So you want to run on snowshoes? Yes, you can do it. Yes, it is awesome. Yes it is really hard. But man is it worth it.
I started my foray into snowshoe running in 2013, as I moved to Cortland, NY for Graduate School in Recreation Administration. I linked-up with New Hampshire-based, Acidotic Racing and ran my first race at the Stonewall 5k and the rest was history. I was hooked. From there I ran a qualifier at Highland Forest 10k and won the race. It was then that I raced at Nationals in Bend, Oregon having a spectacular weekend there. I was in love. Every year, I would compete in snowshoe running and use this season as my in-season off-season as the sport really helps build incredible strength for ultra running.
Snowshoe running races range from usually 5k to 10k. Though shorter in distance, these type of efforts feel more like an uphill mountain race as the effort to go the distance is far greater than trail running even. US nationals even hosted Half marathon and Marathon distances- a first for the sport. I was lucky enough to win the Half Marathon Championship in 2019. Snowshoe races are out available if you know where to look. The USA Snowshoe Association and ATRA (American Trail Running Association) has great calendars to view what’s out there. The Pinnacle events each year are the USA Snowshoe National Championships and the World Championships. In years past, there was more strict qualifying to “make the teams” and races but now, both are open to everyone. You see, Snowshoe running is a very inclusive sport. And snowshoes are not that expensive in relation to these Carbon-plated marathon shoes that last only 100 miles. Snowshoes with proper care can last a lifetime if you are willing to tinker with them to have them fixed.
Do not be discouraged, anyone can run on snowshoes. And a little bit goes a long way. Most of the top athletes in the world maybe run on snowshoes 3-4 times a week at most and I usually do once or twice a week if the snow conditions allow. Snowshoe running is a HARD WORKOUT! Think of it as you are running with 1 pound metal waffles on your feet. You will naturally change your stance and gait to accommodate the snowshoe. Be careful not to kick your butt in the snowshoes. Often when running at race pace, I come pretty darn close. I think of running on snowshoes as like 5k feels like a 10k on trails. Just double the distance. So in other words, you run a 5k on snowshoes, and you got a workout as if you ran 6 miles? Say what? I love that concept that I use because less is more with snowshoes. You do not have to be out there all-day to get in great shape.
The Type of Snowshoes—— Well they are lightweight, flexible, and not long. I am sure you were thinking of these big tennis racket type shoe but today, they are made of special aluminum, plastics, and now even EVA foam. The USA snowshoe association has good info on the brands and carriers of “Running Snowshoes”. Running Snowshoes are usually 21 inches long and even now 20 inches long with a certain surface area that is approved by the USSSA. They are light. Weighing at only 1-1.5 pounds per shoe, its not that bad in the grand scheme of things. Shoes are good for different things. Some have deeper cleats for deep snow. Others are all-arounders. Others are best for groomed trails found at ski areas. What you want to find is a snowshoe that best fits you and your conditions. I love Dions for this reason because you can customize the shoe for the conditions you face. You have ice, go with an ice cleat. Groomed trail, go standard cleat. Deep power will call for the Deep Cleat. The truth is, most running snowshoes will be a great start as you get into the sport. After that, you will find your favorite.
Snowshoe running is a great sport to try this winter. If you run, give snowshoe running a try. Why be stuck inside all winter when you can embrace it and gain new appreciation for this season as well as a new-found fitness that sets you up for a solid Spring Racing Season! Feel Free to message me with questions.