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Why Do Snowshoes Have Tails? (Explained for Beginners)

Who doesn’t enjoy walking and hiking over snow using snowshoes, right? It gives us the pleasure to remain afloat over both thin and thick snow.

However, your curious mind might be wondering the reason behind the addition of tails on your snowshoes. Read on to get all the answers you are looking for.

Why do snowshoes have tails?

The trail snowshoes basically feature two types of tails. The main reason behind the addition of tails is to provide more ease and maximum flotation while walking over the snow. They also prevent the snowshoe from swinging sideways or getting hung up, ensuring a satisfactory snowshoeing experience.

The two types of tails on the snowshoe are rounded tails and pointed tails. Although both of them will keep your snowshoes pointing forward at all times, their main functions are a bit different.

The pointed tails of the snowshoe remove any uneven snow piles while waking. Thus, they will give you more ease and comfort during snowshoeing.

Then again, the rounded tails have a larger surface area compared to the pointed ones. Its primary function is to provide more stability and maximum flotation while walking over the snow.

The tails of the snowshoe will help you walk on snow at the same pace for an extended period of time. It will even produce enough friction to keep you stable on very slippery snow.

What are snowshoe flotation tails?

As the name implies, the snowshoe flotation tails are detachable accessories that provide on-demand flotation during snowshoeing. They can be attached to a snowshoe for enhancing flotation in deep snow and improve your stability.

Attaching the floating tails into a snowshoe is very easy. In fact, you will be surprised by the fact that you won’t even have to remove your shoe while adding these tails.

To connect these tails into your snowshoe, you will just have to slip them on and twist the adjustment knob. You can immediately start walking over the snow after putting them on.

One of the best features of the flotation tails is that they are incredibly lightweight and packable. Due to its compact formation, it will take minimum space in your backpack. So, you will be able to carry these tails on any backpacking trips.

Why do snowshoes have tails?

Before you understand why snowshoes have tails, you need to know that every type of snowshoes doesn’t come with tails. There are two types of snowshoes, and they are Bearpaw and trail. Among them, the trail snowshoes usually have tails.

Again, the trail snowshoes have two types of tails, which are rounded and pointed tails.

The rounded tails are made to enhance the surface area, offering optimum floatation, more balance, and stability. They can keep you afloat even with heavy packing as it increases the surface area.

The pointed tails of snowshoes can make walking on snow easier for you as they will keep your legs closer together at all times.

Now that you grasp the basics of snowshoe tails, it is time for you to understand why the tails are used on the shoes.

There are numerous reasons for the attachment of tails on the snowshoes.


One of the main reasons for snowshoes to have tails is to provide maximum flotation over thin ice.


Due to the increase of surface area, walking on snow becomes more stable, which is also one of the major perks of having tails on snowshoes. As a result, the chance of accidental falls and slipping while walking over snow reduces.

Prevents from getting stuck in the snow:

Another prime reason for the availability of tails on snowshoes is that it prevents the shoe from getting stuck on deep snow. This is possible because the tails cut through any uneven snow piles while snowshoeing.

Prevent swinging:

Last but not least, the snowshoe tails prevent the shoes from swinging side to side. This will make sure that you have a healthy posture and form while snowshoeing.

How do you attach MSR Lightning Tails?

The MSR lightning tails are quite effortless to attach, and you can do it while wearing your winter gloves and snowshoes. To connect the MSR tails to your snowshoes, you won’t need any additional tools.

Let’s have a look at the steps for attaching MSR lightning tails.

Get the right MSR lightning tails:

The length of the MSR lightning tails can largely impact your snowshoeing experience.

If you attach the tails properly but don’t get the suitable ones, you won’t be able to walk over snow with ease. So, it is crucial to get the MSR lightning tails of the right size.

The length of the lighting tails is usually in the range of 4 inches to 8 inches. Among which, the most commonly used MSR lightning tails are 5 inches and 6 inches in length. They can be used for hiking on both deep and thin snow.

Slide the tails entangle to the back end of the snowshoe:

Now that you have chosen the perfect MSR lightning tail for your shoe, you should understand how you will be able to attach them.

To begin with, clasp the entangle of the lighting tail and slide it over the back end of the shoe. You will find a bolt at the last part of the shoe where the tails will get locked at a 45 degrees angle.

Pull up the tail:

There is a grab loop available in every MSR lightning tails. Using those garb loops, pull up the tails to get them aligned with the snowshoes.

Stretch the fabric:

Finally, to secure the lighting tails in place, stretch the fabric over the back of the shoe.

Once you are done, you can start snowshoeing instantly.

Why do snowshoes have a large surface area?

The snowshoes have a larger surface area compared to the regular shoes to keep you afloat even in very deep snow.

The higher surface area makes sure that enough snow supports your body weight while walking over the snow. In addition to that, it also helps to redistribute the pressure that falls on the snow from above.

As a result of the large surface area of snowshoes, your feet will remain dry by not sinking through the snow.

Do snowshoes have a left and right?

Most of the snowshoes have left and right markings on them. Nevertheless, the universal snowshoes usually fit both left and right foot.

However, to prevent the shoes from getting too tight while walking, it is recommended to wear snowshoes with the straps facing the outside side of the shoe.

Do snowshoes come in sizes?

Yes, the snowshoes come in different sizes. The sizes are mainly determined according to the weight of the person.

Although the snowshoes are genderless, the mens’ snowshoes are broader than that of women.

The most popular size for men is 10 inches wide and 25 to 27 inches long. Then again, the usual size for women is 22 to 25 inches long and seven inches wide.

Here is the list of sizes according to weight, which will help you know your snowshoe size.

  • For the weight of 80 pounds or lower, the suitable size is 17 inches.
  • The 22-inch models have a maximum capacity of 150 pounds.
  • The 25-inch units go up to 175 pounds.
  • The 30-inch snowshoes are rated to support 220 pounds.
  • For weight above 220 pounds, you should go 35-inch snowshoes.

That being said, keep in mind to add the weight of your gear along with your body weight before determining a particular size.

Do snowshoes work in mud & sand?

Yes, snowshoes usually work perfectly for walking in the sand. However, there is no real evidence of its functionality in mud.

The snowshoes work in sand due to the fact that the sands’ coefficient of friction is higher than that of snow.

Do snowshoes require special boots?

You won’t need any special type of boots for your snowshoes as they can be adjusted to fit almost any shoes. As a result, you should wear a pair of boots that keeps your feet safe and dry.

Do snowshoes have a weight limit?

Since snowshoes will keep you above the snow by spreading your weight on the snow, they have a weight limit. The weight limit varies from size to size.

If your weight goes above the weight, it won’t be able to prevent your feet from sinking in the snow. So, you should check the weight limit before purchasing a pair.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why Do Snowshoes Keep You from Sinking?

Can You Wear Snowboard Boots with Snowshoes?

Can You Wear Running Shoes With Snowshoes?

Do Snowshoes Have a Left and Right?