If you live in a wintry locale (or have a vacation planned to one), you may be wondering how you’ll be able to maintain a running routine through snowdrifts and sub-freezing temperatures. When I moved to upstate New York two years ago, I discovered the answer: snowshoe running. When you picture snowshoes, you might think of the wide, heavy contraptions best suited for backcountry excursions. Running snowshoes, however, are built to be light and narrow. Running in them can feel surprisingly comfortable. If you’re looking to shake up your training this winter, read on for beginner snowshoe running tips.
1. If you want to actually run (or race) in snowshoes, getting the right pair is key. I have a pair that I love from Dion Snowshoes, a brand that’s considered one of the best in the industry. Generally, there are three parts to a pair of running snowshoes: the frame, the binding, and the cleat. Some companies will allow you to mix and match, while others sell ready-made combinations. Whatever brand you choose, look for a light and narrow frame. Binding type (or the straps) will depend on personal preference, and cleats are tailored to the type of terrain you’ll be running on. For example, larger cleats are better for icy or rocky terrain.
2. Even though you’ll be ankle deep in snow, you’ll find yourself overheating if you wear too much clothing. Dress as you would for a winter run, but pay extra attention to your feet; moisture-wicking socks and gaiters are a good investment. And if you’ll be driving to a trail or race, make sure to have warm, dry clothes waiting for you in the car.
3. Now that you’re outfitted with the right gear, you may be wondering where to practice your snowshoe skills. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start out with a few loops of a local park or golf course. Once you get a little bit of practice, groomed trails are ideal. If you’ll be sharing the trail with cross-country skiers or snowmobilers, practice good etiquette. Stay alert, keep to the far side of the trail, and avoid the cross-country ski tracks if possible (snowshoe imprints can cause bumps and divots).
4. Just as your pace changes on a technical trail, your snowshoe running pace will feel slower and more difficult. Cut yourself some slack and don’t worry about time. You should have a slightly wider stance as you move forward, but try to stick to your usual running form as much as you can. And don’t attempt to move backwards – you’ll quickly find yourself on your bottom!
5. If you think you might want to take your snowshoe running to the next level, consider a race. The United State Snowshoe Association (USSSA) lists event calendars, gear companies, and the latest news in the sport. Whether you live in New England or Colorado, there’s likely to be a snowshoe race near you this winter.
Related: Why You Should Try Snowshoe Running