Racing Snowshoes: Everything You Need to Know
What Are Racing Snowshoes?
Running, Trail running and hiking when the weather is warm is a favorite hobby and activity for many across the world. However, for those that live in snowy areas most of these activities are put on hold and moved indoors to gyms and workout facilities, with most anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get back outside in the fresh air. Recently over the past decade running in the snow and “cold” running has been skyrocketing in popularity. Not only is running in the winter beneficial for you health, but many popular trails that you would experience as being packed in ideal weather conditions are scarcely populated and wide open for the avid adventurer to conquer.
Snowshoes are used to traverse over snow and provide flotation in deep power. Historically snowshoes have been heavy and cumbersome to walk at quick speeds, let alone run in them. To meet the growing demand of runners wanting to run in snow many brands have created Racing snowshoes. Racing Snowshoes are designed to provide traction and minimal floatation on packed and groomed trails. These running snowshoes are light and designed to mimic the runners stride.
For those that are passionate about running, you’ll thoroughly enjoy running and trail running with snowshoes, but it is pivotal that people pick the right snowshoe for their winter hobbies, races and ultra-marathons.
Types of racing snowshoes
Racing snowshoes come in all shapes, sizes and bindings. Racing snowshoes will be made from either plastic or aluminum frames, these materials are very light in an effort to ensure the runner is not weighed down with added weight from the snowshoes.
Plastic racing snowshoes are usually accompanied with a plastic decking and plastic bindings. Plastic snowshoes can be beneficial in very wet snow and slushy snow conditions. The plastic however tends to be a bit heavier than high quality ultralight aluminum frame shoes but are more more cost effective.
Aluminum frame racing snowshoes usually have a nylon decking that is light and can withstand stepping on rocks, sticks and tree limbs. Aluminum frame race snowshoes are great for all conditions but especially for groomed trails like those that are set up to run marathons in the snow and ultra marathons.
There are requirements put in place by the USSSA about what size official racing snowshoes must be. This size requirement is a 20in frame that is at least 8 inches in width.
Due to racing snowshoes not needing to be designed for steep inclines and backcountry expeditions, the crampons and traction that racing snowshoes have is often minimal in an effort to cut weight and to provide a more natural running stride.
Bindings for racing snowshoes
Bindings for racing snowshoes are designed to keep the foot tight and close to the deck of the snowshoe to create the optimal running experience. If the binding is not tight to your shoe or boot then it will create issues and it could feel like the snowshoe is flopping around as you take each step in stride.
Many brands have worked on offering different types of bindings for runners. Most use nylon or plastic and a ratchet or buckle system to keep the straps firmly in place around the shoe.
At Northern Lites we offer three different types of bindings for our racing snowshoes. We have our Tru Trak bindings system which is a suspension binding system which matches the natural movement of a running shoe and holds the shoe to binding with ruggedized nylon straps creating a firm and tight hold on the shoe. This binding system also eliminates any Pidgeon toeing that runners might experience with other racing snowshoes.
The second binding system we offer on our racing snowshoes is our new Speed Binding System. This binding system is a lacing system that tightens quickly and efficiently the meshed poly nylon binding around your shoe. The lacing used is 500lb weighted cord that is impossible to tear. This system is very efficient for those that want to take their shoes on and off very quickly or for those that are wanting the newest innovation in snowshoe bindings.
Some brands also offer a direct mounting snowshoe system, where the shoe is mechanically attached to the runners shoe or boot to ensure there is no difference or gap between the shoe and snowshoe, making a complete running device. At Northern Lites this is our speciality and what we are proud to lead the industry in.
Direct mounting for high performance athletes
Direct Mount Bindings are what most professional runners, marathoners and serious athlete choose. For this they make a pair of their running shoes or boots the binding by mechanically attaching the suspension strap of the snowshoe to the tennis shoe. With this binding system putting your snowshoes on and taking them off is as simple as taking your shoes on and off.
The benefit of Direct Mount Bindings are often athletes find themselves being able to run faster and more efficiently than with bindings that are separate and attached with a buckle or ratchet system.
The downside to Direct Mount Bindings is that you will been to be sure to bring a second pair of boots to shoes since once your snowshoe are on there is no taking them off unless you take off your shoe.
To check out how to put the Direct Mount Bindings on your shoes please see our instructional video below:
At Northern Lites we are proud to offer the lightest and most durable racing snowshoe available in the market. Speed is critical and speed comes from ultralight snowshoes that match your stride. If you have any questions on which pair fo racing snowshoes to purchase or which bindings please don’t hesitate to talk to us.
Check out our instructional video on how to put on Direct Mount Bindings: