to slip your feet into the shoes in the exact position for the best winter hiking performance.
Sit down in the chair.
Sit the same way you might sit in a chair when putting on your regular shoes. Then, prepare to cross one leg over the other.
Insert one foot, then the other.
Insert one foot into the snowshoes. If you can’t bend, then you may want to try the next optional step.
Make sure you place the ball of your foot directly over the crampon. Remember, your foot’s “ball” is the part between your toes and the arc of your foot.
Optional: Lift your leg up to your other leg’s knee.
You have the option of crossing each leg over the other if you can’t reach to buckle the snowshoes. It will help you tie down your shoes nicely and snug. It also ensures proper testing, so you know the shoes are as tight as they need to be.
Tighten the binding straps.
You don’t want to feel like your feet will fall out of your snowshoes. They should all feel as snug as possible. On the other hand, don’t crank the buckle straps so tight your feet end up hurting and blistering.
The highest priority when putting on your snowshoes is to be on flat ground. Also, make sure you put your foot directly in the center of the binding over the crampon. This provides the best support when walking, especially if you buckle your straps right.
Overall, if you're planning on a snowshoeing adventure it'll be much more fun if you have your snowshoes on correctly. Not only could you end up injuring yourself, but you could also never try again. Take some time beforehand to practice putting them on the right way because it'll pay off in the long run.
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