Buying Guide: Choosing the Best Snowboard Boots for You
Whether you’re buying a new pair of snowboard boots, or you’re picking up your first pair, it is important that you make an informed purchase decision. There are lots of variables to consider, and plenty of brands on the market from which to choose. Which are the best snowboard boots? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so you will need to know what the various features on offer are, as well as the key considerations to look for when choosing a pair of snowboard boots. We’ll address all of those topics and more in this buying guide.
There are lots of things to consider when buying a pair of snowboard boots, but flexibility is one of the most critical. Choosing the right amount of flex can be tough, as it hinges not just on personal preference, but also on your level of skill and experience.
Generally speaking newer riders should go with a more flexible snowboard boot. More experienced riders will go with a stiffer, more rigid boot. The reason for this difference is that flexible boots are little more forgiving on the slopes, while also being more comfortable to wear. Rigid boots, on the other hand, deliver better performance, particularly in turning and landing.
You will also find medium flex boots on the market. These are well-suited to a number of riding styles and experience levels. You’ll actually find that many all-mountain boots fit into the mid-flex category.
The boots on our list are graded on a flexibility scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the most rigid. So, the lower the number, the more flexible and forgiving the boot will be. The higher the number, the more performance-oriented the boot will be.
Riding Style and Topography
There are numerous different riding styles and preferred topographies. Some riders want broad, gentle slopes that let them get up to speed but are not technically challenging. Other riders want something as close to virgin powder as they can get, complete with ungroomed surfaces and lurking dangers. Your preferences here will affect the type of snowboard boots that you ultimately purchase.
For instance, if you’re interested in doing tricks, then freestyle boots are better suited for your needs. If you’re more interested in carving down mountain slopes, then you’ll want all-mountain snowboard boots. Many riders find that they need more than one style of boot to accommodate their riding preferences.
On our list of the best snowboarding boots, there were several different lacing systems highlighted. We’ll break them down for you here so you can better understand what each offers and how it might fit your needs.
Traditional – Traditional lacing systems are the simplest to understand, although you’ll find several variations, including strategically placed anchor points and lacing systems. While this might be the oldest lacing technology available, it’s generally the best for those who want a completely customized fit, because you can determine exactly how tight you want the various areas of the boot and adjust everything to your satisfaction easily. With that being said, they’re hard on your fingers, particularly when your laces are crusted in snow, and they’re pretty much impossible to manipulate with your gloves on.
Quick Pull – Quick pull systems are less popular than other options, but they do have their benefits. They’re similar to traditional laces, but you can tighten them quickly and easily with little more than a tug on the laces. That makes it easier to use these when your hands are frozen, or the laces are covered in ice. You also don’t have to take your gloves off to adjust the laces.
Boa – Many of the snowboarding boots on your list used some variation on a Boa coiling system. Basically, these systems use dials and minimal laces. To adjust the laces, you simply turn the dial one way or the other. The internal gearing then shortens or loosens the laces based on your direction.
Some boots offer single Boa systems, while others have two dials. They’re much simpler to use than either quick pull systems or traditional laces, and you do not need to remove your gloves. However, they do not offer the sheer adjustability found with traditional laces.
No matter how advanced a pair of snowboard boots might be, they’re no better than the lining they use. This is what is responsible for the comfort and support of your foot and ankle while you’re riding. The best snowboard boots use an integrated lining that works with the outer boot shell to deliver a better riding experience, but there are several different styles of lining on the market today.
Basic Liners – A basic liner is just that, a liner that offers insulation and protection, but little in the way of customization. These are not bad, they just do not necessarily conform to your ankles, heels, and the shape of your foot the way others do. Saying that, these liners will eventually conform to your feet and ankles to an extent through simple wear and tear.
Moldable Liners – Moldable liners are becoming more and more popular with leading snowboard boot brands. These are usually made from EVA memory foam, but there are other types on the market that offer the same basic benefits. The heat from your feet and ankles permeates the liners, allowing them to conform to your body faster and with less wear and tear needed.
Heat Moldable Liners – These liners are similar to the ones above, but they are heat moldable. What this means is that you must remove them from the boots, heat them, then insert them back in the boots. Slide your feet and legs in, cinch up the boots, and let everything sit for a little while. In just a few minutes, the liners will have completely formed to your feet and ankles, and you’ll have a completely custom fit without having to do any breaking in at all.
You’ll find a wide range of materials in use by snowboard boot manufacturers. These include leather and synthetics. Both natural and synthetic materials have their place on snowboard boot construction, and they both bring different things to the table. For instance, leather is very strong and durable, but it stretches over time.
Synthetic materials for boot uppers are not as durable, but they are strong, and they do not suffer from stretching over time. Boot soles are usually made from rubber, but there are other composite materials on the market, such as Vibram and DynoLITE to name just two.
Heavier rubber formulations are best for those who want excellent durability, while lighter formulations are best for those who want ease of use and who are not likely to get off the beaten path.
As a note, you might want to make sure that your snowboard boots have a removable liner. This ensures that you can take the liner out when you’re done for the day and dry both it and the boot so you’re ready to go first thing tomorrow.
In most cases, the footbed will be integrated with the lining and will use the same type of technology and materials. For instance, a liner made with EVA memory foam will usually be mated to a footbed made from memory foam. A heat moldable lining will usually have a heat moldable footbed, and so on.
Like all other footwear, snowboard boots are not always true to size. Most manufacturers offer a size conversion chart to help ensure that you’re able to find the right size with a minimum of fuss and hassle, but it pays to read customer reviews to see what other customers have to say about the size and how well it fit them.
Not only do you need to consider the size of the shoe in terms of fit to your foot, but you also need to think about how it will impact your bindings. For instance, a boot that runs average to wide may not fit in small or standard bindings.
While we’ve included both men’s and unisex snowboard boots on our list, there are those out there sized specifically for women. These are usually the better option than a unisex boot, as they’re designed to provide support for women’s unique anatomical requirements.
The least important consideration when buying new snowboard boots is the style and appearance of the boots. Sure, you want them to look good, but fit, support, and functionality will always beat out style. Plus, you need to remember that a large portion of your boots will be hidden by snowboard bindings.
Saying that, style is an important element. We recommend that you consider fit first, support and safety second, and appearance third. You’ll find a wide range of styles out there, as evidenced by our list of the best snowboard boots. From retro to futuristic to minimalistic, there’s a snowboard boot style to fit just about every aesthetic imaginable.
Finding the Right Fit
Ultimately, you can have all the fancy, futuristic materials you could want, but if your snowboard boots don’t fit well, then they’re going to make you miserable. Fit is a challenging topic to address, particularly when you don’t actually have your feet in a pair of boots at the moment. In this section, we’ll address some of what you’ll need to know when choosing your fit, as well as tips for trying your boots on.
Don’t buy a boot that is the same size as the shoes that you wear. You want to buy slightly smaller. Yes, even though you’ll be wearing snowboarding socks. The reason for this is that once you get your boots broken in, they’ll be looser on your feet. A loose fit is dangerous on a board.
The best tip here is to study the manufacturer’s sizing chart and read customer reviews. If customers state that a boot is truly fitted and still gives them good support after being broken in, then go that route. However, in general, you’ll want to buy a half size to a full size smaller than what you usually wear.
You will also want to consider width in terms of sizing. Most snowboard boots are standard width. For instance, a boot sized 11D would be a men’s boot, size 11, medium width. Men’s widths are usually as follows: C – narrow, D – standard, E – wide. Double letters (EE, for instance) indicate extra wide or extra narrow. Women’s widths are usually A – narrow, B – standard, and C – wide.
Wider widths are sometimes available, but they are few and far between. Also, some manufacturers denote width in millimeters rather than standard letter formats. For instance, 245 and under is considered narrow, 246 to 254 is standard, 255 to 259 is medium wide, and 260 and up are wide.
When it comes to fitting tips, the best option is to put the boots on and simulate snowboarding. Wear the boots for several minutes to see how comfortable and supportive they are. Wiggle your toes and see if you can brush the ends of the boot. If so, they’re a good fit.
Ultimately, there is a pair of excellent snowboard boots out there for just about everyone. Strap up, and get on the slopes!