If you’ve ever been on a mountain at a tourist-heavy location, you’ve probably seen that one guy on a snowboard who spends most of his time face-to-powder.
Snowboarding is a hard skill to learn, but having the right equipment can make the learning curve so much easier to beat.
Whether that guy is just struggling to learn or has the wrong equipment is hard to tell at a glance, but having the proper boots will make a huge difference for all skill levels.
If you’re looking to make a purchase of snowboard boots that will suit your skill level and needs, this article is a great place to learn how to shop smart.
Categories of Snowboard Boots
These main categories of boots are based on skill level and what you would be using the boots for. If you prefer a certain type of snowboarding, you might want to pay attention to where your boots fall under the following groups.
Depending on which type of boot you choose, you can expect certain features that will help you achieve the desired style of riding.
1. Beginner Boots
When looking for boots that are suitable for beginners, one of the most important features is comfort. If you leave the mountain in more pain than a day’s riding is worth, you may not return to snowboarding.
Good beginner boots are often soft and flexible, allowing for more mistakes and less punishment on your feet and legs when mistakes do happen. Soft or soft-medium flex boots are great starting places for beginners.
The way the boots fit is also important to the comfort level and the amount of control the rider has over the board. Beginners should try on boots to make sure they feel good on the sole and that their heels stay firmly in place without having too much of a stranglehold on their ankles.
2. Freestyle Boots
Freestyle boots are made to accommodate riders who like to jib, do tricks, or ride parks. These boots need some flexibility to keep the knees and ankles mobile. In boots with medium-soft to medium flex, riders can manipulate turns, jumps, and landings with less pain and more control.
Because freestyle snowboarders often spend a lot of time airborne, they also should consider how well their liners cushion the soles of their feet. Many repeated impacts on the balls and heel of the foot can seriously dampen your enjoyment after a while.
Freestyle boots need to have a firm grip on the heel, comfortable, shock-absorbing liners, and medium flexibility to allow for both comfort and control.
3. All Mountain Boots
Snowboarders who like a little bit of everything could benefit from the versatility of all mountain boots. These boots are made to suit as many riding styles and terrains as possible for the rider who fears no trail or park.
Riders who like a more freestyle ride may benefit from medium flexibility boots capable of providing give and comfort. Riders who prefer trails and tough terrain should opt for stiff flexibility boots to protect their feet and ankles from overextension. Wherever you spend more time, choose flexibility for that environment.
If you’re an all-around versatile snowboarder, you should still try your boots on to find the right mix of flexibility, comfort, traction, and security.
4. Freeride Boots
This style of boot is meant for the snowboarder who likes to go fast and hard. This type of rider needs maximum support and durability, so their boots hold up for long, difficult trails and advanced maneuvers.
Boots meant for freeriding are typically medium-stiff or stiff to provide maximum support for feet and ankles. They should also have strong traction on the soles, as free riders often find themselves hiking on back trails to get to their desired summit.
Advanced and adventurous snowboarders may have to sacrifice some comfort for durability and support, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t consider shock absorption, lace style, and fit to make each outing last longer with less soreness.
Levels of Snowboard Boot Flexibility
If you don’t want to choose your boots based on the main categories alone, you can craft your own perfect pair by selecting them based on their individual components. Flexibility decides the boot’s comfort and support.
1. Soft Flex Snowboard Boots
Soft flex boots fall under the numbers 1-2 on the stiffness scale. The outer material of the boot determines the flexibility. Softer flexibility boots tend to be more comfortable. They also allow for more lateral (side to side) movement in the ankles and legs.
While these boots are well-suited for beginners and freestylers who need more mobility, the greater flexibility comes at a cost for some. Riders who ride hard and fast, make sharp turns, and are often landing with a great deal of impact won’t receive much-needed support to counterbalance the transfer of weight.
2. Medium Flex Snowboard Boots
Medium flex snowboard boots are 3-6 on the stiffness scale. Medium-soft boots are a 3 or a 4 and medium-stiff boots are a 5 or 6.
Boots with this level of stiffness are generally better for more intermediate snowboarders or those who like freestyling. These boots strike a nice balance between support and flexibility. While still comfortable, they provide some counterbalancing for turns and jumps.
If you need your boots to pull back when you’re turning at sharp angles without chafing or bruising your ankles and shins, you might need a medium support boot.
3. Stiff Flex Snowboard Boots
Boots classified as stiff fall between 7 and 10 on the scale. Stiff flex boots generally are a 7 or 8, while very stiff boots are a 9 or 10. Some manufacturers may vary in how they classify stiff and very stiff boots.
Boots of this stiffness are not forgiving on the legs and feet, but they will help advanced and professional snowboarders to navigate difficult terrain, sharp turns, and steep hikes by offering maximum support.
As the material pulls back on the rider, it will help them to stay on the board even in extreme positions and terrains.
Types of Snowboard Bindings
While the lacing style of the boot may seem insignificant, it can play an important role in the support and comfort level of your boots. They also may be more or less convenient for certain styles of snowboarding.
1. Traditional Laces
Boots with traditional laces are great for snowboarders who prefer total control of tightness and fit.
Traditional laces require a bit more grit and determination to get right, but those who can master this style of lace will have better control of the fit, tightness, and comfort of their boots. They are not easy or quick to put on, but they are easy to fix and replace if you break or lose one.
2. Quick-Pull Laces
Also called speed laces, quick-pull laces are meant to be fast, easy, and convenient. Boots with these laces often have several areas of tension that are tightened by pulling on a handle that locks the proper tension in place.
Boots with quick-pull laces are fast and easy to put on, even with gloves, but they may not be so easy to get off. Slipping and loosening are also potential issues for improperly locking laces.
3. Boa System Laces
Boots with Boa laces feature a knob that riders can twist to tighten the lace tension. High-end Boa boots have several knobs and lace systems so that tension is customizable to different areas of the foot.
Without these separate areas of customization, some may find Boa boots to have inconsistent tension. Yet, these boots are great for quick and easy tightening and tightening while wearing gloves.
Types of Snowboard Boot Liners
Boot liners are a crucial aspect of support and comfort that can make riding for long periods much easier on your feet and knees.
Considering the liner of your boot can make all the difference in your ability to stay on the mountain for longer with fewer weekends practicing R.I.C.E.
1. Non-mouldable Boot Liners
Liners that aren’t heat-moldable are going to be more difficult to break in. This might mean more blisters over a long period of time before your liner molds to your foot.
Non-mouldable boot liners may be better for riders who spend a great deal of the season on the mountain. Though the breaking-in period may last longer than with heat-mouldable liners, they will also last longer before needing to be replaced.
2. Thermoformable Boot Liners
Thermoformable liners are a bit of a mixture between non-mouldable, standard liners and heat mouldable liners.
By applying heat, thermoformable liners can be molded to the exact contours of a rider’s foot for an immediate best fit that feels like an extension of you. While these are great for riders who only need to use them a few times a season, they may not be the right fit for snowboarders who are on the mountain every day.
Not having to break in a liner comes with distinct advantages, including immediate comfort. However, there’s no cushion to extend the life of your liner, meaning it will have to be replaced more frequently.
3. Heat Mouldable
Riders who would like more longevity and less time to break in their liners would enjoy heat mouldable liners.
Soles that are heat mouldable mold to your feet, gradually shaping themselves to their contours through persistent contact. This creates a precise fit to your foot over time instead of immediately as with thermoformable liners.
These liners don’t last as long as non-mouldable boot liners, but they do provide more immediate comfort for riders who spend a fair amount of time on the mountain but don’t need them to last the whole season.
Are snowboard boots different than snow boots?
Snowboots are typically ankle-high water-resistant boots meant to keep your feet warm and socks dry in the snow. Snowboard boots are meant to offer support up to the middle of your shin that protects your ankles from injury. Snow boots should not be used in place of snowboard boots.
Can I wear regular boots to snowboard?
No matter how well you think your boots fit, they weren’t made to support your heel and ankle like snowboard boots are. Snowboard boots protect the foot and ankle from injury and help riders to stay mobile and flexible on jumps and turns. Regular boots aren’t built for this kind of responsibility.
Are new snowboard boots supposed to hurt?
New boots, even though they aren’t broken in, shouldn’t hurt. Make sure when you try them on that your toes barely touch the end, and everywhere else is just snug. Don’t buckle the instep too tightly, either. Some soreness after riding is normal; pain after a short period of time is not.