Snowboard Boot Buyer’s Guide

Snowboard boots are a fundamental part of your snowboard gear which can determine the kind of the day you will have on the mountain. Several factors need to be considered when getting the right boots and some include your level of experience, your weight, whether you prefer powder, park or piste and most important your goals. It is a must for your snowboard boots to fit comfortably and correctly and also relate well with your bindings. Any professional boot fitter has to perfectly assess the shape of your foot and listen to your requirements then identify for you the right boots that are fitting, flexible and in a good performance. This article will provide you with the most important distinctions and characteristics that you need to assess before purchasing snowboard boots.

What to Look For When Buying Snow Boots

Boot Flex

Snowboard boots are different in their flex ratings as they range from soft to stiff. Soft boots are suitable for beginners as their flexing makes it easier for learning. The high-end stiffer boots are preferred by the experienced individuals as they are better for faster movements and in landing jumps. Different manufacturers can offer different flex rating of the boot, and therefore the flex may vary from brand to brand or even from boot to boot. A large number of manufacturers give a rating of 1-10 where one is the softest and ten the stiffest.

Liners

Snowboard Boot Lining
Boot Liners

Liners are the inner boots found in the snowboard boots which are usually removable and made of light weight material referred to as EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate). However, some liners are usually permanently attached, but the removable ones are better since they can be taken out to speed dry when they get wet. Due to the roughness of the terrain and the long hours of ripping in the mountain, liners are essential in ensuring comfort as they provide cushioning, insulation and stability. Liners vary in their making and price. Stock liners, for example has base-level padding, provide stability and can conform to your foot’s shape over time. Mouldable liners are more expensive than stock and of better material. Through the body heat, they mould to fit the shape of your foot over time comfortably. Heat-mouldable liners are the best in providing a truly customized fit for your fit.

Sizing

The sizing of the snowboard boots is still done according to the traditional United States number sizing. However, the exact size of the boot will vary by manufacturer or by specific model. The size of your snowboard boot must be compatible with both your foot size and the shape of your snowboard. Boot overhang can also be used as a measurement of whether your boot fits with the board. If possible, it is therefore advisable you try the boots in person when buying. The snowboard size will definitely differ from your shoe size, and so you cannot just select your snowboard boot the way you pick your shoe fit. 

Fit

The fit of your snowboard boot is very different from the feel of your shoe fit. The snowboard boots have to fit snugly but not to the extent of hurting your feet. Unlike the shoes where you are advised to have a thumb’s width gap between the end of the shoe and your toes and, the end of the snowboard boots should be brushing the tip of your toes. Most of the new boots will require several days to riding to stretch out and take their actual size and so should be tight when brand new. The holding of the heel inside your boot is also another important factor to consider. Your heel should remain in place even when you drive your knee forward.

Socks also play a part in the fitting of the boot. The recommended socks type is a single thin or medium weight. Everything needs to be snugly wrapped around your foot without extreme tightness for maximum comfort.

Lacing Systems

Lacing of snowboard boots is important. They should be laced tightly but also in a manner that ensures comfort and avoids blister-causing pressure points. Your ankles and heels need to remain securely in place without space for the front to back and side to side movements. There are three common ways to lace up a snowboard boot. Each of them is fast, hardy and secure with the huge difference being in the matter of preference and budget.

Traditional lacing system

Snowboard Boots Lacing System
Traditional Lacing vs Quick-Pull vs Boa

These are a tried and true option for any prototypical rider. In some of them, there is a possibility of replacing the stock laces with designer laces. They offer the most customizable fit when tightening by your hands compared to other lacing systems. They are more affordable and easy to locate the replacement laces. However, they are difficult to tie when your bare hands are numb or while wearing a glove.

Quick-pull Lacing

It is a single pull, a corset-like system that is fast and allows zonal tightening. Many of these systems allow the tightening of the forefoot is lacing independently from ankle/lower leg hence the name zonal lacing. The system is fast and easy and provides no difficulties while wearing gloves or when your hands are cold. The lace-pulls tucks away neatly. These systems are many and differ from company to company, but most of them offer high-low laces to achieve a customizable fit. However, the system may initially seem complicated with some beginners finding it difficult to exert enough pull for snugly tightening the laces as they would like. Sometimes the eyelets where the laces attach to the boot can create pressure points.

Boa Lacing System

The system was first seen in boots in 2001. Since then, it has progressed drastically in functionality and durability. It is easy to tighten to a suitable pressure, get on and off and seen in both single and dual zone pressure points. The system, therefore, provides fast and easy adjustability for perfect boot fit. It is easy to turn and lock with one hand or while wearing gloves. The closures are in double or even triple system where one of the dials controls the forefoot tightness while the other one or two control the upper cuff tightness. The system offers a precise fine-tuned fitting that is simple to adjust during a pause in activity. However, independent customization of upper and lower foot regions is not possible with Boa as the one-dial system usually applies snug uniformly throughout the foot. Pressure points can also be created in points where the strands are attached to the boots.

Footbeds

Snowboard Boots Insoles
Snowboard Boots Footbeds

Orthopaedic footbeds or insoles help in increasing comfort of your foot when in your snowboard boots. Professional boot fitter can provide quality advice on the proper footbed that is compatible with both your foot shape and the boot. Bear snowboard boots can pronate arches which might affect the flow of the blood to your toes. This can be a nightmare for any rider and therefore important to find quality insoles to avoid the trouble of cramping and numbing of toes.

Socks

Comfort is a critical aspect to ensure that every part of riding offers maximum enjoyment. They may seem less a requirement, but the choice of snowboard socks can create a huge difference both in providing comfort and in improving performance. The standard snowboard socks should be of a synthetic material that will keep you warm and absorb any moisture in your boots. Together with the synthetic socks, wool can be used an insulator that is perfect in keeping your feet dry and warm. It is necessary to avoid wearing cotton socks with your snowboard boots as they don’t wick away moisture and therefore your feet will remain wet and cold which may result to numbing. You can also wear several pairs of socks for proper insulation

Pressure points

Another important factor that requires top consideration is ensuring that there are no any pressure points on your boot. When stretching your foot, your toes should rub against the edge of the boot but should not exert uneven pressure on you. The most parts that are vulnerable to pressure points are the top of your feet and the ankle. One boot may be comfortable for you, but another may have pressure points on your feet. It is therefore recommended that you find the boot that is perfect for you and not what your friend say it’s great. This is the reason you should try several boots or consult the help of a boot fitter to ensure you get the right one.

Heel Lift

There should also be as little heel lift as possible. You should stand on your snowboard with your boots firmly done with a stance as if you were on the mountain. Then slightly bend at the knees like you are riding and lean up on your toes. If doing this makes your heels lift up leaving a wider gap between the edges of your boot, then those boots aren’t the perfect fit for you.   

Common Mistakes

Snowboard Boot Fitter
Boot Fitter
  • Failure to Invest in Good Boot Fitter: Buying of snowboard boots can be easier when you just pick the model, hand over the cash and bear the consequences. However, investing in a good boot fitter provides you with a wealth of advice, quality lifetime services, trusted spare parts and maintenance resources that give you best moments in the mountains. A good boot fitter should tell you how the boot fit should feel when you first wear it. Buying of boots without seeking advice from a good boot fitter may result to you purchasing boots that are too big for you or that is of poor quality. You may also fail to capture the knowledge of other fittings that are required to ensure comfort when you are in your boots.
  • Purchasing the Wrong Last or Width: the ‘last size’ is the bots’ with at its widest point. There are varying lasts of snowboard boots in the market, and you need to buy a boot with the last size that matches the shape and size of your foot.
  • Taking Advice from Mates about Boot Fit/Size: friends may offer you advice based on what is suitable for them or on what they were able to acquire. You should seek advice from professional boot fitters who will direct you on the perfect boot fit for you according to your level of experience and the shape and size of your foot.
  • Purchasing Boots According to Price: Some snowboarders are usually swayed sideways by the price of the boots. The right snowboard boots should be about fit and comfort but not necessarily emphasize on the price.
  • Buying Snowboard Boots on Looks alone: it is very wrong for a rider to select a boot on its appearance only. Some boots may look beautiful in appearance but fail in quality, fitting and in ensuring your comfort when wearing them.

You can only well know that the boots are the right fit for you if you try them in person. You should try and make it possible to avail yourself at the store with your snowboard to try the boots before you make the purchase. It’s hard to know the boots that will best fit you with comfort and without the problem of pressure points. The Comfort of the boots ensures that your feet are protected from blisters and numbness thereby improving performance. It is advisable for the beginners to seek the advice of a professional boot fitter to make sure that their start is perfect and they find the most suitable boots.

As discussed in this guide, many factors should be considered before buying snowboard boots. It’s of much importance to avoid mistakes that can cause you injuries while riding or lead to a financial loss if you purchase the wrong boot for you. Some of the common mistakes that beginners make are buying the boots on their looks rather than considering fit and comfort. Price is not also a determining factor, but the great fit should be the top consideration. The most critical observations, therefore, should be the compatibility with snowboard, ensure the fit is snug, watch out on possible pressure points, heel lift should be minimal, and other fittings such as socks and insole are also essential to boost comfort.

References

  • http://www.evo.com/guides/snowboard-boot-fit-flex-compatibility
  • http://snowboardingprofiles.com/how-to-size-snowboard-boots
  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/ski/gear/Snowboard-boots-FAQs/