An Expert Guide to the Different Types of Snowboard Bindings
Baffled by the number of snowboard binding styles out there? Snowboard Expert Bobby Chadderton breaks them down to help you decide.
If you’re shopping for a new snowboard setup, it’s easy to overlook minor differences in binding technology. If bindings are there just to keep you stuck to your board, why complicate things? This might have been the case a decade ago when traditional strap bindings were the only reliable option, but recent developments have created new platforms that might better suit your riding style. Grab your screwdriver and follow this guide to make sure you're mounting the best snowboard binding for your riding style.
When purchasing a pair of bindings, keep your ability level in mind and be sure to check the flex rating. These are the most important factors. Experienced riders may benefit from a medium flex or stiffer flexing binding, while beginners should opt for a soft flex. A stiff flexing binding provides improved energy transfer to your board as well as easier landings on jumps. Soft flexing bindings best fit beginners and park riders looking for better control and maneuverability at slower speeds. Ultimately, you'll want a binding that corresponds directly to your skill level—the right binding should give you a comfortable ride without sacrificing board control.
Burton's Early Influence
Burton Snowboards founder Jake Burton first introduced straps to keep you sideways on your board in 1979. In the decades that followed, that concept has evolved into the modern bindings we use today. A more recent look at Burton's binding catalogue shows a variety of mounting systems that can make choosing a binding somewhat confusing. Before we dive into the main types of snowboard bindings, let’s break down some concepts from Burton: the Channel, Re:Flex, EST, and Step-On.
Burton released the Channel in 2005 and along with it, redefined snowboard production. By removing traditional binding mounting threads and replacing them with a linear groove up and down the board, the Channel provides a more versatile mounting platform that requires less hardware. Today, almost all binding manufacturers include binding discs with two holes for Channel mounting so you don’t have to worry about cross-compatibility with a Burton Snowboard. All Burton bindings will fit a range of boot sizes, but if you're not sure which size binding will fit your snowboard boots, check out Curated's sizing chart.
When the Channel was introduced, Burton also brought along its own binding modifications. Re:Flex bindings are engineered to work with the Channel as well as traditional 4x2 and 4x4 bolt patterns. EST bindings, on the other hand, will only mount on the Channel System.
In 2017, Burton really took binding technology to a new level with the introduction of the Step-On system. “Step-On” binding platforms aren’t necessarily new, but the original releases were plagued by malfunctions and a general lack of reliability. However, after eight years of research and development, Burton created a dependable platform that truly delivers on the promises of its predecessors.
Types of Bindings
The ultimate Burton option for versatility, Re:Flex bindings will work with any 4x2 or 4x4 hole pattern and mount seamlessly to the Channel. Traditional bindings feature a rigid, singular baseplate to stand on, but the primary technology behind Re:Flex bindings lies in a baseplate that is connected only at the front of the binding beneath your toes. The rest of the platform is built from soft EVA foam that allows the binding to flex with the board. If you’re a freestyle rider looking for a flexible binding that provides enhanced board feel without having to commit to the Channel, go with Burton’s Re:Flex system!
- Increased board feel.
- Versatility to mount on any platform.
- More flex in your base plates can mean less responsiveness and stability at high speeds.
Mounting exclusively to the Channel, Burton EST bindings take board feel and flexibility to the next level by completely removing any and all hardware from under your feet, separating your feet from the board only through cushy EVA footbeds (aka gel-like padding). EST Bindings feature a groove that slides into the channel along with two “windows” that allow you to set your angles effortlessly. To mount EST Bindings, you’ll only be using two screws on each binding that attach to the Channel on the outer ledges of the baseplate. If you're an established freerider and already have a Burton board, choose Burton EST bindings for an ideal match. They provide a direct connection to your board and an incredible amount of feel that I personally can’t get enough of.
- Incredibly soft and surfy board feel.
- Quick mounting and adjustments with less hardware.
- Limited mounting versatility: EST bindings will only mount to Burton’s Channel.
Go strapless! Backed by eight years of Research & Development, Burton Step-On bindings are revolutionizing the concept of bindings entirely. If you’re used to traditional strap bindings, it can be daunting looking down at your naked, strapless feet but rest assured your boots are secure!
Burton Step-On bindings don’t have straps and instead use an integrated Step-On boot with heel and toe cleats that simply click into place for super easy access! Step-On compatible boots will have a clip at the heel of the boot that allows you to literally step onto your binding and ride away from the memory of cold fingers and frustration. To release your boot from the binding, simply flick the quick-release lever and step right out. Oh, and ignore the rumors about these failing in deep powder, these are true all-mountain bindings. Set it and forget it!
The Step-On system uses Re:Flex base plates, giving you the versatility to mount to any snowboard. Keep in mind that if you’re looking to make the jump to Step-On, you’ll need Step-On boots as well. Of course, this raises the upfront cost of a strapless setup, but if you’re in the market for new boots, you won’t pay much than you would for traditional bindings and boots. Be sure to purchase the right size binding for your respective boot size.
As a natural skeptic of anything besides traditional strap bindings, I can personally say that Burton Step-On bindings truly deliver on their promises after riding them for a season. They’re by far the most responsive bindings I’ve used, with particularly stiff highbacks. When using your toe edge, you'll notice a better response overall. If you’re a terrain park rider or prefer a soft, floaty feel, you may find them too rigid.
- User-friendly and reliable with quick entry.
- Extremely responsive with precise control edge to edge.
- Stiff level of response: If you’re a park rider or otherwise prefer an easy-going, surfy feel, you may want something softer.
All Burton bindings also have a lifetime warranty on their baseplates, meaning Burton is confident they won't fail or break. If this happens, contact your Curated expert, any Burton dealer, or the company itself, and they'll send you out a brand new baseplate free of charge. You can also find most Burton replacement straps and parts at any snowboard shop or resort, so rest assured you are safe getting a pair of their bindings.
Other Types of Bindings
Notwithstanding Burton’s dominance in the binding industry, there are three primary types of bindings. Most of these will mount to any snowboard, with the exception being Burton EST bindings. Remember, if you purchase a pair of Burton ESTs, they will only be compatible with Burton’s Channel Mounting System
Used by everyone from first-time renters to advanced riders, traditional strap bindings are the bread and butter of the sport, catering to all types of rider preferences and the choice of professional freestyle riders in almost all facets of snowboarding. They feature a 4x4, 4x2, or 3-hole mounting disc (made of plastic composite or aluminum), a base plate, highback, a toe strap, an ankle strap, ladder straps, forward lean adjustment, buckles, ratchets (clips), and often some additional tech!
Traditional strap bindings have time-tested durability and the most room for adjustments. The majority of bindings fall into this category; even Burton’s Re:Flex. Their EST systems are also basic modifications of the traditional strap binding. Great examples from arguably the most dominant binding manufacturer in the game are: Union Strata bindings, Union Atlas, or Union Force bindings.
- Brand versatility: countless options from most manufacturers.
- Tried and true: still the most common type of binding through the decades.
- Decreased board feel: a singular-molded baseplate can create a “dead-spot” under your binding.
Gaining popularity in recent years, the release of rear-entry bindings initially created a solid option for those looking to compromise between traditional bindings and the convenience of step-in bindings. Often referred to as speed-entry bindings, with a ratchet system, they look exactly like traditional strap bindings and function similarly when strapped in. The biggest difference comes from a folding highback that allows you to kick your foot in from behind the binding, hence the name. This ease of use can make these great options for beginners or intermediates who may quickly grow tired of sitting down to strap in. One great example is Flow NX2 bindings.
- Quick access off of the lift.
- Many rear-entry bindings have the option to use the straps in a traditional in/out manner.
- More moving parts means more possible malfunctions. Rear-entry bindings can take a bit to break in and you may have a difficult time closing the highback for your first few uses.
Not to be confused with Burton’s modern release of the Step-On platform, step-in bindings had a rough start. If you’re a true snowboarder, you’re all too familiar with the struggle of wrestling with frozen straps at a windy and frigid summit. If this is you, chances are you’ve been ditched once or twice by your skiing buddies who grew tired of waiting for you. Step-in bindings drew a ton of attention as the ultimate fix to these discomforts, designed to get you descending as quickly as you could get off of the lift without having to even bend over to strap in. Unfortunately, every step-in system released prior to 2017 presented dangerous malfunctions that kept them from ever achieving widespread success. Today, Burton’s Step-On system dominates the step-in market.
- Get riding much quicker than traditional bindings.
- No need to bend over or sit.
- Most step-in bindings lack a vertical plate and only mount under your feet. This means decreased responsiveness on your heel and toes.
The decision of what bindings are best for you largely comes down to personal preference, but if you're new to the sport I'd definitely encourage traditional-strap for superior comfort. Typically, you also want to match your board flex to your binding flex. Still not sure which binding style is right or ready to figure out your stance and find your rhythm?! Message any of us at Curated and together we'll find the perfect gear!