A couple years ago, we had a particularly snowy winter. I grew tried of slipping and sliding on the sidewalks and started doing some research about alternatives. Somewhere along the way I came across snowshoe running, and I’ve been hooked ever since. And if you love running outdoors in the winter, snowshoe running might just be for you, too!
Find the right pair
Traditional snowshoes are made more for walking/hiking around and feature somewhat heavy construction and a bulky base (also called a deck). You can run in these, of course, but your stride will be more labored and altered. Good news: There are specific snowshoes made for speed — whether running or even racing — that feature high-tech, lightweight construction and a streamlined, teardrop shape for a more natural stride.
When sizing for snowshoes, there are a number of considerations, including height, weight, male/female, and more. Choosing the right fit is just as important as if you were, say, choosing a new road bike. You can always rent before you buy, though most mountains don’t necessarily stock the sleeker shoes. Learn more about snowshoes here.
Gather the rest of your gear
You can actually wear your normal running shoes with your snowshoes. Or you could opt for trail shoes for a firmer base and more stability. It’s up to you. Either way, you’ll likely want to pick up a pair of gaiters to keep feet and lower legs warm and dry. A good pair of knee-high wool socks can also help in this area.
Dress much like you do for usual winter running, but consider the elements. With all that snow kicking up on your lower half, it’s smart to favor shells and other minimally absorbent fabrics over sweats or fleece. On my first jaunt, I was way too overdressed — just because it’s snowy doesn’t mean you need more layers than normal in similar temperatures.
Choose your path
You can always run whenever/wherever there’s a lot of snow, but if you don’t want to wait for that next storm, consider heading to your local cross-country ski trail or state park. Many feature snowy paths that are great for logging some serious miles. To find one near you, check out snowshoes.com, which not only details the location, but also the length and difficulty.
Keep in mind that packed snow is much, much easier to run on than fresh powder. If you’re new to this sport, I’d recommend start on these more manicured trails, otherwise it can be quite discouraging/exhausting with all that new athletic effort expended.
Keep expectations in check
Snowshoe running isn’t plain old running. I was immensely surprised to find myself winded and tired after only about a half mile in the powder. So, be sure to pick a short route that isn’t too far from civilization for your first go at it. A fantastic way to start is with the walk/run approach. You can always increase time running as you get stronger, both physically and cardiovascularly.
In addition, and I always recommend this when heading out more remotely, consider bringing a friend with you. You never know what sorts of things you might encounter — wildlife, getting lost, tough terrain — so having another person there is a safeguard. Plus, it’s just more fun that way!
Written by Ashley Marcin.
Do you snowshoe run? In another article, I’ll go over more about technique, specific workouts, and even races!