01/29/2016 12:49 EST | Updated 01/29/2017 05:12 EST

How To Get Started With Snowshoeing

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couple with snowshoes walking at Mountain Top

I love being outdoors and continue to explore new ways to enjoy nature and get fit!

I recently spoke with Michael Connor, the events coordinator at Toronto's MEC store. He shared with me the top tips on how you can start snowshoeing. This is an easy activity to learn, is low-cost and is an amazing way to stay healthy.

How should newbies choose a pair of snowshoes?

The most important part of choosing a snowshoe is picking the right size. All snowshoes sink. The ideal size of shoe is the smallest size that supports your weight on the snow that you'll typically be snowshoeing on. It's not an exact science.

Snowshoe makers print rough weight guides on their shoes and the staff at a reputable snow sports shop can tweak these recommendations to a user's specific snowshoe needs.

As snowshoes get more expensive, they get lighter and stronger. Also, premium snowshoes will have bindings that are easier to put on and take off. You can expect that all but the simplest models of snowshoes will have a heel raiser. This is a mechanism that you flip up when going up hill, to relieve the strain on your Achilles tendon and the muscles in the back of your legs.

Many manufactures make women's specific shoes that are narrower through the tails than corresponding men's models. This is to account for the difference in gait between men and women.

How to choose the right poles

Ideally snowshoe poles are adjustable. On flat level ground you set them to the same length as a down hill ski pole. This means a length that gives you a straight wrist and your elbow bent at 90 degrees: the position at which you arm is strongest.

When going up steep slopes, you shorten the pole. When descending, you lengthen the pole. Poles with two sections are stronger than three-section poles, and "flick-lock" mechanisms are more reliable than twist locking systems.

What should you wear when snowshoeing?

When you go snowshoeing you should wear the same gear as you would wear for the activity and temperature if there were no snow. This includes footwear.

For example, if you feel like chasing your dog around a field for half an hour, wear a pair of waterproof trail running shoes and the same clothes you would wear to trail run at that temperature.

If your plan is to snowshoe out onto the middle of a lake to wait for the sun to rise for a photograph, wear big, insulated pack boots and lots of warm insulated layers to keep you warm while being inactive.

Snowshoe bindings will accommodate just about any size of boot. Generally a hiking-style boot that's appropriate to the air temperature works well for snowshoeing. Deep, loose snow gaiters do a good job keeping snow out of boots and pants while adding warmth.

How can you ensure your snowshoes fit correctly?

Snowshoe bindings should be snug, but not too tight. Being careful to place the toe carefully in the binding before tightening the straps makes it easier to go a good job. Once you've tightened the straps, lift each foot and snowshoe and give them a wee shake. You'll know right away if the binding needs further tightening.

Any more tips for the newbie snowshoer?

Modern snowshoes are a great combination of design and material choices. Avoid walking on asphalt and concrete with your snowshoes. These abrasive surfaces grind down crampons and wear away nylon. If you need to travel over bare roads, sidewalks or car parks, take the shoes off and carry them.

I am going to use these amazing tips when I am out on the snowshoe trails!

Let's have the best winter ever!!

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