Bear Hug snowshoe bindings, although very stiff, do meet the need for adapting easily to any size foot, and are very versatile. They also seem to be comfortable although I haven't tested them for more than a few miles at a time.
I went snowshoeing with a friend today who is a dedicated skier, but she wanted to try snowshoes, so she rented a pair of Tubbs Altitude 25 shoes which came with the Bear Hug bindings. The shoes were fine, with good balance, but I was much more impressed with the bindings.
I can’t find where these can be purchased separately, but they might be ordered through a shop that carries winter recreation equipment, since bindings sometimes need to be replaced. They seem to be offered on some Tubbs snowshoe models, so if you are contemplating buying that brand, I would suggest looking at the binding type (always a good idea when buying snowshoes)
Bear Hug bindings were developed specifically for shoes that need to be able to be adjusted to a variety of feet. This is really nice if you have extended family or friends who stop by to recreate with you, as well as for rentals. If you have snowshoes that are adjusted perfectly for your own boots it can be quite a hassle to change the bindings to accommodate someone else for an occasional afternoon walk.
These have a stiff plastic shell that encases the boot. They come in two sizes, and Ellen rented the smaller size. She wore hiking boots, and even so the bindings adjusted small enough. This is great, because it is sometimes a problem to have sports equipment fit small people very well. These would also be ideal for older children, about youth size 4 foot on through adult sizes. You could buy snowshoes for the kids and be assured that the bindings would fit well while their feet were still growing.
The adjustment is accomplished through two ratcheting plastic straps. One tightens across the heel and the other one over the instep. The heel strap has a wider place in the center to better grip the heel of a boot. The instep strap has the ratchet adjustment on one side and a simple snap-type clip on the other. Both ratchet into a fitting that can be tightened just by pushing the strap in. To release it you must push on a release button. I had my doubts about this, since I’ve had clips similar to this freeze shut and be impossible to release. However, we were out for actually two hours (I say one on the video, but when we checked the time we had been walking for two hours!), and it still worked fine.
The smart thing to do would be to get these fitted to your boots before you are standing in the snow with cold hands. Then you just need to fit the clip into its fitting and snap it down after your foot is in.
The rental place accidentally gave her two left-hand bindings. There is no difference symmetrically so that was ok, but three times, Ellen knocked the clip open with her other foot just because with the clip on the inner side of her foot it was too easy to catch. If you actually get a pair, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Although they look very stiff, Ellen said that they were not at all uncomfortable, and didn’t bind or pinch. Nor did they allow her foot to slip around, which is also important.
You will see in the video that these seemed a little harder to get off then I anticipated, but I think that if Ellen had just pressed the sides of the binding towards each other the clip would have fully released, and she could have stepped right out of them.
The Bear Hug snowshoe binding is the very best I’ve seen to easily accommodate a variety of foot and boot sizes.
For more information:
REI Tubbs Altitude
Views from the Top (a forum where this binding is discussed)