Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Next Level of Insanity: Running in Snowshoes

Recently, I picked up a pair of Red Feather "Race" snow shoes. I've used them three times now, and although that alone hardly qualifying me as an expert, the season's timing makes this review apropos. So if you've ever wondered what it'd be like to strap a pair of tennis rackets to your feet and go for a run in snow, here's your chance to live it vicariously.

As its name implies, the Red Feather Race is designed as a running snowshoe. It is also suitable as a light trekking. As such, don't expect to load up an external pack with your camping gear for a back country expedition with these fellas.

But if you're a runner, this is a good option to getting you off the treadmill and running outside when snow would otherwise prevent you.
Running in these snowshoes is surprisingly easy. The Race is recommended to be worn beneath running shoes, but the straps are long enough to accommodate boots. (I wear running shoes.) The snowshoe's narrow profile, tapered tail and spring loaded hinge is designed to not impeded the running gait. Indeed, they feel natural within minutes.

But Make no doubt about it, you will run slower. Snowshoeing is incredibly taxing. Although made of lightweight 6000 series aluminum and titanium, the snowshoes add 2.9 pounds to your stride. That and all of the other gear on your body will slow you down considerably. Snow also creates a lot of resistance. Even in the best conditions, your foot remains in contact a lot longer than running on dry pavement in ordinary running shoes.
Still, despite the slower speed, your heart and legs will never know it. It takes tremendous energy to cut a new trail with any snowshoe, let alone a running snowshoe. While doing so, the hip flexors and quads are doing heavy lifting with each step. It's a little like running in sand -- or doing the stair stepper -- with weights strapped to your ankles. The result are certainly felt in legs and cardio.

The Race snowshoe frame is constructed of 6000 series aluminum. It has titanium crampons, giving durability to its teeth. The decking and binding is a high performance elastomer called Hypalon. So far, I've been impressed with the quality of its make and materials.

Choosing what to wear it a little tricky. For one, you'd be surprised how much heat is generated while doing a snowshoe run. It's quite easy to overdress. Dress in layers: a wicking shirt & fleece beneath a light windbreaker is more than enough when the temperature is above 10 F. Perspiration and snow kick will make staying dry difficult. Leg gaiters and wool socks can help keep your feet dryer and warmer. Don't forget the sunglasses and sunscreen when the sun's out.

With that, I can say I highly recommend these snowshoes for runners and light trekking. I purchased my pair online from the Sierra Trading Post. In Omaha, the Trek Store announced that it will be carrying Atlas snowshoes. They say they can order the Atlas running snowshoe as well. Otherwise, if you're looking to find a pair of back country snowshoes, try Canfields, Scheels, Cabellas' and Dick's. Finally, as mentioned on a previous post, the UNO Venture center rents the MSR EVO showshoe for a reasonable rate.

Chris, Shim, Jim, Kevin and Brady

Kevin's brother, Shim, and Jim blazing a trail

Foot prints of Jewell Park's Abominable Snowman?

Could be. It's either Sasquatch or Limpach got hungry

Snowshoeing in Colorado with brother Brendan & his best friend Jack

Dogs love getting out too. This is Jack's territory

Brendan takes a pose with Mr WSCG himself


  1. Mr Jack Dog was happy to make it on WSCG.

    Great to hear you're enjoying those snow shoes!

  2. Can you get snow shoes with pedal cleats on them? That would be awesome for ultra-commuting.