We have all thought about getting our first snowboard but have you put much consideration into choosing the right snowboard boots for yourself? In fact, snowboard boots should be your first purchase when considering getting your own snowboarding gear as it is the most important piece of equipment in your full snowboard gear setup.
You can have a board with the latest technology and features but if you do not have boots that fit right, you will spend the entire day on the mountain with extreme discomfort, which can be absolutely frustrating. Which is why, it is important to understand the key factors that go into buying your first snowboard boots. We break it down here with 3 things to look out for when choosing your first pair of boots: fit, lacing system, and flex. Once you understand what these factors mean to your riding, you will be ready to get your very own boots.
SNOWBOARD BOOT FIT
Standard, Wide or Asian Fit?
Before deciding which fit will work for you, you’ll have to first know your feet profile and any issues that you might have, such as wider than usual feet, the need for footbeds or custom insoles. Once you know what issues you might face, you’ll then have to decide on the fit. Snowboard boots come in either Standard or Wide Fit models. Standard Fit models has a slim profile throughout the entire boot from the toe box to the heel and ankle areas, with a lower profile at the talus bone area. On the other hand, Wide Fit models have a wider toe box, higher profile at the talus bone area, and narrower ankle and heel areas. This fit provides wider feet profiles with comfort in the toe box while reducing heel lift. Wide Fit models are also equivalent to Burton’s Asian Fit snowboard boot models.
Common mistake in sizing your boot
A common mistake is thinking that your sneaker shoe size will work perfectly well as your snowboard boot size. This method is often inaccurate as we are looking for a snug fit that’s suitable for high impact usage. Snug is the key word here. This is important for the dynamics between your snowboard and your snowboard boots. Snowboard boots need to fit tighter than your normal footwear as we will need maximum responsiveness and energy translation from your movements to your board, keeping in mind that micro movements make all the difference in your riding. If your boots are not snug, you will experience heel lift when turning or changing your edges. This results in additional movement and strength needed when performing basic manoeuvres, which will make you tire quickly. Bad habits in form technique can also be picked up as you overcompensate to balance in a poorly fitted boot. If you were tiptoeing while trying to execute a toe side turn or toe side traverse, or feel a burning sensation in your arches, you have experienced heel lift with a bad boot fit.
We recommend trying on the boots in person before buying as boots sizes and fit will vary between brands.
Let’s now go through the steps when trying on your boots:
- Select a pair of snowboard boots using your sneaker size as a guide, with half a size up
- Try on your boots with a pair of snowboarding socks and do up the entire boot as if you were to go riding. If your toes are cramped at this stage, switch to half a size up.
- Toe test: Inside the boot, your toes should barely brush against the toe box, but it should not curl up or feel pressure. Now flex your knees slightly and you should feel your toes pulling back slightly.
- Heel lift test: While standing up stationary, your heels should be firmly into the heel cup of the boot. Now, flex your knees forward (assuming a toe side stance), and lower your shins into the tongue of the boot. For a good fit, your heels should not lift off from the base of the boot. Instead, you should feel the insole of the boot move together with your foot as you flex forwards. If you feel a gap between your heel and the boot insole, (aka heel lift), go for a half size down, or tighten your boots and perform this test again.
- Walk around the room to ensure the boots are comfortable and you do not feel any sharp pressure points around your feet.
As a rule of thumb, you should select a pair of boots in the smallest size possible, keeping the steps above in mind while choosing the right fit. If you are planning to ride full days with your boots, the foam padding inside your boots and liners will compress (pack out) with time, creating more space and reducing the responsiveness of your boots over repeated use. For avid riders, you can take this into account when selecting your boots and make sure the fit is as snug as possible.
BOOT LACING SYSTEM
There are 3 main boot lacing systems: Traditional Lace, Quick-Pull (Speed Lace), or the BOA system. Some boots feature a hybrid that blends two or more systems together to combine the benefits each brings to the table. For example, a traditional lace & BOA hybrid pair of boots such as the VANS Infuse. It is important to note that each system works great as it caters to different types of riders. The lacing system you decide to go with is ultimately up to personal preference.
Here are the 3 main lacing systems on snowboard boots:
The purists, rejoice! Traditional laces provide you with the most precise fit because you get to adjust how tight your individual laces can go without any system restrictions. Speed and BOA laces tend to tighten sections of boot as a whole (zonal tightening) and occasionally do loosen throughout the day as you move. Traditional laces on the other hand tend to stay snug and tight throughout the day so you don’t have to tighten them again – unless the knot comes loose! They are also easy to replace if you lose them or if they get frayed. However, if convenience is your priority and you want to get up on the slopes in the quickest time possible, the other lacing systems might work better for you, especially when tying them up in the cold.
|Best control over the overall tightness of the boot||Difficult to tie or adjust while wearing gloves|
|Laces are easily replaced if broken||Inconvenient|
|Not expensive||Strength of the rider determines overall tightness|
Quick-pull / Speed Laces
Speed laces have zonal tightening sections, which means you can fine tune the tightness of your forefoot lacing independently from the ankle and lower leg. This makes it fast, convenient and easy to do so in the cold with your gloves on. This is the most common type of lacing systems in snowboard boots. However, some people have found it difficult to exert enough force to tighten the laces as snugly as they would like to, which results in lesser shin support during toe edged turns. Connection points can also cause pressure points on your shin and ankles, but these usually fade with time.
|Easily adjusted while wearing gloves||May seem complex at the start|
|Quick and convenient||If broken, not easily replaced on the mountain|
|Customizable fit||Strength of the rider determines overall tightness|
BOA laced boots takes convenience up a notch as it takes just a few turns of the BOA dial to tighten your boots. This makes it easier for people who have difficulty tightening speed or traditional laces. Look out for one or two-dial BOA system boots – a one-dial BOA system (single BOA) boot applies uniform snugness throughout the foot and ankle, whereas a two-dial BOA system (double BOA) boot allows you to tighten your boot at both the forefoot and ankle area independently. Single BOA boots are slightly cheaper than double BOA’s for this added functionality. In general, BOA boots tend to be the most expensive lacing system in any snowboard boot range.
The BOA lacing system has grown popularity over the years, largely due to the convenience it brings to riders. This is a great option for those wanting to beat everyone for first chair up the slopes.
|Fast, easy and convenient to put on and remove||If broken, not easily replaced on the mountain|
|Can be adjusted easily while wearing gloves||Additional cost|
|Precise micro adjustments||Single BOA system only offers one level of lace tension throughout the foot lacking customizability|
SNOWBOARD BOOT FLEX
Snowboard boot models have a spectrum of flexibility and are typically categorised as soft, medium or stiff on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the stiffest. Each brand will also have their own flex ratings and varying degree of softness – so it’s always best to head to a store to try them on for yourself! There are 3 main types of categories with flex:
- Soft flex: between flex rating of 1-4. Soft-flexing boots are comfortable and easy on your feet for long days on the slopes. This is suitable for first-timers and beginners who need a more forgiving pair of boots when trying out the sport for the first few times.
- Medium flex: between flex ratings 5-7. A great balance between mobility and support for versatile and all-mountain performance.
- Stiff flex: between flex ratings 8-10. These will give you the maximum support with highest responsiveness at high speeds and tough conditions. These babies will keep you lock and loaded for the biggest of pow days and the sharpest of carves.
For beginners, you should always opt for softer boots as they are more forgiving, especially when you are start learning on groomers. Choosing a pair of boots with a stiff flex will hinder your progress at this stage as you try to build your fundamental skills. However, as you progress, you will have a better understanding of how your movements translate to your board and a stiffer boot will give you the responsiveness you need for micro movements. Identifying the right snowboard boot flex that matches your riding style ranks high when investing in boots.
Similar to flex, there are 3 main categories of riding styles:
- All-mountain: This refers to any terrain suited for a snowboard such as groomers, off-piste, powder and park. All-mountain riding tends to work well with a soft flex. For those who prefer a little speed and venturing into off-piste areas, a medium flex is preferred.
- Freeride: Backcountry, untracked powder runs are the terrain of choice for those who love free riding. Due to the unpredictability of conditions and obstacles, freeride terrain requires a greater boot support, precision and speed, achieved with boots with stiff flex.
- Freestyle: Park riders who enjoy hitting jumps, half-pipes, spins and building their vocabulary of tricks. Fast response, flexibility and freedom are of the utmost importance in the park, so a boot with a soft flex will perform the best in this terrain.
If you are first starting out, a softer flex is recommended to help speed up your progression in the sport but don’t be afraid to go with a medium flex if you foresee the type of riding you will be doing. Boot flex is often a personal preference, but it will help shape the type of riding you want to do, either freeride, all-mountain or freestyle.
Let’s not forget about your snowboarding socks!
What’s on the inside matters too. Wearing your everyday cotton socks or thin insulation socks on the mountain can lead to improper snowboard boot fit, frozen feet, unwanted abrasions, increased fatigue and general discomfort. On the other hand, a common mistake seen with causal riders is the use of thick fluffy, winter socks when snowboarding (this applies to skiing as well). Snowboard socks are designed specifically to work with your foot and ankles’ natural arch & structure. This means your socks have lesser tendency to droop, fall to your ankles or bunch up. These specially designed socks also offer added warmth, moisture wicking properties, and increased comfort, so you don’t have to pile on the socks for warmth! Invest in snowboard socks and your feet will thank you for it.
Go for a fitting session
We’re flexing a little here, but we are proud to present Singapore’s first and only snowboard shop and fitting studio! This means you get to try on the boots, boards, bindings and accessories on our sunny island before committing to a purchase. We take our snowboarding seriously and we want you to feel the best you can to perform your best on the slopes. Afterall, we’ve only got a limited time on the slopes so makes sense to get the right equipment for maximum enjoyment.