The History Of Snowshoes

The History Of Snowshoes

For thousands of years, snowshoes have been around, keeping people on top of the snow instead of in it by a couple of feet. Central Asia used the first snowshoe around 4000 B.C. The snowshoe was recreated several times over the course of 6,000 years. It looks a lot different today compared to when it originated. Over time, it has become more convenient and lighter on the feet.  

The History Of Snowshoes

There are no records to show exactly who invented the snowshoes. The first snowshoe records only dated between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago. The first snowshoes were made of leather straps and wood. They looked like tennis rackets for several thousand years. 

Snowshoes were a means of transportation on foot over several feet of snow in the northern territories. They were wide enough to keep a person from falling into the deep snow with every step. 

In the beginning, there was no recreation when it came to snowshoes. They were strictly used for transportation, hunting, and other survival needs. Later, the Native Americans used them at the first snowfall for a snow dance.

As time went on, the first users of the snowshoes realized the wooden blocks they were walking on could be expanded and used to make skis. So, skis originated from the first snowshoes. Both got innovated throughout the millennials to the lighter versions we have today. 

Over time, snowshoes became more of a recreation and exercise time for fitness, races, and exploration across new lands. Militaries picked them up for good use when moving across the snow.

The Evolution of Snowshoes 

The old original snowshoes sit in museums today, and they are seen as artwork from primitive years, and those who live in the wilderness still keep the tradition of it alive. They are still made from wood and rawhide by the finest craftsmen who live in nature and snow-filled terrain. 

The snowshoe basics have not changed over the thousands of years since the first. Only the material used to make the snowshoes and the weight and size have changed. It wasn't until the 1950s that different ideas innovated snowshoes. 

Since then, lightweight metals like aluminum, cleats, crampons, and different types of metal have been tested and used. Still, tests and research continued to find the best results for improvements in making the metal snowshoes lighter, easier, and safer to use.

Snowshoes Today

It wasn't until people started using snowshoes in winter races in the late 1800s that trial and error made the perfect snowshoe as to what we have today. Clubs in the northern U.S. and Canada promoted these races; they knew the lighter the snowshoe, the better their chance of winning.  

Innovators have found ways to make snowshoes more compact and effective in their materials, making them lightweight. Today, snowshoes are made out of foam, and each shoe weighs approximately 16 ounces. Foam snowshoes are perfected perfectly to use up and downhill, and those who use them for sport in races find they work the best. 

Those who use snowshoes today make paths throughout the wooded areas for racing events and hiking for scenery and getaway trips. Many folks use them for exercise because studies have proven that walking and running in snowshoes burn more calories than any other exercise known to the human race. It is said that up to 400 calories per hour are burned when racing on snowshoes.

Today, there are three different types of snowshoes. Each serves its specific purpose. 

  • Running snowshoes (lightweight)
  • Recreational snowshoes (stable and larger)
  • Mountain snowshoes (made for climbing mountains and hiking)

Specializing in super lightweight, innovative snowshoes, Northern Lites is a top-rated retailer that has won awards for their competitive designs. While Crescent Moon does carry similar lightweight styles, they specialize more in the casual snowshoes for all ages.

Snowshoes Today Compared to Way Back

Looking at the old snowshoes made of wood and leather straps, we can see it wasn't easy to maneuver. It kept the feet above the snow, but a person would move slower. The old snowshoes were between three and four feet long and close to two feet wide. They had different sizes for men, women, and children.

The following sizes were not as wide, but the length was still there. There were only leather straps to tie the shoes to the snowshoes. Today we have openings where the shoe fits into the snowshoe, covering the entire shoe with straps to hold the foot in place.

Modern technology proves that innovations have made snowshoes more efficient. Today, the same applies when it comes to the sizes for men, women, and children. However, modern-day snowshoes are about two feet long and less than a foot wide.

Shop Northern Lites for the latest in snowshoe technology. Their award-winning, lightweight snowshoes are ideal for racing and having fun!

Check out all of our snowshoes and snowshoe accessories.

Day Hiking / Beginner Snowshoes - Ultralight Trekking Series Snowshoes - Snowshoe Carry Bags

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