New snowboard boots, you say? Yeah, tough choice. Sounds like you need some advice. But don't worry, you're not alone. We've done all the research and put together guide to help you find the best snowboard boots around.
When it boils down to it, snowboard boots need to do one thing. And that’s make your life on the mountain easier. And there are some key features at work when we’re talking about that. For us, comfort, stiffness, and tech all play a part in how you are connected to the snow. And you’ll need different doses of each depending on your riding style and riding level. It’s a lot to take in, but don’t worry, we’re here to take care of you. After all, if you snowboard, and I snowboard, we’re practically family.
When we’re talking about comfort, we’re not just looking at cushioning. Comfort is a collaboration of features, everything from construction to insulation, from lacing style to fuzzy pleasure cuffs (more on that later). Stiffness is much the same — it’s the way the boot flexes, and how it responds to your riding. And as for tech, well, that’s a deep well that we’ll be delving into in just a bit. For now, know that we've done our research and taken into consideration each type of rider and riding style, and that if you take our advice, you’ll be in good stead for a great season ahead.
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Pssst! Before you read on, if you're looking for new snowboarding gear, be sure to check out our new collections:
Before we take a deep-dive in the wonderful world of snowboard boots, let’s talk about the basic criteria you need to consider before making a purchase. There are tons of snowboard boots on the market, but how do they differ? And which features are a must-have when picking the best snowboard boots?
One of the first decisions you should make to narrow your snowboard boots choices down is the flexibility of your boots. This all depends on what snow you’re riding, your level of skill, your snowboarding style, and how those relate to the type of control and mobility you want.
Soft – Soft snowboard boots will be more comfortable when you just start riding. A soft flex is forgiving and will help you make the first turns as there’s a lot of room for movement and small adjustments won’t be punished. A soft flexing boot will prevent your snowboard from feeling ‘twitchy’. And, your feet will thank you after those long days on the mountain and hours of après-ski dancing. Soft boots are also perfect for pulling tricks. The flexibility will bend with you when you butter, nose press or 360.
Medium – Medium flex will give you the benefits of a soft boot but at the same time more response and support in trickier conditions, allowing for quicker turn initiation and preventing unwanted flex and torsion over uneven ground or in deep powder. If you are an intermediate rider and need boots for all-mountain terrain — one boot that can go from park to powder without missing a step — a medium flexing boot is your best bet.
Stiff – Stiff boots will give you more control over your snowboard and more support and protection. Especially in off-piste conditions and choppy snow you want the maximum control and a stiff boot will keep you locked in place. On steep descents, in tough conditions, and at high speed, it’s difficult to anticipate how the board will react to the snow. Stiff boots transfer every movement to the board, so while there’s much less room for error, stiff boots offer the most precision for the adventurous rider. As well, if you catch an edge, stack it at speed, or find yourself rag-dolling, a stiff snowboarding boot will prevent your ankles from twisting, and can save you from injury where a soft boot may not!
Currently, there are a few different lacing systems on the market; traditional, speed lacing, BOA and double BOA, and hybrid systems. Everyone has their own preference, and no one lacing type is superior. We’ll sum up the pros and cons of the different lacing systems below, and let you decide.
Traditional laces – The most commonly used and still the most popular lacing system are traditional laces for snowboard boots. It’s just as easy as tightening the shoelaces on your favourite sneakers, and they give the most versatility when it comes to customising fit. Although your hands might get cold when you want to adjust them on the slopes, and often you’ll need to tighten them after a few runs, and that can take up a bit of your time. The advantage is that they’re the strongest type, and won’t wear or break quickly. And if they do, replacing them is easy as you can just carry a spare lace in your bag and swap it in if that ever happens!
Speed lacing or quick-pull laces – If you don’t like the idea of spending ten minutes lacing up your snowboarding boots every morning, you might want to consider speed laces. It’s a quick and easy system with two laces (one for the lower, and one for the upper zone) that you can tighten and click in with just one big pull. Your boots will be nice and tight without the hassle of traditional laces and you can still get a really good fit that suits your riding. A lot of laces you see on boot liners are standard speed lacing (with a toggle that you pull on to tighten), so this system might look familiar. Expanding this to the outer boot provides, as you can imagine, speed! However, you do lose some of the customisation. The clasps can also cause wear on the laces over time and replacing them, both on and off on the mountain, can be trickier than with normal laces.
BOA system – A BOA system wraps around your foot like a boa constrictor would do. Featuring a strong metal or composite lace and an external dial that adds tension to the laces with every click, it’s a super fast and easy system to work with and can usually be operated in gloves or mittens. This is the fastest and simplest tightening method, that’s for sure! The downsides? The thin ‘laces’ can create pressure points and if the lace breaks, it’s not easy to fix, it needs to be done by a ski repair shop. The single BOA system is also known for its lack of customisation, too, usually resulting in the bottom tightening while the top loosens, meaning you have to keep loosening and retightening throughout the day. Most snowboard boot manufacturers have now replaced the single BOA with the double BOA system to prevent this.
Double Boa – For a more custom fit, a double BOA system can be very handy and is seen as a marked improvement over the single BOA, but does tend to add cost to boots which feature it. Double BOAs usually feature an upper and lower section adjustable through two dials. This way, you can create that ‘custom’ fit to suit you, making these snowboarding boots a great all-around choice, if you don’t mind the higher price point and the inability to fix your own laces if they break. For serious backcountry riders or those venturing further afield from the resort, BOA systems generally are a risk that may or may not be worth taking.
Hybrid – If you’re not convinced about the BOA system, or any other system completely, then a hybrid system might be the thing you’re looking for! A lot of hybrid systems include traditional laces on the outer boot, with a sort of BOA adjustable heel harness to prevent heel lift, providing the maximum amount of comfort, performance, and customisation. These systems are great for all riders and can provide excellent versatility all over the mountain. Though they tend to feature more on high-end snowboard boots, so you’ll often find yourself paying a hefty price tag for a boot which has one.
Another thing you’ll want to look at is the features that best snowboard boots have to offer. Not every boot is the same. Not only do they differ in their flexibility and lacing system, but there are also tons of other things to think about.
We’ll take an in-depth look at at the top features snowboard boots have to offer below. Some brands are more innovative than others, which could influence your choice. Other brands excel in simple, necessary features and have perfected them over the years. It’s always good to consider what is useful for you and what’s going to enhance your riding style.
Last but not least, it's important to be aware ofthe price versus the quality of the snowboard boots. As a total beginner or intermediate beginner, you might want to go for a more budget-focused boot because you’re still learning and these boots tend to be softer and simpler. At this point, you don’t need any fancy features. They just have to get you down the mountain. It’s likely, too, that you’ll want to upgrade to a stiffer boot as you progress, and leaving a cheaper boot behind is easier than ditching an expensive one!
As your riding progresses and you develop your riding style, different features may become important and so a boot that is packed with technical features will be a better choice and worth the higher price tag. When you’re a beginner, you probably wouldn’t even notice most of them!
Now that we've covered the basics, it’s time to choose your snowboard boots. If you’re still not sure, here are a few other things that might help you with your decision.
Of course you want the boots to match your snowboard outfit, but we’re talking about a different kind of style here – your riding style. This has to do with your level of skill and what your preference is on the mountain. Are you a total beginner, more intermediate, or already an expert? Are you more of a park rat, do you like to go fast on the groomers, or can we always find you in deep powder of the backcountry?
Depending on your skill level you might consider a softer or stiffer boot. And because the way you ride the mountain can be very different it’s not a surprise that you need a different boot to fit your style. But more on this later.
Make sure you measure your size or let somebody else do it before trying on different snowboard boots. The best way to do this is to push your heel against a hard surface and measure your foot from the centre of your heel in a straight line up until the tip of your big toe. Depending on your way of measuring this can be done in cm (EU) or inches (UK/US). Be aware that the size guide can differ across countries. A size 6 UK is not the same as a size 6 US size!
Also, something to consider is the width of the boots. Some brands are more suitable for wider feet and others for smaller.
You might wonder if choosing the size for your snowboard boots is the same as your regular shoes. The answer is yes and no. Of course, your reference point is your normal shoe size. However, it’s better to buy your snowboard boots a bit to tight, and your big toe needs to touch the front of the boot slightly. This might feel counterintuitive, boots need to feel comfortable right? Well, snowboard boots will loosen over time due to the foam of the liners, they will mould into the shape of your feet. If that happens you will know, cause you don’t want to take them off again!
We quickly touched upon the liners of the snowboard boots above, but they’re worth more attention as they’re one of the most important thing when deciding which boots you’re going to buy. Boot liners are made from foam and thus will keep you warm and comfortable during your time on the mountain. The foam will serve as a perfect insulator and at the same time, it’s that extra bit of cushioning to protect your feet. Some liners have extra padding on pressure points or thicker footbeds to absorb shocks and impacts while riding.
As mentioned before, the foam will form to your feet. To speed up the process of breaking them in, some companies offer custom mouldable liners or thermoformable ones.
When you see non-mouldable liners this means the liners will break in just as slow as normal shoes would do. Most of the time basic or budget boots work with non-moldable liners. It’s not a bad thing, it just takes more time.
Thermoformable (or Heat-Mouldable) liners are designed to respond to heat and pressure, so it will only be a matter of days to form to your feet. Therefore, they are a bit more expensive.
Custom mouldable liners are professionally moulded to create your perfect fit. This is usually done in a ski shop or at home with the right equipment. Most pros use this method since it saves time and they know exactly what they want. Not surprisingly, it’s also the most expensive method.
So far, we’ve mentioned quite a lot of features and things to take into consideration when buying your new snowboard boots. From flexibility and laces to boot liners. But also style and size. What it comes down to is your preference. In the end, you’re the one that has to wear them all day. If you don’t feel comfortable in the snowboard boots, they are a waste of money no matter how good the deal was.
This is probably a bit more difficult to judge when you just start snowboarding, but for beginners, there are so many basic options to choose from. Over the years, you will discover what suits you. For example, you could be a huge fan of a certain type of lacing system. Or that you always take two sizes smaller than your regular size because you like the grip of tight boots. Some swear by a certain brand and never want to switch to another brand.
Snowboarding is all about style, it’s what makes your riding unique. So it’s always good to listen to your instinct and go for boots that perfectly match with your style.
Next to the basic features, some other extra features might influence your choice. Let’s say you have bad knees. If you were to buy running shoes, you would look for ones with extra cushioning to absorb shocks and make it easier on your knees. The same goes for snowboarding boots. For some people, extra cushioning is a must.
For other riders, compatibility with binding might be a big issue. If you have big or wide feet and small bindings, it will of course never work. So they always have to see the bigger picture and make sure their boots are compatible with their bindings.
And we haven’t even mentioned aesthetics yet! Features are cool and all, but would you still wear the snowboarding boots if you think they look hideous? Luckily most boots are in neutral colours, such as black, dark brown, and dark blue. Are you that person that’s always a bit extra? Some boots have rad graphics and prints, you’ll love them!
What type of snowboard boot you’re choosing might also depend a lot on your riding style, as we mentioned before. Are you a total beginner or already intermediate, are you a park rat freestyle rider or more drawn to the backcountry?
You hero! Whether you’ve only been on a snowboard for a week or never seen a chair lift in your life, you at least made one very rad choice: to start snowboarding. As a beginner, you want soft and forgiving boots. These are usually soft flex with soft cushioning, so it’s easier to bend your knees, make a turn and get your body used to snowboard. Plus, beginners tend to tense their feet and put lots of pressure on their toes. So a soft boot is much better to cope with this. A lacing system such as the speed lacing or the boa system will make the boots easy to adjust to your needs without any hassle or dealing with having to ‘learn’ how to lace traditional laces — trust us, it’s harder than it looks sometimes!
You’re ready to explore more diverse terrain, so you need snowboard boots that can take you anywhere on the mountain. This is what we call all-mountain snowboard boots. They are medium flex, so a bit stiffer than beginner boots. They will give you more control when you’re riding fast but are still forgiving and they also work well for days in the park.
If you are a complete park rat and spend most of your day shredding the park, hitting jumps, boxes and rails, then you need different snowboard boots as well. With a soft to medium flex, it will be easier to do butters or nose and tail presses. When you hit jumps and tweak out your grab, boots with more flex will give you the advantage. Freestyle boots also have more cushioning and shock absorption in the heel to protect your feet and knees.
Are you ready to explore the backcountry, off-piste, or taking small steps in the slackcountry? You will notice that in the deep powder snow you need to keep your speed and control, getting stuck in there is no joke. Stiff boots will help out a lot. Also, features like extra gripping soles and extra tough nose and heel protection are very helpful when you’re hiking your way to the top.
When you first buy new snowboard boots, don’t give in to a size that feels comfortable in the store. Because of the foam lining, you want the boots to be tight. They will loosen over time and mould into the shape of your feet for a perfect fit.
Make sure to measure your feet carefully and compare that to the size charts of the boot your looking at. We always recommend then thinking about how much you'll be riding and how much the snowboard boot will be packed out and decide from there. We know its scary sizing down, but in a few months, you'll thank us! Of course, if you're riding for one week every year, packing our your boots will take a super long time. As such, going with your normal shoe size in these situations is usually okay. For those doing full seasons or for daily riders, you'll want to go down a half or full size to get good long-term use out of your boots.
That depends on how often you use them during the season. If you spend the whole season in the snow, it might not surprise you that you need new boots the next season again. However, if you go for a few days or weeks every year, your snowboard boots can last a couple of years if you take good care of them. It might also be wise to buy new boots if you’re progressing in snowboarding. Your progression will go way faster when you have boots that match your level.
Since you’re a snowboarder, you like goofing around anyways. So when you finally get your brand new snowboard boots, try them on at home and walk around with them to break them in. It might look goofy, but it will save you precious time on the mountain. Once you take them to the mountain, be gentle with your feet. If they’re still tight, take a few more breaks than usual to help your feet to adjust to the boots. The worst mistake is to ride hard all day long and discover after that your feet are sore and you can’t ride the next day.
The outside is simple, just like any other shoe, you can wipe your boots with a clean cloth. More important is taking care of your liners. After a day of riding, make sure you take the liners out of the boots. They need to dry them and get some airflow in them so that they don’t get stinky and smelly. Dry them above a fireplace or any other type of radiator or heater. It’s always a bit of a hassle to get them back in again. Don’t stress out, make sure your laces are very loose and your liner does not get stuck in one of the inner laces. Once in a while, you can put the liners in the tumble dryer. Pick a gentle program because you don’t want to mess up the moulding of the sole.
For a basic set up, they will do the trick and keep your feet tight in your boots just as traditional laces will do. However, they are not as functional when you need a more custom fit. Traditional laces may be more of a hassle to tie, but they can be adjusted to your needs. In the end, it’s just a matter of preference. There are even pros who use speed laces and BOA, while some stick with traditional!
Wow, that was it for now! We know it was a lot. So no rush, just let it all sink in. We hope that this snowboard boots guide has left you with a better idea of what to look for and which features fit your style and needs.
As you make your choice, remember that every rider is different and has a different preference. There’s no point in getting the most expensive snowboard boots if you’ll not feel comfortable and confident in them.