Choosing The Best Snowboard Boots
One of the most challenging decisions in snowboarding is finding a comfy set of the best snowboard boots that allow responsive riding. Snowboarders know that our boots are the most critical piece of technical gear. They connect us to the snowboard and allow you to steer the board. Make the wrong decision here and you may be in for a day in the house of pain or unable to control your board.
It doesn’t matter what type of snowboard boots you purchase. The fitting process is the same for step-in boots, strap binding boots and hard-shell alpine boots. Follow some basic guidelines and you’ll be in comfort all season.
For the best fit, buy from a reputable store. They will have trained boot fitters that can help you narrow down your choices. Shop during off-hours and early season. The store personnel will have more time to fit you properly. Shop when your feet are at their largest size – which is after physical exercise, or in the afternoon and evening. Feet can swell up to a half-size larger after physical activity.
Bring your regular snowboard socks to the store with you. Socks add padding and wicking so for an accurate fit, you’ll need to wear them when trying on boots. Don’t use cotton or athletic socks when snowboarding, they’ll only make your feet cold. You only need to wear one pair of socks.
Know your riding style preference and skill level. Boots come in different degrees of stiffness. Freestyle boots are a bit flexier, while freeride boots are generally stiffer and offer more support. Of course, hard-shell alpine boots are the stiffest and have buckles instead of lacing. Tell your boot fitter what you are looking for and solicit their advice.
Ignore what your friends, celebrities, and professional riders are wearing. Every foot is unique in length and width. Use the boot fitter’s expertise in finding a brand that matches your foot shape. Different brands will have a different feel around your feet and ankles.
Set aside plenty of time for the boot-fitting process. The process could take hours. You’ll be spending many hours in your snowboard boots, so take the time to find one that will shape to your foot. Expect to try on different brands, models, and sizes.
Once you’ve found a pair that seems to fit, leave them on for 15 minutes or so. Walk around the store and check for any pressure points or foot pain. See if the boot foam starts to mold to your foot. Some boot liners are heat-moldable and offer a better fit. See if this option is available.
While standing, bend your knees and flex your shins into the tongues of the boots. Check to see if this produces a gap between your foot and the bottom of the boot. The gap is known as heel lift. If this happens while attached to a snowboard, it will be hard to steer the board. See if the boot fitter can find a boot that keeps your heel in place or add some fit aids to the boot.
Make sure the boot is not too big. New good fitting boots can feel tight and almost too short. This is normal. Within a few days of riding the boot liner will start to pack out and compress to form around your feet. They will then have a comfortable snug feeling. An oversized boot can promote fatigue, pain, and cause injuries.
Get gender specific boots. Women have shorter calves and narrower heels. Women specific boots are designed to accommodate these physical differences. The height of the boot is shorter so that they will not dig into women’s calf muscles. They have heel inserts to prevent heel lift and they have a female friendly flex pattern.
Get the boots customized if necessary. If you have high arches or wear custom footbeds in other athletic footwear, you may need extra support. Ask your fitter about customization options. One inexpensive option are the green Superfeet footbeds. They are made for winter athletic footgear.
Buying the best snowboard boots is a time-consuming but rewarding process. Take your time and buy boots that fit. You’ll ride pain free and in control. If you spend the money on quality boots and getting them fit properly, they’ll last for several seasons.
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