When you are venturing into a new snowboard setup, boots should be your number one concern. This is where you will want to spend your money, if you’re on a budget. Fortunately, we usually have the best deals on boots since we get brand new “tried on once” returns from many vendors.
Your boots are what is going to keep you warm, comfortable and in sync with your board and riding style. A good fit is essential to your riding experience…and as a snowboarder you have it easy (ski boots can be a nightmare).
Here’s a list of what to look at when buying boots
- Comfort & Fit
- Lacing System
- Liners & Footbeds
- Boot Flex & Style
Comfort & Fit
Arguably, fit is the most important aspect of purchasing boots. Before deciding on a brand do a little search to see if they fit true to size since some brands vary slightly. Also, make sure to compensate if you wear thicker or thinner socks when you ride.
Boots should fit snugly, but not too snug that it cuts off circulation. Over time the liner will soften and give slightly more room so make sure the boot hugs your foot tightly. It’s ok for your toes to barely touch the toecap as long as they’re not pressed up against it or feel crunched.
Make sure your heel is fit snug. This is an area that will take a lot of the strain as you lever the board onto its edge. Heel lift is the enemy of performance; you want your board and not your heels to rise when leaning forward.
Most boots come with one of three lacing systems
- Quick Pull
No system outperforms the others. It’s all about personal preference and budget. Your boots should be laced tightly but still feel comfortable not restricting blood flow or causing pressure points. With your laces tightened you shouldn’t feel any shimmying back and forth in your boot, and your ankles and heels should remain securely in place.
These are the traditional laces you grew up using and work much the same way. This is the cheapest option and can be customized by hand. They are easy to source if you need to replace them, but can be difficult to tie with gloves and have a higher chance of loosening while riding.
Quick Pull Laces
Quick pull laces are a single pull lacing system that tightens down by zone. This mean you can tighten the laces around your ankle more than the ones around your foot allowing for a more customized experience. These laces are quick and easy to use with gloves but some people complain that you can’t get them as tight as other lacing systems.
The Boa system consists of small cables attached to one or two dials on your boots. One dial for the upper section and the second dial for the lower portion of the boot. A simple twisting action can tighten or loosen your boots making this, the easiest method of lacing as well as being able to customize the tightness on the fly. This is the most costly system and if a cable breaks, that could mean the end to your ski day.
Liners & Footbeds
The liner refers to the entire inner boot of the snowboard boot. Liners are commonly made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), which is a lightweight, moldable polymer that most people associate with foam rubber. As it does in running shoes, EVA provides cushioning, stability and insulation for a snowboarder’s feet.
Some boots have removable liners that can be extracted from a boot following a day of riding. This allows them to air out and dry faster than non-removable liners.
Non-moldable (stock): Less pliable than other options, these stock liners provide generic padding and stability for your feet. Over time, the sustained pressure of your body weight will likely cause the liner’s forefoot section to conform to that section of your foot’s shape.
Thermoformable: Foam liners that use your foot’s heat to achieve a custom fit. They break in after a day or so of snowboarding.
Custom: Custom moldable liners use an artificial heat source to achieve the custom fit. This type of service is best provided at a ski or snowboard shop by someone with boot fitting expertise, but it is possible to do at home.
Boot Flex & Style
Snowboard boots are often presented in a spectrum of flexibility, ranging from soft to stiff. Boot flex is often a personal preference, but flex does align roughly with the type of snowboarding you do. Determining boot flexibility is largely subjective and each brand is subtly different. Not all soft boots exhibit the same degree of softness.
What’s your riding style? Are you an all-mountain or freerider with a taste for speed? The later will likely favor stiffer, more responsive boots. Park riders generally prefer something softer making it easier to maneuver and more forgiving to land.
All-mountain: Refers to any terrain suited to a snowboard—groomers, untracked powder and even some park-and-pipe. The majority of riders are all-mountain riders, and the majority of all-mountain riders will gravitate toward more flexible boots. Novices should almost always choose softer boots. For you rip, choose stiffer boots. Backcountry and Split-boarding usually falls into this category, but many riders who tour big days, may want to go a bit softer for comfort.
Freeride: This encompasses untracked snow, backcountry terrain, and some groomers. Freeride is also referred to as “big mountain” riding. Freeriders place a premium on speed and expert terrain requiring more precision, so stiffer boots are preferred. This rigidity helps generate better edge power.
Freestyle: Fun-focused terrain (tricks, halfpipe, rails, jibbing, jumps, etc). Maneuverability, feel and responsiveness are vital to the park experience. Something softer with more flex are the best choice for these riders.
Women’s: These styles are customized to address women’s specific anatomical needs, such as narrow heels. The majority of women’s choices fall on the soft-to-medium end of the spectrum, so if you like stiff boots, Women’s specific boots might not be the call for you.
Kid’s: Some kid’s boots offer footbeds with peel-away layers to accommodate growing feet. Avoid getting dramatically oversized boots hoping that your young boarder will grow into them. Equip a child with boots sized correctly for the season ahead. A correct fit is key to their experience.