Snowshoe Bindings




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By Dan Beard

Fig. 450. 
Sketch from life of a Main woodman
 and his snow-shoe.

A review of the snow fields will reveal all sorts of appliances for binding the snowshoes to the feet, and every expert and experienced snowshoer, apparently, has an individual fastening of his own upon which he places the greatest reliance.

Some shoes have leather slipper toes attached to them, others broad leather straps and buckles, some simply too straps (Fig. 453) and thongs, and others naught but the buckskin thong, the same as the American Indians were using long before Columbus came blundering around their coast in search of East India.

To prevent a confusing of terms in speaking of the parts of the snowshoe, let us adopt nautical names. By reference to Fig. 450 it will be seen that the snowshoe is shaped like an elongated bow kite; this is the most familiar form, and, although some shoes vary greatly from the one shown in the illustration, they all agree in their general anatomy with this diagram.

By applying nautical terms the toe (L) becomes the bow, the heel (J) the stern, and the cross stocks E and H are the thwarts. F and G are simply thongs to which the coarser net-work between them is attached. K is the hole for the toe of the moccasin. At the two lower corners of the toe hole will be found eyelets made of strengthened meshes. The framework is usually made of second growth white-ash wood, the meshes are of rawhide; from L to E and H to J the net-work is finely woven, but from F to G, amidship, it must bear the eight of the man, and the net is here is made of heavier material and with much courser meshes. It will be seen by further reference to the illustration that a thong is so strung through the eyelets that the long ends come up between the wide meshes each side of the toe hole (K, Fig. 450), thus forming a loop or toe-sump into which the toe of your moccasined foot is to be thrust; by drawing the ends of the thongs, the loop may be pulled down to fit snugly across the toe of the moccasin (A, Fig. 451).

Fig. 451.
Two moccasins and some of the ways 
we see snow-shoes fastened.

If your thongs be short an economical tie will be the one shown by B (Fig. 451; to make this, pass one end of the thong under the toe loop, up and back over the same loop, then under itself, making a half hitch on the toe loop; from here it brought back behind the moccasin, where it meets the other end of the loop, as in B Fig. 451). At the heel of the moccasin the ends pass under and over each other as shown in the diagram, then come around the ankle and tie in it square knot in front. This, as may be seen, leaves the heel free to move up and down in a natural manner (a, Fig. 451).

The freedom of the heel is necessary, and the toe hole (K, Fig. 450) permits a free movement of the toes, the foot being fastened only at the toe joints to the cross thong F (Fig. 450) It must be remembered that in using snowshoes the latter are lifted no higher than is necessary to clear the surface of the snow; in fact, a man walking with snowshoes scuffs along much the same as a man with slipshod slippers run down at the heels. Another way to tie on the snowshoe is to simply pull the slack of the toe loop down to fit over the toe of the moccasin by drawing the ends of the thongs, as in Fig. 455, then crossing them over the instep and bringing them back over the heel of the moccasin as shown by diagram C (Fig. 451), and fastening the ends around the ankle (b, Fig. 451). But the manifest objection to this method is that there is nothing but the friction of the moccasin to prevent the thong from slipping and sawing; this, however, can be remedied by a half hitch at each side of the toe, as is done at B (Fig. 451), and is shown with the cross bands over the instep by D and d, Fig. 451).

E and F (Fig. 451) shows two styles of moccasins most frequently seen on snowshoes in the northern United States, New Brunswick and Southern Canada, and G the one string hitch.

It is probably with good reason that the majority of men whom necessity compels to use to use snowshoes, prefer a tie which brings one or more strands of the thong alongside of the foot, as shown by a and B (Fig. 451), and it is also evident that the cross bands over the instep give greater security to the fastening. So a method which combines the instep cross bands and the heel bands has much to recommend it. Fig. 452, G H I J, shows the evolution of such I tie with a double toe loop. The heel loop, however, is made first as shown by Fig. 454, then the double toe loop is made by passing each end of the thong through the opposite eyelet hole, as shown by G (Fig. 452).

Fig. 452.
Another good hitch.

Next a half hitch is taken over the double toe loop exactly as was done with the single loop (B and D, Fig. 451) and is now shown by H and I (Fig. 452). After which the ends are crossed over the instep, half hitched on each side over the heel loop and brought back behind the feet (J, Fig. 452), where the two ends are tied in a reefing or square knot.

Fig. 453. 
The tussle-logan toe strap.

Much of the intricacy of this last hitch may be obviated by the use of the tussle-logan toe strap, which is a permanent affair woven in through the meshes down each side astern of the eyelet holes (Fig. 453). Put the two ends of your thong down through the eyelet holes and bring them up between the wide meshes astern of the bow thwart, as shown by Fig. 454. 

Figs. 454-455.
Putting on the snow-shoe.
Sketched from life, 
Upper Moosehead Lake.

Slip the toe of your moccasin under the tussle-logan, and, by drawing on the ends of the thong, pull the band snugly around your heel (Fig. 451). Next take a half hitch (0 and N, Fig. 456) around the side hand and draw it taut, as in the illustration. Go through the same process as shown by P R S (Fig. 457), and draw tight, as the man is doing in the same illustration. T is a back view of this process.

Fig. 456.
How the half-hitch is 
made at the side of the foot.

When the tussle-logan happens to fit the toe too loosely, it may be made secure by passing the cross straps in and over, as shown at U (Fig. 457). 

Fig. 457. 
Details of the process of fastening a snow-shoe, 
having a toe strap, to the foot.

Fig. 458 shows a snowshoer bringing the free ends of the thong back behind the heel, preparatory to fastening them there with a tie. V shows the thong properly fastened (the tussel-logan omitted for sake of simplicity in the diagram). W shows the knot as tied in the Maine woods. 

Fig. 458.
Ready to tie thongs back of the heel.


Fig. 459 shows a man with snowshoes on both feet, and X, Y, and Z are from sketches of snowshoers in motion, made in Michigan, Canada and the Maine woods.

Fig. 459.

A Tussel-Logen Toe Strap

on a shoe posses many advantages for one who must needs use snow shoes every time necessity compels travel during the winter months, and not the least of these advantages is the fact that after one's shoes have once been satisfactory adjusted they need not be untied again until the thongs break or some similar accident renders a readjustment necessary.

Fig. 460.

The lad in Fig. 460 has one shoe on, and is in the act of slipping his foot into the thongs of the second shoe. It will be seen that be takes a pose like an old-fashioned dancing master, with his toes turned out; this is done so that he can slip his toes over the first side of the heel loop and tinder the second side, as is better explained by the empty moccasin (d, Fig. 460).

Next he thrusts his foot so far that his heel comes under the heel loop (b, Fig. 461). Then, lifting his heel and pointing his toes down (d, Fig. 462), he twists his foot so that the toe of his moccasin slips under the tussle-logan and the shoe is adjusted and ready to support him on drifts and fields of snow.

Figs. 461-462.

Three figures and three diagrams have been made of this act so that the reader may not fail to understand how it is done, but because so many pictures are necessary to make the explanation clear it must not be supposed that this manner of putting on a snowshoe is either difficult or intricate; it is accomplished in much less time than it requires to tell how it is done, and is really only one continuous movement of the foot like one step in dancing.

Now that you know how to put on snowshoes, take them down from the wall where you hung them as a decoration for the library, dining-room or den and sally forth, but do not put them on in the house as did the writer in his first attempt to master the art. There is no enacted law to prevent you from adjusting the shoes indoors, but it is better to do it outside, where there is more room and no steps to descend.

The writer forgot about the steps; his only idea was to sneak out the back way unobserved, but he did not succeed, and in going down the steps the long heels of the snowshoes made it necessary to step sideways. After the first step it was impossible for him to take another; he could not lift his foot mom than an inch, and in spite of a struggle which nearly wrenched the thongs from the feet he stood as securely to the step as if his shoes were nailed down, and it really seemed that they had frozen to the snow. The long heel of the one bearing his weight lay across the heel of the one he was struggling to lift.

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.