How did we fairly and accurately test so many pairs of fabulous snowshoes? Well, we trekked and traipsed all over the Colorado Rockies for several months with a group of women of varying body shapes and weights, collecting as much information along the way as possible. 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. From rolling trails to steep icy slopes to fresh powder amidst the trees, we analyzed each of our snowshoes from every perspective and with a critical eye. Every shoe we tested was explicitly designed for women except for the unisex MSR Evo and Crescent Moon Eva Foam.
Our testers had a range of experience snowshoeing, from brand new to experienced, and, as we hiked, we traded models regularly to achieve a comprehensive side-by-side comparison. Each model was also tested with a variety of different footwear to fully understand the capabilities and limitations of the various binding systems.
To fully test flotation, which is our most heavily weighted testing metric, we made sure to find deep fresh snow to hike in. We walked side by side and compared the depth of footprints, all the while discussing how the shoes felt to walk and lift up out of the deep snow. We pushed the weight capacity of some of the models to the point where it would seem like we weren't floating very well. But taking off a snowshoe and stepping into the snow only to sink 2-3 feet revealed to us that, even at the weight limit, the added surface area of a snowshoe makes a huge difference.
To test traction, we snowshoed through various conditions and across all manner of surfaces and angles. We kept a lookout for steep icy slopes to climb and descend as well as packed trails and slippery fresh new powder. The models that rose to the top were able to keep us feeling confident and upright on all of it.
This category was of particular interest to us because we tested mostly women-specific models. What this means is that the shoe is designed to accommodate both a smaller foot and a narrower gait. Often when women or smaller framed people wear men's snowshoes, they have to widen their gait and turn their toes out a bit so as not to have one foot collide with the other at every step. To comprehensively test this metric, we had many different body types spend a lot of time walking on every conceivable kind of trail, all while paying close attention to how well the shoe would allow a normal and natural stride. Even with the mix of heights and weights, it became apparent which models were designed the best for this and which fell short.
Ease of Use
To test this metric in-depth, we snowshoed extensively, paying special attention to how quickly each person was strapped in and on their way. Some models were straightforward and obvious; some required a bit more practice and several uses to figure out particular nuances. You can find an in-depth explanation detailing our experience with the intricacies of each pair in the review pages. Top-scoring models had easy to use bindings that could be adjusted quickly at any point and also felt natural and comfortable to walk in.
Testing the security and comfort of each binding system was also just a matter of spending as much time in each model as possible. The longer we walked, the more information was revealed. Because we choose our test suite for every review from top-of-the-line models that are very popular on the market, it's no surprise that, for the most part, all the snowshoes performed well. They are all generally comfortable and secure, allowing the user to feel safe and have a lot of fun on all kinds of terrain. Still, some irritations and concerns became apparent along the icy packed trails and snowdrifts we frequented. All of this information can be found in the model-specific reviews.