Snowboard Boots and Snowboard Bindings: A Guide to CompatibilityPublished on 09/18/2023 · 8 min readSnowboard Expert Tess Kohler walks us through how to find boots and bindings compatible with your snowboard.
Photo by Homonstock
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. It was my first purchase of a 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 the right bindings to pair well with the board you love.
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 generally geared towards beginners and park riders, medium flex is more for all-mountain explorers and intermediate riders, and stiff flex is for advanced to expert riders, powder hounds, or freeride bombers with a passion for hitting 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 soft 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 for greater maneuverability in the park.
- An intermediate rider is usually going faster down the slopes 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 the extra level of support that stiff bindings and boots provide for better control on quick turns and increased efficiency at high speeds.
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!
There are a ton of minor details that should be considered based on your personal preference. You may want a lean adjuster that allows you to easily alter the forward lean of your bindings or a heel cup made of certain material, such as carbon or aluminium. You may look for quick-adjusting features so you can make tweaks and adjustments on the fly. Perhaps you're looking for a certain amount of cushioning in the baseplate or angle in the highbacks. Maybe something more lightweight as opposed to more burly and durable. When it comes down to it, these last little details won't impact the ride, but they are certain things to take into consideration when choosing the type of binding that is right for you!
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.
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.
While finding the right size bindings is an important part of the process, it's not all! Finding gear with similar flexes makes all the difference. Park rat with a pension for grabs, spins, and rail tricks? Match that soft flex of your park boots to your new bindings. Same goes for medium to stiffer bindings. This will ensure a buttery smooth ride every time.
Most boots will work with strap-in bindings no matter the brand. To find your binding size based on your boot size, simply head on over to the manufacturer's website for a size chart. Rear-entry bindings are generally compatible with all brands, but it doesn't hurt to double-check. Sometimes sizing of the boot can have an impact on this as this binding style doesn't use the traditional toe strap and ankle strap design. Step-on bindings are especially important to pay attention to as they require a specific boot and usually need to be the same manufacturer.
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 recommendations for each board width. Make sure to do your research, or ask your Expert for advice if you are unsure.
Board manufacturers utilize multiple different mounting systems on the baseplates, so it’s imperative that one looks at binding and board compatibility to ensure the bindings will properly attach. The two dominant mounting styles are 2x4 and a 4x4 bolt patterns. 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 bindings are slightly different, with two brand-specific mounts that take more forethought: the Burton Channel System and the Burton 3D System. Brand new Burton EST 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 discs. 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 Snowboard 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. Boot and binding companies are constantly adapting the tech for better response, energy transfer, and overall comfortability on the mountain. If you need assistance comparing products or just a few recommendations on some great gear offers before checkout, 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.