An Expert Guide to Buying Properly-Fitting Snowboard Boots

Boots that fit right are the secret to keeping your feet happy out on the slopes. Snowboarding expert Alex Dolan has some advice on how to find the perfect fit.

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp
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Having a properly-fitting pair of snowboard boots may very well be the most important part of your snowboard set up. Bindings are fairly straightforward. Almost any board will get you down the mountain one way or another. But if your feet are killing you all day, it can make it a lot harder to have fun while you are shredding, and fun is why we are all out there.

In this article we'll explore how your foot should feel in a properly-fitting boot, how your boot fit will change as your boots are broken in and worn out, and a few different lacing systems that are currently on the market.

A snowboarder in a yellow jacket turns on the mountain
Photo by Federico Persiani

Boot Fit

A Note on Stiffness

First, snowboard boots are made stiff and sturdy for a reason, and that reason is safety. If you are sending it off a cliff or charging moguls, your feet and ankles take some serious impact. Having a stiff boot to absorb that impact is crucial to preventing injuries. Not to mention if your foot is sliding around in your boot or if you have a lot of heel lift, you will be sacrificing board control, which again poses a safety issue.

If your boots are at least a couple of seasons old and you are noticing that they aren’t what they used to be, it may be time to inspect them and assess if it is time for a new pair.

Keep in mind that a brand new snowboard boot is as stiff as it will be. As you ride and walk around in them, the inner liners will slowly compress and pack out and the outer shell will flex and lose its rigidity over time. This means the boot will break in and get more comfortable as you wear them. This also means that the boot will lose its rigidity and support at some point. Snowboarders call this boot "clapped out" and it means that it's time for a new pair.

Trying On New Boots

Now, let's talk about what you should be feeling as you pull your brand new boots out of the box and put them on your feet. Remember, your snowboarding boots should not feel like your street shoes. They will be much stiffer and tighter. In fact, most people's snowboard boot size is half to a full size down from their usual shoe size.

As you slide your foot into the boot, you should feel your toe pressing against the front of the toe box (the space that your toes occupy inside the boot). Don't freak out if it’s uncomfortable! As you lace the boot up your will feel your ankle and heel slide into the heel cup of the boot. Once your boot is fully laced, you should still feel the front of the boot with at least your big toe. Again, don't panic—it should feel uncomfortable at this point. Stand up, bend your leg at the knee, keeping the heel of the boot firmly planted on the ground. This will flex the boot at the ankle, which should set your heel deeper into the back of the boot and relieve more pressure from your toe.

At this point it is still okay to still be able to touch the front of the boot with the tips of your toes, as long they aren't curled up. This simulates what the boot will feel like when you are actually riding in it.

People snowboard down the mountain
Photo by Grace Duern

Get to Know Your Boots

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to give yourself the perfect boot fit is to wear your boots more. Walk around the house in them. Not only will this break the boot in, but it will also strengthen some of the muscles in your feet that only get exercise when you are snowboarding. Think about this process as you are wearing in and wearing down your gear.

If you notice "hot spots" or pressure points while you are test-walking in your boots, take them to a specialized boot fitter. They are foot magicians that can mold any boot to the shape of your feet. Some boots have heat moldable liners that allow you to break them in right when you get them. Just take them to a boot fitter and let them walk you through the process of baking your boots.

Boot Styles

Now that you know how a new boot should fit, you can start to think about the style of boot that you want. The major choice that you’ll need to make is which lacing system you prefer.

BOA

BOA has become more common than ever, and for good reason. The BOA system uses a knob that you push down and twist to tighten cables rather than laces. To loosen the boot you simply pop the knob up and it will loosen automatically. It is super easy to use. BOA coils have only improved over the years and are very reliable these days.

The BOA system makes lacing up your boots quick and easy. The down side to a single BOA system is that it can be hard to get them tight in exactly the right areas like you can with a traditional lace system. However, the double BOA system gives you two different points to tighten your boot, providing you with a quick and easy lace system that feels secure all the way around your boot.

Speed Lace

There is one other lacing system worth noting, commonly referred to as the speed lace system, or a quick-pull lacing system. The speed lace system gives you a cord to pull on that cinches down the boot. It performs very similar to the BOA system, and requires only slightly more effort. Again, the double speed lace is far superior to a single speed lace.

Often these technologically advanced lacing systems do cost more money but they are so worth it. Lacing up your boots can be pretty time consuming, especially if you want to adjust the tightness throughout the day. Saving time lacing up your boots means more time shredding the slopes.

A man holds a snowboard behind his back
Photo by 2 Bro's Media

Let's recap one more time for those of you who made it to the end.

  • Having boots that fit properly are more safe. They need to be stiff and secure.
  • Breaking in your boots is just as important as making sure they fit properly.
  • Make sure to replace your boots once they are worn out for your personal safety.
  • Buying a nicer pair of boots actually does mean they will be more comfortable, and comfort means you can focus on having more fun and less time adjusting your boots.

So get yourself a nice fitting pair of boots and head out on the mountain to see for yourself how much more fun you could be having!

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Written By
I have been working in the outdoor recreation industry since 2011. During the summer time I am a river guide and safety kayaker. During the winter, I shred as much pow as possible. Working at ski shops across the counrtry (in Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington) has been great over the past...

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