This page will show you how to choose snowboard boots – the key things to look out for.
The last thing you should do is to go for boots just because your friend says they are great. They might well be great for your friend but your feet are likely to be shaped differently and they may not suit you at all.
Feet can be different in a number of ways – different arch heights, different heel sizes, different widths and different sized ankles.
Deciding on the best boots for you is a very individualized thing.
What Should I Look Out for When Choosing Snowboard Boots?
There are a number of things you should consider before you invest in snowboard boots. Get them right and they will enhance your experience on the mountain in terms of both comfort and performance.
But get them wrong and it can really take away from your enjoyment and you can end the day with very sore feet, ankles, legs & even back.
This page will cover choosing snowboard boots based on the following.
- Lacing Systems
- Your style of Riding
The most important part of choosing boots is getting the sizing and fit right.
There are several things to think about here, namely:
- Pressure points
- Heel lift
- Wide feet
- Narrow feet
- Skinny Ankles
Generally speaking the size of your boots will be a half size or a whole size smaller than what you usually wear in your shoe size.
Fortunately snowboard boots come with something called a mondo-print, which is essentially states the size of foot that the boot was designed to fit. So if a boot has a 28cm mondo-print then that boot should fit someone with a 28cm foot.
In terms of pressure points – you shouldn’t have them! This can really only be truly known if you try the boots on in person.
Too much heel lift in the boots is not desirable. This will affect the response of your boots. If there is a lot of heel lift then your toe edge turns will be delayed as your boot engages late.
- For a detailed look at how to choose the right size and right fit of snowboard boots check out this page
Getting the right flex for you is mostly about your style and your ability level but like most things you may have a personal preference for a certain flex too – but that doesn’t mean you can’t try something new to see if it feels even better.
Generally speaking beginners go with a soft-medium flex, freestylers with a soft or soft-medium flex, all mountain riders with a medium-soft, medium or medium-stiff flex and freeriders with a stiff flex.
Compatibility with Snowboard and Bindings
Compatibility really comes down to the size and flex of your snowboard boots (see above).
As far as flex goes typically it’s a good idea to try to match the flex of your boots, bindings and snowboard. Though this isn’t a strict rule it’s probably a good idea to not stray too far from it. For example if you have a soft flexing snowboard and get stiff boots then it somewhat defeats the purpose of having a soft flexing snowboard.
Check out the link in the boot flex section above for more on flex compatibility.
There are three main lacing systems.
- Traditional Lacing
- Boa (single and double coils)
- Speed Lacing
These all differ slightly within each brand but these are the 3 broad categories that a majority of lacing systems fall under.
Which lacing system is right for you will depend on a number of things.
Your style of Riding
Finally we come to riding style.
There are a few things to think about when it comes to the way you ride but mostly this is all about flex (see section above). Outside of flex there are a couple of other things to think about.
Besides getting a boot in a soft or medium-soft flex (not a hard and fast rule but generally recommended for freestyle riding) the next most important factor for a freestyle rider is the boot’s shock absorption qualities.
If you get the right bindings then some of this shock absorption will be taken care of there, but your boots should also have sufficient cushioning to absorb the ground shock that freestylers, more than any other style of rider, put their bodies through.
Landing jumps, tricks, hitting jibs etc lap after lap requires extra shock absorption.
So freestylers should go with boots that have plenty of EVA padding, gel or airbags or anything that will add to the cushioning.
As well as going for a stiffer flexing boot, freeriders also have a couple of other things to consider in their boot.
Whilst shock absorption isn’t unimportant, traction is also important for freeriders. If you do a lot of hiking in the backcountry then you will need your boots to grip well in many different conditions. A lot of soft cushioning underfoot may make it more difficult to hike.
So there needs to be a trade-off here to get the right balance. The best way to go is to make sure that your bindings have decent shock absorption and then you can go for maximum traction in your boots for hiking.
You also want your boots to be super responsive so they need to be really snug around the foot. If you have trouble getting traditional lace or speed lace boots tight enough then a boot with a boa system (preferably double boa) might be a good option.
If you have trouble with heel lift which can also affect responsiveness then try to get a boot with a head moldable liner (see more below) and/or ankle harness and/or J-Bars (inserts that go in the liner and compress around the heel to help lock it in). This could go for anyone that tends to get too much heel lift but it’s particularly important for freeriders.
As is usually the case all-mountaineers are somewhere in between. Flex-wise, as discussed above, could be anywhere from Medium-soft to Medium-stiff.
In terms of the likes of cushioning this will probably depend on your personal style. If you do more freestyle type riding then a bit more cushioning will be better. If you tend to do a bit of hiking in the back country then traction will be more important for you.
Other Factors to Consider
There are a few other things to also consider when getting your boots such as liners, ankle harnesses and what socks to choose.
Liners typically come in three types – standard, moldable and heat-moldable.
Standard liners will still mold to your feet but they will take a lot longer to do it. You will need to use them a fair bit before they really conform to the shape of your foot.
Moldable liners will mold to your foot quicker and use your body heat to conform to your foot shape.
Heat-moldable liners are heated up and then placed around your foot. This way they conform to your foot instantly. This will usually be done when you go in to buy the boot but you can likely find somewhere that will do it for you, if you go in later to have it done – you may need to do this if you bought online.
Heat-moldable liners provide the best custom fit.
Some boots come with ankle harnesses that wrap around the liner of the boot to hold your ankle more firmly in place.
These ankle harnesses are controlled from the outside of the boot so you can retighten when you need to throughout the day. These are mostly good for those who tend to get bad heel lift. So if you have skinny ankles or tend to get bad heel lift (more than 1cm is not recommended) for whatever reason, you might want to consider a boot with an ankle harness.
For me the main things to consider with socks is how well they wick away moisture and how long they are. Some people tend to get colder feet and may want to think about extra insulation too.
I personally prefer Merino wool socks. They are great at wicking away moisture, keep your feet warm but are typically still nice and thin. Wool and polypropylene are also good options.
Cotton is a no-go zone when it comes to socks as your feet will retain the sweat which will not only be really uncomfortable and make your boots smell really bad but will also lead to cold feet as the moisture has nowhere to go and will cool down around your feet.
If you go with snowboard specific socks you should be good – i.e. they should be long enough to come out over the top of the boot and made of a material that wicks moisture well. And as a bonus they often come with padding in certain areas for more comfort.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading and I hope this page, and the related pages, have helped you in choosing your snowboard boots.
If you’ve now figured out your specs for you snowboard boots check out one of my top 5 snowboard boot lists. Just click the link below and select the appropriate category – e.g. women’s beginner, men’s beginner, women’s all mountain, men’s all-mountain etc.
If you have any questions, comments or can think of any other advice for choosing snowboard boots please leave a comment in the comments section below.