Thursday, April 13, 2006


Nordic Snowshoeing - Introduction #1

With thanks to Heathley Clarke of for producing this article.

This article introduces Nordic Snowshoeing, as part of the Nordic Fitness family of exercises, and as a natural extension to Winter Nordic Walking.

Winter Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking is not simply a Summer or warm weather exercise; it’s a year-round way of maintaining a health and fitness lifestyle – and that includes making best use of the nice white stuff: Snow!

Your Nordic Walking technique works perfectly well in the Winter as well as at all other times of the year. In particular, when there is snow on the ground, effective use of the spike or tip on your Nordic Walking poles maintains good rhythm and cadence, and aids balance and posture, especially if the surface under foot is a little slippery.

I would recommend the use of some trainers or water-resistant running shoes that have good jagged teeth, or, preferably with tiny spikes that grip the snow/ice perfectly; ‘Icebugs’ are a popular choice of trainers for Winter Nordic Walking enthusiasts.

Nordic Snowshoeing

An extension to Nordic Winter Walking is Nordic Snowshoeing – an exciting and tremendously energetic way of experiencing crystal clean snowfields or your favourite tracks. Using your Nordic Walking poles – replacing the existing spike/tip with special Snowshoe Baskets – you can still exercise your walking technique whilst exaggerating lower-body workouts, as well as upper-body.

Nordic Snowshoeing is currently experiencing a boom in popularity, especially in Europe, and uses many different types of Snowshoes, depending on whether you are a beginner, or adventure athlete seeking demanding and challenging terrain!

Using water-resistant trainers or hiking boots (plus gaiters, if preferred), you strap yourself into the comfortable bindings, attached in the toe, mid-foot and heal areas, and off you go. The Snowshoes angle at the toe to allow natural foot rolling movements, with powerful and sharp metal claws underneath to grip ice and maintain a firm stance in the snow.

Choosing Snowshoes

There are various sizes and types of Snowshoe, depending on the type of terrain you wish to walk in; the type of snow – whether hard-packed crud, or fresh powder; and, most importantly, your weight.

The size of the Snowshoe is dependent upon your weight, and most manufacturers, or your local hire store, will advise on the most suitable size, but the general principles are:
The larger the surface area of the Snowshoe, the greater the flotation in the snow;
The smaller the surface area of the Snowshoe, the greater the manoeuvrability in the snow.
Your Workout – deep snow style!

The depth, texture and gradient of terrain will determine the challenges you will face in your Nordic Snowshoe workout, however, as with Nordic Walking, you determine the amount of effort you wish to put in. In deep snow the effort levels to maintain momentum become higher, hence the exaggerated lower-body workouts with Nordic Snowshoeing.

The technique for Nordic Snowshoeing is to maintain a slightly wider stance when walking, as the Snowshoes can be quite wide. Then, imagine walking up 2 or 3 steps on a staircase, instead of 1, each stride, for 1-2 hours. That’s the type of effort required, as the feet (and, therefore, the Snowshoes) need to clear the snow level for each stride.

This increases if you start to run, or the gradient steepens. Your arm movements still need to push into the Nordic Walking poles, and you’ll find that they significantly aid forward momentum, as it’s quite easy to become entrenched within deep snow if this is not maintained.

Heart rates for Nordic Snowshoeing can increase significantly over and above those for normal or Winter Nordic Walking: recent estimates based on personal workouts averaged upto 25% higher, simply due to the increased work required in clearing my feet from the deep snow. This increased when running on flat terrain, and down steep inclines.

Of course, if deep snow is not your style, or if your prefer a more relaxed Nordic Snowshoe workout, walking in prepared and cleared tracks is easily achieved.

Snowshoeing versus Nordic Walking?

They’re both equally attractive to the Nordic junkie! With Nordic Snowshoeing the major emphasis is on fun in deep snow, where the main characteristics of Nordic Walking may not seem as practical. However, you’re using the same Nordic Walking poles, even the same footwear, so why try it the next time you have snow in your back yard!

The next article of Nordic Snowshoeing will focus on advanced walking techniques and variations, more advice on choice of Snowshoes and fitting, and walking in different types of snow.


Heathley Clarke specialises in Nordic Fitness sports instruction: Nordic Walking, Nordic Blading, Nordic Skiing. Contact him at


Dear David,
I quite enjoy your website. The diversity and depth of your collected articles has been a great help to me.

This weekend I noticed an article on the "New York Times" website which discusses Baby Boomers, and the damage that has been done to their bodies by engaging in high impact sports activities. It is titled "Baby Boomers Stay Active, and So Do Their Doctors". I was surprised to find that orthopedic surgeons now have a name for these overuse injuries, "boomeritis".

Nordic Walking (and the associated Nordic fitness sports), are all low impact, and would be much recommended by the doctors interviewed for this story.

If you can't find the article at the online New York Times (under Health), try looking at the website of the American Academy of Orthodpedic Surgeons:

The website is very informative. Cross training, workout schedules, moderation, and low impact activities are all described clearly. Nordic Walking fits all the doctors' criteria, but it looks like they have not heard of it.... yet!

All the best, Don
Dear Heathley,
Thank you for the informative article. My mates and I have been Nordic Snowshoeing for this past winter in the mountains of coastal British Columbia. We cross country ski when the conditions are good, and we snowshoe when they are not.

Several of my friends are photographers, and they only snowshoe because it gives them a better platform from which to take photos. They can explore the terrain more freely. They also use poles.

We are all ardent Nordic Walkers, and we have found that light Nordic Walking poles work very well for snowshoe trips. LEKI NW poles have easily interchangable baskets, so we bought snow baskets to go on our LEKI Supremes. The Nordic Walking poles that are adjustable have been best, because we need them to be slightly longer when we snowshoe.

As you know so well, the term nordic-fitness probably best describes the full year of activities that include Nordic Walking, Nordic Blading, Nordic Snowshoeing, and Nordic Skiing (either classic or freestyle). It is a four season fitness system that works.
Cheers, Don
I love Nordic snowshoeing and Nordic walking, been at it for 8 years now. I walked before, but putting a pair of poles in my hands put a whole new spin on exercise. My upper body tone, I walk much taller and I can snowshoe all day, then do it all again the next day. (no pain) I am 48 years old and I feel 25. I use a old pair of Heron snowshoes my father gave me on my 40 birthday and hope for lots of snow. I go out everyday for two hours to Trowbridge just outside the city of Thunder Bay. There is a small (small) mountain that take about two hours on snowshoes which is great until they groom it for the skiers, once groomed we head farther into the bush and other trails. If your going to start Nordic snowshoeing or walking go with someone you don't know that well and has not Nordic before. You have a harder time saying no to that person (a good friend will let you say not today), you can compare notes, and it feels a bit weird at first so at least you can feel weird with someone. Doing the Nordic thing has tone my whole body. I walked a lot for years which help me to lose 60 pounds but I never could tone with just that. Even my stomach muscle are flat and hard because of Nordic walking and snowshoeing. I think I will be doing the Nordic thing for a long time to come.
Here's hoping I die with my snowshoes on, Nordicsnowshoeingjunkie
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