You get three major advantages from a snowshoe that you do not get from a boot or shoe alone: Floatation, traction and stability.
Floatation is the ability of a snowshoe to limit how far your feet sink down into deep or soft snow. If you have ever “post holed” by trying to cross deep snow without snowshoes, you know what its about.
Traction is what distinguishes snowshoes from just about every other winter sport (i.e. no sliding). Snow, ice and the things that they cover are slippery, and the metal claw like devices on the bottom of snowshoes give you the grip to go or stop as you wish.
Snow can be an uneven surface and hide objects beneath its surface. The extra width and length of snowshoes help you maintain your balance when you encounter these irregularities. Sprained ankles are virtually unheard of in snowshoeing.
There are times when you are snowshoeing when you are benefiting from all three of these advantages. At other times, you may only need one or two.
There are still other times, such as snowshoeing along on a flat, smooth, hard machine groomed trail, when the snowshoe gives you no advantage and is actually a handicap. If you understand, you might probably still wear snowshoes in these conditions for other reasons – just as you might run 26.2 miles on a road instead of driving a car. Or, possibly walking on a trail instead of riding a mountain bike. Or, moving some iron up and down instead of moving bricks at a local construction site.
Snowshoeing can be transportation, but it can also be a sport, just recreation, cross-training, a game, or just an end in itself.
You can wear snowshoes for many reasons, or perhaps for no particular reason at all.