Snowshoes for Me: Boston Snowpocalypse Edition
February 13, 2015 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Last week, while I was lying about on the sofa, unable to feel my limbs from all the shoveling, a woman flew past our house on these tiny little snowshoes. She had a couple of poles as well. It was amazing. No slipping or falling on her face at all. I was instantly filled with insane jealousy.

I have gone through the previous questions on askme about snowshoes, particularly this one, and it seems like Tubbs is a beloved brand. I have been over to Tubbs, and taken a look at the stuff for gentle terrains/idiot beginners, and I am still not sure that's what I am looking for.

The shoes on her feet seemed much smaller than what their videos appear to show. I am looking for something for a total beginner - I doubt I will ever use these for anything more than amateur efforts. I would love to be stable walking around after a storm, to be able to get to a corner/grocery store even when there's white stuff all over the streets, to maybe use them for getting to work when needed, or for exercise/a nice walk on wintry days. I'm not looking to head into the backwoods, so I'd really like something I can learn quickly and that won't cause me to fall over a lot, because I do enough of that without specialized footgear. Perhaps what I saw/am looking for is some kind of hybrid, and not a traditional snowshoe? Does such a thing exist?

I would have gone to a store to look at stuff in person, but I can't get to one, because I don't have snowshoes.
posted by instead of three wishes to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Probably running snowshoes. Also check out MSR brand show shoes which are bigger than running shoes but smaller than traditional and do particularly well on ice.
posted by fshgrl at 9:48 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe you'd like some snow cleats? Great on ice and crunchy snow.
They wont work in deep snow but even in deep snow, real snowshoes take some real effort to get around.
posted by beccaj at 9:55 AM on February 13, 2015

Snow shoes (like cross-country skiis) are better for even snow, not the rugged snowbanks, ice ridges, and intermittently shoveled sidewalks in a city. If you're just looking to improve your mobility, I'd actually suggest snow cleats and poles (ideally trekking poles with a removable snow basket, which I believe are collapsible, but cross-country ski poles would also do in a pinch).

My 100% favorite snow cleat is the Stabilicer. Don't waste your money on those crap-ass YaxTrax things with the spiral spring thing. Buy the real deal -- Stabilicer. I like the Walk (formerly called the Lite, I believe?) for city walking.

(I have no affiliation with Stabilicer or 32 North beyond a strong devotion to their products. I walked ~3 miles of badly shoveled sidewalks last Sunday with mine. They are awesome.)
posted by pie ninja at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Long ago, I worked for a bike shop that sold snowshoes in the winter as a way to even out cashflow. My knowledge is dated but I don't think the basics have changed that much.

There are many snowshoe brands out there. Redfeather, Tubbs, Atlas, MSR, Northern Lites... I see that Louis Garneau (which I know as a bike clothing brand) makes them now. And Easton, as in the aluminum company, presumably because modern snowshoes are basically just pieces of bent aluminum tubing with fabric, bindings and crampons attached. REI offers a number of models and you could start by browsing there.

Flotation (the ability to support weight in snow) is a function of surface area and the sort of snow you most often encounter. Bigger people, or people carrying gear, will need bigger snowshoes, generally. Unfortunately, increasing surface area also makes snowshoeing less & less like regular walking. They start to feel more like clown shoes, and walking is clumsy - hence the use of poles.

Some manufacturers make running snowshoes that sacrifice some flotation in order to make a smaller footprint that you can actually run in. I have personally done the snowshoe running leg of a winter pentathlon relay (on Northern Lites shoes), and yes, you really can run with them, but it's not as comfy or fast as running without them. You have to pay attention to foot placement a lot more than regular old running requires - it feels a little like going for a jog along a path made of stepping stones. Also, the tails of some shoes will tend to fling snow up onto your back, possibly down your neck :-)

Look again at the REI product list. The Garneau Transition has a shape that makes it less likely you will step on your other shoe as you trot along. Anything with a similar shape and size will make a decent jogging snowshoe. Anything much longer or wider in the tail, like, say, the Atlas 1230, will be too clunky to really run in. But those Garneau Transitions might leave you wading around in fluffy backcountry powder, while the Atlas 1230's would do better in those conditions.

Hope that makes sense. Oh, and if you take it up as a sport, you'll find yourself sometimes snowshoeing in areas frequented by XC skiers. Please stay out of the ski tracks if you can, as your snowshoes will mess them up and the skiers will become grumpy at you :-)
posted by richyoung at 3:34 PM on February 13, 2015

I have LL Bean winter Walker snowshoes. They're doing some sort of winterfest this weekend, though getting there might be (even more) ridiculous than getting around Boston. Or call and talk to a specialist; they will help you choose. I like the winter walkers - kind of all-purpose for getting outside in lots of snow.
posted by theora55 at 3:14 PM on February 14, 2015

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