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Anatomy Of A Snowshoe

Get up close and personal with all those snowshoe parts.


Bindings attach your boots to the snowshoe and maintain the alignment of your feet for efficient tracking. If your heels aren’t centered, or the bindings don’t hold your foot snugly in place, either your snowshoes won’t track in a straight path or you could be constantly tightening and readjusting the fit. Bindings are critical to making a snowshoe work well with your boots in the conditions you experience most often.

All bindings used to consist of various straps that wrapped over and behind your boot to keep everything in place. Now, they run the gamut from a few simple rubber straps to complex plastic cuffs and ratcheting devices that crossed over from snowboard binding designs. The best way to tell if a binding works for your needs is to first rent for a trial weekend the shoe you’re thinking of buying. Put it through its paces up and down hills, on packed trails, in deep powder, on icy slopes, wearing a heavy pack if you plan on going out overnight. Then you’ll know for sure what works and what doesn’t. If that isn’t possible, here are the most critical questions to ask yourself about bindings when investing in a new pair of snowshoes:

  • Does it adjust to comfortably and snugly hold your boot in place? Be sure to wear the boots you’ll be using while snowshoeing. If the snowshoe will be used by more than one member of your family, make sure the binding will accommodate the smallest and largest boots to be worn with the snowshoe.

  • Does it hold your foot snugly enough to prevent it from sliding forward on long, steep descents, without pinching or binding your toes? Does your foot work loose or your heel migrate off to one side?

  • Does it rub your foot anywhere? This is critical with hard plastic bindings, especially if you intend to wear non-insulated boots (for example, regular leather or leather and fabric hiking boots).

    If you intend to use the shoe on overnight backcountry trips:

  • Will the binding be difficult to operate with mittens, or when encrusted with ice and snow?
  • How easily could the binding be repaired or temporarily rigged if a part broke?
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