Why Snowboard Boots Are the Single Most Important Upfront Investment

Published on 10/17/2023 · 7 min readIf the price tag on snowboard boots has you wondering if you should just keep renting, read on! Our Experts explain the importance of investing in your boots.
Chuck T, Snowboarding Expert
Kate Wilson, Snowboarding Expert
By Curated Experts Chuck T and Kate Wilson

Photo by Lizza Veta S.

With snowboarding season upon us, many riders are questioning whether it’s time to take the plunge on a quality pair of snowboard boots. While the long rental queues may be incentive enough, there are plenty of other reasons to invest in boots of your own. If you’re on the fence about making boots a top priority this year, read on for reasons why you should and the features to look for as you make this important purchase!

Comfort

If you’ve rented in the past, you’ll agree that boots from the resort are not the most comfortable. This is because the rental models are designed to fit a wide range of foot shapes and sizes, with no opportunity to mold to a specific person given the brief amount of time they are worn. While wearing an ill-fitting boot for a day or two may be tolerable, it will definitely limit your overall time spent on the mountain — regardless of how much you spent on the board and other apparel.

Tips

  • Know your correct size. While many riders base this on their shoe size, it’s actually better to get measured by an in-store expert. The Brannock device is the standard for measuring and offers a very precise size, including length, width, and arch length. This will help tremendously with online purchases.
  • Tighten the liner / internal lacing, then the shell. You want to experience how the boot will feel when you’re riding, so tighten everything up from the inside out before walking around in them. Wear the socks that you’ll be wearing on the mountain, too!
  • Expect boots to feel snug right out of the box. Boot liners generally take a few days of solid riding to “pack out” or break in, which means they will feel roomier inside as you use them. Not to worry: If you’ve selected the correct size, they will conform perfectly to your feet and feel comfortable soon enough.
  • Snug, not painful! Your toes should meet the front of the boot and be able to move around slightly. When you bend forward, they will naturally come back just enough that you aren’t feeling cramped, but your heel should stay in place. Heel movement invites fatigue and pain so this is an important consideration.

Performance

Photo by Jacob J Photography

Boots that are personalized to your foot/calf anatomy via fitting and molding with repeated use will significantly improve your riding over time. Feeling “one with the boot” — a natural-feeling connection between your feet, board, and the snow — is one of the key elements to progression on the mountain.

Also consider your riding style and/or goals on the mountain when choosing boot flex and outsoles, as they can greatly contribute to your overall performance.

Tips

  • Flex: Generally speaking, flex is a matter of preference, but there are some guidelines you can follow. If you’re just starting out, a medium-soft flex will not be too difficult to manage while you are learning and offers a wider range of movement. It’s also a popular option for freestyle riding or the terrain park. If you are an advanced rider who prefers speed and bigger lines, a stiffer boot will provide much more responsiveness for quick edge-to-edge power transfer.
  • Outsoles: Most boots are a combination of materials, and it seems easy to trust that the manufacturers have designed a boot that will get you up and around the mountain safely. There are differences between the two main materials in terms of performance though, and if given the choice, it’s good to know what the strong points of each are.
    • Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is a material commonly used on sneakers for its comfort and shock absorption. On snowboard boots, it offers stellar suspension for the freestyle rider and works great with a softer-flexing boot. Its closed-cell foam means it is waterproof, and while it has rubber-like properties, it’s softer, lighter, and more flexible.
    • Rubber outsoles are extremely durable and offer more traction and support. Many boots add a rubber toe cap for added longevity, too. If you’re going to be riding frequently and expect to be hiking through snow or through massive icy parking lots, make sure there is a fair amount of rubber in the outsole.

Safety

Photo by Vladimir Konstantinov

Up to 28% of snowboard injuries happen at the ankles, making proper fitting of your boots even more vital because their shape and stiffness determine how your ankles, knees, and hips respond to certain movements and landings. Your boots need a solid base to absorb impact and provide support no matter what type of riding you’re doing, but a customized fit of your own boot will lessen the chance of injury as you tackle new terrain or tricks.

Tips

  • Know your skill level. Stiffer boots are ideal for experienced riders who opt for speed, tricks, and technical terrain since they offer excellent responsiveness and stability. However, newer riders who attempt jumps or tricks with a stiff flex are more likely to injure their knees and ankles, so be sure to work your way up to the boot that is best suited for your skill level.
  • Consider your lacing options. With each new season comes more research on what type of gear is optimal for winter sports enthusiasts. While traditional laces have their benefits (see more on that below), the BOA lacing system offers a more precise fit for your specific foot shape, locks in your heel, and is customized for the type of riding you have planned each day — all important considerations for safety!

Cost

Photo by Ivan Kovbasniuk

While the rental cost of $15-$25 per day may seem appealing, it definitely adds up. Renting eight times in one season runs up to $200, and that’s halfway to a quality pair of your own. Unless you’re a first-time rider or a fast-growing child, it doesn’t make sense to throw money away on rentals. It also doesn’t make sense to lose quality riding time standing in the rental line after you’ve paid for a full day on the mountain!

Tips

  • Check last season’s models for deals. While there may be small advancements in technology between seasons, there are plenty of great options for earlier models of boots, and some may only have changed in their aesthetics.
  • Determine how much you will be riding. Many options are considered premium and are not necessary for the casual rider who only makes it up three or four times a season.
    • Liners: Non-moldable liners are more of a generic option that will save you a bit of money. They are less pliable and do not offer the most comfortable padding, but inserting a separate insole will help, and those are relatively cheap. If you have room in your budget, consider thermoformable liners, which will mold to your feet naturally over time, or heat-moldable liners, which use an artificial heat source to ensure the optimal fit to your feet.
    • Lacing: Generations of riders have grown up on traditional lacing, and some still prefer it today for the custom fit by hand and ease of replacement. Of course, they are less expensive, too! Keep in mind that they are much more difficult to tighten with gloved hands, and their potential to loosen is greater than in some of the other options. Speed lacing is a popular option that seems to answer the cons of traditional laces, such as tightening quickly with gloves on and more of a customizable fit. BOA lacing is becoming the preferred method for its simplicity and precision, but the benefits come at a cost.
  • Make an informed decision. Saving money may be your biggest priority, but buying boots that are made from cheap materials will not hold up over time, no matter how often you ride. Do some research on the different technologies and materials used, and learn how to maintain and care for your boots once purchased to prolong the life of your investment so you don’t have to buy another pair next season.

Need advice on which type of boot is best for your riding style, skill level, and budget? Let the Winter Sports Experts here at Curated help. We’ve done the research, tested the brands, and are here to make sure you’re getting set up with the perfect snowboarding boots that will keep you warm, safe, and progressing all season long!

Ask them a question – you'll get a custom response within 24 hours!
Chuck T
Snowboarding Expert
Kate Wilson
Snowboarding Expert
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