Whether you go with a boa or lace lacing system for your snowboarding boots will depend on a couple of different things.
Let’s go through the most common lacing systems and cover
- how they work;
- the pros and cons; and
- who they are most suitable for
The Different Lacing Systems
There are 3 broad categories of lacing systems which are:
- Traditional/Standard Lacing;
- Boa; and
- Speed Lacing
There are different varieties of all of these and they differ between brands but these are the 3 most common broad types on the market at the moment.
Traditional Standard lacing
These work pretty much like lacing up shoes – on the outside at least.
Usually there is a separate system to do up the inner part of the boot with a pull string and then the outer part of the boot is done up with laces.
- You control how loose or how tight, and you can control that looseness and tightness over different sections of the boot
- Because of that control they are less prone to creating pressure points
- Tend to be cheaper
- If the Laces break they are easy/cheap to replace
- It can be hard to get them really tight especially if you lack grip strength
- Usually you need to remove your gloves to tighten them (this can also make it particularly hard to get them tight on colder days)
- The laces can loosen up over the day (this can be stopped using the ‘hockey skate’ technique – see video below)
Using the hockey skate technique to tie your boots
Check out the video below to learn how to use stop your laces from loosening off.
Who Traditional/Standard Lace Boots are Most Suitable For
Go with traditional lace boots if:
- You tend to get pressure points in boots; or
- You have high arches which may make you more prone to pressure points; and/or
- You don’t have any trouble getting laces tight; and/or
- You are on a tight budget
There are two main types of boa systems – Single Boa and Double Boa -though each boot manufacturer’s boa systems are slightly different.
These systems often have an inner tightening system similar to traditional lacing systems but the outer boot is tightened using a knob that you twist to pull a system of wires tight across the boot.
Single boa systems have one knob for the whole boot.
Double boa systems have one knob which controls the lower boot and one knob that controls the upper boot.
- Really easy to get them tight (just a matter of twisting the knob) – especially good for those with weaker grip
- Easy to do up when fingers are cold – and can do them up with gloves on
- Less likely to experience too much heel lift
- Can cause pressure points – especially for those with high arches and on cheaper models (double boas less prone to pressure points because you can adjust the lower and upper sections separately)
- If they break it’s critical and you’ll have to end your day on the mountain
Check out the video below to see how easy these are to get in and out of.
Who Boa Boots are Most Suitable For
Choose Boa boots if:
- You find it difficult to get traditional or speed lacing systems really tight
- You often ride in really cold conditions which makes it more difficult to tighten your boots
- You like a really tight fit
- You just want it to be easy getting in and out of your boots and you aren’t prone to pressure points
- You find that traditional and speed lacing systems always have too much heel lift – boa might be the answer (but heel lift can also be helped by some other things – see this post on sizing snowboard boots for more)
Speed Lacing Systems
Though each brand that does speed lacing have slightly different systems and are usually called something different, here is the general principle behind speed lacing:
The tightening of the laces in speed lacing systems is usually controlled by a single handle (or a couple of handles) which you simply pull to tighten and then lock in place.
Some speed lacing systems also come with a separate inner ankle harness that you can use to hold your ankle in nice and tight. The method for tightening the ankle harness is the same as for the outer boot. The bonus with this is that you can tighten the inner boot without having to loosen the outerboot.
Others come with a traditional inner tightening system like you’d find on most traditional lace and boa boots.
- Really quick to get your boots done up (as speed lacing would suggest!)
- Light weight – adds minimal weight to your boots
- Can tighten with your gloves on so you can easily make adjustments on the fly
- Dual systems offer the ability for some independent tightening of lower and upper sections of the boot
- If has ankle harness can help with heel lift and getting the ankle nice and tight and you can retighten easily during the day
- Can be difficult to get really tight – especially if you lack grip strength
- Adjustability over different zones of the foot is limited – better with dual zone
- Can loosen off over the day and may require regular retightening (though is fairly quick and easy to do)
- Can be tough to figure out how they work at first (but fine once you get the hang of it)
Learn the Speed Lacing System in the Video Below
Speed Lacing Systems are most suitable for
Choose speed lacing if:
- You have the strength to pull them tight enough
- You prefer a looser feel in the boot
- You want your boots done up and removed super fast and easy (once you learn the system)
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading and I hope this has been useful in helping you to choose the lacing system that’s right for you.
If you’d like to learn more about other factors to look out for when choosing snowboard boots check out the link below.
If you have any questions or comments they are more than welcome in the comments section below.
Do you think Burton Limelight boa are too stiff to match Nitro Lectra and Burton Stiletto bindings? I’ve been learning for almost 3 seasons and still working on heel side turns in order to get down a green run.
Thanks for your message.
I think the ideal match would be the Mint from Burton. But if you’re to have anything in your setup stiffer than the rest, it would be boots, IMO. So I think the Limelight Boa work with that setup, but will just make things subtly a steeper learning curve. Just because stiffer gear typically means a little harder to control at slower speeds. The Limelight aren’t stiff by any means, but their mid-flex so a little stiffer than the rest of that setup and stiffer than something like the Mint.
Hope this helps
I bought the Ride Anthem BOA boots and the wire snapped before my first run on the mountain when trying to tighten them. I had an extra pair of boots I leave in the trunk incase I accidentally make it to the mountain forgetting my boots, but I was extremely disappointed in the boots. Unlikely I’ll ever try BOA’s again. Traditional is the way to go, you can just replace the laces if this issue happens.
Thanks for your input. I’ve never experienced BOAs breaking but certainly frustrating – and Traditional are easier to replace if they do break. Always good to hear others’ experiences.
I have RIDE Anthem single BOA boots. At first, when I’ve started learning how to ride they were really comfy. As I’ve started to gain speed they became to pressure my back leg toe, and as I got tired my heels started to lift.
Generally I think that my problem is that my shins are quite big compared to skinny ankles and feet, so BOA is unable to tighten ankle/foot area.
Can I pick your brain about possible solution?
Thanks for your message.
I couldn’t say exactly what boot to go with to fit your feet/ankles/shins the best. But I would suggest something with the ability to adjust the lower and upper halves of the boot independently. For this the best options are traditionally laced boots, double boa boots (single boas have no ability for separate adjustment) or speed lace boots that have the ability to adjust the lower and upper sections of the boot.
Also, if you’re starting to progress and starting to ride faster and are looking to change your boots anywhere, then going for something a little stiffer will help too. Something soft is great for starting out because it’s more forgiving and gives you more maneuverability at slower speeds, but once you’re riding faster and looking for something more responsive, then stiffening up that flex is a good idea. I would say that the Anthem is about a 4/10 flex – so on the softer side of medium.
If you want somewhere to start, check out the following for some options with a 6/10 or 7/10 flex:
>>My Top All Mountain (medium-stiff flex) Snowboard Boots
Hope this helps
Thank you for reply
For now I’m forced to stay with current boots, but I will consider taking stiffer ones in the future.
I’ve tried some different things to make the bottom to fit tighter. I’ve came up with this solution:
-put on the boots, tighten inside part
-get the BOA really tight on shins
-try to work the bottom part with hands (squeeze it to allow the bottom part of the rope to loose friction and get tighter). Shin part of the boot will get a bit loose during that step, because of lower part tightening
-repeat last two steps until desired result
Boots feel a lot better at home, however I will have to wait to test how it works on the slope till next season…
[note to Nate: I have a picture that compares the methods of tightening. Hit me up on e-mail if you would like to drop it here]
Sounds like an interesting method and something that I would never have thought to have tried. Hope it works out well when you next get on the slopes. I have emailed you too, would be interesting to see the picture.
Thanks for the pics. Here they are for anyone who wanted to see them.
This next pic shows one boot tightened normally and the other tightened with Szymon’s technique.
I’ve had the worst luck w boots. I’m a female and wear a size 10 just under 5’10 with a skinny ankle and shin. My previous double boa stiff boot with straight jacket technology caused goose egg bruises on my shins. Likely from constant tapping all day riding. Luckily the store let me get another pair. I got ride boas single.. they caused the lower shin by ankle to swell and the vein there was numb for a week. It felt bruised all the way around my lower shin. Very painful. I really want boas but I think I need to try laces… My boots before boas were speed lace pulley system but the ‘locks’ on the outside and the inside of the boot would unlock on every run! I had to re tie at the top of every run and sometimes half way down the hill. Yes it’s been a real struggle! But they never caused pain… before that I had another speed lace, Burton mint but I recall some pain around the shin. Perhaps it’s due to my skinny shins.. any advice or recommendations welcome. ♥️
Thanks for your message.
Sounds like you’ve had some unlucky breaks. Not all speed lace systems have the issue of the locks releasing – you might have just had a pair that wasn’t working properly. So I wouldn’t write off speed lace – but yeah maybe due to your experience with Boas recently, going with either speed lace or traditional lace is a safer bet. It’s likely there’s a boa boot out there that would be ok for you, but you probably don’t want to spend forever discovering them!
What was the brand of the speed lace boots you had that were unlocking? If you were comfortable in that brand, then it might be that that’s the brand that fits your feet/legs the best. In which case it might be an idea to go with that brand again – but maybe a different model in speed lace (or maybe they’ve fixed the issue since then?) or traditional lace.
Hope you can get boots that fit you well and don’t cause discomfort! If you do, I’d be interested to hear what worked for you.
I’m a male 5’10” with skinny ankles/shins as well. I got some DC Control boots last year with double boas. The boas have complete separation between upper and lower which I don’t believe all double BOAs do. I love em and feel no pressure points. I would find it hard to go back to a traditional lace. Not sure if DC makes a similar model for women.
One thing about boa boots that you should mention (since you said traditional laces are cheap/easy to replace if they break) is that boa offers a full lifetime warranty on their systems, so if a part breaks they will send you a replacement at zero cost. I’ve had the cable on mine fully snap once and get frayed (ie breakage is imminent) once in the ~5 years I’ve been using them and they sent replacements with very little hassle – it’s just an online form to get them ordered.
Also, the time the cable fully broke was in the lot gearing up for the day. It wasn’t a “day’s over” situation by any means…I cinched the inside lacing tight and tied a dog leash I had in the car around the ankle up to the top. With my boot strapped into the board (front foot…stayed locked in most of the day), I barely felt any more movement than normal.
Thanks for sharing your experience and pointing that out – that’s a good point.
Very inginuitive (not sure if that’s a word!) using the dog leash to keep riding for the day. Nice job!
Daniel Solomon Barela says
Just wanted to mention, when you understand and get into fine tuning an old school traditional lacing system, it fits like a glove, and shouldn’t need any adjustments. I get mine real tight using the hockey technique and can section off the areas I need tighter, without needing to tighten up again throughout the day. My biggest Con is the way all traditional style boots are now made. They all use cloth type eye holes which ripe and tear as the lace is dragged back and forth though it like a saw, making the boot useless. Between 50 to 70 days on the mountain and my boots are useless. My Nike boots only had one of these eye holes around the ankle, unlike my 32 boots which had around 4 to 5 per boot. When they ripped, I double crossed using the hockey technique… I’ll get more days on them, but feel a little loose on the ankle. Nike stopped making snowboard boots however, and other companies use the cloth where Nike used a traditional shoe style rivet hole. Holes with rivets don’t break, they just tear up laces which can be replaced. It’s another story when the structure than keeps your boot tight fails. I am however curious if the Boa system can hold and not loosen with the amount of pressure and stress I put on a boot. I do a lot of pressing, turning, & switching and am curious how the Boa would last. Maybe I’ll try them this season.
Yeah, with the Hockey technique you can definitely keep traditional laces tight all day – and you can definitely get that customization. I haven’t used traditional laced boots for long enough recently to have any experience with the eye holes ripping but that definitely sounds like a pain. I was also gutted when Nike stopped making snowboard boots because they definitely had some good ones.
I find with Boas that they don’t stay tight all day. You need to re-tighten them quite regularly through the day. But it’s super easy to re-tighten them because you can just twist the coil. It takes a couple of seconds and you can do it on the lift or before you start your run. My main boots are Boas at the moment and I didn’t find this to be annoying at all last season but I don’t mind making the odd adjustment. When I had speed lace boots I found I also needed to adjust them through the day – but the process to adjust wasn’t as easy as with Boas.
You can’t get as customized a fit with Boas as you can with traditional lacing which is the biggest downside to Boas. If you do go with Boas make sure to at least get a double boa system that allows you to adjust the upper and lower sections of the boots independently. If you pick the right boots then I find this is enough for me. But if you’re really fussy about the fine tuned fit, then traditional lace are still better.
Hope this helps