Creating Compatibility: A Snowboard Boot and Binding Guide

Snowboard expert Tess Kohler walks us through how to find boots and bindings compatible with your snowboard.

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Pulling the trigger on new snowboard bindings and boots to match my beautiful new board was something I dragged my feet on for a while. I was buying my first non-beginner set up, and I wasn’t quite sure what direction to take with new boots and bindings. There were just so many options. For anyone who has felt similarly confused, I’ve narrowed down some key points to help you find the right boots and bindings to pair well with the board you love.

Features

Flex

Where you ride and how you ride are going to be the first two pieces of the puzzle that get you closer to your best set-up. Boots and bindings are designed specifically to work well both with one another and with the board you ride. The consistent term to consider with all three is flex. Flex in a snowboard refers to the flexibility of a deck, both side to side and tip to tail. In boots and bindings, it refers to the softness or rigidity of the materials used.

A general, glossy way to look at flex for guidance is the following: soft flex is for beginner and park riders, medium flex is for all mountain explorers and intermediate riders, and stiff flex is for advanced to expert riders or free riders bombing down steep terrain. This is of course an oversimplification of flex, but it allows a categorization of you as an individual snowboarder. Where does your riding style fall on this scale and where does the board you own, or are thinking about owning, fall?

Flex is by no means the only factor for boots and bindings, but it’s a good place to start.

  • A beginner rider is going to want both boots and bindings that are forgiving and allow them to feel comfortable on their board. They don’t want to break in boots and they don’t need a ton of support from either their boots or their bindings because they aren’t going very fast. A softer flex is also appealing to freestyle and park riders, as it allows them greater control of movement in the park.
  • An intermediate rider is going faster and hitting more challenging terrain, and as a result, will need better support from both boots and bindings. Increased stiffness gives increased response and allows more power behind turns, ramping up speed and requiring less energy of movement.
  • Expert and advanced riders frequenting black diamonds and above, sidecountry, or big mountain terrain will need an extra level of support and stiffness in their boots and bindings to allow better control on quick turns and increased efficiency at high speeds.
A view from above of a snowboarder putting on black ski boots.

Boot-Specific Features

Other key factors to consider while purchasing boots are the type of lacing system, liner variety, and what foot type they are modeled toward.

The three dominant lacing systems on the market are traditional laces (which lace up like a hiking boot), a speed lacing system such as Burton’s Speed Zone™ Lacing or Salomon’s QuickLock Lacing, or a BOA lacing system. BOA creates dial wheels that attach to strong metal laces, and when these wheels are dialed tightly, the laces synch down quickly and stay snugly in place. The lacing system you choose will mostly be based on personal preference, but folks who want to really dial in fit and ensure their boots stay tight tend to opt for a BOA or even double BOA laced boot.

Having an inner liner that is heat moldable can ensure comfort and a better fit. Heat molding liners is a service offered by most ski shops and can even be done at home. A liner molded to your foot will keep it in place, eliminating annoying heel slip and potential hot spots or blister zones. Many folks look for this feature as well as a heat moldable EVA footbed for an exact fit.

Different brands will fit better on narrow feet vs wide feet, with some companies even making wide-specific models. Asking your Curated expert to advise your boot purchase based on the needs of your foot is a good way to ensure a proper fit!

Binding-Specific Features

The main factor to consider with bindings will be the ratcheting system. Do you want a more traditional binding with straps over the ankle and toe that ratchet tight? Or are you interested in a speed-entry binding such as Burton’s Step On system? Most bindings are a more traditional style, with straps that give a nice locked-on feel to the board. This is preferred by many riders, but does require constantly strapping in and out of your board at chair lifts. A happy medium between ease of use and support would be a rear entry binding, such as those offered by Flow.

If you are interested in a speed-entry system, you will need to keep in mind that you’ll have to purchase a matching set of bindings and boots – only specific boots will click into bindings without straps.

Compatibility

Boots to Bindings

Ensuring correct compatibility between your boots and your bindings is fairly straightforward. It is typically recommended that one should start out by purchasing boots and finding a good fit, and then use the size of their boots to determine bindings size and board width. Your typical shoe size is not enough information to go off of as your snowboard boots may be a different size. For tips on getting the right size boot, head over to Alex Dolan's article on boots.

Speed-entry binding systems aside, most boots will fit into most bindings no matter the brand. To find your binding size based off your boot size, simply head on over to the manufacturer's website for a size chart.

Board Width

Compatibility with the width of your deck is important to pay attention to, especially if you wear a boot size over a men’s 10.5. Getting a wide-specific deck can help folks with larger boots eliminate toe drag. If you are worried about your boots falling too far over the front edge of your board, try getting a boot with reduced footprint technology and a lower profile to eliminate that overhang (Vans and Adidas make some great options).

The general rule of thumb is to have about 2mm of overhang on the heel and the toe when your boots are centered. Manufacturers typically include waist width on their size chart, and some will give boot size recommendation for each board width. Make sure to do your research, or ask your expert for advice if you are unsure.

A blue, black, yellow, and orange snowboard standing upright in the snow.

Mounting

Board manufacturers utilize multiple different mounting options, so it’s imperative that one looks at compatibility between a binding and a board to ensure the bindings will properly attach. The two dominant mounting styles are a 2x4 and a 4x4. This refers to how many holes are in the board and how these holes are spaced out. The vast majority of bindings will be compatible with both of these mounting styles.

Burton is the odd-man out here, creating two brand-specific mounts that take more forethought: the Burton Channel System and the Burton 3D System. Brand new Burton bindings will work out of the box with the Channel System, some will work with the 3D, and some will work with 2x4 and 4x4. Not many other brands will work out of the box with these Burton-specific designs, but there are inserts that may create compatibility.

The takeaway here is do your research. Every binding manufacturer will clearly state its compatibility. Know what system your board takes, and again, ask your expert if you are unsure!

The features and technology offered for boots and bindings are endless, but simple stats such as flex and compatibility will help ensure your equipment suits your specific needs. If you need assistance comparing products, ask your Curated expert for advice. We’ve all been there on the search for the perfect gear, but the process is worth finding that perfect equipment to help you fly down the mountain.

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Written By
Tess Kohler
Snowboard Expert
West Coast explorer who shreds it, does her research, and is like 50% in it for the apres beers. I’ve been snowboarding since I was a “trying-to-be-cool middle schooler” who switched from skiing to riding in 2005. My knowledge of the sport and equipment has matured since then, as I’ve worked in vari...
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