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.

A snowboarder slides down a rail

For some funky freestyle flex in the park, opt for a softer binding. Photo by Jake Miller

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 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.

Binding Breakdown

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 flex provides improved energy transfer to your board as well as easier landings on jumps. A softer flex best fits 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.

A person tightens bindings on a snowboard with a screwdriver

Photo by Cooper Reichwein

Burton Influence

Jake Burton first introduced straps to keep you sideways on your board in 1979. More recently, Burton released a number of new modifications 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 with less required 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.

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. Burton, however, after eight years of research and development, created a dependable platform that truly delivers on the promises of its predecessors.

Burton Re:Flex

A pair of black snowboard bindings and the equipment needed to mount them

Re:Flex bindings provide enhanced board feel and the versatility to mount to any snowboard. Photo by Cooper Reichwein

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 - 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 your binding to flex with your 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!

Pros:

  • Increased board feel.
  • Versatility to mount on any platform.

Cons:

  • More flex in your base plates can mean less responsiveness and stability at high speeds.

Burton EST

A pair of grey snowboard bindings and the equipment needed to mount them

Mounting your EST’s is quick and painless with half the hardware of traditional bindings! Photo by Cooper Reichwein

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.

Pros:

  • Incredibly soft and surfy board feel.
  • Quick mounting and adjustments with less hardware.

Cons:

  • Limited mounting versatility: EST bindings will only mount to Burton’s Channel.

Burton Step-On

A pair of black snowboard bindings and the hardware required to mount them

Photo by Cooper Reichwein

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! Step-On’s 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 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 more as opposed to traditional bindings and boots. Be sure to purchase the right size binding for your respective boot size.

2022-2023 marks the sixth year of production for Burton’s Step-On platform and another season of extreme success. If you’re interested in Step-On’s, be sure to grab a pair early before they sell out for the season!

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.

Pros:

  • User friendly and reliable with quick entry.
  • Extremely responsive with precise control edge to edge.

Cons:

  • Stiff level of response: If you’re a park rider or otherwise prefer an easy-going, surfy feel, you may want something softer.

Other Types of Bindings

Aside from Burton’s assertiveness 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.

A snowboarder flies through the air over park terrain

Jake Miller gives his traditional strap bindings a good flex to stomp a nose grab at Big Boulder Park. Photo by Reed Weimer

Traditional Strap-In

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, a base plate, highback, a toe strap, an ankle strap, forward lean adjustment, buckles, and 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. Even EST systems are basic modifications of the traditional strap binding. Great examples from arguably the most dominant binding manufacturer in the game: Union Strata bindings, Union Atlas, or Union Force bindings.

Pros:

  • Brand versatility: countless options from most manufacturers.
  • Tried and true: still the most common type of binding through the decades.

Cons:

  • Decreased board feel: a singular-molded baseplate can create a “dead-spot” under your binding.

Rear Entry

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, they look exactly like traditional strap bindings with a ratchet system and function similarly when strapped in. The biggest difference comes from a folding high back 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. Great example: Flow NX2 bindings.

Pros:

  • Quick access off of the lift.
  • Many rear-entry bindings have the option to use the straps in a traditional in/out manner.

Cons:

  • 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 high back for your first few uses.

Step-In

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.

Pros:

  • Get riding much quicker than traditional bindings.
  • No need to bend over or sit.

Cons:

  • 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!

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Written By
I'm Bobby, a (fully stereotypical) Canadian living in Keystone CO, chasing smiles and stoke with friends! I've been working in the Snowboard Industry for 8 years since I graduated from Temple University and led their Snowboard Club. Today, I'm lucky to manage a team of 150 amazing Experts right here...

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