Searching for the perfect pair of women's snowshoes can be difficult. To help, we researched over 40 highly rated pairs, narrowing it down to the top six models, testing for over 80+ hours. Putting them to the challenge over a two-month period, we compared them side-by-side in varied landscapes. We walked on packed trails, broke new trail, climbed up and down icy slopes, and played in deep powder to determine the cream of the crop. We determined which shoes were the best for technical slopes and deep snow, which were the easiest to get strapped on and walking in, and which were the friendliest for a slender wallet. Whatever adventure you're determined to take, we can find the best pair for you.
Best Snowshoes for Women
Best Overall Snowshoe for Women
MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's
The MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's wins our Editors' Choice Award thanks to robust construction, superior traction for steep terrain, and a burly yet flexible binding system. With 360° traction and heel lifters, there was no better shoe for ascending, traversing, and descending icy hills. The bindings are intuitive and quick to use even with large gloves or mittens, and a narrower profile than the men's version allows women an easy natural gait. While these weren't the best shoes for flotation, they still performed really well, and MSR offers 5" add-on flotation tails if you plan to carry a heavier load or be out in deeper snow. All in all, this is a well-made serious backcountry shoe that we think will serve you well year after year. Check out the men's version, which also won the Editors' Choice, here.
Read review: MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's
Best Bang for your Buck
Atlas Elektra Rendezvous
Our Best Buy award goes to the Atlas Elektra Rendezvous, an all-around great performing contender for only $140. The Rendezvous has a really comfortable binding system, it's super easy to walk in, and it provided the best flotation of all the shoes we tested. The superior flotation was no doubt aided by the fact that this was the lightest shoe in our test suite. The only area we noticed even a slight deficit was in regards to traction — in comparison to our other top contenders these shoes were not as grippy, and therefore harder to climb and descend steep hills. But if your plan is to remain on mostly flat or mild rolling terrain in all kinds of snow, this is a fantastic choice that won't break the bank.
Read review: Atlas Elektra Rendezvous
Top Pick for Ease of Use
Tubbs Flex RDG - Women's
The Tubbs Flex RDG was our Top Pick for Ease of Use due to its Boa binding system and narrow profile made specifically for a woman's gait. This was the easiest shoe to walk in and the fastest to get into and out of. The Flex binding incorporates the heel strap into the construction, allowing the entire system to tighten uniformly around the foot with the simple turn of a dial. On top of that, this shoe offered superior traction and maneuverability, with heel lifters to aid on steep ascents. Across all rating metrics, our testers loved this shoe. The main concern and the reason this model did not win the Editors' Choice was due to the fact that the binding system (which we loved) is reliant upon wire-thin cables that are exposed and could easily break. This worry was backed up by other user reviews online. While we had no issues with this in our time with the Flex RDG, it's a concern we couldn't go without voicing and the main reason that the Lightning Ascent eked out the win for best overall snowshoe.
Read review: Tubbs Flex RDG - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
Are you itching to get out into some beautiful snowy terrain but think you might need a pair of these bad boys first? Curious what some of the best options are for women specifically? Well, you're in luck! If the end of warm weather hiking season is a sad time for you, perhaps it's time to consider a good pair of snowshoes! 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? They can open up a whole world of backcountry adventures that would otherwise be impossible in the winter months.
To truly have a good time, you have to find the right pair for your build and desired use. There are so many on the market that all claim to be amazing, making it really hard to choose. And it's not like trying them on at the store can really tell you very much about what your experience in the snow will be like. That's where we come in! We've handpicked some of the top-rated and best-priced models available and tried them out in various terrain, analyzing every feature along the way. Read on to find out about the most important components to consider when deciding on your perfect pair.
With price tags ranging from $130 all the way up to $300 just between the models we tested, it can be hard to tell where the sweet spot of performance vs. price is in the world of snowshoes. To help illustrate how each contender stood up to the rest in terms of value, we put together the graph below. Snowshoes that fall deeper into the lower right quadrant such as the Best Buy winning Atlas Elektra Rendezvous and MSR Evo represent an excellent comparative value.
Criteria for Evaluation
We tested all six pairs in the Colorado Rockies with a group of women of varying body shapes and weights. We discussed and assessed every aspect of each shoe, comparing footprints for flotation, traipsing up and down steep icy slopes, and getting in and out of each shoe many, many times. Read on to get an in-depth understanding of each rating metric and learn which shoes performed the best for each category and which fell a bit short.
The term "flotation" makes it sound like snowshoes will have you hovering above the snow as though you're walking on water. In the real world, where there are things like gravity, what it actually means is how much or little you sink down 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 down to your knees, thighs, or farther. This is the magic of a snowshoe and why we weighted 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 your body weight and the quality of the snow. You will sink much deeper in light fluffy snow than you will in dense and wet snow. The longer and/or 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 and be agile, we suggest looking for a shoe with optional add-on flotation tails. Both the MSR Lightning Ascent and the MSR Evo - Women's 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.
The model we found to have the best flotation in nice deep snow, scoring a 9 out of 10 points, was the Atlas Elektra Rendezvous that was also our Best Buy Award winner. This is a great shoe that performed well across all metrics at a comfortable introductory price. Both pairs of MSR's also floated well, even without the optional flotation tails. The model with the poorest flotation performance was the Crescent Moon Gold 13, mainly due to its aggressively tapered design.
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 each pair 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 meant to be able to take you up steep hills. Models meant for more tame trails will often have smooth tubes for side rails instead of teeth in order to help you glide along easily.
Our winner in the traction department, scoring a perfect 10, was our Editors' Choice winner, the MSR Lightning Ascent — Women's. The edge-to-edge grip of the patented 360° traction frames made a noticeable difference in our ability to traverse slopes and hills. Both the MSR Evo and the Tubbs Flex RDG also have aggressive traction bars and came in a close second. The model that really fell short in this department was the Tubbs Xplore - Women's. The Xplore performed fine on modest trails, but as soon as we were on steep terrain there was quite a bit of slipping and sliding.
More often than not, old-school snowshoes cause the user to take up a rather duck-footed waddle. This comes from all priority being given to the surface area in order 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 because we generally have a narrower gait than men. Thankfully, many companies are now making women-specific models that address this issue, and it's definitely something we paid close attention to while testing.
The model we found the best for stride ergonomics, scoring a 9 out of 10, was the Tubbs Flex RDG - Women's. Every woman that used this shoe loved it and felt that they could walk almost completely normally with no widening of their gait. We also had a very easy time walking in the Atlas Elektra Rendezvous and, to a lesser extent, the MSR Lightning Ascent. The shoe we found required the most modification for walking was the Tubbs Xplore, but this was also the largest model we tested at 25" long with a surface area of 178 square inches. Because of this the Tubbs Xplore was one of the better models for flotation, which is sometimes the tradeoff (and why you have to decide what kind of terrain you will be spending the most time in). That said, the reason this shoe gave us issues for stride ergonomics was due more to shape of the toe area, not the length. A well-designed women's shoe should be able to balance surface area with a smart shape so that both flotation and ease of stride are achieved.
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 while standing out in the snow is something that's frustrating to get into and out of. We determined ease of use based 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 something have to be constantly adjusted or attended to while walking?
Our winner for this category, performing so well we awarded it our Top Pick for Ease of Use, was the Tubbs Flex RDG. This was the only shoe we tested with a Boa binding, an innovative system that tightens evenly around the entire foot at once with the simple turn of a dial. We loved this binding but also felt that it was the most fragile of all the shoes we tested, so it may not be ideal for rough or remote terrain. But when you add together how easy this shoe was for women to walk in, the fantastic traction, and the presence of heel lifters, you have a winning combination for this category.
While no model was particularly difficult to use, we did find that the heel strap on the Tubbs Xplore was more awkward to get buckled than on other models. The MSR Lightning Ascent also had more straps and buckles to contend with than any other pair we tested, the tails of which had the tendency to flop around while we were walking. This didn't compromise the integrity of the binding system, but it was irritating and distracting nonetheless.
What good is a snowshoe if doesn't stay snug on your foot? Even having doubts about the effectiveness of a binding system can really put a damper on an otherwise fun and carefree outing. Our favorite binding system was on the Crescent Moon Gold 13 which has a Single Pull Loop (SPL) system that both tightens and loosens the entire system with the pull of one loop. The heel is cinched tight with a ratcheting strap like you see on many snowboard and ski bindings. This setup was extremely easy to use even with gloves on or with cold fingers and it's made out of robust materials. The way it hugged our foot tightly and evenly from all directions earned this shoe a perfect 10 for binding security.
Despite how much we loved the ease and efficiency of the Tubbs Flex RDG Boa binding system, we only felt comfortable awarding it a 5 in this category. The entire system is dependent on wire-thin cables which are exposed on both sides of each foot. If one were to break the shoe would be rendered completely useless. In comparison, you could break an entire strap on the MSR Lightning Ascent, even TWO straps, and still most likely be able to use them to get back to civilization. While the Flex RDG did great for the entire length of time we tested it, complaints about the binding system failing were quite prevalent in other reviews online, so it's something we felt the need to mention.
No matter how bomber your binding system is, you won't love or appreciate it if you're not comfortable. A good binding should tension evenly around your foot without any part of it pinching or poking. Our favorite binding was on the Crescent Moon Gold 13 — flexible polymer straps hug the entire foot uniformly, cinching you in so comfortably you might forget you have a snowshoe on.
We also really liked the Tubbs Flex RDG with its Boa system that allows the tiniest of micro-adjustments - though some reviewers online felt that the area where the dial is located causes a pinch point. The Atlas Elektra Rendezvous and the Tubbs Xplore -Women's were also very comfortable, sporting straps and a single pull loop system similar to the Crescent Moon, and allowing for very even tightening. Both the MSR Evo and the MSR Lightning Ascent had a series of straps that need to be pulled tight and buckled like a belt. While this wasn't uncomfortable by any means, it definitely wasn't as easy to tighten the system in a perfectly uniform manner, resulting in more variation across the foot and between the two feet.
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 mountain tops are a truly magical experience. Take the time to do your research and find the right size and shape for your foot and your individual trekking goals — you'll be glad you did. For more information on locking in this choice, check out our Buying Advice article.
— Penney Garrett