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Looking for a pair of women's snowshoes for the winter season? We've been testing them for 8 years now, with 13 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 spend months prancing around in all different snow conditions, paying close attention to flotation, traction, bindings, and more. We make 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.
Editor's Note: We updated our women's snowshoe review on December 23, 2022, with 4 new snowshoes from Atlas and Tubbs. We also tested updated versions of 5 previously tested snowshoes from Atlas, Tubbs, MSR, and Crescent Moon.
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.
The Tubbs Wilderness offers a very comfortable binding system and a natural stride for everyday use. The carbon steel crampons, placed at the toe/ball of the foot, and the traction rails under the heel work together to provide great traction. The SoftTec decking is durable and smooth, ensuring that snow is shed from the shoe with every step. The hollow aluminum Fit-Step 2.0 Frame is lightweight and offers support on most terrains, while the upturned tail allows you to walk naturally from heel to toe. The Quick-Fit binding provides easy entry and exit and evenly tensioned support. The nylon webbing straps on the binding tighten easily and evenly with two hands, and the easy pull string can be operated one-handed to loosen.
The Wilderness provides great traction, but it lacks perimeter teeth. Many snowshoes have jagged teeth that run two-thirds the length of the shoe. While this is not always necessary, it does provide solid traction on uneven ground. One other issue with the Wilderness is the Rotation Limiter. Unfortunately, we experienced a little shin-to-snowshoe contact with the updated version of this shoe. We have experienced this with previous iterations, and while it has gotten better, there is still a little room for improvement. These things aside, if you're looking for ultimate comfort and ease of use but want to save a little money for gas to the mountains, the Wilderness is a great choice.
Use: Flat to rolling terrain | Weight Load: 180 lbs (250 lbs with tails)
REASONS TO BUY
Bindings fit a wide variety of boots
Add-on tails increase flotation
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 Paraglide bindings fit a wide array of shoes and boots, so if you enjoy hiking the backcountry in search of the perfect line to ride back down, these snowshoes just might be the ideal choice for you. The snowshoe itself is relatively small, which negatively affects its ability to float on unpacked snow. However, the Evo Trail has the option to add flotation tails, which, like the rest of the shoe, are uncomplicated and easy to install when 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 Trail is a unisex shoe, so people with smaller framed bodies may have to widen their gait, potentially causing their stride to be less organic. And while we like the binding system as a whole, it requires a little finesse. The foot pads are large, so it's important for comfort and function to pay attention to where each foot is placed on the deck before tightening the straps. 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.
The Atlas Range-MTN is a well-thought-out snowshoe with a comfortable and easy-to-operate binding system. The Nytex Infinity Decking is super lightweight, and its soft, smooth nature, paired with the generous binding rotation, ensures that snow is shed with every step. The flexible decking and single-piece construction frame offer wonderful float on the fluffiest snow. The traction rails that line the entire perimeter help with icy or packed terrain, while the carbon steel toe crampon bites the ground below during deep snow ascents. The Range-MTN promotes an organic stride with its pivot-limiter and slender frame, making it a great option for those with a narrow gait.
The small heel rail that runs perpendicular to the foot is helpful while descending, but we experience better performance with a heftier heel crampon. That being said, large heel crampons get in the way when hiking on flat trails, so that may take away from this snowshoe's ability to tackle all terrain easily. The Range-MTN is a top-tier snowshoe at a top-tier price point, so if you are not looking to invest, you may want to explore some of our more budget-friendly options. The Range-MTN is worth the investment if you are looking for a 'catch-all' snowshoe that can take you from heavily-trafficked trails to deep fresh powder.
Between its aggressive teardrop shape and unique three-crampon traction system, the Crescent Moon Leadville 29 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.
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.
Use: Packed and icy terrain | Weight Load: 300 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Bindings fit a wide variety of boots
Allows for a natural stride
REASONS TO AVOID
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.
Use: Flat terrain/running | Weight Load: up to 190 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to run in
Promotes a natural stride
Smooth decking dumps snow
BOA fit system is easy to adjust
REASONS TO AVOID
Speed Helix binding takes a minute to fit to your shoe
Poor float on deep snow
Traction is better while running than walking
The Atlas Run is a 22-inch long snowshoe with a spring-loaded suspension that adds the perfect pep to your step. For runners, the winter can be a difficult time, so Atlas has created a snowshoe that ensures you can keep your fitness up even if the snow is coming down. The small crampons have an impressive bite on packed and icy terrain, and the smooth decking dumps snow with every step, although if you pick up the pace, you may find that a lot of it is flung up onto your backside, so be sure to wear waterproof pants. The BOA Fit System easily tightens your bindings and distributes tension evenly.
This snowshoe is not designed for long, deep snow or backcountry expeditions. The flotation is subpar, and the traction is designed for flat terrain. If you're looking for something to run on flat or slightly inclined trails, the Atlas Run is amazing, but its performance suffers significantly if used in any other application.
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.
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)
This review is brought to you by Senior Review Editor Hayley Thomas. 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 skating around the park with her dogs. Hayley brings a wealth of experience to this review, providing comparisons and identifying key features along the way.
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.
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. 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 Ascentand Atlas Range-MTN outperform many of the options in our test suite in almost all our testing criteria. They are both well-rounded snowshoes that can take you from icy rolling hills to steep technical terrain — a worthy purchase at a fair price for what you get.
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.
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.
The Range-MTN decking does not have any holes in it, ultimately offering ample surface area to keep your knees above the snow. It also has some heavier components, but Atlas has managed to keep this snowshoe right around 4 pounds, which is accectable.
The Tubbs Wilderness, Mountaineer, and MSR Revo Explore are also high performers for flotation. The SoftTec decking of the Wilderness and Mountaineer is durable and lightweight. The Mountaineer is slightly heavier, but both offer smooth, soft decking, allowing you to glide along fresh snow, whether packed or fresh. The 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.
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.
The Leadville 29 and Helium Trail are also worth mentioning for their flotation. The Helium only weighs three pounds, making it one of the lightest options in our test suite. The Leadville 29 is 29 inches long, offering a good amount of surface area.
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. While most of the options in our test suite provide admirable traction, there are a few that stand out from the rest.
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 Hyperflex Elite comes equipped with eight stainless steel crampons and one massive toe crampon, a combination that allows us to feel super confident no matter how slick and icy the terrain. It is also 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.
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.
The Tubbs Wilderness and Mountaineer also provide stellar traction. They both rock 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. They also have two rails that run parallel to the foot with teeth that angle backward to help move you forward.
A few more honorable mentions here are the Atlas Montane, Helium Trail, Range-MTN, and Evo Trail. 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 Range MTN has serrated aluminum traction rails around the perimeter and an aggressive X-Trac Toe Crampon which grips packed snow and ice. 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.
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 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.
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.
A close runner-up to the Symbioze Elite is the Atlas Run and Range-MTN. It's no surprise that a snowshoe built for running promotes a natural stride. Both the Atlas Run and Range-MTN offer a spring-loaded suspension to help propel you forward and keep up your speed, but make sure you wear waterproof pants because you might find yourself kicking snow up onto your bottom as you travel.
The Tubbs Wilderness and Mountaineer are 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.
The Tubbs Flex VRT is a little wider than the other Tubbs options in our test suite, but the flexible composite decking offers a natural heel-to-toe stride that some of the aluminum framed options cannot.
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 it 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.
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 Range-MTN, Tubbs Mountaineer, and Crescent Moon Eva Foam are some of the easiest to use in our test suite, but for very different reasons. 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. The Range-MTN and Mountaineer have the new BOA Fit System, which simply requires you to twist a knob to apply even tension across your entire forefoot. The Tubbs Flex VRT also rocks the BOA Fit System, but composite decking can be very loud, which takes away from the overall peaceful experience.
The Tubbs Wilderness, Hyperflex Elite, and MSR Lightning 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 Lightning does not have a fancy new updated binding system like some of the other high performers in this metric, but the tabs all tuck away nicely, and the simple mechanics are sure to last.
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 BOA Fit System has been around since 2001, but it seems to have seeped into the snowshoe industry relatively recently, and we couldn't be happier. This system cinches the binding down evenly across the front of the foot with a simple twist of a knob. To loosen it, you just have to pop the knob out and pull your binding up. The Atlas Range-MTN, Tubbs Mountaineer, and Flex VRT are some of the most comfortable, easy-to-use, and easy-to-adjust snowshoes in our test suite, and they all rock the BOA.
The Tubbs Wilderness sports a different but equally comfortable and supportive binding system. The Quick-Fit Binding requires two hands to tighten and one to loosen. The two tabs evenly distribute tension across the front of the foot, and the locking heel strap is very secure. All straps are easy to maneuver with or without gloves on, and the control wings and padded forefoot straps are incredibly supportive and comfortable.
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 stay tight, contained, and comfortable throughout our adventures.
The Lightning bindings take on a slightly more retro approach, but they are so comfortable when tightened properly. The front toe bucket is still a little difficult to adjust with thick gloves on, but 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.
The stretchy Evo Trail binding system is versatile and secure when fastened correctly. The long straps allow for seamless pairing with a wide range of footwear, however, when paired with smaller boots the straps can feel too long. The Paraglide binding requires a little more effort to tighten than other modern fastening systems like the BOA, but it evenly distributes tension across the forefoot, offering security and comfort no matter the footwear.
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.
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