Friday, March 06, 2020

Atlas Snowshoe Run Review

Article by Sam Winebaum

Atlas Snowshoe Run ($250) Now on Sale for $199.99

I am literally a lifelong snowshoer. Before I started running in the 1970's, I was out and about in the White Mountains of New Hampshire winter hiking on "shoes". My first pair had an aluminum frame and gut deck and leather binding, a misery to adjust and with poor foot hold. A snowshoe is a snowshoe and what has most changed are bindings. I have a 10 year old pair of the Atlas Run with lets just say, an adequate binding. I raced them last year to an overall first place (small field..) in the Big Foot Snowshoe Festival 25K in Utah last year.
Seeing the new Run with its BOA closure system and Speed Helix binding at Outdoor Retailer I sensed right away that bindings had really evolved and I was eager to test. With an upcoming three day hut to hut trip in Northern Maine on the schedule, Atlas was kind enough to send me a pair.
Pardon the first pics with no snow showing to illustrate as there was a lot of snow and cold and stormy weather up North to test, burying the shoe details!  It is important to note that the Run with its 22" length is designed for fast moving on relatively firm snow. I was able to run them in those conditions as well as about 8" of denser powder over firm.

Very light and fast, easy to run on snow without much sense you are wearing a snowshoe,
Totally secure, worry free easy to put on and take off BOA binding
Great lateral stability for straight ahead and off camber snowshoeing from semi rigid side "rails

BOA knob could use some more prominent profile elements to more easily pull out and to turn to tighten when wearing heavier gloves.
Packaging in need of a "Getting Started: 1,2,3" to illustrate how to set the binding's opening over the foot for different shoe/boot sizes. Don't try to figure this out, its simple but not super obvious, on a first shoe in cold as I stupidly tried to do!

Tester Profile
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running, nordic skiing and hiking for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah.

Product Features from Atlas (with my pics)

Boa® Closure System:The stainless steel lace evenly distributes pressure across the foot for the most comfortable and secure fit. This system is durable, easy to use and allows for on-the-fly adjustments.
Speed V-Frame™The fastest binding in the Atlas line, the Speed Helix™ binding with Boa® Closure System, delivers a micro-adjusted fit for precision and comfort on technical terrain, with a low profile, lightweight design.

Atlas' patented Spring-Loaded™ Suspension (SLS) keeps the snowshoe close underfoot for easy maneuvering and suspends your foot so it can move freely with its intended articulation.
The suspension absorbs impact and lets your foot flex naturally side-to-side for a comfortable, stable position on traverses and uneven terrain. SLS enhances traction control too, as the flex provides deeper crampon penetration into the slope, especially on steep or off-angle terrain.

Made of durable & lightweight aluminum, Atlas Speed V-Frame™ shapes are designed to prevent frame clipping at full sprint while still providing maximum floatation with the signature Atlas V-Frame™ tracking straight in deep snow. Flexible Nytex decking is forgiving and quiet when hiking in the cold, providing durability without the weight.

Designed for confident footing as you pick up the pace, the aluminum Dual-TRAC™ crampon offers lightweight traction for the iciest terrain. The Heel Cleat our first patent revolutionized snowshoe performance and created an industry standard. The heel cleat adds traction and stability for climbing, descending and traversing varied terrain.

Fitting and the BOA Closure
The Speed Helix Binding with BOA System closure is extremely easy to use and fits everything from burly hiking boots to running shoes but don't do what I did put them over a big boot for the first time in a howling blizzard!
To allow for different size shoes, and a secure fit regardless of their volume, the binding has a stout velcro strap which attaches to the underside of the well padded foot cover at its top as shown above and below.
You adjust this for the shoe size by moving the strap across the foot from the outside to the inside under the padded piece attaching at the  right length for your shoe's height and width as shown below.
There is also a slight tug up on the toe cover and the stainless steel laces to release the BOA out for bigger volume boots. I knew none of this before trying them on the first time in that blizzard. After I figured it out, easy as pie!
In the video below I illustrate how to get in and out of the binding. I never have had to readjust the binding once I cranked down on the BOA whose cables sit to the sides of the bindings with their passage over the top of the foot padded by the plate.


The Atlas Run and especially its binding system and suspension sets a new standard in easy to adjust and secure snowshoe bindings. On the go, I never had to readjust once I turned the BOA to secure. On the run, in both deeper snow and on hard pack, I tracked straight ahead due to the frame shape and had minimal clipping at the heels due to the binding and frame shape  

In 8" of denser new powder snow I never stumbled or caught the shoe in the snow, I think a tribute to the binding but also the suspension system which popped me up out of the deeper snow once weight was off. I felt less of this pop sensation on firmer snow but imagine it was still doing its thing. As of yet I have not run them on very hard or steep snow.  On machine packed snow, the crampons had great bite and did not get in the way or overly grab. A friend also has a pair and like me felt the BOA knob should have more prominent knurling or protrusions to grip the knob to pull it out to release and to crank down with heavier gloves or mittens on. 

When it's all said and done in a snow shoe "It's the binding stupid" and the Atlas Run has the easiest (with better initial how to instructions please) and most secure binding system I have ever used. Yes, the Run's frame is admirably light but is not significantly different from my ten year old Run or even my much older snowshoes. The key is how the snowshoe interacts and is attached to the foot and in that department Run to date is the best I have ever used. It was such a relief to not worry about adjusting, torking and twisting, or feeling that the snowshoe was in the way of my running stride at this for the length of each of my runs.
The 22" inch length and narrow profile of the Run is designed for running on snow that is at least somewhat packed or in not more than several inches of snow over a firm base. This is not a snowshoe for bottomless powder travel or running deep snow that's for sure. Snowshoes are essentially a flotation device and as the runner/hiker and their load (packs) gets heavier or the snow gets deeper more surface area will better keep you on the surface and moving ahead and not down in to the snow. Thus a lighter person may be able to operate the Run in deeper conditions than a heavier one and for all the deeper the softer snow level the less effective they will be.

I will use them on softer groomed trails where otherwise I would be sinking in if in running shoes, foot packed single track trails where otherwise I would posthole and in up to 8 to 12 inches of fresh powder over a firmer base.  There is no question, understanding their floatation limits, that the Atlas Run is a superb way to reproduce with really few compromises trail or road running training in winter and even more importantly get out in winter wonderlands with the ability to run fast or walk light and lively. 
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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