Choosing the right snowshoe is as easy as snowshoeing itself, and knowing the F A C Ts--or four key elements of snowshoe design--will help you make the right choice!

Carefully consider each element of F A C T before selecting your snowshoes, to insure that its technology matches the suggested use. Whether it's hiking, general recreation, walking or running, choosing the right snowshoe will help you maximize your outdoor winter experience!

FLOTATION - The Flotation ability of a snowshoe is a function of its surface area, user weight (including gear) and snow conditions.

More Surface Area = More Flotation

A heavier person typically needs a snowshoe with more surface area (or flotation); a lighter person needs less. More surface area (or flotation) is usually desirable for use in powder snow conditions; less is needed for packed snow. As a rule of thumb, figure 1 square inch of snowshoe rated area for 1 pound of load. For a 190 pound hiker (including pack & gear), you'd need 190 square inches of shoe. A snowshoe 8" wide x 24" long has a rated area 8x24=192 sq.inches, too small for this hiker. A snowshoe rated as 9" wide x 27" long has a rated area of 9x27=243sq. inches, fine for this hiker. In general for up to 140lbs, consider a 21" long shoe, 24" for up to 170lbs, 27" for up to 200lbs, and 30" or longer for heavier loads. Be sure to include your pack & gear weights when figuring the snowshoe load!

ARTICULATION - A well-designed snowshoe rotates three ways on a pivot point located under the ball of the foot, to optimize stability, control and comfort as terrain varies under the snowshoe.

Step Rotation - Fixed rotation on many modern snowshoes enables an efficient stride on packed snow and flat to rolling terrain.
Lateral Flex - For most snow conditions binding suspension should allow enough lateral flex (away from the snowshoe frame) so that a comfortable, natural foot position can be maintained when traversing a sidehill. In powder conditions, a fixed bar to limit lateral flex is often preferred. For most local conditions ('Sierra Cement') generous lateral flex is desired.
Heel Alignment - Snowshoe bindings should control the heel relative to the center of the snowshoe. Keeping the heel aligned and centered on variable terrain means greater traction and efficiency of stride, enabling the user to cover more ground with less effort and greater control. It also tends to limit sprainged ankles!

COMFORT - Snowshoe weight, shape and pivot point all combine with binding fit to effect user's overall comfort and efficency.

Weight - Many shoes use durable, lightweight materials to minimize user fatigue without sacrificing durability.

Shape - Most modern snowshoes are ergonomically shaped to provide the right balance of flotation and maneuverability.

Pivot Point - The pivot point -- or where the binding connects to the snowshoe -- should be located under the ball of the foot to center the body over the natural balance point of the snowshoe.

Binding - The binding is the "heart" of the snowshoe and should be comfortable, easy to use and provide proper support and directional control. Snowboard style ratchet bindings are commonly found on the most expensive snowshoes. More economical models and homemade shoes will often have strap and/or lacing style bindings.

TRACTION - Modern 'decked' snowshoes need crampons for traction. Traction is measured by the depth of crampon penetration in uphill, sidehill and downhill slopes as well as in variable snow conditions. Crampons should be ergonomically designed and located directly under the key areas of impact; ball of the foot and heel for maximum grip through the entire stride. Snowshoes with heel crampons commonly incorporate grip bars under the heel of the boot as well to help limit boot heel slippage.

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