What Are Snow Plow Feet Used For? (Explained)


Snowplows are vital tools for clearing up the excessive build-up of snow on a wide number of surfaces. As you would expect, different manufacturers often apply unique twists on their plows to make them stand out. However, some features are seemingly universal.

Snow plow feet or shoes are a guide and protection for the cutting edge or blade of a snow plow. They control how close to the surface a plow blade gets which is helpful on uneven or soft material surfaces like gravel, sod, or mulched areas. Plow feet are used as a protection for the cutting edge.

Snowplow feet are among these common features and, today, we will be taking a closer look at these parts and the role they play in clearing snow. We will then look at the best way to clear snow off soft surfaces like gravel.

What Are Snow Plow Skid Shoes?

People who are unfamiliar with snowplow lingo may be baffled at the mention of “shoes” but there is no need for confusion. Snowplow shoes and feet are used interchangeably. They refer to the same thing.

Snowplow skid shoes (or feet) are attachments fitted on the bottom of a snowplow. They serve as a plow’s stands and offer support. Their purpose is to prevent the plow’s cutting edge from scraping along the ground when it is in use on areas where gouging could kill plant life or remove material.

They are primarily used when plowing over “soft” surfaces below the snow. Soft surfaces include lawns, gravel, or mulched areas.

Plow Feet Protect Surfaces Under The Snow

By keeping the edge off the ground, shoes prevent the plow from scooping up the turf and gravel below the snow, which not only displaces snow but also damages the turf. Shoes allow for a thin layer of snow between the plow and the ground surface.

Plow Shoes Protect The Plow Edge

Skid shoes are also used to protect the cutting edge’s…er, edge when plowing over hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete. Plow edges aren’t necessarily cheap, so you want to avoid scraping them against such surfaces as this leads to quicker wear and tear.

Types Of Plow Feet Or Shoes

There are various kinds of plow shoes you can use depending on your specific circumstances. In fact, there are three specific types, namely steel shoes, roller shoes, and poly shoes.

I recommend this economical pair that will fit most major brands of plows. You can order them directly from Amazon: Snow PLOW Shoe Skid Foot Assemblies for Western, Meyer, Boss, Fisher Snow Plows

Snowplow Steel Shoes (Feet)

Steel shoes are the go-to choice for a wide number of surfaces. They are (usually) adjustable in height. Most professionals opt for a low height setting when working on flat paved surfaces and a high setting for uneven and unpaved surfaces. Steel skids are popular because they are versatile, durable, and (perhaps most importantly) affordable.

However, using steel skids may have certain drawbacks, especially when plowing over paved surfaces. If your adjustments are off, your metal shoes may scrape along the surface and potentially leave scratches and marks. Luckily, steel’s rigidity and toughness will mean a slow rate of wear and tear.

Plow Polyurethane Shoes (Feet)

Polyurethane shoes are another type. These plastic shoes are just as versatile as the metal ones and they can be used on all kinds of surfaces. Unlike metal, polyurethane is less likely to leave markings or scratches on paved surfaces because it is so lightweight. Another benefit of poly shoes is the fact that they can be reversible, which extends their lifetime.

There is also a downside with poly shoes. Firstly, they are typically more expensive than the steel varieties. The value-for-money is even worse when you consider that poly shoes are only usable for a couple of seasons at best.

Roller Plow Feet (Shoes)

Finally, we also have roller shoes. These are essentially plow shoes with wheels built into them to allow a plow to roll over paved surfaces. Like most poly and metal shoes, roller shoes offer adjustable ground clearance when plowing. However, they are also useful for moving a snowplow around in the offseason. Unlike metal shoes, rollers will not leave marks on the pavement.

Unfortunately, like poly shoes, rollers are on the pricey side. They are also not recommended for uneven surfaces, especially when attached to heavy plows. Gravel may also be a challenge.

The debate on which are the best feet for snowplows has long since devolved into preference rather than opinion backed by the data. As shown in this study done by the Transportation Research Board, the potential damage caused by each type when added to the maintenance cost of each is relatively the same across the board.

This study looked at the damage done by shoes versus roller feet on the New Jersey Highway system. When compared to the feet used in New York, the damage to reflectors on the highway surface was relatively the same with the rollers used on the New Jersey side.

Though more research is needed, it seems that once maintenance costs are factored in, the plusses and minuses of all types of feet for snowplows equal out.

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Are Plow Shoes Necessary?

The necessity of snowplow shoes depends on personal preferences and the environment you want to plow. The expense may also be one that depends on the use of the plow for residential or commercial jobs.

Plow Shoes or Feet are necessary if material like gravel, sod, or mulch underneath the snow is not to be disturbed. The area will be left with a thin layer of snow as well as the ground cover material. They are not necessary on paved driveways, parking lots, roads, or walkways.

For flat paved surfaces such as roads and driveways, you could opt to plow without shoes altogether. This is because plowing a flat paved surface with shoes may leave a very thin layer of ice and snow behind. These layers are potential slipping hazards for vehicles. 

Plowing without shoes will enable a plow to scrape snow right off the surface, leaving a “cleaner” surface. Of course, the trade-off is the potential degradation of the plow edge and damage to the surface. We recommend that you keep your plow shoes close by in case you encounter uneven terrain.

For gravel surfaces, you will have to make use of shoes. A shoeless plow will cut into the turf and scoop up gravel. Doing so in a driveway may seriously reshape it. Even though using shoes may leave a layer of snow behind, the risk of slipping is not as high as on paved surfaces. 

However, for the best results on gravel surfaces, you must wait for the gravel to compact or harden a bit. Plowing over soft gravel with shoes could result in the formation of grooves.

Plow feet are also adjustable. You can clear the major portions of heavy snows and leave enough to allow for uneven places in gravel, mulch, or sod.

What Is The Bottom Of A Snowplow Called?

So, if there can be feet or no feet on the bottom of a snowplow, what is it that they are protecting on the plow? They extend lower than something on the plow, what is it?

The section of the plow on the bottom that touches or comes close to touching the ground is called the cutting edge or blade. It is attached to the moldboard and is protected from damage or from damaging some surfaces by the plow feet or plow shoes.

Keeping the cutting edge or blade of the plow from getting damaged or causing damage is the number one job of the plow feet or shoes. They are there to raise this bottom edge of the plow slightly so that instead of scraping up softer material, a thin layer of snow is left.

These cutting edges can come in steel, rubber, or polyurethane. These surfaces are not supposed to actually scrape the ground. They are meant to be kept 1/2″ above the surface. Yet with the unevenness of most any surface a fact, plow feet are needed to a safeguard.

How Do You Snowplow A Gravel Driveway?

Plowing snow on gravel surfaces is much easier than you think. However, you must follow a few guidelines to do it properly.

Gravel driveways can be plowed and snow dispersed if a proper slow speed is maintained, plow feet (shoes) are installed, and all potholes or obstacles are noted and avoided. It is also important to be prepared for some gravel to be displaced. This will have to be remedied after the snow has melted.

The first thing you must be aware of is that it is not possible to plow over such surfaces without scooping up some small amount of gravel…with or without plow feet (shoes). You will have to be ready to replace and redistribute any lost gravel to restore the driveway in some instances. This is minimal with compacted, older, and level gravel driveways.

Know Your Gravel Surface

If possible, you should allow the snow to pack down and harden the gravel if you wish to plow with shoes. If not, you may have to plow without shoes to avoid leaving grooves in the gravel. In the latter scenario, we recommend that you go very slowly to avoid scooping up too much gravel and dirt.

It is also crucial that you figure out where any potential obstacles may lie. Potholes, rocks, ornaments, etc. can spell trouble, so it is always best to avoid them.

Once you’ve taken note of the conditions, you will have to prepare your plow.

Preparing A Plow For Gravel Drive Snow Removal

We recommend that you set the cutting edge at an attack angle of about 40-45 degrees to minimize scraping. You should also raise the plow to about 1- 1½ inches off the gravel surface. This snow buffer will also minimize the amount of gravel scooped up.

According to the makers of Meyer brand snowplows, the normal height off the ground that a snowplow blade should be kept is 1/2″. This height is not adequate for gravel surfaces as it will displace quite a bit of gravel and dirt.

Once you’ve configured the plow, you’re ready to go.

When plowing a soft surface, you should always start in the middle of the target area. Starting at the edges will result in huge heaps of snow all over the place. The aim is to leave the heaps of snow at the edges. Therefore, start in the middle of the driveway and work your way towards both ends.

You may also need to make multiple passes over the snow depending on the conditions and the size of your plow. If you’re dealing with a lot of snow, you may have to skim bits off at a time to save the cutting edge and reduce strain on your vehicle’s engine.

We highly recommend that you proceed as slowly as possible. Not only will this minimize the amount of gravel you scoop up, but it will reduce the effects of obstacle collision. You must also be prepared to adjust the plow accordingly if you’re dealing with uneven terrain.

The Final Touches One Plow Feet Or Shoes…

For anyone using a plow for surfaces other than totally even and level paved areas, plow feet or shoes are a must. They not only save the softer or uneven surfaces to be plowed from damage, they also protect the plow itself.

Used as slower speeds can also prevent the shoes from creating grooves in gravel, mulch, or sod. Though you may see the professionals on parking lots or roads blazing along at high speeds while plowing snow, this is not a good idea on some surfaces.

Plow feet along with slower speeds are a good solution on these other uneven or loose material surfaces.

To read other articles like this one, check out some of my others here…

References

https://www.fisherplows.com/resource-articles/effectively-plowing-gravel/

https://www.rcpw.com/rip/repair/snowblower/what-types-of-snow-skids-to-use-roller-skid-steel-or-poly.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrAUgsfPmIA&ab_channel=MarksMisfitWorld

Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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