The Sandshoeing Experience: Will Snowshoes Work on Sand?

With all of the more recent articles and discussions about using snowshoes on the sand, I had to give it a try. Living in San Diego, there is some 70 miles (113 km) of coastline that provide plenty of opportunities to see what sandshoeing is all about or at least get a feel for it to see whether snowshoes work on sand. I decided to go to Coronado for a few reasons. First, there is a big, wide beach with varying sand depths. Second, there are small dunes of some sort, and third, it is simply beautiful there.

I put on my Altas Elektra snowshoes and set out in the vicinity of the main lifeguard tower, going directly towards the small dunes. The dunes were no more than 4-5 feet in height, I would guess. Then, I stepped slowly and deliberately. I also walked/cruised, trying to pay no attention to the fact that I was snowshoeing on the sand. Eventually, I stepped in the direction of the beach and wandered there a little while. After that, I made my way back into the dunes area. All in all, I spent an hour sandshoeing at Coronado beach.

man in background using snowshoes on sand with ocean view in distance and dunes all around

Coronado offers a wide beach, small dunes, and various depths of sand – perfect for sandshoeing. Photo: Cheryl O’Brien

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The Sandshoeing Experience

Here is my assessment of whether snowshoes work in the sand from that one sandshoeing experience.

Floatation on the Sand

The float is there for sure. Undoubtedly, it is easier to walk on the sand in snowshoes than in a pair of shoes, flip flops/thongs, or sandals. The wider platform of the snowshoes provides more stability.

I do enjoy/prefer walking on the beach barefoot versus the snowshoes, though. Why? It’s the beach! However, one advantage snowshoes would have over barefoot is when the sand is hot and burns your feet. A beach hike in summer is possible with snowshoes on your feet.

In fact, I would offer that sandshoeing at the beach in the form of a longer-distance hike is a great alternative for getting some exercise!

Read More: The Sandshoeing Days of Summer

man using snowshoes on a beach with tower in background

When using your snowshoes in the sand, make sure to clean them afterward to remove sand grains and saltwater. Photo: Cheryl O’Brien

How Sand/Saltwater Affects Snowshoes

When considering the beach, the one area I did not use the snowshoes was down by the water. There, the sand is firm, and it’s easier for barefoot or shoed feet to walk.

More importantly, I did not take my snowshoes down there because saltwater/ocean water is very corrosive. Having ocean water wash over the snowshoes was not something I wanted to do. Considering that corrosiveness, I immediately washed my snowshoes with fresh water when I got home, as I do with all beach/ocean gear. It is essential to do that if you want to have your equipment last longer. The salty air does impact the long-term wear of everything at the beach.

Along the lines of corrosiveness, when I was done sandshoeing, I inspected my snowshoes and noticed sand in all of the nooks and crannies of the bindings and decking of the snowshoes. The question that immediately popped into my head was: over time, would the grittiness of sand cause more wear and tear on the snowshoes than when using them on snow? My immediate reaction was: yes. Thus, washing the sand off of the snowshoes when you are done sandshoeing is very important.

Read Next: Try Your Snowshoes on Sand and Go Sandshoeing

man on snowshoes standing on dune near beach

When using my snowshoes on the small dunes, the crampons were helpful and provided more sure-footedness than shoes. Photo: Cheryl O’Brien

The Grip on the Sand

On the small dunes, going up and down and traversing them felt very similar to snowshoeing. I will not say it was the same, as I felt like there was not quite the stick of the crampon on the sand as there is when in snow. Sure, the kind of snow could affect that assessment.

Overall, though, I felt that walking on the dunes and wanting that assuredness, the sure-footedness, was there, certainly more than walking in “regular” shoes or flip-flops/sandals.

Kicking Up Sand

I forgot to bring my gaiters on this outing. Gaiters are necessary, and there are a few varieties. Sand kicked up on the back of my legs a little and fell into my shoes. By the time I was done with my outing, I had about a tablespoon of sand in my shoes. Sand in shoes could cause rubbing and blister issues. So, don’t forget your gaiters (like the Kahtoola INSTgaiter)!

close up of snowshoes in sand while man is walking

Gaiters are recommended, so you don’t get sand in your shoes when sandshoeing. Photo: Cheryl O’Brien

Give Sandshoeing a Try

Again, and in sum, sandshoeing at the beach is a great way to mix it up when considering the myriad beach activities one can do. Bring gaiters, too, and perhaps trekking poles, and go! When done, be sure to wash/rinse your gear off in freshwater, getting the sand and any salt deposits off of your snowshoes.

Have you tried sandshoeing yet? If so, do you think snowshoes work well on sand, what was your experience, and what differences did you notice from the snow? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Read Next: Sandshoeing for the WWF Nature 5K

About the author

James Murren

James Murren is the author of 3 books and numerous outdoor adventure and travel articles. More of his writings are available at:

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