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Best Snowshoes for Women of 2022

We tested women's snowshoes from MSR, Atlas, Tubbs, and more to find the best models for your winter excursions
Best Snowshoes for Women of 2022
Credit: Hayley Thomas
Monday September 26, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Looking for a pair of women's snowshoes for the winter season? We've researched over 70 models in the past 5 years, with 9 top contenders in this updated review. Whether you're looking to go on casual snowy day hikes or multi-day winter backpacking adventures, we have a shoe that will fit your needs. Our expert gear testers spent months prancing around in all different snow conditions, paying close attention to flotation, traction, bindings, and more. We made sure to test these snowshoes on multiple people of varying heights, weights, and shoe sizes to bring you an accurate, in-depth review to help you get hiking in the snow.

Snowshoes can allow you to explore further in the winter, opening up beautiful and pristine locations. To maximize your comfort and safety, it's ideal to have the proper layers — we suggest a warm base layer, a good pair of winter boots, and an insulated jacket. Trekking poles or ski poles can also vastly improve the hiking experience, and a satellite beacon is a necessity if you plan to push your limits into new or uncharted terrain.

Editor's Note: We updated our women's snowshoe review on September 26, 2022, to note that the Atlas Helium Trail and Tubbs Wilderness models have been updated since our test period, and the Crescent Moon Gold 15 have been rebranded to the Leadville 29.

Top 9 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 9
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
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Overall Score Sort Icon
81
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76
74
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Pros Stellar traction, heel lifts for steep terrain, easy to use, add-on flotation tail compatibleComfortable and simple binding system, carbon steel crampons, uniquely placed heel crampons, inclusive sizing, quietEasy and natural stride, unique 3-crampon traction system, easy binding systemGood traction and flotation, excellent binding system, heel liftAmazing traction, comfortable bindings, versatile fit, ascent heel
Cons Expensive, front of binding difficult to navigate with thick gloves on, side and back stepping are laboriousExtra rotation causes shin impact, mediocre flotation on fresh snowSubpar float on unpacked snow, only supports 200 pounds, bulky heel liftTail flips up a lot of snow, toe shape feels a little widePoor floatation, difficult to walk backward and side-step, bindings take a moment to get used to
Bottom Line This is a serious snowshoe for people that want superior traction and versatility while out in steep and variable backcountry terrainWith its outstandingly comfortable binding system, decent floatation, and stellar traction, this snowshoe is perfect for casual useA snowshoe with an extreme teardrop shape and three hefty crampons for a natural stride and extra tractionThis is a well-rounded and solidly performing snowshoe for all kinds of terrain and objectivesA flexible and comfortable snowshoe with incredible traction, perfect for icy packed conditions
Rating Categories MSR Lightning Ascent Tubbs Wilderness -... Crescent Moon Leadv... Atlas Montane - Wom... TSL Symbioz Elite -...
Flotation (30%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
Traction (25%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
7.0
9.0
Ease of Use (15%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Bindings (15%)
9.0
10.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Specs MSR Lightning Ascent Tubbs Wilderness -... Crescent Moon Leadv... Atlas Montane - Wom... TSL Symbioz Elite -...
Uses All terrain Day hiking Technical mountain terrain and packed snow All terrain Technical mountain terrain and packed snow
Optimum Weight Load (per size) 22": up to 180 lbs
25": 120-210 lbs
21": 80-150 lbs
25": 120-200 lbs
30": 170-250 lbs
Up to 200 lbs 23": 80-160 lbs
27": 120-200+ lbs
20.5": 65 - 180 lbs
23.5": 110 - 260 lbs
27": 150 - 300 lbs
Weight (per pair) 3.8 lbs 4 lbs 4.2 lbs 4.1 lbs 4.2 lbs
Binding Mount Full Full Full Full Full
Binding System Paragon Binding 180 EZ Pro Binding Cam buckle quick pull loop and ratchet heel strap Wrapp Swift Binding Symbioz telescopic bindings
Crampon DTX Crampon Cobra Toe Crampon
Tubbs Heel Crampon
3 stainless steel crampon system featuring the climbing "toe" claw design All-Trac Toe Crampon Stainless steel
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Composite
Deck Material Nylon SoftTec, Composite Nylon Nytex Composite
Surface Area (for tested size) 180 in² 225 in² 192.5 in² 182.25 in² 229 in²
Dimensions 7.25" x 25" 9" x 30" 9.5" x 29" 8" x 27" 27" x 8.5"
Flotation Tails Available? Yes, 5" No No No No
Load with Tails (per size) 22": up to 240 lbs
25": up to 270 lbs
n/a n/a n/a n/a
Men's and Women's Versions? Yes Yes Yes No, women's specific Unisex
Sizes Available 22", 25" 21", 25", 30" 29" 23", 27" 20.5", 23.5", 27"
Size Tested 25" 30" 29" 27" 27"


Best Overall Snowshoe for Women


MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 7.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Stride Ergonomics 9.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Bindings 9.0
Use: Technical, mountain terrain | Weight Load: 210 lbs (270 lbs with tails)
REASONS TO BUY
Multi-terrain traction
Natural stride in forward motion
Bindings are comfortable and versatile
Add-on flotation tails available
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Front of binding hard to fasten 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 our favorite overall snowshoe. Whether you are 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, allowing for a natural stride when walking forward. The material provides just the right amount of stretch for a very snug fit without any 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 awarding the Lightning Ascent top honors. From casual day-trippers to week-long expeditions, this shoe put smiles on the faces of all those who slipped it on.

Read review: MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's

snowshoes womens - best overall snowshoe for women
The Lightning Ascent is created with the extreme adventurer in mind.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Best Bang for Your Buck


MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 6.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Stride Ergonomics 7.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Bindings 8.0
Use: Flat to rolling terrain | Weight Load: 180 lbs (250 lbs with tails)
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent traction
Bindings fit a wide variety of boots
Add-on tails increase flotation
Decently lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Smaller-framed folks have to widen their gait a bit
Binding straps flop around
Plastic decking is loud

The simplistic design of the MSR Evo Trail proves itself reliable and highly versatile. The bindings fit an array of shoes, even snowboard boots! If you are into hiking the backcountry in search of the perfect line to ride back down, these shoes just might be the ideal choice for you. The shoe itself is relatively small, which negatively affects its ability to float on unpacked snow. That being said, it has the option to add flotation tails, which, like the rest of the shoe, are uncomplicated and easy to install as needed. With the addition of these tails, the float improves significantly, and we find that having the option to minimize the shoe is quite useful. This lightweight option will get you from A to B without a hitch.

The Evo is a unisex shoe, so people with smaller framed bodies may have to widen their gait, potentially causing their stride to be less organic. While we like the binding system as a whole, the straps stiffen as they get cold, causing the tails to pull out of their designated clips while walking. This does not loosen the shoe by any means, but it does mean that the straps aren't always neatly tucked away. Lastly, the material the decking is made of is noisy compared to other shoes in our review, especially on packed and crusty snow. But if you want to keep it simple, versatile, and shareable with the taller folks in your life, this is a great snowshoe to consider.

Read review: MSR Evo Trail Snowshoe

snowshoes womens - best bang for your buck
Being a unisex model, the Evo proves more difficult for those with a narrower gait to walk normally in.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Best Bargain for Beginners


Atlas Helium Trail - Women's


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 6.0
  • Traction 8.0
  • Stride Ergonomics 6.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Bindings 7.0
Use: Trail walking | Weight Load: 160 - 270+ lbs (depending on length)
REASONS TO BUY
Single loop binding system
Budget-friendly
Great on packed snow
Tempered steel crampons
REASONS TO AVOID
Loud
Subpar float on fresh snow
Floppy straps

The lightweight Atlas Helium Trail has easy-to-adjust bindings and effortlessly grips medium to heavily packed snow and ice alike. The tempered steel toe crampon and pair of vertical traction rails work together seamlessly to keep your feet from slipping, no matter the terrain. The flexible decking helps encourage a natural heel-to-toe stride, while the heel lift helps tackle steep hills with minimal effort. The popular single loop binding strap is easy to adjust on the go with gloves on, and the Wrapp Trail binding is comfortable for most. The louver design helps to shed snow with each step, keeping these snowshoes lightweight and improving traction.

Product Updated — Sept 2022
Atlas updated the Helium Trail since our review was published. There is a new binding closure system, carbon steel crampons, and a 12-degree heel lift. We're now linking to the new version, though the text in our review still pertains to the previous model we tested.

The Helium Trail offers a pretty standard amount of surface area; however, the rectangular shape of the shoe causes most to have to widen their gait a bit. It doesn't force a full duck waddle, but you may find it difficult to walk naturally if you have narrow hips or shorter legs. It also does not offer stellar float on deep, unpacked snow, so it is best to stick to the trail. While the binding system is easy to use, it is important to note that the straps flop around a little bit, which can be irritating to some. Lastly, the composite decking is more of a hard plastic than a fabric or webbing like some of the other options in our test suite. It is perfectly flexible but can be very loud on crusty snow. Still, if you are looking for a budget-friendly snowshoe with great traction for beginner terrain, this is a solid choice.

Read review: Atlas Helium Trail

snowshoes womens - best bargain for beginners
The Helium Trail is a great snowshoe for most terrain.
Credit: Matthew Blake

Best for Easy Walking


Crescent Moon Leadville 29 - Women's


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 6.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Stride Ergonomics 10.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Bindings 8.0
Use: Technical mountain terrain and packed snow | Weight Load: 200 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Encourages a natural stride
Sheds snow effectively
3-crampon system for great traction
REASONS TO AVOID
Subpar float
Only supports 200 pounds
Bulky heel lift

Between its aggressive teardrop shape and unique three-crampon traction system, the Crescent Moon Leadville 29 - Women's makes walking easy on most terrain. The curves of this snowshoe follow a natural foot shape, which helps keep you from stepping on your own feet. The upturned toe and angle at which the Leadville 29 pivots from the forefoot help keep you from carrying around unnecessary snow weight. The nylon decking and aluminum frame are light, but the three steel crampons contribute to a slightly heavier snowshoe. These crampons are, however, the real star of the show. They are strategically placed at the toe, ball of the foot, and heel to ensure that you are never without traction, no matter what point of your stride you are in. Like many of the options in our test suite, the binding system sports a single loop adjustment system and a ratchet heel strap which is easy to use and tightens evenly around the foot.

Name Change
Crescent Moon has rebranded these snowshoes as the Leadville 29. You may find them available at retailers under either name.

The upturned toe is great for a natural stride, but it means that less of the snowshoe is in contact with the ground at any given time, hindering flotation on deeper, unpacked snow. The heavy steel crampons also negatively affect the float. Many snowshoes offer various sizes or clip-on tails to support extra weight, but the Leadville 29 caps out at 200 pounds (clothing and gear included) which is somewhat limiting. If you weigh over the suggested limit, you can still use the Leadville 29, but your float will suffer. Our last bone to pick with this snowshoe is its heel lift. Most snowshoes have a small bar that is simple and easy to deploy, while this shoe has opted for a very bulky, removable plastic one. It easily swivels out of the way but seems a little unnecessary. Despite these caveats, this is a great choice if your main concern is walking as close to your normal gait as possible, and you don't plan on venturing into fresh deep powder.

Read review: Crescent Moon Leadville 29 - Women's

snowshoes womens - best for easy walking
Walking feels natural in the Leadville 29, regardless of your height and gait.
Credit: Matthew Blake

Best for Icy Packed Terrain


TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 4.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Stride Ergonomics 9.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Bindings 9.0
Use: Packed and icy terrain | Weight Load: 300 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Incredible traction
Bindings fit a wide variety of boots
Allows for a natural stride
REASONS TO AVOID
Sub-par flotation
Small decking
Bulky bindings

Not all snowshoes are meant for hiking through knee-deep snow in the backcountry — some are meant for packed snow and ice. If you are the kind of person that doesn't want to venture too far off the beaten path but still loves to hike in the winter, look no further than the TSL Symbioz Elite. Their extremely textured underside paired with eight curved stainless steel teeth and one massive metal toe crampon provide really impressive traction. The unique binding set-up is highly adjustable and very comfortable for a variety of footwear and feet. The flexibility in the binding system and the decking allow for a natural heel-to-toe stride, and the general petiteness and curves of this snowshoe ensure that those with a narrow gait are not forced to widen their stride, despite this being a unisex shoe.

While the Symbioz Elite is the perfect option for icy or packed terrain, they simply were not meant to float atop fresh snow. These small snowshoes do not have enough decking to provide adequate float, and the hefty metal crampons and bulky bindings make it just as heavy if not heavier than contenders with more surface area. However, if you find yourself mostly on packed trails or prefer spring hiking, where you may encounter more ice than fresh powder, this is a non-issue. Overall this is an excellent option for the adventurer who'd rather stay on the path than off it.

Read review: TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's

snowshoes womens - these hyper-flexible snowshoes are equipped with stellar traction...
These hyper-flexible snowshoes are equipped with stellar traction and allow for a very natural stride.
Credit: Matthew Blake

Weight Loads
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 300 pounds.

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
81
$350
Editors' Choice Award
If superior traction and versatility out in the steep and variable backcountry terrain is what you're looking for, the Lightning Ascent delivers in spades
80
$220
This snowshoe is great for everyday use because of its versatile and comfortable binding system, decent float, and awesome traction
80
$240
Top Pick Award
With three crampons and an extreme teardrop shape, this snowshoe offers extra traction and a natural stride
76
$250
An easy to use snowshoe that offers great features for mountainous and technical terrain
74
$300
Top Pick Award
A high-traction snowshoe, with a flexible deck, great for ice and packed snow
71
$150
Best Buy Award
Great traction and versatile bindings mean you will have no problem heading into a wide spectrum of snow types and terrain levels with the Evo
68
$150
Best Buy Award
This snowshoe is great for beginner terrain because of its flexible decking, easy-to-use bindings, and great traction
63
$250
With one toe crampon, side rail teeth, lightweight decking, and a simple ratchet binding, this snowshoe is great for easy, packed terrain
49
$179
What this unique foam snowshoe lacks in float and traction it sure made up for in the fun department!

snowshoes womens - off we go in the montane, an excellent snowshoe well suited for...
Off we go in the Montane, an excellent snowshoe well suited for packed and icy terrain.
Credit: Matthew Blake

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 and exploring the natural world. When she's not hiking on lonely winter trails, you can find her skiing or practicing 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 — so much so that she moved into her van full-time to make the outdoors more accessible. 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 skating around the park with her dogs. Both Hayley and Penney bring a wealth of experience, providing comparisons and identifying key features along the way.

Our snowshoe testing is divided into five rating metrics:
  • Flotation (30% of overall score weighting)
  • Traction (25% weighting)
  • Stride Ergonomics (15% weighting)
  • Ease of Use (15% weighting)
  • Bindings (15% weighting)

We strive to test all our snowshoes objectively, pushing each to the limit. To start our process, we research the best contenders on the market and select the cream of the crop. This means that even the products that score low in our review are still excellent. Then we hike terrain of all different styles, from icy and flat to snowy and steep, 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.

Testing out the bindings on the MSR Lightning Ascent.
Testing out the bindings on the MSR Lightning Ascent.
The TSL Elite is a top scorer for traction but lacks in float.
The TSL Elite is a top scorer for traction but lacks in float.
Even our pups get in on field testing!
Even our pups get in on field testing!

Analysis and Test Results


We know that many outdoorsy folks trade their hiking boots in for ski boots during the winter, but if you are looking for a way to continue venturing out on foot during the snowy months, then you've come to the right place. Are you curious about snowshoeing but don't know where to start? Are you wondering about the best options for women specifically? Well, we're here to help. The right pair of these puppies can open up a whole world of backcountry adventures that would otherwise be impossible in the winter months.


Value


The models we tested range in price from not-too-bad to wallet-emptying, which can make it hard to tell the sweet spot of performance and price. Comparing the overall score from our tests to the retail price is a great place to start.

For excellent performance without breaking the bank, check out the MSR Evo and Atlas Helium Trail. They both offer a unibody deck and frame made of a single plastic piece and work best on packed snow, as they tend to posthole in deeper, fresh powder. The Tubbs Wilderness is also a reasonably priced model with excellent all-around performance and outstanding bindings.

If you have more money to spend or have a more serious objective in mind, the MSR Lightning Ascent outperforms all others in almost all our testing criteria. It's a well-rounded snowshoe that can take you from icy rolling hills to steep technical terrain — a worthy purchase at a fair price for what you get.

snowshoes womens - the lightning ascent offers some pretty serious float, even with the...
The Lightning Ascent offers some pretty serious float, even with the narrow decking.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Flotation


The term flotation conjures up images of hovering above the snow as though you're walking on water. While hover-shoes might be a thing of the future, in the here and now, anti-gravity technology is not accessible to the average consumer. This means that the term float, concerning snowshoes, refers to how much or little you sink into the snow. The better the float, the less you sink. It can be difficult to appreciate the float of a snowshoe while hiking around in them because, depending on the snowpack, your foot will still sink a considerable amount. But take a moment to remove your snowshoe and see how far you posthole sans snowshoe. You could easily find yourself sinking to your knees, thighs, or farther. This is the snowshoe's bread and butter and why we weight this metric more heavily than any other testing point. It is the 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, fluffy, unpacked snow than you will in dense, wet, or packed snow. The longer and wider the shoe (i.e., the more surface area), the more you will float. Keep in mind that sometimes more surface, while it may provide more float, can be heavier or 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 a packed trail, we suggest looking for a shoe with optional add-on flotation tails. Both the Lightning Ascent and the Evo Trail offer this feature. Since some models are available in various sizes, it is important to calculate your weight plus any gear you may be carrying to ensure you are choosing the correct size. This will make a huge difference in regards to achieving the best possible flotation.

snowshoes womens - we test our snowshoes side by side in deep snow to figure out which...
We test 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.
Credit: Penney Garrett

The Lightning Ascent is one of our favorites for flotation in deep snow. This impressive shoe performs well on all types of terrain. One of the things that we appreciate most is how comfortable and confident we felt in both deep and packed snow. Sometimes a snowshoe 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.

snowshoes womens - the lighting ascent showing off its stellar floatation.
The Lighting Ascent showing off its stellar floatation.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The Tubbs Wilderness and MSR Revo Explore are also high performers for flotation. The SoftTec decking of the Wilderness is durable and lightweight. While this shoe is slightly heavier, the smooth, soft texture allows you to glide along fresh snow, whether it is packed or fresh.

snowshoes womens - the tubbs in action on semi-packed, few day old snow.
The Tubbs in action on semi-packed, few day old snow.
Credit: Matthew Blake

The MSR Revo has a smaller surface area, but decking covers most of the shoe. The ExoTract decking is also very lightweight, which helps contribute to good flotation.

snowshoes womens - the lightweight, full coverage decking of the msr revo offers decent...
The lightweight, full coverage decking of the MSR Revo offers decent float on packed snow.
Credit: Matthew Blake

The Evo Trail is decent on its own, but with the addition of tails, it floats as well as our highest scorers. Since the flotation tails are sold separately, our score reflects its performance without them. 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.

snowshoes womens - while the float was nothing to write home about we were pleasantly...
While the float was nothing to write home about we were pleasantly surprised at the improvement once we added the optional tails to the Evo!
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Traction


Traction is of supreme importance. No matter what type of terrain you find yourself on, you need to know that you can trust your feet. We test traction by ascending and descending terrain with steep slopes, long rolling hills, and icy flatlands.


The stick of a snowshoe is determined by the crampons, the presence or absence of side rails or traction bars, and the general tread 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.

snowshoes womens - the lightning is easy to walk naturally in no matter the quality of...
The Lightning is easy to walk naturally in no matter the quality of the snow.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The edge-to-edge grip of the patented 360° traction frame on the Lightning Ascent makes a noticeable difference in the ability to traverse slopes and hills, and the sharp teeth dig into packed snow as well as ice. Mixed terrain complete with fallen trees and exposed rock is a non-issue, and the massive crampon allows for an easy slip-free descent. The TSL Symbioz Elite comes equipped with eight stainless steel crampons and one massive toe crampon, a combination that allowed us to feel super confident no matter how slick and icy the terrain.

The Symbioz Hyperflex Elite, as the name suggests, is very flexible, making the most contact possible with the ground as you step naturally from heel to toe. More contact means more traction, but that's not the only feature the Hyperflex Elite offers. The bottom of the decking is littered with texture, and there are cleats, teeth, and small grooves around the perimeter. The Elite also has a hefty, stainless steel toe crampon and eight smaller curved steel teeth that run parallel to the feet to ensure that no hill goes untackled.

snowshoes womens - the tsl elite&#039;s stainless steel teeth are sharp and curved which...
The TSL Elite's stainless steel teeth are sharp and curved which allow for stellar traction.
Credit: Matthew Blake

The Crescent Moon Leadville 29 has a unique three-crampon traction system. It is void of under-decking texture or perimeter rail teeth, but the three strategically placed crampons offer traction from heel to toe. The stainless steel teeth and claws dig in at the heel, ball of the foot, and toe, giving you complete control. This style of traction enhancement provides the user with complete control and has no problem with mixed terrain.

snowshoes womens - the small teeth on the toe crampon are surprisingly effective, and...
The small teeth on the toe crampon are surprisingly effective, and it's no surprise that the massive heel and forefoot crampons of the Leadville 29 create a stellar grip on most types of terrain.
Credit: Matthew Blake

The Tubbs Wilderness has a carbon steel crampon called the Cobra Toe Crampon. The Cobra has jagged teeth under the toes that point forward and the ball of the foot that point backward, providing constant contact with the ground below. The Wilderness also has two rails that run parallel to the foot with teeth that angle backward to help move you forward.

snowshoes womens - the unique toe crampon of the wilderness has teeth that face both...
The unique toe crampon of the Wilderness has teeth that face both forward and backward for easy ascending and descending.
Credit: Matthew Blake

A few more honorable mentions in the traction department are the Atlas Montane, Atlas Helium Trail, and MSR Evo. The All-Trac toe crampon and serrated traction rails found on the Montane work together to help you stomp through snow, ice, and other slippery obstacles. The Helium Trail takes a minimalist approach with one toe crampon and a pair of jagged traction rails that span two-thirds of the snowshoe, allowing it to flex with every step for a natural gait. The Evo also has stellar traction but is noticeably sticky when on flatter terrain due to the burly side rails and traction bars. Generally speaking, the models with the best overall scores in our review end up there by having both great traction and impressive float.

The backward facing teeth found on the side rails only span...
The backward facing teeth found on the side rails only span two-thirds of the Helium Trail, which allows for this snowshoe to remain flexible.
The side rails on the Montane are small but effective.
The side rails on the Montane are small but effective.
The burly traction, versatile bindings, and affordable price point...
The burly traction, versatile bindings, and affordable price point makes the MSR Evo a great fit for most.

Stride Ergonomics


More often than not, old-school snowshoes 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 will be most efficient and comfortable if you can use your natural stride. While modern-day designs are created with ease of walking in mind, some women or more petite folk still find that they need to widen their gait to avoid stepping on their own feet. Certain companies have addressed this issue better than others, so we were sure to pay close attention to our stride while testing.


We see a wide range of performances in this category, but our top scorers end up there because they are easy and pleasant to walk in. Our favorite is the Crescent Moon Leadville 29, specifically designed to accommodate a shorter, more narrow stride. The exaggerated teardrop shape mimics the curves of your foot, allowing you to walk without the fear of stepping on your toes.

snowshoes womens - the aggressive teardrop shape of the gold 15 allows for a natural...
The aggressive teardrop shape of the Gold 15 allows for a natural stride.
Credit: Matthew Blake

A few others that offer a natural stride are the Lightning Ascent and Symbioz Elite. These models have narrow decking, allowing for a normal stride for even the most petite users. Keep in mind that a narrower deck means less surface area, which can affect flotation — we found this to be an issue with the Symbioz Elite, but not with the impressive Lightning Ascent.

snowshoes womens - the msr lightning has narrow decking which allows for an organic...
The MSR Lightning has narrow decking which allows for an organic stride.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The Tubbs Wilderness is also worth mentioning here. The Fit-Step 2.0 Frame has an upturned tail and some nice curves to help encourage you to walk normally. The Rotating Toe Cord With Rotation Limiter lets the shoe fall from the ball of your foot; however, it tends to hit the shin when walking uphill, which can be a little painful.

snowshoes womens - the wilderness tapers significantly from the toe to the heel, which...
The Wilderness tapers significantly from the toe to the heel, which is one reason why it feels relatively natural to walk in.
Credit: Matthew Blake

While it does not quite measure up to the previously mentioned snowshoes, one contender stands out 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 a 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.

snowshoes womens - the crescent moon eva is a springy foam shoe that felt like none...
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!
Credit: Penney Garrett

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 Atlas 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.

snowshoes womens - the montane has an incredibly fast and easy binding system that we...
The Montane has an incredibly fast and easy binding system that we really appreciated.
Credit: Matthew Blake

The Tubbs Wilderness, Hyperflex Elite, and Leadville 29 are all comfortable and intuitive. The Wilderness offers three inclusive sizes for people from 80-250 pounds (including gear and clothing). The Elite bindings take a moment to understand how to use, but few adjustments are needed once you figure them out. The exaggerated teardrop shape of the Leadville 29 makes it more maneuverable than traditional shapes, paving the way to a generally hassle-free experience.

snowshoes womens - from strapping in to tapping out, the wilderness is very easy to...
From strapping in to tapping out, the Wilderness is very easy to adjust.
Credit: Matthew Blake

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, which can create hot spots. We also found that the temperature affected the stiffness of the straps. The colder the air, the stiffer they became, which caused the tails to pop out of their designated fasteners, leaving them to flop freely in the wind. While we love almost everything about the Evo, we feel like these strappy bindings could be improved.

snowshoes womens - the burly evo has one of the more secure binding systems we tested...
The burly Evo has one of the more secure binding systems we tested. The straps require a very tight pull in order to stay neatly tucked away.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Bindings


Flotation and traction are certainly important, but no one is going to get much use out of their snowshoes 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.


The Tubbs Wilderness features a ratchet-pull combination strap across the forefoot and a locking heel strap. Both are easy to maneuver with or without gloves on, and the control wings and padded forefoot straps are incredibly supportive and comfortable.

Simply pull the heel strap of the Wilderness and it locks itself...
Simply pull the heel strap of the Wilderness and it locks itself into place.
The Wilderness binding is one of the most comfortable and supportive...
The Wilderness binding is one of the most comfortable and supportive bindings we had the pleasure of wearing.

A Single Pull Loop (SPL) design seems to be the way of the future for snowshoes as many new iterations use it. It both tightens and loosens the entire system with the pull of one loop. The Leadville 29 features something similar to an SPL and a ratchet strap for the heel. The only difference is a smaller loop for loosening the forefoot cage. This set-up 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, comfortable, and easy to use.

snowshoes womens - the spl and ratchet heel strap of the gold 15 work together to...
The SPL and ratchet heel strap of the Gold 15 work together to create a very user friendly binding.
Credit: Matthew Blake

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. The Symbioz Elite is one of our more highly adjustable binding set-ups but takes a little fiddling at first. Not only are the toe and ankle ratchet straps easily tightened and loosened, but the sole of the binding is also adjustable. The binding systems of the Montane and Elite stayed tight, contained, and comfortable throughout our adventures.

snowshoes womens - not only are the toe and ankle straps of the tsl elite adjustable...
Not only are the toe and ankle straps of the TSL Elite adjustable, but you can actually adjust the sole of the binding to best fit your footwear.
Credit: Matthew Blake

MSR has improved the Lightning's 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 manageable with gloves. The straps are stretchy and do not stiffen in the cold winter air, 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 while both 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...
Strapping down the front bucket was a little difficult but needed no adjustment after the initial fitting.
The hefty bindings of the TSL Elite are among the most comfortable...
The hefty bindings of the TSL Elite are among the most comfortable and secure in our test suite.

The MSR Evo has a series of straps that need to be pulled tight into place and fastened into clips. They are far from uncomfortable, but the tails tend to pop out of their retainer clips when cold air stiffens the rubbery material.

snowshoes womens - easy to use bindings but the evo strap tails stiffen in the cold and...
Easy to use bindings but the EVO strap tails stiffen in the cold and pop out of their clips.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Conclusion


The right pair of snowshoes can provide hiking lovers 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. Finding a good pair of snowshoes will enhance your winter hiking adventures, whether you are looking to cruise around on your backyard trails or go deeper into the mountains for winter backpacking or alpine climbing missions. 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 in a pair from this lineup.

Hayley Thomas and Penney Garrett


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