Snowboard boots are the most important part of your set-up. I know, boots are not as sexy as the snowboard itself. Boots don’t have neato looking gadgets like your bindings, and they definitely won’t make as much of a fashion statement as your outerwear. So what. You better get a good pair or all of that other stuff won’t matter one bit.
Your boots serve three main purposes: to keep your feet warm, act as the main power transfer point between your body and your board, and ensure that your knees, ankles, and feet are safe and secure. If your boots don’t fit correctly, your are going to be missing one or all of these functions. Translation: a bad day on the slopes.
Everyone wants to ride comfortably, keep their feet warm and dry, perform well, and go home uninjured at the end of the day. Here is a boot fitting checklist to keep your days on the mountain epic.
Step 1: Choosing the Perfect Flex
All snowboard boots have flex ratings. Most brands rate their boots on a scale of 1-10 with ten being the stiffest and one being the softest. In general, the more firm the snowboard boot, the faster and more aggressive the rider. A better snowboarder needs a stiffer boot to brace their body for landings and react quicker from edge to edge (the one exception being a more skate-style park rider who likes a softer boot to flex out while hitting rails). A more novice rider needs a softer boot that flexes easily which allows them to make more mistakes on the hill without pushing the board in that direction.
As a rule of thumb, buy the exact same flex in your snowboard boot (or one notch stiffer) as you would in your snowboard (snowboards have flex ratings just like the boots). For those of you that haven’t purchased a snowboard yet, stick to the chart below for guidance.
|Rider Skill Level||Boot Flex Rating|
|Big Mountain/Freeride Rider||6-10|
Step 2: Length Matters
Snowboard boots need to fit tighter than your shoes. Most people buy shoes with about a half inch of space between the their toes and the tip of the shoe. And while that is perfectly fine for your kicks, your snowboard boots should fit more snug than that. When trying on boots, make sure that your longest toe is touching the end of the boot liner. Your toe should not be crammed and bent up the end of the boot, but barely grazing the end of the inside of the boot. This keeps your foot from moving around in the boot while riding giving you more control over your snowboard and protecting your feet from that massive, yard-sale wipeout.
Step 3: Heel Lift
All boots have some amount of heel lift. The key is finding the right boots that keep heel lift to a minimum. Look for boots that have heel anchors (a lacing system that anchors the boot liner and your heel to the inside of the boot) rather than liner lace (a lacing system that tightens the liner, but does not affix the liner or your heel to the inside of the boot). This will ensure that your liner and heel stay in place and decrease your chances for blisters and injury.
Step 4: No Pressure
Does the boot press uncomfortably at any point against your foot? Are you cramping anywhere? Is your blood (a.k.a. that fluid that keeps your feet warm) flowing? Do you feel any sharp pains along your foot or ankle? Wear your boots around the shop for a while to make sure that there are no pressure points (or at least as few as there could possibly be). Some pressure points break in over time, but for the most part, pressure points mean that the boots simply doesn’t fit your foot all that well. Try on another pair. There will be a boot that is right for you.
Step 5: Heat Molding
Although I personally am not a fan of heat molding, the option exists to help custom fit your boots before you ride them. Ask your salesman if the boots you are buying have a heat moldable liner. If they do (and you want your boots heat molded), have the salesman mold them for you. It takes 10-15 minutes and it could be the difference between riding a comfy, cushy, grippy snowboard boot and feeling like you have your foot stuck in a bucket.
I hope that helps you our in your quest for the perfect snowboard boot. Remember: Happy feet = happy snowboarding.