Photo: Ivan Dudka/Tandemstock

How To Choose the Right Snowboard Boots

Snowboard boots are one of the most important pieces of equipment in your riding package.

Often overlooked in favor of snowboards and bindings, snowboard boots are one of the most important pieces of equipment in your riding package. As the closest point of contact to your body, they need to be comfortable, fit correctly, and work well in conjunction with your bindings. Matching your boot and binding ensures you get the most performance out of your board. Factor the following to find the right boots.

Sizing

For the most part, snowboard boot sizes follow classic U.S. number sizing, but they can still vary by manufacturer and model. Designed low-profile so your toes don’t extend any farther than necessary over your board edge (especially on narrower boards), you want a snug and comfortable fit throughout, from your calves to the soles of your feet. Try them on before you buy, and even step into a binding to test how it feels.

Fit

Strive for a tight, stable fit over the top of your foot and around your upper ankle. Your toes should be able to wiggle and barely touch the end (toe box) while standing normally with the boot fully tightened; they shouldn’t curl or have any pressure points. When you flex forward and bend your knees, your toes should pull back slightly while your heel stays in the heel cup without lifting. Look for a comfortable range of motion without any pressure points.

Note: Don’t buy too big. Over time, your boot will “pack out” (up to a half-size), creating more space, so don’t be afraid of a snug fit. Most boots need several days of riding to form to their true size, so they should be snug when new. Also make sure your board’s width and your boot size are compatible to maximize leverage and control; too wide equals less control, too narrow might cause heel and toe drag when riding.

Socks

Try your boot on with the socks you’ll be wearing riding. Ideally, this should be a specially designed, thin- to medium-weight wool or synthetic ski/snowboard sock (not cotton) designed to flex with your ankles’ articulation. It should be thin and warm and offer moisture-wicking properties, without bunching up when you flex. 

Flex

As with ski boots, snowboard boots come with different flex ratings, from stiff to soft, which often vary by manufacturer on a scale from 1-10 (1=softest, 10=stiffest). While your boot’s softness is a personal preference, beginners looking for versatility often go with a soft- or medium-flex All Mountain-type boot for comfort and mobility. Freestyle riders often gravitate toward more flex, sacrificing support for mobility, while many advanced “freeriders” opt for a slightly stiffer boot.

Lacing Systems

Snowboard boots have three main types of lacing systems: traditional, speed or “quick-pull,” and Boa. Each has its pros and cons. Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference and price.

Laces

Traditional laces are easy to use and ensure a secure, custom fit. They’re also simple to tighten or loosen, depending on conditions and comfort, and are easily replaceable. On the downside, they can loosen during the day, break, and create challenges to adjust with your gloves on.

Speed/Quick-pull

This type of lacing system is faster and easier than traditional lacing systems, offering a customizable fit. While there are many different types of quick-pull systems, they all offer a fast entry and exit from your boot, easy adjustability and a secure fit. Many boots also offer zonal lacing systems, allowing the forefoot and ankle/lower leg to adjust and tighten independently for a more custom fit. Bonus: Most can be adjusted while wearing gloves.

Boa

Employing a ratcheting dial attached to a thin wire cable, Boa lacing systems are a quick and easy alternative to traditional laces, with fast and easy micro-adjustability for a snug, uniform fit. Many boots offer two or even three such dials, one controlling the forefoot tightness and one the upper cuff, for a true customized fit. Bonus: The dials can be easily adjusted with one hand and your gloves on.

Liners

Snowboard boot liners are usually made with lightweight, EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam that molds to your foot over time. They provide cushioning, stability and insulation to ensure your feet remain comfortable for your whole day on the mountain. Some liners are removable for drying, while others remain attached to the boot. While they all “pack out” and become looser over time, moldable liners mold to your foot shape during use; heat-moldable liners, which are slightly more expensive, provide a custom fit through a certified boot technician.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.