Even if you’re a dedicated snowshoer—or a dedicated road and trail runner—you may or may not be aware of the booming popularity of snowshoe running. Whether you’re looking to compete in organized races or simply get a hearty workout amid dazzling, wintery beauty, snowshoe running can yield lifelong enjoyment.
Today we thought we’d “run” through (ahem) some of the basics of snowshoe running, with some tips, tricks, and considerations for somebody new to the concept. First, though, let’s take a moment to extoll the activity’s virtues!
The Benefits & Pleasures of Snowshoe Running
Runners can reap many rewards from donning snowshoes. Snowshoe running gives the ability to stay fit during the winter and enjoy the profound benefits of cross-training. The unique terrain and full-body exercise of a snowshoe run strengthen muscles and hone endurance in ways that pay off in other seasons’ roads and trails.
While it gives everything from your hip flexors to your abs and arms a great workout, snowshoe running is also, in some ways, kinder on your body than its bare-ground equivalent: Powder and softer snowpack translate to less jarring and strain on your joints.
Furthermore, of course, all the delights of snowshoeing in general—the ability to foray through gorgeous, snow-draped forests and fields, relish the crisp temperatures and twinkling sunshine of winter—are yours to savor on the run.
Adjusting Gait & Pace
If you’re a regular road, trail, or track runner, you’ll find you need to slightly adjust your style when striking off down the path in a pair of snowshoes. Actually, with the right snowshoes—such as our Crescent Moon Lunas or Gold 12s—you may well be surprised how easy it is to adapt to the snowshoe-running gait. Essentially you’ll be taking a bit wider steps to account for the broader footwear you’re wearing and the modest give and shift of each footfall. You’ll also likely be bringing your knees up a bit higher and swinging those arms a little more to maintain balance.
Don’t expect to zip along the snowy trail at the same pace as you do on pavement or packed dirt. You’ve got a bit more weight you’re lifting, for one thing, and snow’s a “draggier” sort of surface. If you intend to competitively race, you can work up to shaving off time, but for starters—and many snowshoe runners are in it simply for enjoyment—don’t focus on speed.
Ease Into the Sport
If you’re a longtime runner, a longtime snowshoer, or both, you might assume you can choose some lengthy, hilly course for your inaugural snowshoe run. Not the savviest way to go: You need to adjust to the unique style, feel, and exertion of snowshoe running. Select a short, groomed trail for your first run—or even a snowy park field or golf course where you can do some gentle, maybe-a-little-awkward-at-first laps. Don’t be surprised at how worn-out you are after your first few runs or by how sore your body might be the next day.
Clothing & Accessories
Among the more common beginner’s mistakes when it comes to snowshoe running is overdressing. The trick is to dress for a bit warmer temperatures than the actual ambient conditions, as you’ll quickly work up a sweat crunching down the trail; feeling a little chilly at the trailhead is just about right. Depending on the weather, favor breathable clothing with running tights or snow-resistant pants and perhaps a light upper shell. Leave the fleece at home, or you’ll likely become coated in kicked-up snow within short order.
Pack layers so that you can throw on more insulating outerwear when taking a break, and bring a change of clothes—particularly if you’re racing or tackling a long trail—for after the run. Stow an extra hat and pair of gloves in your gear, so you’ve got warm, dry backups.
You can wear regular running shoes with your snowshoes, with waterproof trail shoes as an especially good option. We also recommend slipping our neoprene snowshoe booties over your shoes to keep your feet that much warmer and drier! You can also wear running gaiters as an extra protective barrier.
As with any snowshoeing outing, don’t forget those sunglasses or goggles: Besides protecting you from the snow glare that can be significant even under light overcast skies, they shield you some from thrown-up powder, stinging flurries, and unexpectedly low-hanging branches.
You likely aren’t going to want poles on a snowshoe run: too awkward and rhythm-disruptive. If you may be alternating running with walking, though, it’s not a bad idea to grab a pair of adjustable hiking poles.
Where to Go Snowshoe Running & Racing
The sky’s just about the limit when it comes to snowshoe running. From formally maintained snowshoe and cross-country ski trails to snow-covered roads and open terrain, you’ve got options. Keep in mind that deep, soft powder isn’t ideal for running unless you’ve got a bit of a masochistic streak or are keen on truly hardcore training.
If you’re interested in races, meanwhile, you’ll find organized events all across the country and such big-time competitions as the National Snowshoe Championships. There are also plenty of international races, from the Finland National Snowshoe Racing Championships to the World Snowshoe Championships organized by the World Snowshoe Federation.
The Best Snowshoes for Running
The ideal snowshoes for running are compact and lightweight. You’ll typically be running on snow-packed or groomed surfaces and be less concerned about even weight distribution and buoyancy and more about firm traction and a springy feel.
You can’t do better than the Crescent Moon aluminum running snowshoes with their pronounced teardrop shape and spring-loaded buckles, or our groundbreaking foam snowshoes boasting a rocker shape inspired by running shoes and excellent grip courtesy of rubber lugs and optional ice cleats. Slip into either of these fleetfooted pairs, and you’re off to the races—or the laidback, non-competitive weekend snow-jog with buddies!