Heel lift in snowboard boots is a problem most of us have either experienced or heard about.
I have boot fitted at every snowboard shop I have worked at and over the years have seen every type of foot imaginable. One thing I learned was, no matter what type of foot you have or what brand of boot you choose, heel lift can be an issue.
So today we are going to look into heel lift a little deeper, to help you get a understanding of what it is, ways to prevent it, and what can be done once it has started.
Heel Hold/Lift: What is it?
Heel hold is essentially ensuring that your snowboard boots stop the heel of your foot from lifting up inside your boot, when doing a toe side turn or carve.
Heel lift is when the heel of your foot slides up the spine of the boot, when you initiate any type of carve or turn, specifically on the toe side edge.
Having “good” heel hold, doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be no lift at all. It means that the amount of lift is minimal and that it doesn’t affect the response of the boot, in any meaningful way.
Recognizing signs of heel lift are important, as it can progressively get worse if ignored. Which can lead to a less responsive boot, because of a delay between when you initiate the turn and when your body engages with the boot, which in turn engages with the bindings and ultimately the board. This delay, if bad enough, can lead to a number of problems, such as:
- Catching edges;
- Unstable edge control when carving or spinning; and
- A really uncomfortable foot that is getting overworked due to lack of support which can lead to cramping or numbness.
How to prevent it
It is pretty much impossible to have zero heel lift in a snowboard boot but with that being said, the goal is to have at least a very minimal amount. Doing so will help to ensure that your snowboard is responding quickly and correctly to your movements and what you want it to do. So, let’s take a look at some ways to prevent heel lift from affecting your day on the mountain.
Boots are either too big or wide for your foot
A common issue many people have is that the boots they have purchased are not the correct size. Many people think their snowboard boots should be a similar fit to their shoe size and this is often false for a variety of reasons.
The biggest reason being, unlike shoes, snowboard boots pack out almost half a size by the time they have been ridden 10-15 times, leaving you with a loose fitting boot in either the length or width, if you’ve picked the incorrect size.
Easiest way to avoid this problem is by seeing a professional boot fitter who can identify whether you have wide, narrow, or smaller feet than you realized and can therefore recommend an appropriate boot that would work best. If you can’t see a professional boot fitter, study up on how a snowboard boot should fit, to ensure that you get it right. A good place to start here.
Not properly tightening the boot
Not always the most common problem but on occasion can occur when either the boot itself isn’t’ properly tightened or in some cases the liner. Almost every brand of snowboard boot has a different kind of lacing system, whether it’s boa, speed lace or traditional laces or some combination, they all tighten up differently. And liner lacing systems can differ too.
First off, ensure you are tightening the liner accordingly making sure it is good and tight. I find, once you’ve given the tag a good tug (for a typical liner lacing harness), continue to pull the tag and then push the clip down several times. Usually with doing this a few times after your initial pull, you can get it quite a bit tighter than you thought. Don’t cut off circulation of cause, but make sure it’s good and tight.
Next make sure the lower section on the outside of the boot is tight because they do the majority of the work when it comes to ensuring your heels don’t lift. Be careful not to over-tighten though, as this can cut of blood flow which will cause your feet to cramp up.
Depending on your boot’s lacing system, the upper section may also work around the ankle of the boot, so this will likely need to be tightened too.
Finally, make sure your bindings are adjusted accordingly with the ankle strap fitting nice and snug. This will provide you with an even better fit, helping to ensure your heels lift less. Of course you don’t want pressure points or discomfort, so don’t over crank to a point that it’s uncomfortable.
It may be hard to say goodbye to a beloved pair of boots that got you through the last few seasons. But it might be time, if you are correctly doing everything mentioned above and still experiencing heel lift.
Every day on the mountain takes a toll on your boots and over time they begin to pack out more and more leaving them feeling softer and like your feet are moving around in every direction.
Realistically most brands say their boots are only going to perform to a high standard for about 100 days of riding, which is years for some and one season for others.
Some brands do offer things such as J-bars or extra foam for liners that will help extend your boots life but these are just short term fixes that will only last so long.
So be aware of your boots starting to feel like this and consider getting a new pair before the problem persists because in this case there is no other fixes.
It may also be the case that a particular pair of boots, no matter the size, just don’t provide you with good heel hold. Everyone’s feet are different and different brands fit differently. A certain pair of boots just may not be a good pairing with your foot type.
This is only really a prevention measure and can only be done when selecting the boots for the first time. Getting it right from the outset is the best method.
Heel lift is the most common problem associated with snowboard boots these days but it is quite avoidable.
Getting a properly sized boot is the number one most important thing to do. And purchasing a pair of snowboard boots that are a good match to your feet.
If possible, go to a local shop (and if not possible, do your research) and at the very least discover what type of foot you have, because nobody’s are the same. Follow this up with some research on what brand might fit your style of foot best, because like feet they all fit different.
If you are past the purchasing stage and are dealing with heel lift, there are still things you can do to help, like J-bars, but they might not completely solve the problem and it’s better to get the right boot and the right size from the outset.
Heel lift is frustrating and inevitably unavoidable at some point, if you use the same boots season after season but I hope this helped you understand heel lift a bit more and ways to minimize its effect on your snowboarding.