Tag: snowshoeing

Running in MSR Snowshoes

If you remember my last article about Snowshoe Hiking in Colorado [CLICK HERE] I mentioned that I was using MSR EVO Ascent snowshoes and that I would hardly consider running in them. Here’s the article quote:

I have a pair of MSR Evo Ascent Snow Shoes, and so long as you’re not trying to run, they’re decent enough for snowshoe hiking.

Running in MSR Snowshoes - Pace Intervals on STRAVA
Running in MSR Snowshoes – Pace Intervals on STRAVA

I decided to give it a try to see how I would do, in spite of that, since I know a few people do run in them. I’ve seen someone running in MSR snowshoes on the Steven’s Gulch Road toward the Grays Peak Trailhead. Trail running has been rough the past several weeks with all the fresh snow we’ve been getting in Summit County Colorado. I’ve been getting slower and slower with each run. The snow has been loose and just sucks your feet in no matter what type of spikes you wear. I did my 10k hike in the snowshoes and my speed was actually right in there with my slower trail runs. So I decided to try running in MSR snowshoes to see what happened.

Experiment: Running in MSR Snowshoes

I began with a fairly mild pace, going for about 15:00. That seems slow if you’re used to running pavement at sea level in warm temps. In loose snow trying to figure out the whole snowshoe running thing while going uphill at 5-10% it’s not too bad. After I felt warmed up I set the camera on the tripod and started an interval up and down the road. I was surprised that my watch reported the two back to back intervals at 7:30 and 8:00. I didn’t feel like I was going that fast. Later I checked STRAVA and sure enough it coincided with the watch readout.

The last time, on my hike in snowshoes, I wore my Salomon 3D Ultra shoes. My feet got pretty sore in a few spots so this time I wore my Hoka One One Stinson EVO for the extra padding. I have an older pair I run in a lot on the snow because I spiked them [SEE ARTICLE]. These are a newer pair with no spikes and only about 50 miles.

Video: Running in MSR Snowshoes with Non-synchronous Poles

In this first video I’m using a pole action similar to what I do in my vertical running training. I reach forward, walk up to the pole till approximately even with it, and let it trail to the rear as I set the opposite pole. I might take 2, 3, or 4 steps between pole plants. It’s easy on the arms and I can always push harder or lighter with the poles.

Video: Running in MSR Snowshoes with Synchronous Poles

In this video view of running in MSR snowshoes I’m using synchronized pole plants. I’m using them in a short arc jab, one for each foot landing. I found it to be very powerful and fast feeling, even though the interval time was slower at around 7:40, there wasn’t an appreciable difference between the uphill and downhill speeds. That was interesting. I noticed this pattern in the Nordic events in the Sochi2014 Olympics and wondered how I could make use of it in my own training.

I spent some time in the 12:00 range, which is a little faster than I’ve been doing in spiked running shoes in the loose snow. I was surprised that running in MSR snowshoes wasn’t that bad. I thought that as wide as they were I’d have a weird gorilla gait. It turns out you can slide them right over each other with the edge inside the little groove in the toe of the snowshoe. This allows for a closer foot path while running and helps prevent you from tripping over the other shoe.

Running in MSR Snowshoes with overlapping grooves shown
Running in MSR Snowshoes with overlapping grooves shown

In the photo above, taken during my previous snowshoe hike in my Salomons, I added in red arrows to show the overlapping grooves that allow you to keep your feet closer together while running in MSR snowshoes. I’d love to try other brands to see how they perform, now that I’ve had a taste of this fun winter sport.

On the flip side, I found that running in MSR snowshoes is a bit noisy. When the flat plastic plate hits the snow at various angles you can hear a definite pop and slap noise. It’s not a major issue, just a minor annoyance that I’m sure you can hear a few times on the videos.

UPDATE: Found this really good Trail Runner Magazine Article on Snowshoe Running

Snowshoe Hiking in Colorado

I’ve been running a lot this past winter. We’ve had a lot of snow this past month and the trails I usually use are very deep soft snow. Even the roads that the snowmobiles pack down are really loose and bad footing to run on. At the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake this January I was talking to a sales rep for a Colorado snowshoe manufacturer and he recommended I try snowshoe hiking.

Snowshoe Hiking Selfie - note the really cool shades
Snowshoe Hiking Selfie – note the really cool shades

I have a pair of MSR Evo Ascent Snow Shoes, and so long as you’re not trying to run, they’re decent enough for snowshoe hiking. I used them on Denali in 2011 and on Rainier a few years before that. I talked to the sales rep about switching out to running snowshoes, but thought I’d get some miles in with snowshoe hiking before I try running.

I started at the road intersection where the county stops plowing and put the snowshoes on. I headed up the hill trying to match my recent loose snow running pace of around 17:00 per mile. That’s really slow for some of you sea level pavement runners. Just for fun try running at 10,000′ and in shin deep loose snow over creek overflow ice and chopped up ice from the snowcat treads. With my snowshoe hiking pace I was able to stay within a minute or two plus or minus of that pace. My heart rate was good in the upper ranges of my primary training zone.

Snowshoe hiking behind Labonte's Cabin and Santiago Express at Keystone Resort
Snowshoe hiking behind Labonte’s Cabin and Santiago Express at Keystone Resort

After snowshoe hiking 3.1 miles (about 5k) I got to the base of the lifts at Keystone Resort. This is the road that the Ski Patrol uses to access the Outback and North Peak area of Keystone. I took a few pics and turned back toward the paved road with the target of doing a 10K, about 6.2 miles. I popped off my snowshoes at the shuttle bus stop. The roads were really bad from the snowstorm. I was glad to get to the hot tub after that. I was dressed very lightly since my intent was to go fast enough to stay warm.

Snowshoe Hiking Video

Is snowshoe hiking a good workout?

By the time I was done with my snowshoe hike I really felt the difference with that extra pound or so on each foot. I was wearing heavy goretex trail running shoes and I could feel the snowshoe bindings in a few spots on my foot. My legs were pretty tired. My stats from Movescount.com CLICK HERE show that I have a 29 hour recovery period coming my way after burning 1097 calories. If you go to that link to check it out, you will see some of the stats in Metric unless you register. Here’s a screenshot from my account so you can see my heart rate zones and other information to evaluate whether snowshoe hiking could be good cross training in your plan.

Snowshoe hiking stats on Suunto Movescount website
Snowshoe hiking stats on Suunto Movescount website

Snowshoe Hiking Tips:

Dress appropriate to your movement and speed and your body will go that fast. If you’re dressed like the Michelin Man you will shuffle along at a 1.0 MPH pace. Your hike will take forever. You might not have fun unless your goal is to count pine cones.

Same for shoes. You can go in Sorel style Mukluks or whatever you want. I’ve been on Denali in Everest Style System Boots (the big heavy boots with built in gaiters for high altitude and frigid temps) with snowshoes. I was wearing heavy running shoes today. The snowshoe racers wear racing flats with their snowshoes.

Learn to use a Nordic Grip on your trekking poles. This will allow you the most flexibility in using them for pushing off as well as balance. They’re not there to hold you up while shuffling. In the video I had to carry my poles in one hand so I could hold the camera in the other, so you don’t get to see pole action. I’ll try to get a non-selfie shot for you so you can see it.

Snowshoe Hiking Keystone Gulch GPS Track

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This won’t be my last time snowshoe hiking this winter. I’ll keep you up to date on how it works out for me. If you have any questions or suggestions, please drop me a note below in the comments. Thanks.