Many people overlook the importance of snowboard boots and think that choosing the right snowboard is the main priority. It makes sense, the snowboard is what makes snowboarding fun, plus they have awesome luring graphics printed on them. Nobody really ever sees your boots, so who cares? Well we care, and so should you. Snowboard boots in fact, are the first thing you should consider and probably the most important part of your snowboard setup. Your feet are important, and you should be kind to them since they are bearing the weight and pressure of your entire body. An ill-fitting snowboard boot can make or break your experience on the mountain.
When choosing a snowboard boot, take your time, do some research, and try on as many pairs as possible. After grunting and tugging your way into a few boot models from various brands, you may start to notice all the nuances. Some boots fit wide, some are narrow, some have arched foot beds, some are soft and cushy, while some are stiff and reinforcing. Some boots fit large, some fit small, and none of these things really determine whether or not a boot is good or bad, it’s just about what’s most comfortable and best matches your riding style. So I repeat, try them on.
Most brands have a variety of boot styles for you to choose from. High-end snowboard boots are usually packed with a ton of technology. These boots provide the most support and stiffness and are usually sought after by aggressive and more experienced snowboarders. Since stiffer boots require more technology in order to balance comfort with performance, they tend to cost a bit more but on the flip side, the materials usually last longer.
Softer boots provide a lot of comfort but less support. They are great for riders that are just getting started, or for experienced riders looking for a little more flex and feel of the snowboard under foot. Often times, soft boots are used by freestyle snowboarders and riders that want a little more flow when surfing pow lines. Soft boots are often lightweight. EVA or, Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, Foam, and other lightweight materials are used to reduce weight. Since soft boots require less technology, they tend to cost less. Soft boots provide lots of comfort, for less money - not a bad deal.
The Liner of your boot is like a sleeping bag for your foot. Its job is to keep you warm, dry, and provide cushioning. Some boots come with removable liners for quick air-drying. This is perfect if you sweat a lot, or for those of us that get rained on in the Pacific Northwest. If you choose a boot that has a non-removable liner, don’t worry, the boot dryer has been invented. If you can’t get your hands on a boot dryer, just hold them out the window on the way home from the mountain.
Boot liners come in three basic categories: heat moldable, moldable, and stock. Stock is the most basic liner that you can get. These liners will break in over a long period of time by conforming to the shape of your foot. Moldable liners will respond to the heat from your foot and conform to its shape while riding. Heat moldable liners are the best you can get. These high tech liners are usually molded in shop by special boot fitting ovens. If you don’t have access to a boot fitting oven, over time, your body heat will naturally mold the liner. The liner of your boot lives in the shell. The shell will determine the stiffness of your boot and hold the liner in place with a super strong lacing system.
A lot of people will argue about which type of lacing system is best. Really though, it’s just preference. There are 2 basic lacing systems that come in a variety of combinations. Standard laces, and quick lace systems, which include BOA and speed lace pulley systems.
Boa systems are spin dials that allow you to conveniently adjust the tightness of the boot. Just turn to tighten and pull it out to loosen. A single Boa system will adjust the top and bottom part of the boot at the same time. Double Boa systems allow you to independently tighten the lower portion of the boot with one knob and the upper portion with the other.
The pulley system, or speed lace system, is made up of two cords that independently tighten the upper and lower parts of the boot. Just grab and pull up! The boot will have two locks on the outside of the boot to keep the laces snug all day. The extra cord can be rolled up and tucked into the boot.
Standard laces are the same type of lacing system you have been using since you learned how to tie your shoes. They may not be as convenient, but they offer maximum customization. Lace systems allow you to control the tightness of your boot anywhere that the laces cross. A few brands have combined lacing systems with Boa systems providing the best both worlds.
There’s a ton overwhelming information about snowboard boots but there are two simple things to keep in mind when fitting your boot: heel lift and overall fit. When you lean forward in your boot your heel is going to lift up. It is almost impossible to find a boot that has zero heel lift, but the more it lifts the less control you will have. It is also good to keep in mind that your boot will pack out. Once a boot packs out it may end up being too big for your foot. When trying on a new boot, it is ok for your big toe to lightly touch the end of the boot. Be careful, because too much pressure on the toe may cause toe jam.
When you begin your search for the perfect boots, we advise that you look into a few buyer guides and talk with your boot salesperson. Good luck and good shredding.