Snowboard Boots Explained
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We at Ambush believe that the boots are the most important pieces of your snowboard setup. Fit and comfort are critical. Having said that, selecting the right pair of snowboard boots can be a daunting task. Every manufacturer brings something to the table. Knowing your feet is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to determining which set of boots is best for you. So...that's where we'll start.
Know Your Feet
I know that this sounds incredibly elementary, but there are a lot of riders out there who simply don't know anything about their own two feet. Really get in tune with your feet. Know whether you have wide or narrow feet, know if you have high arches or if you're flat-footed, and know what size you truly wear.
Know Your Shoe Size
Interestingly, the majority of people wear shoes that are about 1/2 size too big for them. When it comes to snowboard boots, it is important that your boots are as perfectly sized as possible. This will ensure the highest level of comfort, will make sure that your toes don't get cold, and, most importantly, will guarantee an efficient transfer of your movements to your board. You want your snowboard boots to be as tight as possible without there being any sort of pressure on your toes. Keep in mind that one of your feet is probably bigger than the other. Size for the bigger foot, or you'll experience cramping and will be riding in a lot of pain.
Get Proper Socks
Cotton socks aren't going to cut it, as they aren't going to keep your feet warm and dry. Get some real snowboarding socks. It makes a huge difference.
Know How Snowboard Boots Are Supposed to Fit
Snowboard boots should feel snug everywhere - snug at your heel, snug at your instep, and snug in the toebox - and your toes should barely touch the ends. Don't panic if your new snowboard boots feel too tight at first because if they fit "just right" straight out of the box, chances are that they will be a little too big a few weeks down the line. It usually takes about 7-10 riding days riding to break in your boots (we recommend breaking your boots in through actual riding as opposed to getting them heat-molded at a shop, as they will be broken in at your natural riding position). After about 10 riding days, your boots will pack out and will fit like a glove.
Do Your Research
Try on a bunch of different boots, seek the opinions of your friends, and read reviews until you find a boot and/or brand that you feel is best suited for you.
Fit is tremendously important when it comes to finding the right pair of snowboard boots. You don't want any heel lift, you want your boots to be snug all over, and your toes should barely touch the end.
Flex is primarily a matter of personal preference. The flex rating for each boot (on a scale of 1 to 10...with 1 being the softest and 10 being the stiffest) is listed on each boot's specific product detail page. Consider both your riding style and preference when deciding on how much flex you want. Boots designed for Freestyle riding typically offer a softer flex for more mobility. Freeride boots usually have a stiffer flex for added support and improved response. If you're just getting started out, it's not a bad idea to get a boot with a softer flex.
Note: It is recommended that your snowboard boot flex match that of your snowboard and you snowboard bindings.
Pretty much every manufacturer has its own brand of lacing system. Here is a breakdown of some of the more common lacing options.
Traditional lacing systems offer an ergonomic, fine-tuned fit that is largely free of pressure points. However, traditional closures can become looser as the day progresses. They can also be hard to cinch down, especially when your hands are cold. A lot of people like traditional lacing systems because they're so straightforward. It's also easy to achieve the perfect amount of tightness throughout the boot with traditional lacing, as you're relying on yourself rather than a tightening mechanism.
Boat is a single-handed dial system purpose-built for a fit. Boa systems are very easy to use and are known for their ability to be tightened with one gloved hand. Additionally, zonal Boa systems allow you to tighten the upper and lower areas of the boot independently. With Boa systems, heel lift is virtually eliminated. They also don't add a whole lot of weight to the boot. But, Boa systems can make for annoying pressure points.
Speed Zone, Speed Lacer, Lock Down, Fast-In, Rapid Lace, Fast Track, etc.
Regardless of what you call them, this lacing system falls in between traditional and Boa lacing systems. These lacing systems offer a customizable fit, are very quick to cinch, feature simple locking systems, are very lightweight, won't loosen as you ride, are virtually free of any pressure points, eliminate heel lift, can be cinched with gloves on, and offer great support.
If you have skinny ankles and heels, look for a good inner harness or inner lacing system. J-Bars, the inserts on the inner liner or inside the boot that compress around the heel to lock down your foot, are also a good feature to look for. Heat-moldable liners are also a bonus for riders with skinny ankles and heels.
If you have high arches, look for boots with heat-moldable liners that will conform to your feet during the break-in process.