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There are three basic types of snowshoes for different types of terrain. The Green Mountain (resembling a long loaf of bread) and modified bear-paw (which looks more like a football) shoes are good for packed snow and ice. They enable the user to turn quickly and can go over rough terrain.

Softer snow requires the type of shoe that people most often think about for snowshoeing. The Michigan shoe looks like an elongated tennis racquet and is good for long treks. The handle-like tail on the back helps to stabilize the shoe and point the wearer in the right direction.

Before the snowshoe comes your own shoe, and any winter boot will do. Rubber-soled hunting books are often the best, though. Hard-soled shoes have a tendency to wear out the snowshoe.

Don’t expect to be an expert right away--it’s harder than it looks! And don’t be afraid to use a ski pole or walking stick when first starting out. In fact, it’s a good idea to approach learning how to snowshoe the same way you would learning how to ski. Keep your knees bent and spread your feet apart as far as possible for normal walking. This spreads your weight out and allows the shoe to do its job; that is, keeping you on the snow rather than in it.

Lift one shoe over the edge of the other and move in a sort of sliding motion. You may find that you can glide downhill--don’t worry, it’s not cheating. The best way to “ski” down the hills is to put the toe of one shoe behind the heel of the other and lean slightly backwards.

Most utilitarian shoes are made of plastic or metal, but don’t take plastic on long-distance trips. More traditional and only slightly less reliable are shoes made of wood, usually white ash. Another advantage of these shoes is their authenticity. They are also cheaper than metal shoes, which can run into the several-hundred dollar range.