Good Content from: Sarah Canney, Trail Running and Snowshoe Running Expert
I first tried snowshoe running on a whim. The winter had seemed especially long and snowy and it was only the beginning of February, which in New England means you’re in for a solid 8-10 more weeks of winter. I signed up for a night time snowshoe race hosted by (Saucony Partner) Acidotic Racing, and after strapping on my rented Dion Snowshoes found myself careening through the wood, my way illuminated only by my headlamp. In a word it was thrilling, and so different from anything else I’d ever experienced as a road runner. I was hooked.
Fast forward a few years, and I had the chance to represent the USA at the World Snowshoe Championships in Val Di Non, Italy in 2019, finishing 9th overall. While snowshoe running is a lot of work, I still think it is a thrill and look forward to the season every year.
If you’ve wanted to get out on snowshoes, but haven’t had any idea where to start then I’ve got a few tips for you to get you out on the snow this winter:
You can actually run in any kind of snowshoe. In fact, I tested out snowshoe running in a pair of trekking snowshoes before I ever tried a pair of running snowshoes. It’s a good way to give it a shot before you invest in a pair of your own. But if you don’t have access to regular snowshoes, many races will have rental snowshoes available for you to rent the day of the race.
The USSSA (US Snowshoe Association) and the WSSF (World Snowshoe Federation) state that the legal snowshoe racing shoes can be no less than 7” wide and 20” long. You can find specific running snowshoe for a number of manufacturers but my favorite are DION Snowshoes, which are made in Vermont. They are lightweight, durable in icy conditions all around great snowshoe.
Pro Tip: leave your snowshoes outside so the metal is the same as the outside temp, snow will stick to the warm metal.
As far as footwear goes, you can wear any type of shoe. I usually opt for a comfortable trail shoe, like the Mad River for training runs. Their gaiter compatibility makes them a great shoe to wear with snowshoes because the added protection of the gaiter will help minimize how wet your feet will get. When things get serious at major races, you’ll find most runners strapping in an old pair of racing flats to their snowshoes to be as lightweight as possible.
What To Expect
Snowshoe running is hard, but it is a great way to get out in the winter, and helps build leg strength and cardiovascular endurance during. You can expect a more exaggerated stride depending on the snow conditions and a slightly wider stance. You should also be prepared for it to feel really hard, you can be running at a pace that would normally be considered pretty relaxed on the road, but on snowshoes it will feel nothing but relaxed. in fact, it will probably feel more like a tempo run or a race effort, depending on the conditions.
If you’re a fanatic about pace, go ahead and cover up your watch because your pace will vary wildly depending on the snow conditions. Icy packed snow will be fast and deep, fresh powder will be considerably slower. Instead of pace, focus on perceived effort.
You’re Going to Get Wet
When you’re snowshoe running you tend to kick up a lot of snow, especially in fresh powder. Be prepared to get wet from head to toe. If you’re driving to a trail-head to run, be sure to pack a change of clothes, dry socks and some warm cozy boots to put on after.
How To Dress
Considering that you will get wet and your exertion level will be a bit higher than a road run, it’s important to choose your clothing options with that in mind. You’ll want to dress as if you’re headed out for a tempo run, workout or race and choose layers that will help snow slide away. The wind- and water-resistant DWR ripstop 100 percent poly shell at chest and back of the Reversi-Run Jacket or Vest is a perfect outer-layer that allows snow to slide off, instead of clumping on the fabric. You’ll also want to keep toes toasty with merino wool socks, and a great pair of winter tights is essential.
How To Find A Race
The standard distance for the US National Snowshoe Running Championships and the World Snowshoe Running Championships is roughly a 10K, but you can find snowshoe ultra marathons, marathons and half marathons all over the country where the snow flies in the winter months. Want to find a race near you? Head to snowshoeracing.com for a searchable map.
Photography: Raya on Assignment