What I am referencing is the wonderful winter activity of "Snowshoe Running". As a relatively new sport in terms of national recognition, snowshoe running is actually the fastest growing endurance sport in America. Why is that?
1. It's fun
2. It breaks up the monotony of winter
3. It is by far one of the best workouts you ever had
4. Races are cheap: 10-25 dollars for a 10k with royal amenities such as hot chocolate and embroidered give-aways.
5. It's different than road running and a little more adventurous than trail running
6. It is a great way to achieve a beach body by April (okay not proven science but many would argue this statement's validity as fact)
So you are interested in snowshoe running. Where to start?
1. Look Into the USA Snowshoe Association.
The website provides all the information needed for snowshoe racing across the country. Every year there is a National Championship held in a different region of the country each year and the race weekend usually at the beginning of March is more like a running festival than just a race site. In order to run at nationals, you need to be a USA snowshoe member: a price of $30 gets you a ticket to qualify for nationals and a top age-graded performance at a regional qualifier. Most people can qualify for nationals as the sport is still growing and qualification standards are not outrageous like other running divisions.
2. Check out your local running store.
They may have all staff that love to snowshoe run and have connections and maybe even sell running snowshoes so that you can try them out.
3. Ask around your community.
A lot of endurance athletes such as triathletes, ultra runners, and road racers have gained the benefitsof snowshoe running and so should you!
The Running Snowshoe!
There are a lot of questions going into the running snowshoe. Here is my tutorial on them.
Running snowshoes are light: made of airplane grade aluminum and come either with a binding system or are direct mount. They come in all different shapes and sizes: running snowshoes usually come in at 21-24 inches in length and there are some now even smaller yet fit the USA Snowshoe Association Regulations of 120 Square Cubic Inches of Surface Area.
Here is the link to the applicable snowshoes: http://www.snowshoeracing.com/legal_size.htm
As you can see my Dion Snowshoes have a strap system or binding that holds my foot in place. The snowshoes have an articulated ankle suspension so your foot is not directly stuck to the snowshoe itself so the snowshoe flops up and down and allows for a natural running stride. Know that running in snowshoes is a demanding physical activity and is extremely snow condition dependent. Add at least a minute to your overall road running training per mile pace is a good rule of thumb for running in snowshoes. When dealing with deeper powder....time goes out the window.
Running in snowshoes is very easy to get used to. Your running gait will be slower and you will naturally have a winder stance when running in snowshoes because of the shoes on your feet and the drag associated with snow. It takes a couple times of testing out snowshoes to get used to them. Once you have practiced in snowshoes a little, running in them will be second-nature.
There is nothing like strapping on some snowshoes for a brisk winter run. It allows for you to connect with winter in such a way where winter becomes FUN AGAIN!
Most of these top-of-the-line racing snowshoes are going to set you back about $250 but you do not need a new pair every season. I have had my snowshoes for going on 3+ years and they are still looking good. They are a great investment to your health and for you to try out something new and refreshing.
Putting snowshoes on are as simple as unstrapping the binding and then placing your foot into the bindings and then tightening around your foot. Taking the snowshoe off is just the opposite fashion. Everything is very easy to do with minimal time wasted.
Apparel for Running:
Dress how you would if you were going for a standard cold winter run: Hat, Gloves, Tights, Baselayer(s), Midlayer, Jacket, Vest, etc. The interesting notion about the activity is once you begin to start moving, you warm-up extremely quick and those extra layer you started out with are left only to a baselayer and tights. I try to shoot for water resistant gear as the snow will melt with your body heat on you and usually refreeze on your garments so having a thermal running jacket with wind-proofing and water repellent properties is highly recommended or even a running vest can give you those properties with a full-on jacket without all the extra restriction.
Here are a bunch of companies that offer great snowshoe running products:
Atlas Snowshoes is based in Colorado, USA and offer a very nice light frame with a very nice binding system. The two models you would be looking for would be the "Race" or the "Run".
Made from Bennington, Vermont by Bob Dion himself; these snowshoes offer a full-on customization from selecting the Frame, Bindings, and Cleat which no other company out there does. They hold up great and are the most trusted pair of snowshoes in the Northeast. You would be looking for the 121 Racing Frame or the 132 (Yellow) which is cheaper.
WHoOOO Green! Redfeather is based out of La Crosse, Wisconsin and has been making performance snowshoes for a LONG TIME! They have this really cool bird tail design for better flotation and offer great characteristics similar to DIONS and Northern Lites. Popular in the Midwest! The model you want to look for is the Vapor 21.
WHoOOOO More Green!
Big following in the Midwest and Northeast, Northern Lites based in Wisconsin as a family business have produced some of the lightest and most durable snowshoes out there. They also give you the best option for bolting your shoes into a pair of them (Direct Mount) for a more race-oriented light weight experience. They have one if not the best decking system around. Great Value!
Course 721 is a new snowshoe to the market, extremely light weight but from what I have heard from testers in the Upstate NY area, they do not provide the best traction in powder but are solid for nice groomed trails. For those product techies, this one is for you.
Another Colorado-based company in Boulder, they make some really cool looking snowshoes that have won awards for the best bindings on the market. They do provide direct mount but why miss out on the binding. The Gold 12 is the Race model and offers a unique tear-drop shape and at 24 inches long, this is longer than other racing snowshoe products yet gives great movement and seamless flotation
Concluding: Snowshoe Running is a great winter endeavor for anyone looking to "trail run" through snow-covered trails or is looking for getting the fitness edge during the winter season. Snowshoe Running provides participants light impact that is almost at a contact point near zero. I have never heard of any stories of snowshoe runners getting injured from too much running in snowshoes. The activity itself requires more effort than regular running and even trail running but it is a great way to stay fit in the doldrums of winter and to enjoy what nature has to offer. Snowshoe running builds immense aerobic strength, coordination/balance, and strengthens your stabilizing core (abs, glutes, ankles) unlike anything I have ever come into contact with.
Once you try snowshoe running, you are going to be hooked.
For any additional questions or for snowshoe running/winter running coaching, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to help in any way I can. Stay warm and see you out on the trails this winter!