Posted by: Karen | February 20, 2008

Metal vs. Wooden Snowshoes

I usually wear teardrop shaped wooden snowshoes, but this weekend tried out a newer pair of metal ones. Below are my thoughts on each kind.

About our wooden ones:
I like the old wooden shoes better than the metal ones for the very powdery snow. On an already packed trail it didn’t matter much either way, but when we bushwhacked in deep fluffy powder the metal ones were less reliable in keeping me on top of the snow. Wooden ones, teardrop or canoe shape (we have both) have more surface area for fresh snow exploring. Every now and then I would just find myself *poof* knee deep with one leg or the other with the metal shoes. This happens in wooden shoes too, but less often, and usually less deep.

When we stopped for lunch, or sat for wee breaks, or squatted to slip down a wee slope, wooden shoes had a little more room to offer a rear end.

Tear drop snowshoes are pretty to look at on the wall and in the snow. They leave lovely half-heart shaped curved tracks. I love that.

If I get a chance, I’m going to try my husband’s canoe shaped wooden racing snowshoes next. He uses lampwick bindings and soft moccasins that let his toes grip the crossbar. My moccasins have hard soles and I use a buckle set-up, so I’m not sure how that will work.

About the metal ones:
When we were on a skinny, already packed trail that previous shoers had forged, the thinner metal shoes made it easier to navigate the winding path. I also was less worried about damaging the metal shoes while climbing over big logs with twigs or banging them together with careless form, or while milling about the hard packed parking lot. The metal ones also had great claws (crampons) under the ball of the foot, which made it easier to climb up packed steep slopes. Metal shoes also fit more easily in the trunk or strap less awkwardly to a backpack. Metal shoes, being shorter, don’t get tangled on beginner’s feet as much in tight maneuvers.

I’m always careful to wear the wooden snowshoes on a fairly soft surface. I’m conscious that I’m traipsing about on potential heirloom antiques (these must be 35 years old?) and I want to preserve them. One day we’ll have to go all metal, because the wooden ones can’t last forever, and we don’t know of anyone who repairs them.



  1. I bought a kit from and made a pair for my husband about 8 years ago. They’ve held up to serious use. I’m about to get my own kit. I just found this site:, with native made snowshoes. They also have old snowshoes as well. Might want to check them out.


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