Having a great snowboard may make you think you’ll be able to attack the mountain and do anything on the mountain. However, without a good pair of snowboard boots you won’t be able to do what you want and you could end up with tired and achy feet at the end of the day. Snowboard boots are much more than boots attached to a board. Snowboard boots have numerous features that can make you more comfortable and make riding easier by responding to your movements efficiently. Therefore, it’s worth taking a little time getting to know what different features are important to consider when purchasing snowboard boots.
In this article, I will start by going through the different terminology used with snowboard boots and then I will review the buying decision process and what you need to look at. This information will help you make a better choice when you buy your next pair of snowboard boots. Also, be sure to check out the ZepicDealFinder to help you find the right snowboard boots for you, at the best price. PowderCam’s ZepicDealFinder tool scans many of the biggest retailers on the internet to help you find the best deal.
Snowboard Boot Definitions
One of the main features to consider in a boot is the flex. The flex of a boot is simply how easy the boot bends. The flex will range from soft to stiff. Many snowboard boot manufacturers give a number rating for flex ranging from 1 to 10 where 1 is the softest and 10 is the stiffest flex. It’s important to note that flex is not standardized. A rating of 5 for one manufacturer can be different than other manufactures. Therefore, just take the rating as a reference.
In general, riders who are beginners or spend most of their time in a terrain park, will prefer a softer flex. For riders who are more advanced or tend to venture out around the mountain including groomers, a stiffer flex will be preferred to get a better response on the board. But, the key to selecting the right flex is personal preference.
An important part of snowboard boots is how well the boot fits the riders feet. This is where the lacing system comes into play. There are many different kinds of systems that have been developed by different manufactures giving riders a large number of options. The main categories for lacing are: traditional, quick-pull, BOA®, and hybrid.
Traditional lacing is simply laces like you would find on a regular pair of shoes. Even though it is an old method, it does give the rider control on how snug or loose to make the boot and it’s easy to use. It’s also easy to fix and inexpensive. On the other hand, if you are outside and need to tie the laces in the freezing cold you won’t like laces so much. Also, laces will come loose through the day.
Quick-Pull Lacing (Speed Lacing)
Quick-pull lacing uses one or two thin, high-strength cords that goes through various parts of the boot. This cord is attached to a lace-pull that can be pulled. After putting your foot in the boot, you can pull the lace-pull which will tighten the boot to the foot at various areas of the boot all at once. The cord locks to maintain tension. The lace-pull is then tucked into the boot. To undo the lace, you simply undo the lock and the cord(s) will disengage loosening the boot. Quick-pull lacing is fast and makes it easy to get in and out of the boots. It also can be tightened without needing to remove your gloves on those really cold days.
The disadvantage of this type of lacing is that some riders find it difficult to get the lacing tight enough to their liking. Also, because the cord goes through the boot, it will create different pressure points in the boot that can sometimes make it uncomfortable. Lastly, if the cord breaks, it is not easy to fix.
The BOA® lacing system is very similar to the quick-pull system. The main differences are that BOA® uses an aircraft-grade, stainless steel cable instead of a cord and instead of using a cord lock, it uses a ratcheting dial. The dial is turned to increase the tension until the desired tension is reached. Pulling the knob will release the tension allowing you to loosen the boot. This makes the BOA® system an easy system to use that allows riders to adjust the fit to be precisely snug. It can also be adjusted with your gloves on.
There are different BOA® lacing systems that use different number of dials where the cables tighten different areas of the boot. The BOA® Coiler has a single cable that runs through the boot. The Double BOA® system has two cables. One for the upper zone and one for the lower zone of the boot. The Triple BOA® system has cables for the upper zone, one for the lower zone, and one to adjust the liner.
The BOA® lacing system is fast, easy, and convenient. But, it is not perfect. A one dial system does not offer snugness in all areas of the foot. Of course, you can get more dials to allow you to take care of that, but it will be more expensive. Also, by having more cables, it does make the boot more complicated and therefore harder to repair if you have any problems.
Hybrid Lacing Systems
Various manufacturers have come up with various lacing systems by combining the traditional, quick-pull, and BOA® lacing systems in order to find a better system that can have comfort and achieve a snug boot fit.
The liner is the removable soft inner boot that goes into the outer shell that you place your foot in. The liners are typically made from EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) which is a lightweight, moldable polymer (foam rubber). The key features in a liner are cushioning for comfort, support for stability, and insulation for warmth. Some liners are permanently attached to the boot while some are removable making them easier to dry. There are basically 3 types of liners:
- Stock Liners – These are basic non-moldable liners that provide a basic level of padding and stability. Over time the liner will conform to your foot’s shape. These are inexpensive.
- Moldable Liners (Thermoformable) – These are liners that are made to conform to the shape of your foot over time through the heat generated from your foot. Therefore, if you buy them new, simply put your boots on and do your thing around the house. The liner will begin taking the shape of your foot.
- Heat-Moldable Liners – These are liners made from materials that can be heated in special ovens and then placed on your feet. As they cool, they will form a very snug fit to your feet. Often, the heat process must be done by a professional who has the proper heating equipment. But there are some liners that can be heated with a household hair dryer. Heat-Moldable liners are the most expensive of the three liner types.
Some other features available on various liners include:
- Quick-pull lacing – Allows riders to pull to get a more snug fit.
- BOA® tightening – Uses the BOA® system to tighten the liner.
- Instep padding – arch support to help prevent tired feet and better response.
- Shock-absorbing footbeds – excellent for riders who do lots of tricks and jumps.
- Antimicrobial treatment to fight odors – great when your friends and family complain constantly about your smelly feet.
The footbed of a snowboard boot is the insole inside the liner where the foot will rest. Different footbeds found in boots will offer different amounts of padding but are in general very simple and flat. There are after-market footbeds available that can be molded to your feet for better arch support. These are highly recommended since properly supported feet will reduce the amount of stress on your joints and ligaments when riding.
The shell of the boot is the outer material. There are two parts to the shell: Uppers and Outsoles. The upper part is typically constructed out of synthetic leather making it durable and flexible. The outsoles are the walking sole. Boots made for different terrain will have different types of soles which make it easier for climbing or walking in that type of terrain.
Snowboard Boots Buyers Guide
Now that you have a good understanding of the terminology used with snowboard boots, let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to know in order to find the right snowboard boot for you.
Sizing / Fit
Snowboard boot sizing is the same as standard footwear sizing. In other words, if you wear a men’s size 9 shoe, a men’s size 9 snowboard boot should fit properly. If you are buying snowboard boots for the first time, you should note that the boots should be snug at the beginning. They should not be tight to the point of hurting your feet. The reason that they should be snug is that after riding in them a few times, the padding will pack down resulting in more room. If they are not snug enough at the beginning, the boots will begin to feel loose after riding a few times.
In general, a good fitting boot will gently touch your toes but still allow you to wiggle your toes inside the boots. Also, when your knee is driven forward your heel should remain in place. This is referred to as “heel hold” which will allow for good board control. After getting your new boots, it will take a few days of riding before they form a nice fit.
I already reviewed boot flex earlier in this article, so I will not get into detail. To get the proper flex for your boots, it depends on 3 factors: Terrain, Your Ability, and Personal Preference.
- All-Mountain - All Mountain riders are those who like to venture a little bit everywhere on the mountain from groomers to powder to the terrain park. The best flex for these type of riders will be a medium flex (5 to 7).
- FreeStyle – Freestyle riders like to spend most of their days in the terrain park doing jibs, jumps, rails, and various tricks. For this, riders will be best to go with a softer flex of 1 to 4. Along with the flex, you’ll want something with lower cut to increase maneuverability. In addition, you should consider a lightweight boot and a high quality liner that can help cushion hard landings and impacts.
- Freeride or Backcountry – If you like to speed down groomed or ungroomed terrain then you fall under the freeride terrain. With this speed, you need a stiffer flex to get a better response on the board. If you are more of a beginner, you may be better off with a medium flex. Therefore, go with something from 5 to 10 for the flex rating.
Your ability level will also have an impact on what flex is best on your snowboard boots. Beginners will want a more flexible boot since it allows easier turns. This will make learning much easier and give the rider more control. As you move up in your abilities, you will want boots that are more responsive to your movements. In this case, those riders will want to go to more stiffness. The only exception will be freestylers who want the flexibility when doing tricks.
While each boot feature has a specific purpose, the largest factor in selecting your boots will be personal preference. Everyone is different and we all have our own preferences and there’s nothing wrong with that. So, if you still like a stiff flex on a terrain park, there’s no reason for you not to do it.
Although socks are not part of the boot, it is important to talk about a couple of things. First, you do not need thick socks. Liners in the boots are well made and will insulate your feet from the cold very effectively. Also, you want your boots to be snug. This gives you better control on the mountain. So make sure to buy some good socks that are made for snowboarding. This will make a big difference in comfort and in control.
Probably one of the easiest questions when selecting snowboard boots, unless you have special reasons, you should make sure you choose boots for your gender. Women’s boots are made differently than men’s to account for the differences in their feet. For example, women’s boots will have narrow heels. Also, children’s boots are made for their size as well. Some boots also offer footbeds with peel-away layers to accommodate growing feet.
Remember that having a good pair of boots is just as important as the snowboard and it is money well spent. Having sore feet in the middle of the day is not fun even if you have the best snowboard on the mountain.
Like a good pair of shoes, having snowboard boots that fit well and that are designed for the purposes you will use them for can be the difference between having a great day on the slopes and having a tiring day with sore feet. Hopefully this article gives you the information you need to make an educated decision the next time you buy snowboard boots. Be sure to check out our ZepicDealFinder page to help you locate that next pair of snowboard boots. ZepicDealFinder gives you the power to easily scan many of the largest ski equipment and snowboard retailers to find the best deal on the ski or snowboard equipment you are looking for.