Best Snowshoes for Women of 2021
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|Pros||Stellar traction, heel lifts for steep terrain, easy to use, add-on flotation tail compatible||Good traction and flotation, excellent binding system, heel lift||Great traction, Boa binding system, comfortable binding, easy walking, quiet||Affordable, stellar traction, easy to use, versatile bindings||Excellent traction, comfortable bindings, fantastic stride ergonomics|
|Cons||Expensive, front of binding difficult to navigate with thick gloves on, side and back stepping are laborious||A bit heavy, tail flips up a lot of snow, toe shape feels a little wide||Boa system is more finicky and less repairable than a strap system, on the heavier side||Loud on packed snow, duck waddle for those with a narrower gait, straps do not stay in place||Binding system potentially isn't secure, doesn't float well unless you're very light|
|Bottom Line||This is a serious snowshoe for people that want superior traction and versatility while out in steep and variable backcountry terrain||This is a well-rounded and solidly performing snowshoe fit for all kinds of terrain and objectives||This is a well-performing snowshoe with great traction suitable for many different kinds of terrain and snow||This affordable shoe is equipped with stellar traction and versatile bindings, making it a wonderful pick for varied terrain levels and snow types||This is a comfortable snowshoe with fantastic traction and great stride ergonomics for those with a narrower gait|
|Rating Categories||Lightning Ascent||Atlas Elektra Montane||Louis Blizzard III||MSR Evo Trail Snows...||Tubbs Flex RDG - Wo...|
|Stride Ergonomics (15%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Lightning Ascent||Atlas Elektra Montane||Louis Blizzard III||MSR Evo Trail Snows...||Tubbs Flex RDG - Wo...|
|Uses||All terrain||All terrain||Flat, rolling and mountain terrain||Flat and variable rolling terrain||Variable rolling and mountain terrain|
|Optimum Weight Load (per size)||22": up to 180 lbs
25": 120-210 lbs
|23": 80-160 lbs
27": 120-200+ lbs
|22": 60-160 lbs
25": 100-200 lbs
|180 lbs||80-150 lbs|
|Weight (per pair)||3.8 lbs||4.4 lbs||4.4 lbs||3.5 lbs without tails
4.4 lbs with tails
|Binding System||Paragon Binding||Wrapp Swift binding||Boa binding||DuoFit||CustomWrap binding featuring the Boa Closure System|
|Crampon||DTX Crampon||All-trac toe crampon||Traxion HCS front crampon & V-rail crampon||Steel traction rails and brake bars||Traction rails and carbon steel toe crampon|
|Frame Material||Aluminum||Aluminum V-frame||6061-T6 Aluminum ErgoStream||Martensitic steel||Plastic frame and decking with steel traction rails|
|Deck Material||Nylon||Nytex decking||EDGE molded polymer||Polypropylene||Plastic advanced Torsion Deck|
|Surface Area (for tested size)||180 in²||176 in²||189 in²||174 in² without tails, 220 in² with||151 in²|
|Dimensions||7.25 x 25"||8.5 x 27"||8 x 25"||8 x 22"||8 x 22"|
|Flotation Tails Available?||Yes, 5"||No||No||Yes, 6"||No|
|Load with Tails (per size)||22": up to 240 lbs
25": up to 270 lbs
|n/a||n/a||Up to 250 lbs||n/a|
|Men's and Women's Versions?||Yes||No, women's specific||Yes||Unisex||Yes|
|Sizes Available||22", 25"||23", 27"||22", 25"||22"||22"|
|Size Tested||25"||27"||25"||22" plus 6" add-on tails||22"|
Best Overall Snowshoe for Women
MSR Lightning Ascent - Women's
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 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, which allows for a natural stride when walking forward, and the material provides just the right amount of stretch for a very snug fit without 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
Best Bang for Your Buck
MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes
The simplistic design of the MSR Evo 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 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 improved significantly, and we found that having the option to minimize the shoe is quite useful. This lightweight option will get you from A to B without question.
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. We also noticed that when the straps get cold, they begin to stiffen, causing them to pull out of their designated clips when walking. This does not loosen the shoe by any means, but it does mean that the straps aren't always neatly tucked away. Lastly, we noticed that the material the decking is made of creates quite the ruckus 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 shoe to consider.
Read review: MSR Evo Trail Snowshoe
Best for Icy Packed Terrain
TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's
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 Hyperflex 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 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
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.
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, exploring the natural world. When she's not hiking on lonely winter trails, you can find her skiing or doing 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 it 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.
We strived 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.
Related: How We Tested Snowshoes for Women
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 can help with that! 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 from not-too-bad to wallet-emptying. This can make it hard to tell where the sweet spot of performance vs. price is. Comparing the overall score to retail price is a great place to start.
For excellent performance without breaking the bank, check out the MSR Evo or the Atlas Elektra Montane. Alternatively, the Lightning Ascent performs impressively across all our testing criteria but is a more serious investment.
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 across the board 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 shoe 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. We also found great float with the Louis Garneau Blizzard and the Atlas Elektra Montane.
The Evo 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.
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 tested 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.
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. We had no issues hiking through mixed terrain, complete with fallen trees and exposed rock. The massive crampon also allows for an easy slip-free descent. The 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 Evo also has stellar traction but is noticeably sticky when on flatter terrain due to the burly side rails and traction bars. We also found it difficult to glide while wearing the Tubbs Flex RDG with its carbon steel toe crampon and traction rails. Generally speaking, the models with the best overall scores in our review ended up there by having both great traction and impressive float.
More often than not, old-school shoes 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 stride ergonomics while testing.
We saw a wide range of performances in this category, but again, many of our top scorers overall ended up there because they are easy and pleasant to walk in. Our favorites are the Lightning Ascent, Flex RDG, and Symbioz Elite. The narrow decking on these models allows for a normal stride no matter how petite the user. Keep in mind that a narrower deck means less surface area, which can affect flotation — this was an issue for us with both the Flex and the Elite, but not the impressive Lightning Ascent.
One contender stands out here 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 — help 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.
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 Elektra 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. Our other Crescent Moon model, the Gold 13, is another favorite due to comfortable and easy-to-use bindings.
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 and to 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, these strappy bindings could be improved.
Two models in our review offer a Boa binding system — the Blizzard III and Flex RDG. This system is quite easy to quickly and evenly tighten, though popping the dial back open for adjustments can be hard with thick gloves or cold fingers.
Flotation and traction are certainly important, but no one is going to get much use out of their shoes 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. Our top contenders in this category are the Lightning Ascent, Elektra Montane, Gold 13, and Symbioz Elite.
Our favorite of the top three is the Single Pull Loop (SPL) design of the Gold 13. It both tightens and loosens the entire system with the pull of one loop. The heel is cinched tight with a ratcheting strap similar to what you see on many snowboard bindings. 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 and comfortable as well as easy to use.
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. 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.
The MSR Lightning has improved their 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.
While we appreciate the ease and efficiency of Boa bindings like you see on the Flex RDG and Blizzard, we don't feel they are as secure because of the thin wires that are fully exposed. If one of those wires breaks, it renders the entire shoe useless. And there is no way to do a field repair. Psychologically this makes the system seem insecure, even though it's quite burly. It is also worth noting that some online reviews mention that the area where the dial is located can cause a pinch point. We didn't personally experience this, but it's something to keep in mind when deciding what's right for you.
The Symbioz Elite takes a little fiddling at first but is well worth it. The padded ratchet straps and adjustable sole give this pair a leg up in the binding versatility department. The Gold 13 is also very comfortable, sporting straps and a single pull loop system which allows for very even tightening. The Eva Foam has Velcro straps that are reminiscent of a sandal and quite cozy — though if they get too clogged with snow or debris, they start to lose some of their stickiness and therefore lack in the security department.
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.
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. Similar to finding a secluded mountain meadow covered in wildflowers in the spring, snowy forests and mountaintops are a truly magical experience. 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.
— Hayley Thomas & Penney Garrett