Not an easy task. Let’s see what you need to consider.
Points for consideration when choosing your snowboard boots: Style, stiffness, size
The style: Alpine and Freestyle
Different styles of snowboarding require different types of boots, namely hard or soft boots. Both type of boots are made up of an outer boot and an inner bladder. The inner bladder has its own laces or velcro and is responsible for comfort while the outer boot provides stiffness and is fastened with buckles, bowdens or laces. (Kids’ or junior boots often have no separate inner bladder.)
- Soft (free) boots: Soft boots resemble more robust snow boots at first glance. The outer boots and the inner bladder have their own separate lacing and the outer part is covered in textile, leather or leatherette. These boots are appropriate for use with freestyle, freeride, all terrain and slide boards. (For an overview of snowboarding styles and the different types of boards see) Soft boots can only be worn with soft bindings they are not compatible with other systems. In order to meet the needs of riders at different levels and fans of different riding styles, the K2 specialist shop offers soft boots of varying ‘stiffness’. There is also a growing number of fastening options available on the market these days. Next to traditional laces speed-lace systems that ensure quite precisely set tightness and good support are becoming popular. One of the most widely used lacing systems is the so called BOA that employs a thin steel wire that is wound onto a small knob located on the tongue of the boot and tightness can be set by pulling on the wire. There are also pre-laced models with laces that are thinner than traditional ones. These models are to be tightened manually and they provide the same safety and accuracy as boots with traditional lacing but can be fastened significantly quicker.
- Hard (alpine) boots: Alpine boards call for hard boots. These boots look rather like traditional ski boots for the verdant onlooker. The outer hard shell has 2 to 4 buckles and velcro while the inner bladder resembles that of a ski boot. These types of boots give riders the most precision and power in controlling the board. One of the most important features of hard boots is the adjustability of the upper part of the outer boot in four directions. Canting position affects proper support for your feet and back and forward position has to do with steepness and speed. Nowadays it is rather difficult even in the best specialist shops to find (an adequate choice of) hard boots.
K2 advice: It is well worth starting with finding a pair of well-fitting boots when buying snowboarding equipment piece by piece, not only for hygienic reasons but for your comfort as well. Boots are in direct contact with your body and wearing a carefully chosen new pair that conforms to your feet is significantly different from wearing rented or second-hand boots.
Stiffness: Stiffness does not affect good support that both soft and hard boots should provide for your feet.
- Softer boots: Softer boots are ideal for beginners who tend to direct the board with much clumsier movements during the learning phase, therefore their feet and legs need more space and freedom. Learning snowboarding in hard boots would mean that the inexperienced boarder’s each small move is transferred directly to the board resulting, most probably, in frequent falls and discourage a beginner. Soft boots are important for freestyle and slide for the rider to be able to absorb the impact of the landing easily and for starting turns with little effort. Softer boots –perfect fit is a must- mean more flexibility for complex coordination that is essential for doing jumps and tricks. Soft models are ideal for light riders resulting from their weight and built.
- Medium snowboarding boots:best choice for intermediate and more advanced boarders who are yet comfortable enough on the board and are looking for the style they enjoy the most. These boots are for general use, all terrain, and they meet most boarders’ needs. Ideal also for riders of average weight.
- Harder boots: For Alpine snowboarding, (lately also referred to as Hardboot Snowboarding) for the slopes with deep snow (freeriding) harder boots are strongly recommended. Hard boots make the board sensitive to even the boarder’s smallest moves and are therefore ideal for those seeking the most efficient carved turn. Hard boots make keeping direction easier and are ideal for the well built and heavier boarders and for fans of a more aggressive style.
K2 advice: It is not a good idea as a beginner to borrow equipment from friends as (apart from the fact that the size is very unlikely to be a perfect match) the equipment for advanced or even intermediate levels is hardly suitable for hitting the slopes the first time.
Size: It is crucial that you find the right size! Try the boots with thicker ski or snowboard socks and lace up. (If you do not tighten the lace your toes are likely to reach the tip in the toe cap but if you lace up, your foot moves slightly towards the heel to its proper position).
Check size like this: lace up and straighten your knees. Your toes should just reach the inner bladder up front. Then put your weight on the boot so as your shin rests on the tongue of the boot. Your foot moves backwards in this position and your toes should no longer reach the tip of the inner bladder. If your toes still reach the front you should try a somewhat bigger pair.
Other criteria: Your feet should not move freely laterally in the boots. The boots should hold your feet firmly and at the same time, you should be unable to lift your heels when laces are fastened.
K2 advice: sizes differ from brand to brand. Feel free to ask for help when choosing the product of a manufacturer you do not know. Conversion tables can also help.
Choosing the right size is not only a question of comfort, it is crucial for good support. If the boots are too big, your toes will cling to the sole making muscles contract. As a result, a cramp will develop in your sole and lower leg and you will not be able to ride properly. Too small boots also hinder proper movement on the board and do not only make you feel uncomfortable and give you considerable pain but can also –in an extreme case- lead to a loss of your toe nail(s).
K2 advice: The inner bladder of your boot should be dried properly after boarding each single time. It will be much nicer to wear dry boots the next day as opposed to a cold and wet pair that spent the night in the trunk. There are mobile dryers available and in an ‘emergency’ you can remove the inner bladder and use the radiator. Alas this method is not ideal on the long run for your boots.