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Snowshoeing in Trail Runners

Snowshoeing in Trail Runners

I did a long hike approach snowshoe (7.2 miles round trip) over the weekend to the base of North Hancock, including 16 water crossings. We still have snow on the ground, but I figured that doing the crossings wearing my Inov-8 trail runners, merino wool liners, and gore-tex socks would be an excellent approximation of the water temperature conditions that I can expect when hiking across Scotland in 6 weeks. My trail runners performed brilliantly during the water crossings, shedding water immediately, and my feet stayed relatively warm as long as I kept moving.

Surprisingly, I also discovered that wearing trail runners with snowshoes, particularly for Spring Thaw conditions, dramatically lessens the amount of fatigue experienced on a long snowshoe carrying full winter gear.

It makes perfect sense. If you switch out a heavy pair of plastic mountaineering boots or leather hikers for trail runners, you have to drag along a lot less weight with each step. But I was completely astonished at the level of energy I had after the approach hike into the peak, and when we got back to the trail head and my car. What a difference a lighter pair of shoes makes! I'm going to have to try this more next winter.

But before you conclude that wearing trail runners for snowshoeing is a good idea, keep in mind that I only did this because I had to do a lot of water crossings that would soaked a pair of boots, and that temperatures were in the 70's F, so I wasn't too concerned about hypothermia. I also brought along a second pair of boots as backup and extra socks.

Still the possibilities of using trail runners with snowshoes is intriguing. Have any of you taken this further than me in true winter conditions. With an overboot, perhaps?


  1. Phil,

    I don't know if you've seen them before but any time I have a question about lightweight footwear systems in winter I refer to these three articles which appear to be the gospel on the subject:

  2. The 2007 BPL WT3 trip all used trail runners (or Inov8 390s) with their snow shoes. I'm pretty sure Ryan J. never uses anything more than his 390s now.

  3. Good info both of you – the bpl articles are for members only, don't ya know, but I have a long time subscription – others might not.

  4. I only used trailrunners on all snowshoeing trips this season, and don't understand why people would use anything else. A lot less weight, quicker dry, faster, more comfortable, and the warmth is surely the same. I have used VBL socks but was also just fine with merino liner sock, 600 merino sock, goretex sock and trailrunners. A friend has used neopren overbooties, and she had never any problems – I need to switch to camp shoes in long breaks, which is of no concern when I am alone, but is needed when with a group.

    Also, carrying a back-up on a 7,2 miles round rip seems a bit excessive and against the principle of lightweight hiking ;)

  5. The trail runners are really good for day hikes. I may switch over completely next year. I'd be more concerned for multi-day trips though, above treeline.

    The extra boots weren't really backups. At the end of the hike in, we climbed a mountain. I was expecting icy ledge and needed to wear a boot that was still enough for crampons. After our descent, I put the trail runners back on.

  6. Phil, I'm glad you posted this. I only use my leather boots for snowshoeing– never for summer. I've been thinking of getting a pair of 40 Below overboots in order to switch to trail runners for winter use also. Maybe I'll just try trail runners without the overboots first. It's worth a shot.

  7. I was chatting with Joel Attaway (40below) about them earlier this winter. He suggested I try them in the Whites. Next year. Great to hear from you again.

  8. I'm heading out west now, so you probably won't hear from me for a while. Enjoy your summer! When the snow starts falling again, maybe I'll find my way to the Whites to test out some winter hiking techniques with you, if that's cool. Take it easy!

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