Northern Lites Elite Race Running Snowshoe Review

Keep running, even in the snow

By: Kristi Teplitz + Save to a List

It’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and there’s snow on the ground (some places). Spring running races are just around the corner, and winter races are in full swing; don’t let the snow deter you from your training!

Enter running snowshoes!

There are a surprising amount of running-specific snowshoes out there. But let's start by talking about running in snowshoes in general. At first, regardless of the snowshoes you choose, it feels awkward, but it doesn't take that long to get used to the feeling. If your snowshoes are too wide, it feels like you're running like you have a horse between your legs, and you risk stepping on them and falling and looking like 'that guy/gal'. 

Snowshoes can be heavy, so that light-on-your-feet feeling you get when running on roads/dirt will feel different. And, of course, the flip flop feeling while wearing snowshoes in general does not go away while running in them; it does feel weird at first, but it really just takes some getting used to. With the right snowshoes, within a few hundred feet of running in them you'll be used to the feeling and on your way. 

On to my review:

Northern Lites Snowshoes are some of the lightest snowshoes on the market. This USA-based (and made) company started in 1992 and focuses on making the snowshoe sport accessible by creating light, durable, and super easy to use snowshoes. For more information, read this article about the brand. 

I had a chance to test the Northern Lites Elite Race snowshoes this winter. Many race snowshoes are relatively small - just a bit larger than your typical running shoe. When you're in powder though, you need more floatation. The Elite Race snowshoes are 8 ounces lighter than the Northern Lites Elite Snowshoes, but you still get the same surface area of 164 square inches, which is plenty to keep you afloat in powder. (For comparison, the brand's Race Snowshoes (ones that are are closer to the actual size of your shoe) and Race Wave Snowshoes both have surface areas of 130 square inches, which complies with the smaller minimum standard the 120 square inches US Snowshoe Association mandates.) 

On trails that are packed down, less surface area is just fine. But, sometimes you're one of the first ones out after a snowstorm and the one recreating the trail, and you'll be happy you have the extra surface area of the Elite Race snowshoes. These snowshoes are so light anyway, I didn't feel like I was compromising weight for efficiency in the snow. 

As for bindings, the Elite Race snowshoes come with your choice of either Northern Lites’ Speed Bindings and cleats or their Tru Trak Bindings. This allows you to customize your running experience by what works best for your body, and your feet. I chose the Speed Bindings. I was impressed at how quickly you can put these on, and they cinch down on your shoe nicely, especially with the heel strap, and I never worried about them becoming loose or undone. The 'tail' of the extra nylon cord from the bindings was a bit long as you can see in the photo below, and I wish there was a way to tuck it into the snowshoe itself, but I just tucked it into my laces and went on my way with no issue. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of snowshoes and running snowshoes on the market. What makes Northern Lites as a brand stand out is how light they are. The ultra-lightweight, aerospace-grade aluminum frames they use in all of their products are noticeably lighter than competitors', especially their entire race line. And even though the Elite Race snowshoe has a larger surface area than their Race and Race Wave snowshoes, they never felt too bulky to run with, and I was happy to have the extra surface area when I was in situations to blaze my own trail, and they're only 34 ounces per pair.

For more information, check out their product page here

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