Sometimes, when hiking in extreme situations, you will stumble upon a terrain that may require walking over snow. And, in these situations, snowshoes can help greatly.
The great thing about show shoes is that you can wear them with almost any type of footwear. But, does this mean that you can combine them with ski boots as well?
In general, it is possible to wear ski boots with snowshoes but you should avoid walking in them more than necessary since they are not designed for it. If you do decide to wear ski boots with snowshoes, consider that your snowshoe bindings need to fit the ski boot and that your ski boots need to have a walk mode.
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Why Would You Need to Snowshoe in Ski Boots?
Going hiking or skying with less gear will not weigh you down as much. Because of this, some snowshoers prefer to pack less gear.
Changing boots at the summit before descent can be a challenging, cold, and unpleasant task. In addition to that, during long treks, the ski boots can become icy and less pliable when packed. There are quite a few reasons skiers go snowshoeing in ski boots:
- Attempting to change boots in the backcountry
- Keep the ski boot liners pliable, making the ride down easier
- Carry less weight on your back
- Benefit from the great exterior of waterproof ski boots during the climb up
How to Snowshoe in Ski Boots?
It takes some courage, stubbornness, and gut, but with those virtues (and some great determination) you can do just about anything. Snowshoeing in ski boots may not be the most comfortable decision, but it is far from ‘not possible’. However, there are a few specifications required before you can head out. Knowing these tips may spare you the heavy load, and more importantly, keep you safe.
Snowshoes Can Sometimes Be Small
Before getting or renting any type of snowshoes, make sure that your boots fit the inside of the snowshoes. Some of them can be small, especially the ones for women and children. If you are buying, keep an eye out for good reviews – and don’t be lazy to do the research. You may want to look for snowshoes that are recommended to people with large feet, or unisex – simply to be able to accommodate bulky boots.
It may take time for you to find the perfect match as many good boots have right-toe caps and bindings that are not big enough. Their quality is indisputable, but their compatibility with snowshoes can be questionable (as they were not made for that).
Walk-Mode Ski Boots Are Recommended
When it comes to the type of boot you should choose, almost all-mountain and alpine boots are designed with a heel-lock. This added ski-walk mechanism allows you to have a walk mode. It means that the upper shell can move freely from the lower shell.
This model will allow ankle mobility, which will make a significant difference when it comes to snowshoeing and hiking. Lacking this option, on the other hand, can put much strain on your calf and cause hip fatigue.
Amount of Flex
Flex in ski boots implies how hard it is to flex the boot forward. The ‘flex index’ is indicated by a numeric value from 50 (soft) to 130 (very stiff). It can often be found outside the boot cuff.
Ski boots can be divided into soft, medium, or stiff flex. It depends on the individuals’ skill level, and leg strength. These indicators will vary among different skiers and particular pairs.
The top choice also depends on the type of terrain you are heading for. Off-site, technical trails require stiffer flexing for safer and easier control of the tract. When it comes to snowshoeing, ski boots with more flex are the most comfortable, particularly if you walk over uneven trails or rocks.
There is also a high-end solution, by getting ski boot brands that have the ‘flex adjustment’ capability. Some of these bots can be dialed to a particular type of ski setting. But their efficiency over time is strongly debatable.
Snowshoes have to have teeth to be able to grab and stay on top of different snow and earth, the ski boots have to sit snug in the binding. Plastic treads on ski boots will lead to a rougher hike, blisters, and overall pain. It is highly advisable to snowshoe in ski boots if they have rubber or Vibram Tread.
Cross Country Ski Boots Are Slightly Better
Their sleeker frame than cross-country ski boots has allowed them to fit easily in most snowshoes. Also, because of their style and the only toe being clipped into the cross country skis, this boot style has lots of ankle range.
There are more similarities between cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Even though it may not be as comfortable as going for a hike, these bots do get you closer to the most natural motion of the foot.
Best Snowshoeing Footwear
People who are used to being in ski boots know the stiff and hard love they require. They can be used in snowshoes, but they are not built for their purpose. Because of this, there is a higher chance of injury or pure discomfort during a time you should be having fun.
The best boots to wear while snowshoeing requires lots of ankle flexibility. Additionally, to keep your feet safe, they should have great rubber tread, forefoot flexibility, and waterproofness at all times. If you do not feel as comfortable as doing all that with only one set of boots on your feet, you might consider practicing heavier loads before next season. Also, to make your snowshoes last longer, learning how to keep the snow sticking to snowshoes is a must.
Is It Smart to Hike With an Extra Pair of Boots?
Carrying around an extra pair of boots on the backpack is a considerable amount of weight, especially when hiking in cold and snowy weather. Your feet suffer more strain from the weight of the ski boots while trying to walk around with them, as most ski boots are much heavier than other winter boots.
Both options are possible, but besides the weight strain, flexibility is another issue. Even with the best ski boots that have adjustable flexing or walk mode, the ankle area will never flex completely. Because of that, your legs will try to meet the slope angle by bending your knees in the wrong direction. In addition to being uncomfortable, longer hikes like this can damage your knee caps – is it really worth the risk?
The most comfortable option is to be slightly slower from your pack weight, rather than because of your ankle mobility. There is a higher chance of ligament damage this way, but the heel lifters do help with this problem considerably.
Finally, don’t even try considering this if you have big feet because your ski boots may not fit properly in the snowshoes. The toe will tend to scrap the nose of the shoe, because of which you may need to set your foot further back than is suggested.
Another tale told by experienced skiers is to use alpine touring binding adaptors that clip into the alpine skies. That way regular boots can be used to walk up and keep all buckles undine while touring. It still requires skin, but it comes as a much cheaper option than buying a full touring setup.
So, Can You Wear Ski Boots With Snowshoes?
It is safe to conclude that ski boots are not advisable to wear more than necessary in any way, and especially if you are using them for walking. Their initial design is met to keep your body in an unnatural position that strains your leg joints and back. Adventure seekers love the thrill and understand that gain comes with pain.
A great pair of snowshoes is a great thing to have around, but consider your budget and all possibilities before going out to the track. Having a pair of snowshoes means the difference between waiting in lines for a turn at the slopes with other mortals, or having your own adventure and creating a new trek down the mountain.
Keep in mind that the type of snowshoe you have will impact the weight dispersion. The only way you will be able to ‘float’ on top of the snow is if you have the right snowshoe for your body weight and the condition of the snow (if it is crud, crust, powder, or slush).
The key to floating on snow is to know how to distribute your body weight over a greater surface area. The goal is not to sink into the snow too much, and the snowshoe should never touch the ground underneath the snow.
Ensuring that you are able to traverse the snow properly and at ease. If you are uncertain on which type is best for you, set aside some cash and go to the local winter equipment rental. They come cheap and the people working there should really be able to help you.