Best Overall Snowshoe for Women
MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's
: Technical, mountain terrain | Weight Load
: 210 lbs, (270 lbs with tails)
Natural stride in forward motion
Bindings are comfortable and versatile
Add-on flotation tails available
Difficult to fasten front of binding with gloves on
Difficulty sidestepping and walking backward
The MSR Lightning Ascent is a versatile snowshoe built for all types of terrain and adventuring. With its 360° traction, ability to provide a natural stride, and excellent bindings — not to mention the option for added flotation tails — this product is the clear winner of our Editors' Choice award. Whether walking up steep obstacle-ridden terrain, down an icy hill, or across a flat and well-traveled path, slippage is minimal, and comfort is a non-issue. The binding rotates almost 90° from the deck, which allows for a natural stride when walking forward, and the material provides just the right amount of stretch for a very snug fit without uncomfortable pinching or poking.
Due to the nature of the binding, walking backward and sidestepping can be quite laborious. The bindings are also challenging to put on with thick gloves, though after the first fitting, it gets much easier, provided you wear the same boots. Despite the price, difficult first fitting, and the propensity to fall head over heels when backstepping, we are confident in our decision to name the Lightning Ascent our Editors' Choice. From casual day-trippers to week-long expeditioners, this shoe put smiles on the faces of all those who slipped it on.
Read review: MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's
Best Buy for Versatility
MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes
: Flat to rolling terrain | Weight Load
: 180 lbs, (250 lbs with tails)
Bindings fit a large variety of boots
Add-on tails increase flotation
Smaller-framed folks have to widen gait a bit
Binding straps flop around
Plastic decking is loud
The MSR Evo has a simple yet reliable design that's highly versatile. Its uncomplicated binding system fits a wide variety of footwear, even bulky snowboarding boots. Are you a backcountry snowboarder!? Because this might be the shoe for you. It provides phenomenal traction both uphill and downhill on all terrain. While we find the Evo to be lacking in the floatation department, it improves significantly with the optional add-on tails. This lightweight option can take you anywhere.
Because the Evo is a unisex shoe, women or smaller-framed individuals may have to widen their gait a bit when walking. The plastic decking is also quite loud, especially if you're on packed crusty snow. But if you want to keep it simple, versatile, and shareable with the taller folks in your life, this is a great shoe to consider.
Read review: MSR Evo Snowshoe
Best Bang for your Buck
Atlas Elektra Rendezvous
: Variable rolling terrain | Weight Load
: 80-160 lbs
Walking feels natural
Not the best traction for steep terrain
Back heel strap is finicky
Bindings don't fit larger boots well
Our Best Buy award goes to the Atlas Elektra Rendezvous, an all-around great performing contender at a very fair price. This shoe comes complete with a comfortable, easy to use binding system, great stride ergonomics, and superior floatation — even in its shorter length. It is the lightest in our test suite, which no doubt contributes to its stellar flotation, and its shorter length allows for easy packability for casual day trips.
Unfortunately, this shoe lacks in the traction department when compared to our other top contenders. If you are a lover of steep technical terrain, then the excellent price point and stellar floatation of this shoe will not help you overlook its inability to mitigate slippage. That being said, if you prefer mostly flat or mild rolling terrain, regardless of depth or pack of snow, then this is a perfect choice that won't break the bank!
Read review: Atlas Elektra Rendezvous
The weight loads mentioned here are for the particular size we tested. Most of these snowshoes offer multiple sizes that accommodate weights anywhere from 80 to 200 lbs or above.
Cruising into the backcountry, loaded up with snowshoes.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by Penney Garrett and Hayley Thomas. Penney holds a special place in her heart for tromping around in deep snow, exploring the natural world. When she's not hiking on lonely winter trails, you can find her skiing or doing yoga. During the summer, she'll likely be out on long trails hiking with her pooch or rock climbing in beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Hayley has been living in Colorado for almost 15 years and, in that time, her love of the outdoors has grown exponentially. Her favorite sport is climbing, but it doesn't stop there. You can find her on the slopes in the winter, and on her bike in the summer. When she's not spending time in the mountains, she is probably taking acro yoga photos in the city or running around the park with her dog. Both Hayley and Penney bring a wealth of experience, providing amazing comparisons, and identifying key features along the way.
At OutdoorGearLab, we strive to test snowshoes objectively, pushing each to the limit. To start our process, we assess the best contenders on the market and select the creme of the crop. From there, we find the snowiest slopes to hike, evaluating key metrics along the way. With objective observations and personal experience, we bring a comprehensive and in-depth review. Our unbiased approach means we purchase every piece of gear at full retail and then test it to the max in real-world scenarios. We hope our recommendations help you in your search.
Related: How We Tested Snowshoes for Women
Analysis and Test Results
Are you itching to get out into some beautiful snowy terrain but need a good pair of snowshoes first? Curious what some of the best options are for women specifically? Well, you've come to the right place! Many avid hikers will pack their hiking boots away for the winter and wait patiently for spring, but why miss out on gorgeous hikes just because they're covered in snow? The right pair of these puppies can open up a whole world of backcountry adventures that would otherwise be impossible in the winter months.
Related: Buying Advice for Snowshoes for Women
Off we go in the Blizzard, an excellent shoe well suited to all types of terrain.
The models we tested ranged from less expensive to pocket dwindling. This can make it hard to tell where the sweet spot of performance vs. price is. Comparing the overall score to retail price is a great place to start.
For excellent performance without breaking the bank, check out both our Best Buy winners, the Rendezvous, and the Evo. Alternatively, the Editors' Choice Lightning Ascent performs impressively across all our testing criteria but is a more serious investment.
In boots alone, this hike would have been miserable. Even in the Gold 13, which has mediocre flotation, you can see what a vast difference the increased surface area makes. When we removed the snowshoe from our right foot, we quickly sunk to our knee.
The term flotation conjures up images of hovering above the snow as though you're walking on water. In the real world, where we have things like gravity, what it actually means is how much or little you sink into the snow. The better the float, the less you sink. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how effective a snowshoe can be in this department because you'll be walking along and sinking into the snow quite a bit. But if you were to try to walk in the same snow with just hiking boots, you could easily find yourself sinking to your knees, thighs, or farther. This is the magic of a snowshoe and why we weight this metric more heavily than any other testing point. It is flotation that will allow you to hike into terrain that would otherwise be impassable.
Flotation is determined by the length and shape of the shoe combined with body weight and snow quality. You will sink much deeper in light and fluffy snow than you will in dense and wet snow. The longer and wider the shoe, the more you will float, but keep in mind that sometimes these shapes are also heavier and a bit more awkward to walk in. If you plan to regularly visit varied terrain where you will need to both float on deep snowdrifts and be agile on packed trail, we suggest looking for a shoe with optional add-on flotation tails. Both the Lightning Ascent and the Evo offer this feature. Many models are also available in multiple sizes, so it's important to figure out what your weight will be when suited up with your pack on and choose the correct size for your final load. This will make a huge difference in regards to achieving the best possible flotation.
We tested our snowshoes side by side in deep snow to figure out which ones have the best flotation and which leave you feeling tired from having to high step up out of the snow.
Our Editors' Choice-winning Lightning Ascent is one of our favorites for flotation in deep snow. This impressive shoe performs well across the board on all types of terrain. One of the things that we appreciate most is how comfortable and confident we felt in both deep snow and on packed trail. Sometimes a shoe will have excellent float or traction, but the tradeoff is feeling overly sticky or awkward on groomed areas. Despite the narrow decking on the Lightning, which allows for a normal stride, it retains its ability to stay high on fresh snow.
The Lighting Ascent showing off its stellar floatation.
We also found great float with the Louis Garneau Blizzard and the Atlas Elektra Montane. The Rendezvous performs impressively for its small size as well — it's one of the few models we tested in the smaller size instead of the larger, but it held its own.
The Evo is decent on its own, but with the addition of tails, it floats as well as our highest scorers. Our score reflects its performance without the tails, however. They are a bit pricey, which might deter many folks, so be sure to consider your final weight with all clothes and gear to determine if tails are even needed. It's certainly a nice option to have if you want to be able to navigate all different types of snow.
Finding a model that offers optional floatation tails really increases versatility. On packed trails or need to keep things light? Leave the tails at home. Heading out into deep fresh pow? Clip them on to vastly increase surface area.
Traction is of supreme importance. Whether you're on a packed trail, an icy slope, or some slick, fresh snow, you want to know that you can trust your feet at all times. We tested traction by comparing each shoe going up and down steep icy slopes, as well as walking on as many hilly rolling trails as possible.
The stick of a snowshoe is determined by the crampons and the presence or absence of side rails, or traction bars, on the underside of the shoe. There is a lot of variation from model to model, and it's often hard to know what will work best just by looking at it. Generally, shoes meant for steeper climbing will have more aggressive crampons — especially at the toe — as well as traction bars. Heel lifts are also common for any model intended to be able to take you up steep hills. Models designed for more tame trails will often have smooth tubes for side rails instead of teeth to help you glide along easily.
The Lightning is easy to walk naturally in no matter the quality of the snow.
Our winner in the traction department is also our Editors' Choice, the Lightning Ascent. The edge-to-edge grip of the patented 360° traction frames makes a noticeable difference in the ability to traverse slopes and hills. The sharp teeth dig into well-packed snow as well as ice. We had no issues hiking through mixed terrain, complete with fallen trees and exposed rock. Last but definitely not least, the massive crampon allows for an easy slip-free descent.
The MSR Lightning has 360° traction which allows the user to climb any terrain without fear of slipping.
The Evo is also noticeably sticky because of burly side rails and traction bars, as is the Tubbs Flex RDG with its carbon steel toe crampon and sticky traction rails. The models with the best overall scores in our review ended up there by having both great traction and impressive float.
Small yet mighty, the Flex RDG is one of our top performers in the traction department.
More often than not, old-school shoes cause the user to adopt a duck-footed waddle. This comes from prioritizing the shoe's surface area to provide better float. While flotation is arguably the most important aspect, you still want to be able to walk without stepping on yourself all the time. Modern-day designs are much more streamlined, created with ease of walking in mind. But they are often still too wide for women and smaller-framed folks because they tend to have a narrower gait. Thankfully, many companies are now making models that address this issue, and it's something we paid close attention to while testing.
We saw a wide range of performances in this category, but once again, many of our top scorers ended up there because they are easy and pleasant to walk in. Our favorites are the Lightning Ascent and Flex RDG. The narrow decking on both of these models allows for a normal stride no matter how petite the user. Keep in mind that a narrower deck means less surface area, which can affect floatation — this was an issue for us with the Flex but not the impressive Lightning Ascent.
The MSR Lightning has narrow decking which allows for a natural stride.
One contender stands out here for its sheer uniqueness. The Crescent Moon Eva Foam is designed to feel more like a sneaker than a snowshoe, and it delivers on that front. While not for everyone, the thick foam decking, rocker shape, and lack of a pivoting binding (your foot is fully attached to the deck) give the shoe a bouncy feel that — on packed trail — helps propel the foot forward. It's pretty fun once you get the feel of it and is the only shoe that inspired us to run because of how springy it felt. While fun, we did have to widen our gait a bit to keep one foot from running into the other.
The Crescent Moon Eva is a springy foam shoe that felt like none other. We tried running in them and had a pretty great time!
Ease of Use
Whether you're excited to get on the move or in a hurry because inclement weather is headed your way, the last thing you want is something that's frustrating to get on and off. We determined ease of use by assessing how easy the binding system on each model was to use while kitted out in snow pants and gloves. Was it intuitive? Could we do it without taking our gloves off? Did we constantly have to adjust or attend to anything while walking?
The Elektra Montane binding system is very easy to use, even with gloves on — the back strap is simple to tighten quickly, and it stays put. Combine that with excellent ergonomics and a heel lift for steep terrain, and you have a stellar shoe for any skill level. The Crescent Moon Eva is a no-brainer with super simple Velcro bindings and zero bells or whistles to contend with — just tighten, stick, and go. Our other Crescent Moon model, the Gold 13, is another favorite due to comfortable and easy to use bindings.
The Gold 13's binding system, a well-made system designed with durable material, is a favorite for both security and comfort.
No model was overly difficult to use, though the toothed buckle system and many straps of the MSR Evo made some testers not want to bother. Not only do these systems take more time and torque to get on, the nature of the straps — while admittedly accommodating to many boot sizes — means it's easy to over-cinch areas and to create hot spots. While we love almost everything about the Evo, these strappy bindings could be improved.
Two models in our review offer a Boa binding system — the Blizzard II and Flex RDG. This system is quite easy to quickly and evenly tighten, though popping the dial back open for adjustments can be hard with thick gloves or cold fingers.
The Boa binding system on the Flex RDG is simple and quick to use, though the areas where the thin wire cables are exposed give us a bit of pause in regards to durability.
Floatation and traction are certainly important, but no one is going to get much use out of their shoes if they don't feel secure and comfortable while wearing them. Snowshoe bindings come in various designs ranging from malleable stretchy rubber to stiff snowboard binding style straps. A good system should inspire confidence, be durable, and just flat out feel good. Even having doubts about a binding system's security and comfort can put a damper on an otherwise fun and carefree outing. Our top three contenders in this category are the Lightning Ascent, Elektra Montane, and Gold 13.
Our favorite of the top three is the Single Pull Loop (SPL) design of the Gold 13. It both tightens and loosens the entire system with the pull of one loop. The heel is cinched tight with a ratcheting strap similar to what you see on many snowboard bindings. This setup is extremely easy to use and adjust quickly — even with gloves on or with cold fingers. It's also made with robust yet stretchy materials. This combination allows the binding to hug each foot tightly and evenly from all directions making it durable and comfortable as well as easy to use.
Similarly, we love the Atlas Montane, which tightens with one easy loop and loosens with another smaller one. This model also has a ratcheting back heel strap that is easy to tension perfectly. Both of these binding systems stayed tight, contained, and comfortable throughout our adventures.
The Elektra Montane has one of our favorite binding systems - simply slide your toe to the end and pull the large loop. You'll be secure and comfortable in no time.
The MSR Lightning, our Editors' Choice, has improved their bindings significantly from previous iterations. While the front toe bucket is still difficult to adjust with thick gloves on, we found that no additional adjustments were needed after the initial fitting. This leaves just the back strap to fasten each time you slip on your shoes, which is much easier to handle with gloves. The straps are stretchy, which allows the user to get their boots strapped in tightly without any pinching or poking. The front toe bucket is form-fitting and keeps the foot from sliding around both while ascending and descending. Overall we felt very secure and comfortable while trekking around in the Lightning.
Strapping down the front bucket was a little difficult but needed no adjustment after the initial fitting.
While we appreciate the ease and efficiency of Boa bindings like you see on the Flex RDG and Blizzard , we don't feel they are as secure because of the thin wires that are fully exposed. If one of those wires breaks, it would render the entire shoe useless. And there is no way to do a field repair. Psychologically this makes the system seem insecure, even though it's quite burly. It is also worth noting that some online reviews mention that the area where the dial is located can cause a pinch point. We didn't personally experience this, but it's something to keep in mind when deciding what's right for you.
The Atlas Rendezvous has straps that easily and evenly cinch down and provide a really comfortable experience.
The Elektra Rendezvous is also very comfortable, sporting straps, and a single pull loop system similar to the Gold 13 that allows for very even tightening. The Eva Foam has Velcro straps that are reminiscent of a sandal and quite cozy — though if they get too clogged with snow or debris, they start to lose some of their stickiness and therefore lack in the security department
The MSR Evo has a series of straps that need to be pulled tight and buckled like a belt. While we wouldn't call this uncomfortable, it's not as easy to tighten in a perfectly uniform manner, resulting in more variation across your foot and between your two feet.
Fastening the back straps of the Lightning Ascent with thick gloves on is a breeze.
A good pair of snowshoes can provide hiking lovers of all kinds access to the most beautiful places throughout the winter season. There's nothing quite like breaking trail across a field of brand new snow or through a silent forest. Similar to finding a secluded mountain meadow covered in wildflowers in the spring, snowy forests and mountaintops are a truly magical experience. If you take the time to research and find the right size and shape for your foot and your individual trekking goals, you won't be disappointed.