The goal of this post is to help to 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.
And when it comes to snowboard boots, even your calves play a part.
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.
The following will be covered to help guide you to choosing the best snowboard boots for you:
- 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
Depending on how you wear your shoes and the brand of boot, your snowboard boot could be the same as your shoe size or 1/2 a size smaller or larger – or in some cases even a whole size different.
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. This isn’t always accurate but it’s a good starting point.
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 also 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 the link below.
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 to medium-soft flex, freestylers with a medium-soft to medium flex, all mountain riders with a medium to 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 a good idea to not stray too far from it.
Check out the link in the boot flex section above for more on flex compatibility.
With the emergence of strapless bindings these days, there are also some compatibility issues there. For example Burton’s Step On boot and binding systems. In this case, Step On boots should only be worn with Step On bindings and Step On bindings only with Step On boots. K2’s Clicker bindings it’s the same deal. But for all other regular snowboard boots, they should fit in any regular strap bindings (assuming the correct size).
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 medium-soft or medium 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 cushioning.
Board feel is another thing to consider – good board feel helps with ollies, butters etc – this is less important if you have bindings with good board feel, but if you want really good board feel, having both boots and bindings with good board feel helps.
As well as going for a stiffer flexing boot, freeriders also have a couple of other things to consider in their boot.
Shock absorption is still important but not as important. But things like traction should be considered more if you are looking for a boot for freeriding . If you do a lot of hiking in the backcountry then you will need your boots to grip well in many different conditions. You could even look for boots with Walk Mode if you’re going to be splitboarding.
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 – which almost all non-budget brand boots have nowadays, particularly freeride boots which tend to be more high-end (see more below) 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 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, 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 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. These are pretty rare in all but the most budget boots.
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. You can also do it at home yourself, if you’re comfortable with it.
Heat-moldable liners provide the best custom fit.
You can also get custom footbeds made for the liner. Any decent liner has removable footbeds, which you can pull out and replace with a custom one. Only the very budget brands have footbeds that are unable to be removed.
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 got an idea of the type of boot you’re looking for, check out Snowboarding Profiles’ top boot picks. 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. Those lists are updated every year.
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.