Using Snowshoes on the Sand for Fitness: There is No Off-Season

Written by Randy Philpotts for Snowshoe Magazine and republished here with permission. Photos: Randy Philpotts. To learn more about snowshoeing check out ATRA’s dedicated snowshoe page with a calendar of events, news and information about the U.S. Snowshoe National Championships at:

To stay in incredible physical form during the snowshoeing off-season, you need to have a general training plan that involves endurance training and other forms of exercise. This plan helps your muscles remember how to work when it is time for the snow. One activity you’ll want to add to your training plan is sandshoeing. Here we answer your questions about using your snowshoes on the sand or sandshoeing for fitness.

What is sandshoeing?

First, what is sandshoeing? Sandshoeing is an outdoor sport practiced during your leisure time, whether that’s for recreation, fitness, or cross-training. It’s as simple as it sounds. Grab your snowshoes and head to your nearest beach or dunes. Then, choose the intensity at which you walk or run. Sandshoeing can be a solo activity or a way to connect with others of all ages.

If you want to add an extra challenge and extra stability, you can use Nordic walking poles for sandshoeing. Nordic walking can improve fitness, especially for those unable to complete resistance training or high-impact sports. Nordic walking poles can also improve balance and reduce neck pain.

These poles can be height adjustable, are designed to propel you forwards more quickly, and use all the muscle groups. Unlike hiking, you don’t need to hold the poles vertically in front of the body but can orient them backward, like in cross-country skiing.


Is sandshoeing cardio / aerobic exercise?

Cardio and aerobic exercise increase your heart rate and use oxygen. In sandshoeing, just like snowshoeing, you work your muscles and push your heart and lungs to work hard. On a long-term basis, this activity makes your heart stronger and more efficient.

So, good news: Sandshoeing is a good cardio exercise — especially if you go at a brisk pace of at least 3 miles per hour and get your heart rate up. Furthermore, if you can walk for at least 30 minutes every day, you can further your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones, and reduce the risk of developing certain conditions and diseases.

How fast can you sandshoe?

Speed depends on intensity, but in my case, around 4 mph or about 24 minutes a mile.

My personal results clearly show that you can increase – and maintain – your walking speed well beyond a brisk walking pace. Furthermore, if you can maintain this brisk pace throughout your workout, this is great news for your heart and the rest of your body.

What’s a good time to walk 5k?

Five kilometers equals 3.1 miles and is a great way to use your snowshoes on the sand for increased fitness. At a typical walking pace, you can walk a 5k in 45 minutes. If you have a slower pace, you might take 60 minutes or more.

When choosing a 5K event, make sure it welcomes sandshoers a long enough time limit so you can comfortably finish, like Snowshoe Magazine’s upcoming Sandshoeing 5K Challenge from July 1st – 7th!

Do I have to modify my snowshoes?

If you are using aluminum models, you can simply remove your toe crampons. I use Redfeather Hike snowshoes, and this modification allowed a much more efficient stride with less sand resistance.

The lack of extra weight also and less backsplash from the sand are also a plus. You will feel as if you are floating across the sand, with great buoyancy, aka float on top of the sand.

Since the sand and saltwater can cause wear and tear on your snowshoes, even with modification, just make sure to clean your snowshoes after every outing to help preserve them.


What do I need to do to prepare?

Make sure to stretch before, after a brief warm-up, and after to keep your muscles loose.

Also, make sure to stay hydrated no matter the temperature, and bring along a beverage like water or Gatorade. You can also bring a small backpack for extras like energy bars and layers since it gets breezy by the shore.

Finally, carry binoculars and a camera to take in all that nature has to offer.

How much fun can you have with sandshoeing?

The fun is as unlimited as one’s imagination!

It all begins before the sunrises… the moment I step outside my car. The air is crisp, the sun is just cresting the dunes, and waves on the ocean have a rhythmic syncopation all their own. The first 20 minutes are spent hiking up and through the dunes to get the heart pumping. Then it’s on to deep sand just off the dunes and ultimately out and across the flats to the shore. Here we meet the rush of the waves but not too close. I see the early surf casters fishing, birds flying overhead, and endless miles of sandy beach.

PRO TIP: If you’re ready for a snowshoe race this winter, check out the ATRA national snowshoe events calendar.

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