This post will outline the key specs for choosing all mountain snowboard boots.
Since an all-mountain rider wants to be able to do a bit of everything then they need a boot that can assist them anywhere they are on the mountain and for any riding style.
There are some specs, such as comfort, that are important to all styles of riding and others that are more important to particular styles. All mountain boots need to strike a balance between all specs in order to cater to all possibilities.
What Specs this post will look at
The following will be looked at to see how important they are for all-mountain riders:
- Reduced Footprint
- Heel Hold
- Shock Absorption
The flex of your boot is probably the most important aspect (next to getting a good fitting boot).
As the term “all-mountain” is quite broad, the flex you go with will depend on your particular style – but all mountain boots will usually fall somewhere between a 4/10 flex (1 being the softest and 10 the stiffest) and an 8/10 flex. With 5-7 being the most common.
Freestyle riders will usually go with a 3,4 or 5 out of 10 and freeriders 8,9 or 10 out of 10. As is usually the case with trying to strike a balance, all mountain boots tend to have something in between freestyle and freeride.
If you are more of a freestyle oriented all mountain rider – known as freestyle-all-mountain then you are likely to learn more towards a softer flexing boot – around a 4,5 or 6 out of 10. This is because there is more give in the boot to allow for better butterability, tweaking grabs and a bit more forgiveness when landing jumps.
If you are a more aggressive-all-mountain rider leaning more towards freeriding then a 7 or 8 out of 10 may be more appropriate. This is mostly because you want your boots to be responsive – as you really need that responsiveness when you’re riding at speed, when on steeps, charging through narrow chutes etc.
Response is largely down to the flex of the boot – though some boots manage to be more responsive than their flex would suggest.
As a rule though, the stiffer the flex the more responsive a boot will be.
But things like proper fit (you will lose response if your foot is moving around inside there) particularly with heel hold (see more below) will also have an effect on the response of the boot.
Freestyle-all-mountaineers won’t be as concerned with response as more aggressive riders but will definitely still want some reasonable response.
Response is more important the closer you get to being a freerider, so the aggressive-all-mountaineer should put more importance onto response.
Reduced footprint, otherwise known as “low profile” basically means that the outer-sole of the boot is smaller than what you would expect for the boot’s size. For example, a size 10 boot with the outer-sole of a size 9.
There are differing degrees of reduced footprint – so you could have a very minor reduction – like a quarter size smaller on the outside – or a major one like a whole size (or more) reduction.
Why would you want this?
Having a smaller boot means you can fit on a board with a narrower width. This might be a necessity if you already have a board that is too narrow for your foot size – but it also allows you to purposefully ride a narrower board.
Narrower boards tend to be more responsive so if you are hell bent on getting the most response possible then this could be the way to go. Just keep in mind that a narrower board will also be less stable.
Also reduced footprint boots lessen the risk of dragging a boot in the snow on hard carves (depending on the width of your board of course).
I don’t see reduced footprint as being a must for all-mountain snowboard boots but it is a nice to have and is more important for the aggressive-all-mountain rider than it is for the freestyle-all-mountain rider.
Different riders are more or less fussy on heel hold.
I’d probably put myself in the category of being slightly more fussy.
Good heel hold helps with better response (because there is minimal delay caused by your heel lifting before it engages with the boot) and makes for a more precise ride.
Because this is related to response it is most important for the most aggressive all-mountain riders. However, I believe it’s also important for freestyle-all-mountaineers (and even freestyle riders). It’s better to let the flex of the boots decide the level of flex – a delay caused by a lift in your heelis a different thing to a flexy boot.
As a rule try to make sure there is no more than a 1cm (1/3 inch) lift in the heel.
Your boots play the biggest role in shock absorption – they are the first point of contact for the soles of your feet. Bindings can also help a lot with shock absorption.
For all-mountain riders shock absorption is important – but not as important as it is for freestyle riders – who are landing jumps, hitting jibs etc all day.
Naturally then, shock absorption is more important for the freestyle-all-mountain rider than it is for the aggressive-all-mountain rider but is still important for all types of all-mountain riders.
Shock absorption also plays a key role in making the boots comfortable.
All-mountain riders – particularly those that like spend a good bit of time in the backcountry (off-piste) will want to strike a balance between shock absorption and traction.
Generally there is a trade off – because too much padding and cushiness in the soles (which will help shock absorption) will hinder traction.
Again this will be more or less important for each rider depending on what they like to do on the mountain – however most all-mountain riders are likely to need to do some kind of hiking even on the groomers, not to mention having grip in an icy car park.
A good amount of adjustability is important for any style of snowboard boot – and all-mountain boots are certainly no exception.
Having highly adjustable boots means that you can have them fitting just how you like them – it also allows you to adjust the boots to avoid pressure points.
The boot’s lacing system will have a big impact on the adjustability. Most high end boots have the ability to adjust the lower and upper sections of the boot independently. This gives you much greater control of how your boots are fitting.
Cheaper boots may not have this capability.
Last, and most definitely not least, we come to comfort. The comfort of boots is important for everyone – no one wants to be uncomfortable on the mountain.
Comfort in snowboard boots is down to a couple of things.
But mostly it’s about getting a good fit.
Nice plush liners, well padded boots, molded footbeds, good shock absorption and adjustability also play an important role in the comfort of your boots.
And for women it’s also important that you go for a women’s specific boot. This is because they are designed to better fit a women’s foot and tend to be slightly shorter in the back to compensate for the fact that women’s calves typically sit slightly lower than men’s (which can lead to calf-bite if they’re too high).
Though normally reserved for bindings, some boots also have canted footeds. Canted footbeds work to align your body in a more comfortable position which reduces fatigue.
Over to You
Well there’s my take on the important specs for all-mountain snowboard boots. I hope this post has helped you learn more about the best all mountain boots for you. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
You should also check out my top 5 men’s and women’s all mountain boots at the links below. These boots are what I think have the best specs for all-mountain riders. Again – what’s most important to you may differ but these lists of boots are a good place to start.