A lot of first-time buyers spend ages poring over the boards in their local shop without realising that picking the perfect pair of boots is just as important – if not more so. An all-singing, all-dancing snowboard is no use to you if your feet are being crushed like a Chinese child’s every time you ride it. There are three basic things that dictate how a boot will feel to wear and ride. These are flex, features and fit.
Like boards and bindings, boot flex is a question of personal preference, but there are general trends. Stiffer boots tend to be used by freeriders and really advanced park riders who need tons of ankle support for fast run-ins and heavy landings. Easier-flexing boots tend to be preferred by jibbers, freestylers and beginners. At the end of the day, flex comes down to personal preference, so it’s worth trying out a few different boots to see what works best for you.
Some boot features are universal, but not all of them. Here are a few you might like to look out for when picking your pair.
Lacing systems differ from brand to brand and model to model. While traditional laces are still used a lot, ‘Boa’ fastening wheels have also become popular, as have other speed-lace systems. Burton have launched a new boa equivalent this year, that they’re calling the ‘Speed Dial’.
Liners also vary, with different lacing systems, and more expensive ones generally featuring enhanced support around the outside. Most are now heat-mouldable.
Backstays and tongues provide support for your foot when you turn and give the boot its flex.
Soles provide grip, and add dampening for heavy landings – although they also add weight.
Footbeds provide extra cushioning inside the boot, especially around the heel.
Internal ankle harnesses help prevent heel lift, and enhance fit by locking your liners into place.
The most important criteria when choosing a pair of boots – let’s face it, no-one wants to end up feeling like they’re feeding their feet through a mangle every morning! Here’s our six-step guide to finding the perfect fit:
1) Measure your foot size properly. Remember to measure not only the length, but also the width – your snowboard shop should be able to help you with this.
2) Work out the profile of your foot. This has nothing to do with how famous your feet are, it’s about how they look from the side – essentially whether you have a high arch or not. Pronated feet are flatter, while supinated feet arch more. Different companies base their boots on different ‘lasts’ (or imaginary feet) so it’s worth trying a few to find out what works.
3) Do the insole test. Take the insole out of the boot, and put your foot on it with your heel flush to the back. Your toes shouldn’t overhang, or be miles back from the end.
4) Do the toe test. Put the insole back, put the boot on, and do it up as if you’re going riding. Stand up, and your toe should be touching the edge of the liner. Lean forward as if you’re turning, and it should come away form the edge slightly.
5) Do the heel test. Rock backwards and forwards. If you feel your heel lifting more than a centimetre or so off the liner, it may be worth going down a size.
6) Get your boots heat-moulded properly. Most boots these days have heat-mouldable liners, which fit to your feet after being warmed up. Most shops will do this for you, all you’ll have to do is put your feet inside, fasten the boots, and wait!