Your snowboard boots are probably the most important piece of kit you can buy. You could be the best rider on the planet but if your feet are killing you after the first run you not going to have a very good season or holiday. There’s no specific company who make the best boots they all have different selling points and features, you can go out and buy the most expensive and high tech boots on the market but if they don’t fit right all that hard-earned cash will have gone to waste.
1. Try before you buy
Try as many different pairs of boots from as many different brands as you can. This is a tried and tested method for finding the best fit. All the manufacturers have a different fit because they all make their boots on different lasts (a last is a mould of a foot). Each boot manufacturers last are based on what they think is a standard foot shape and they all differ from brand to brand.
Also read up on as many different makes and models as possible before you enter a snowboard shop check the pre season buying guides in magazines and online.
2. Take your time
You want to try each pair of boots for at least ten minuets if not longer. This will give you feet time to feel any pressure points. If you notice any parts of the boot digging in or rubbing after 5 minutes in a shop imagine what it will feel like after 5 hours on a mountain.
You need to help the shop staff to help you so it is important that you tell him/her how the boot feels on your foot. You need to let them know if the boot is uncomfortable in any way. If he asks if it feels don’t just sit and nod your head tell him/her the full story just imagine your on the couch with Sigmund Freud, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, there is no such thing as a silly question. The only silly question is the one you didn’t ask.
4. The fit
If you can imagine being on a nice sunny beach with the sun setting in the distance, now walk up to where the water just laps up onto the sand, you now need to push your feet into the sand so that they are buried. That’s how your boots should feel! Snug not cramped and without any pressure points. Remember that any sore spots or pressure points that you can feel in the shop will feel a whole lot worse when you get on the hill!
5. The length
There are a few old wives tails kicking about that say your board boots should be a size too small or a size bigger than your shoe size. These are both wrong! You need a boot that is the size of your foot. The first thing any good snowboard shop should do is measure your feet you might think you’re a size 9 because that’s what you wear from day to day and you’ve always bought size 9 Nikes since you were 15, but when you measure you feet your actually an 8½. Don’t pay too much attention to what size is on the side of the box what one boot company thinks is a size 9 can differ from another boot company thinks is a 9.
When you’ve got some boots on and you’ve laced them up they should feel ever so slightly too small when you stand up straight, this is how you want them to feel. When you stand in your snowboard stance with your feet apart and you knees bent your toes should come away from the front of the boot by a couple of millimetres just enough so that you can wiggle them with out them touching the front of the boot.
6. Heel lift
Heel lift is something your foot naturally wants to do when transferring your weight from your heel edge to your toe edge. There are a few different ways to get round this. The first is obviously is to find a boot that has a good fitting heel cup for the shape of your foot. The second is to lace them up right. Most boots these days have a heel harness around the boots liner this wants to be fastened tight but not too tight, remember you want your boots to be snug. Cranking you boots up too tight can be worse than not lacing them up at all and can cause unnecessary pressure points. Now depending what kind of lacing system you have gone for you need to fasten up the outer boot. The same goes for the outer boot as the inner boot, you need to fasten them up tight but not so tight that you can feel the lace eyelets digging into your shin. If your boot fitter is seasoned and experienced he/she should be able to show you a few different ways to lace up your boot.
Now your all fastened up you’ll notice that you can still lift your heel as you walk round the shop or sit on the fitting bench, this is normal. The real test is to again stand with your feet flat on the ground and apart with your knees bent as if you’re snowboarding, now try to lift your heels. 5 to 10 millimetres of lift is pretty normal but once your strapped onto a board you shouldn’t notice it as your binding straps also help to keep you in place.
7. Heat moulding
For many years now snowboard boots have come with heat mouldable liners that take the shape of your foot. You can kick start the process off in store by sticking the liners on to heaters that warm up and expands the mouldable materials inside the liner this can be an uncomfortable experience for some but normally nothing more than a couple of numb toes. This is because the heat mouldable material expands. At first the boot will feel slightly too small this is completely normal.
When it comes to lacing your boots up when they have just come off the heaters you don’t need to fasten them as tight as when you first tried them on. If you crank them up really tight when the foam is warm and soft you can end up squashing it flat, moving all the cushioning and ending up with imprints of lace eyelets in your leg.
The best way is to lace them up normally and stand still in your snowboard stance while they cool down once they’re cool then you can crank them up a bit.
Heat moulding won’t make a bad fit good but it will get out any little pressure points you might have or give you and extra millimetre or two in the toe box if needed.
8. The flex
How soft or stiff you want your boots is a bit of a personal preference. As a rule of thumb when your starting out you should go for a softer more forgiving boot but if you only weigh 8 stone you might find that a boot quite stiff while the guy sitting next to you on the fitting bench that weighs 14 stone finds the same boot very soft. If you’re just buying your first pair of boots it’s best to start with an entry-level boot until you get a feel for what you like and don’t like. Again it comes down to trying as many different boots as you can till you find the right one and don’t just buy some boots
9. Classic laces, Boa or Speed laces
There are many different lacing systems on the market now and they all have their avid fans and again it all comes down again to personnel preference. Classic laces are to be more tweakable and have more room for adjustment. Boa systems use steel cables attached to a ratchet system on the tongue that you tighten by twisting the ratchet and it evenly tightens up the boot. The big advantage with Boa is that you can do up your boots with little effort. Speed laces come in a few different shapes and forms. One of the most popular is the Burton Speed Zone system. Speed Zone uses and upper and lower lace, which gives you the kind of tweakability you get from laces with the speed of a Boa system. Again it all comes down to personal preference all the different lacing systems have their fans.
Most people don’t think that socks are important but getting a good fitting pair of socks can be just as important as getting fitting pair of boots. Get your self a proper pair of snowboard socks these are designed specifically for snowboarding. They won’t bunch up around the ankles like tube socks and have extra padding in all the right places. Check out Thirtytwo and Smartwool snowboard socks.
Footbeds don’t always work for everyone when it comes to snowboard boots. Some stores will tell you that it’s a must have thing and will introduce it into the sale before you’ve even set eyes on a snowboard boot. This method is right for ski boots but not board boots. Most snowboarders have no problem and get a great fit with the Footbed that comes with the boot but if you find your getting to the bottom of your first run and you boots are making you cry then nine times out of ten a custom foot bed will get you smiling again. Check out Vansand Thirtytwo.
If you have any specific questions, please give us a ring for advice 7 days a week on 0191 232 3561.
Outdoor sports are potentially dangerous. This guide is offered for guidance only and you should seek advice from a qualified person if you are unsure about any aspect of your equipment or outdoor skills.