Nordic skiers Brynia Westra and Eric Morris, both of Ellsworth, pass a trail user wearing foam snowshoes at Inland Woods + Trails. Foam snowshoes are rented or sold at only a handful of Nordic centers and retailers in Maine. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

BETHEL — Brynia Westra and Eric Morris of Ellsworth stopped on their Nordic ski outing in February and stared at the odd-looking snowshoes being used by another person on the Nordic trail system at Inland Woods + Trails. 

“They look like you can run in them. I don’t snowshoe but those look so different,” said Westra as she leaned on her ski poles to get a closer look. “I’d like to try hiking in them. They look so accessible.”

Foam snowshoes, the newest snowshoes on the market, are part running shoe, part bedroom slipper and part snowshoe. They are made of ethylene-vinyl acetate, the same material used in today’s high-end running shoes. These modern snow toys are smaller and narrower than the modern aluminum snowshoes, or the large, traditional wooden ones. Molded in a rocking-shape design and incredibly light, they allow a user to walk with a more natural gait. These snowshoes do not require you walk bowlegged, so there’s less strain on your back.

The rocker-shape design was inspired by the Hoka trail running shoe, said Tanner Dunn, vice president at Crescent Moon, one of the first companies to roll out foam snowshoes. The military-grade velcro used to strap the foam snowshoes on results in a snug, tight fit, unlike with some of the older aluminum models. 

Crescent Moon’s foam snowshoes hit the market in 2017 and were followed a few years later by a similar model by the French company Quechua. So far the bent, foam-padded snowshoes make up a small fraction of the snowshoe market, which is dominated by aluminum snowshoes. Foam snowshoes likely account for less than 1% of the snowshoe market in the United States, Dunn estimated. At the Snowsports Industries America, Bill Stone agreed with that figure given that the National Product Data, which tracks sporting equipment in the U.S., couldn’t track down to that minute level of the market.

Foam snowshoes do not float well in soft, deep powder because of the small footprint of these shoes. They weigh less than 3 pounds, 9 ounces, and as little as 2 pounds, 10 ounces. While they have some grip and traction, they don’t have the steel crampons or claws of aluminum snowshoe models – many of which weigh more than 4 pounds – so they are not recommended for mountain ascents that bring icy paths. Where foam snowshoes are simply ideal is on groomed Nordic trails.


“They feel like big slippers, more than snowshoes. And the foam keeps your feet warm on cold days,” said Eric Boyle-Wight, the operations manager at Inland Woods + Trails, which rents the foam snowshoes.

Across town at Carter’s X-C Ski Shop and Center where they are also rented to trail users, the staff uses them to travel to and from the rental cabins on the trail network.

“We love them here. They are fabulous,” said Jes Carter, owners of the ski center.

A new design of snowshoe, constructed of foam, are being used at the Bethel Inn Nordic center. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

At the moment Crescent Moon’s foam snowshoes are carried at only about a dozen outdoor outfitters in Maine, and reviews are mixed.

Foam snowshoes have been carried at Northern Lights Maine in Farmington, but store manager Mike Greenlaw said it’s clear folks in that wild mountain region need a more rugged snowshoe.

“We’ve sold them for a few years. When we first ordered them they were very well received. They’re very cool. But the majority of the snowshoes we sell are for mostly forest-type of people: land surveyors, maple syrup producers – people who need an aggressive snowshoe rather than recreational trail walking,” Greenlaw said.


But in Bethel, a town with two large Nordic centers, the new snowshoes have drawn fans, said Jonathan Goldberg, owner of True North Adventureware. The Norway Memorial Library, 30 minutes away, bought several pairs from Goldberg’s store to rent out to library visitors.

“The appeal is the simplicity. They have limited traction, but they’re easy to get on and off, they’re lightweight. They’re great for running and walking,” Goldberg said.

But for those who want to, say, ascend Mount Washington, Goldberg said foam snowshoes are not the outdoor gear to use.

“For that you want a pretty technical snowshoe, something with bigger crampons underfoot for mixed terrain with ice. But if you want to walk around your backyard, foam snowshoes are perfect for that,” Goldberg said.

Andrew Raymond in Bethel got a pair of foam snowshoes for his mother for her birthday in January to give her a different option when conditions on the Nordic trails and fat-bike trails are not ideal.

“Now she has something else in her arsenal of outdoor toys. I took a chance. They looked cool. She used them instantly,” Raymond said.


Betsy Raymond’s husband, Charlie, wanted a pair, as well.

“They were sold out in town, so we drove in a snowstorm all the way to Kittery Trading Post. That’s how much he wanted to be out there on them with me,” Betsy Raymond said. “I tell you what, we snowshoed (recently) at Valentine Farm in Bethel and passed maybe four to five groups walking through the woods. Every single group stopped us to ask: ‘What are those? They look fun and crazy.’ They get a lot of attention.”

Visitors wearing aluminum snowshoes at Inland Woods + Trails stop to inspect the foam snowshoes wore by another trail user. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Melinda Remington of Bethel rented a pair of the foam snowshoes at Inland Woods + Trails. After two hours she returned to the ski center to buy them. Since Remington was looking for different ways to stay active after hurting her back two years ago, and cross-country skiing was no longer possible, the foam snowshoes gave her a winning option. They offered easy travel, a lightweight gear option, and the ability to walk using her normal gait on snow.

Remington still owns a pair of old aluminum snowshoes. She uses them now to pack down trails on her six acres that she can then walk on using her foam snowshoes. And when she’s out on the Inland Woods + Trails network using them, Remington said she’s often stopped and asked about the funky looking snowshoes.

“It’s so important to stay active. You can’t stay in the house all the time. We need to get outside. They give me hope,” said the former high school health teacher.

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