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).
Assuming you your snowboard is the right width and your bindings are the right size then there shouldn’t be any compatibility issues with size.
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.
filippo maccari says
I have a weird problem that might be due to my boots being too big.
The sole of my feet hurts, especially on the toe side. I don’t know what to do. Any advice?
Thanks for your message.
Hard to say for sure as everyone’s feet are different and could be a number of things. Being too big is a possibility though – it might be that you’re having to put too much into your turns because your feet have too much room inside the boot and that could lead to cramping in your feet, which is one thing that could be causing it. If you’re getting a lot of heel lift, then getting J bars to attach to the liner might help there.
If the boot is too big, you could try wearing thicker socks to see if that helps.
If none of that works, it might just be a case of getting better fitting boots.
Hi Nate, I’m looking for a little sizing help.
I’m 5’8 and 170lb. My foot is around 10.4 ish inches, but I think I have rather wide feet at about 4.5 inches. So I typically wear size 11 shoes.
I’ve tried on a handful of boots, but have issues fitting into some 9.5 – 10s (K2 Maysis and Thraxis) due to pain along the outer edge of my foot (near the top of my pinky toe), as well as it feeling a quite snug.
On the other hand, the size 9 Ride Fuses that I tried on fit fairly well, but I started feeling a little pain after a couple minutes, so I’m not sure if I should go with them. I didn’t really want to size up, as the length felt perfect.
I was hoping you could maybe suggest a couple wider boots that I could maybe try on?
I’m also looking to pick up a Yes Typo (per your recommendation) but wasn’t sure which size I should get. If I end up picking up a size 10-10.5US boot, would the 155 work well?
Thanks for your message.
I suspect with a wider boot, you should be able to get into a 9, depending on brand. In which case, the 155 Typo should be a good bet. If you end up in 10s, it should still be good. In 10.5s it would be pushing it though. But yeah, with a 10.4″ foot, you should be able to get in a 9 or a 9.5 at longest. The biggest issue right now, by the sounds of it is they are too narrow in those lengths for your foot. So a wider boot definitely the way to go, IMO.
Best bet is to check out the following:
Wide Snowboard Boots for Wide Feet
This one also has comments from other people with wide feet that are worth checking out. There may be more models that have wide models now. That post hasn’t been updated for a while.
Sizing Snowboard Boots: The Different Brands
Hi Nate. Thanks again for all your great information. Hoping you can help me with a question. Do you know of a boot/brand that has minimal to no forward lean? Thank you!
Great question, as always!
I can’t say I’ve paid any attention to forward lean on boots when testing them, so can’t really help you there. I will have to pay attention to this for future testing.
Thanks Nate – enjoy the upcoming season!
Thanks dd. You too!
I actually own some burton photon .
I mmlooking to buy somethingelse as i got a pain on my right foot who did appear at this end of last sesaon, from my middle arche to my pinky.
I try many thing thinking it was my bindings but i dont think so.
Anyway i can use some advice of yours as you already helped me for my board.
I ride a yes standart with now pilot and i put my hands on yes great with now drive for cheap.
I was considering adidas adv, k2 ender, ride lasso pro or deadbolt.
As nobody can know if it will be adidas adv in canada for the coming season that why im looking for back up .
I m open to other suggestions too.
Thanks for your message.
I think all of those would be a good match for your setup. But just to note the Lasso Pro is a little stiffer than the others – more like 8/10 flex versus Tactical ADV 6/10, Ender 6/10, Deadbolt 6/10.
But yeah, all quality boots. If you have a chance to try them on, that would be ideal of course – so you know which feels the best for you and sized right for you, but I know it’s not always possible to try on in person. Some other options, if you need them:
>>My Top All Mountain (medium-stiff flex) Snowboard Boots
But I think one of those, assuming a good fit, will work really well.
Hope this helps
I currently have a pair of ride triad that are in need of replacing.
I like the standard lace that it has.
Do you have any recommendations for similar spec boots to the triad?
Thanks for your message.
I would say similar flex, in traditional lacing, the following would be good options:
– Salomon Lo Fi
– Vans Hi Standard Pro
– Adidas Samba
– DC Mutiny
And there would be a bunch of others very close in flex – like more like 6/10 flex too, if that interested you. The Ride Triad are also a really good option – any reason you don’t want to replace them with the same again?
Wow! I was thinking about how to choose snowboard boots for a friend of mine.
Now I’m no snowboarder as I kinda hang to the beachy side of things but! 🙂
I’m not sure about what kind of snowboarding my friend does but he goes every time he gets a chance.
I’ve never heard him say that he was doing any kind of tricks so I’m thinking he is more of a mountaineer as thats how he talks.
So I’m thinking I have to consider the flex of his boot would be medium soft or medium stiff with a standard lace boot.
I’m glad I got to read the info you have here especially on socks. I would not have known not to get cotton socks for him. I guess I will look into those Merino wool socks you prefer.
Without letting him know I’m getting him snowboard boots for his B-Day what would you suggest I pay attrition to the most when purchasing these boots?
Great info here by the way good for anyone that wants to snowboard.
If you need to buy them without him trying them on then I would suggest the following – ideally he’d be able to try them on but if it’s a surprise then I’d play it safe with the following:
1. Find out his shoe size somehow (even better if you could find out his foot length but that might be tricky!). Then choose a snowboard boot size half a size down
2. Choose a standard lace boot (as you say) – this way is there is less of a chance of pressure points
3. Go for something in a medium or medium-stiff flex. If he is, as you suspect, an all mountain rider, then these levels of flex are the safest bets – I take it from your comment that he is reasonably experienced (goes every time he gets a chance) so I wouldn’t go with a medium-soft – he’ll probably want something a bit more responsive. Generally medium-soft would be for a freestyler, beginner or an all-mountain-freestyle rider (who would be doing some freestyle and might want a slightly softer flex for that).
And as you say, if you are getting him socks then definitely don’t go for cotton. I think Merino wool is best but other wool or a synthetic material like polyprop is o.k. too. If you go for a specific snowboard sock you should be safe.
Thanks for visiting and I hope this answer helps.
Hello Nate, this is a great article on how to choose a snowboard boot. However, I still think your tips could be applied on choosing about any shoe as well. Thanks for the great info.
Hey Nnamdi. Thanks for visiting and leaving your thoughts. I don’t really know much (beyond common knowledge) about choosing shoes generally, only about choosing snowboard boots, so I can’t really comment – but I’m sure some of it could apply to choosing shoes too.
I have never been snowboarding before, but I have been looking into it. This is really helpful for me. Thanks so much, it made my life that much easier.
Hey AJ – you’re very welcome and thanks for leaving your comments. Hope you get a chance to get on a snowboard soon. It’s not something that many people I’ve talked have regretted trying. Also check out my post on choosing snowboard boots for beginners.
Thanks for your post. I will bookmark this and refer to this again if ever I’ll go abroad on a winter season 🙂
Hey Keye – you’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you do the get the chance to give snowboarding a try. I take it you live somewhere without snow to need to go abroad to try it?