What is a Snowshoe?
A snowshoe is footwear for walking over snow. Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person's foot does not sink completely into the snow, a quality called "flotation". Snowshoeing is a form of hiking.
Snowshoes function best when there is enough snow beneath them to pack a layer between them and the ground, usually at a depth of 8 inches (20 cm) or more. However, contrary to popular belief, snowshoes perform poorly on very icy and steep terrain. Compared to crampons, snowshoes give relatively little grip on ice. It is common for novice snowshoers to climb up a steep slope to a summit and then have difficulty climbing back down, which tends to be more difficult than ascending. In icy conditions, summer hiking routes may require mountaineering skills and equipment, not snowshoes.
It is often said by snowshoers that if you can walk, you can snowshoe. This is true in optimal conditions, but snowshoeing properly requires some slight adjustments to walking. The method of walking is to lift the shoes slightly and slide the inner edges over each other, thus avoiding the unnatural and fatiguing "straddle-gait" that would otherwise be necessary. A snowshoer must be willing to roll his or her feet slightly as well. An exaggerated stride works best when starting out, particularly with larger or traditional shoes.