When the winter is coming, its easy to get excited about buying a new snowboard. However, in reality choosing the right pair of snowboard boots for yourselves is just as if not more important than buying a new board.
Yes, “snowboard” sports don’t complete without the “board” itself but you need to know that you’re going to spend most of your time on the mountain from your car till the end of the day wearing the boots.
This guide will walk you through on how to choose snowboard boots so that in the end you will know what types of boots that are the best for you based on your riding style and the snow conditions you most frequently encounter on the mountain.
When you’re choosing a new personal pair of snowboard boots, there are 3 main things that you need to take note of :
Choose The Right Flex
The first thing that you want to think about is the flexibility of the boots. A snowboard boot flex rating refers to the boots lateral and torsional under pressure.
A “softer” boot flex will offer more maneuverability while a “stiffer” boot flex on the other hand will offer strong support to the leg.
There is no standardized flex rating for snowboard boots from one manufacturer to the next, so flex may be vary from brand to brand and many of snowboard boot brands will use a 1-10 flex rating system. ( 1=Super Soft, 10=Super Stiff )
To help you understand about the boot flex, I’m going to break it down into 3 classes : soft flex, medium flex, and stiff flex.
Soft-flex snowboard boots have comfortable, pliable outer materials that makes it much easier to flex for long days on the mountain. Soft flex boot tend to be better suited for those who just starting out snowboard because of the slightly more forgiving of poor technique and feels make them easier to wear and turns in. The downside to soft flex boots is that they provide less support and response compared to stiffer boots, which can lead to more leg fatigue.
- More forgiving and comfortable
- Effortless to wear
- Easier for tricks
- More maneuverability
- Insufficient support
- Lack response
- Heavier Impact
Medium-flex snowboard boot are built with the mid-level support and control you need, makes them ideal for riding a variety of terrain and snow conditions and even some park & pipe. Novice riders who are looking to progress their skills across the entire mountains and shred every powder in sight, medium flex boots is the best choice for you. Majority of riders are all-moutain riders, and its no wonder the majority of snowboard boots in the market fall under this category.
- Provide a balance between comfort and support
- Adequate support
- Doesn’t proficient in any of one area
Stiff-flex snowboard boot have maximum support for edge power and control at high speeds + tough conditions. Freeride-focused focused riders who want the best hard-charging performance on the steepest, challenging terrain often choose stiffer boots. Because of the rigidity that stiff flex boot offers, they help generate edge power and control for scribing lines across the snow and this is exceptionally true for freeriders who place a premium on speed and precision.
- Lesser impact
- More support
- Less comfortable
- Longer break-in
That said, flex is basically a personal choice and everyone has their own preference so its worth trying out a few different types to see what suits you the most.
After choosing which boot flex suit to your riding style and preference, the next point to consider when buying a snowboard boots is the feature of the boots.
There are several characteristics of snowboard boots that needs to take note of before buying and the most important of these is the lacing system.
Your boots should be laced tightly and yet at the same time feel comfortable to wear as the feet are free of any pressure points. When you put you foot in the boot, your ankles and heels ought to remain snugly in place, with minimal ( close to zero ) heel lift.
Snowboard boot laces come in 3 flavors ; traditional laces, speed laces, and Boa lacing system. There are even some boots exhibit a combination design that blends two of the systems.
Each of the 3 systems has their own pros and cons, but stay compose as there are no single systems that outshine the others.
Traditional Laces are tried and true and for the most part offer foolproof closure that ensure a comfort and securely fit every time. By tightening the boots using hand, traditional laces offer the most customizable fit among the different lacing styles, making it easy to tighten and fine-tune the boots to the user’s individual snug and fit needs. On some boots its possible to replace stock laces with taylor-made fit or designer laces.
- Easy to replace
- Customizable fit
- No pressure points
- Classic snowboard boot look and feel
- Takes time to tighten and adjust
- Diffcult to tie with gloves on
- Can loosen on its own
Boa Laces is a fast and easy micro adjustability to your boot fit. Basically, they consist of small-diameter cables attached to one or two knurled wheels or dials that adjust the snugness of the fit. This make it easier on your hands than yanking on laces and can be popped open in a flash by releasing the dial, making it a breeze to get your boots off at the end of the day.
- Easy and convenient
- Can be adjusted with gloves on ( + just one hand )
- Simple to modify during a pause in activity
- Cannot be independently customized
- Possible pressure points
- Additional cost and hard to replace if broken
Speed Laces are somewhere in between traditional and Boa laces. This single-pull, corset like lacing system strive for super fast entry and exit, easy adjustability and secure fit. By using two reinforced nylon cables attached to quick-pull handles, all you need to do is simply pull a handle and flick or push down the toggle. Which also means you can fine-tune the snugness of forefoot lacing independently from the ankle and lower leg ( this is called zonal lacing ).
- Quick and easy than traditional laces
- Customized fit
- Can be tightened while wearing gloves
- Max tension depend on the strength of rider
- Can also loosen over time
Another features that are worth thinking about are things like gel or air soles. These will provide extra cushioning for landings, making them more suited for freestyle riders hitting the park.
Find The Right Fit
To be honest though, the importance of boot flex and features pales into significance when compared to the importance of fit. Seriously, getting a pair of snowboard boots that fit your feet properly is probably the most important thing you can do when buying snowboard kit.
Most boots need several days of riding for them to pack out and form to their true size. This is because over time, liners soften up a bit and gain a touch of what is known as “volume” inside the boot. As a result the boot should be fairly tight when brand new.
In a good fitting boot, your toes will barely graze the end of the boot liner and you should be able to wiggle your toes inside the boots while standing in place with the boot fully laced up.
Heel hold is another important factor. When your knee is driven forward, your heel should remain in place; this is vital for board control in toeside turns. Ensure that the fit in the rear of the foot is snug. This is where your bones lever the board onto its edge.
Do remember that you should always wear a proper pair of snowboarding socks when trying on boots and while riding ( a single thin to medium weight wool or synthetic sock is all you need )
There is a fine line between a boot that is too tight or uncomfortable and one that is too loose and give heel lift. Heel lift is the enemy of performance-minded snowboarders because when you lean forward you want your board, not your heels to rise.
Don’t be tempted to buy a boot that feels loose or sloppy out of the box. Some people make mistake of buying boots that fit like shoes when they’re new, with extra room in the toes.
This may feels great when you’re initially standing or walking around, but will lead to heel lift and foot cramp and foot cramps when you’re actually riding due to your feet and lower legs working excessively hard as they try to compensate for the “slop” of loose boots.
Strike Those Boots!
A snug and correct fitting pair of snowboard boots can be the deciding factor between an amazing day on the mountain or a miserable one.
Think about it, you can have the most stunning, jaw-dropping new board but if your boots does’t fit right then you’ll spend the whole day feeling as if your feet have been put through a mangle and you’ll be miserable out there.
Simply put, understanding how snowboard boots should fit and perform is a crucial factor for a proper snowboard set up.
Perfect snowboard boots can leads to perfection and by understanding the 3F I have laid out in the above, you are going to be setting yourself up for a perfect snowboard boots. Bombs away!