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11 Tips for Running in Snowshoes

By Lisa Jhung, Runner’s World
12/17/2013 10:49:33 AM

Interested in trying snowshoe running, but not sure how to take the first step? Follow these tips from Richard Bolt, member of the Atlas Snowshoe Racing Team and five-time competitor at the National Snowshoe Championships. Heading out on a run in the snow is easier than you may think.

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Credit: Runner's World

1. A little technique. "Running or walking on snowshoes is just like walking or running without them," says Bolt. "You're just making small technique changes-a slightly wider stance, and lifting your knees higher." (PLUS: Here's a tip on how to Keep Your Hands Warm During Winter Runs.)

2. Where to go. While many cross-country centers have marked snowshoe trails, you really can snowshoe just about anywhere there's snow (but see tip No. 5 below). To find a trail near you, check out snowshoes.com, which currently has 3,300 user-submitted trails via Google Maps. "The site shows push-pins for people to find where to go," says Bolt.

3. Dry run. Don't wait until a cold parking lot or trailhead to figure out the snowshoe's binding. "Try putting them on for the first time at home," says Bolt, who recommends stepping into the binding (while wearing a running shoe) on grass, or even carpet (be careful not to snag your carpet, though). "Walk around in your backyard, on grass. Even run a few steps. You can't wreck snowshoes on grass," he says.

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4. Stay close. When you go out for your first run, pick someplace close to home. "Don't put pressure on yourself to do something epic," advises Bolt, who acknowledges that it's another story if you have to drive a ways to reach snow. But, if the ground is covered in snow where you live, take your first snowshoe run on a local golf course or park. "That way, you're not investing a lot of time and logistics in it."

5. Hard pack. "It's easier to get the hang of snowshoe running if you're on a groomed, firmer surface at first rather than plowing through knee-deep powder," says Bolt. For your first snowshoe run or hike, head for groomed trails. "Most cross-country ski areas allow snowshoers. A lot of snow parks and forest-service areas, especially in the Rockies and Sierras, have more areas that are groomed. And the northeast has wide network of snowmobile trails," advises Bolt.

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6. Rent first. Bolt suggests renting snowshoes at places like REI, Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), Cabela's, or at a cross-country ski area before buying. While renting running-specific snowshoes is a rarity, Bolt advises renting the smallest, lightest snowshoe available. "Even in the most powdery conditions, floatation is less important than the ability to maneuver and save energy with a smaller snowshoe," he says. And, keep an eye out for demo days put on by snowshoe manufacturers early in the winter. (Both demo day and fun run schedules can be found on snowshoes.com and snowshoeracing.com.) And, check out the Winter Trails Day event that takes place throughout the country. "That way, you can try snowshoeing for free," he says.

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