Snowboard Boot Buyer's Guide

"How do I choose snowboard boots?" It's a question we've all asked ourselves at some point in our illustrious snowboard careers. Buying snowboard boots can be a daunting task. From Burton to ThirtyTwo, Salomon to DC, every manufacturer brings something to the table. So we put together this snowboard boot buyers guide to help you through the process of buying snowboard boots. Keep in mind that this is just a guide—it's not completely foolproof, but it'll help steer you through the maze of fit, liners, and lacing systems.

Before You Even Start

  • Know Your Feet:
  • Really get in tune with your kickers. Know whether you have fat or skinny feet, you have high arches or you're flat-footed, tiny heel or Sasquatch boot. It really makes a difference.

  • Know Your Shoe Size:
  • The majority of people wear shoes that are about 1/2 size too big for them. Test it out yourself—put on your favorite pair of sneaks and walk around, focusing on how your toes feel. If they have lots of room to move and they're not touching the end of your shoe, then your shoe size is probably a tad too big and you should think about sizing down a 1/2 size for a snowboard boot. ALSO: Keep in mind that one of your feet is probably bigger than the other (often it's a difference of about 1/4-size). Size for the bigger foot, or you'll be riding in a lot of pain. If you're unsure of your size, go to a shoe store and use one of those slidey things (they'll be impressed if you call it that).

  • Don't Listen To Your Friends:
  • Resist the urge to pull the trigger on that hot pair of snowboard boots that your buddy keeps raving about. Don't listen to your friends.What works for them probably won't work for you. Listen to your feet.

  • Get Proper Socks:
  • Those dinky cotton socks have got to go. Get some real snowboarding socks and get a few pairs (and we're not just saying that because we sell the stupid things). It makes a huge difference. Just ask that guy who bleeds from his shins and whose toes freeze all the time.

  • Know How Snowboard Boots Are Supposed To Fit:
  • Snowboard boots should feel snug everywhere—snug at your heel, instep, and toebox, and your toes should barely touch the ends. So don't freak if they feel too tight at first because if they fit "just right" straight outta the box, chances are you'll be screwed in a week. It usually takes between one to two weeks of riding to break in your boots if you don't have them heat-molded at a shop. After about 10 days, they'll pack out a bit and fit like a glove. So be patient.

  • Think Outside The Box:
  • You might be stoked on that new design, but remember: the raddest boots don't mean shit if your feet are in pain. So go with what feels right, not what your style dictates. AND LADIES: Don't be afraid to look into getting a men's boot if you want a stiffer boot. A few of our testers really like to wear men's boots (Mayra and Caitlin). And guys, if you're confident enough, you could do the same thing with women's boots. Just don't tell your bros.

  • Do Your Research:
  • Ask around, try on a bunch of different boots, and read reviews until you find a boot and/or brand that you like. Seven of our employee snowboarders reviewed a whole bunch of snowboard boots. Check out what they said.

Important Factors

  • Fit:
  • It's worth mentioning again. Remember: no heel lift, snug all over, toes should barely touch the end. If you have funky feet, check out our foot/boot table below.

  • Flex:
  • Stiff or flexy? It's all a matter of preference. Flex should be listed in the Tech Specs of every boot. If you're just starting out, it's not a bad idea to get a boot with more (softer) flex. But remember: a stiffer boot might take longer to break in, but it'll last you longer.

  • Sole:
  • If you're a park rat, look for a boot with lots of EVA padding or gel / air bags, which help cushion impacts. Burton and DC (among others) do a good job of this. If you're going to be hiking a lot, check out boots with more aggressive soles like Vibram.

  • Lacing:
  • Pretty much every manufacturer has its own lacing system. Find one that you like and that hugs your foot in the right way. Check out our lacing system guide below.

Foot Characteristics / Boot Solutions

Foot Characteristic Common Problems Possible Solutions
  • Skinny Ankles
  • Skinny Heels
  • Dreaded heel lift: Your heel comes up on toe-side turns.
  • No matter how hard you try, you never seem to get it tight enough around your ankles.
    Look for boots with one or more:
  • A good inner lacing system like Boa CBR or a quick-lace / full-lace liner.
  • A boot with an inner harness: this is like an ankle brace on the inside of the boot like Ride's Secure Fit Harness.
  • J-bars: these are inserts on the liner or inside the boot that compress around the heel to lock down your foot. Many Burton boots, ThirtyTwo, and Ride boots have J-bars.
  • Look for liners that are heat moldable in the heel pocket like Burton and Salomon boots.
  • For full-on customizing, get a FULL heat moldable liner like in ThirtyTwo Boots, Rome Boots, or boots with an Intuition™ liner (Ride, K2)
  • Look for other liner solutions, like DC's Bravo air bag.
  • If worse comes to worst, you can jury-rig a shim under the liner to prop your foot up and cut down volume inside your boot.
  • High Arches
  • You have a hard time getting your foot into the boot.
  • Boot fits uncomfortably tight around your instep.
    Look for boots with:
  • Get a boot with a FULL heat moldable liner like in ThirtyTwo Boots, Rome Boots, or look for a boot with an Intuition™ liner (Ride, K2)
  • Get a custom footbed. These are expensive and must be custom-made at a shop, but it'll make a world of difference.
  • Wide Feet
  • Narrow Feet
  • We think you can figure this one out.

Lacing System Breakdown

The lacing system is one of the most important things about your boots. Pretty much every brand has its take on lacing. We thought we'd show you how each works. Check it.

Lacing System Brand(s) Pros / Cons Demonstration

Traditional

All Brands

DC Boots K2 Boots Ride Boots ThirtyTwo Boots Vans Boots Rome Boots Celcius Boots Northwave Boots Roxy Boots Burton Boots Forum Boots Salomon Boots Nitro Boots
    Pros:
  • Fine tune fit: you customize how tight you make it
  • Eliminate some of the pressure points you can get from Boa and others
  • Economical

    Cons:
  • They become looser as your feet get hotter and the day progresses
  • They're hard to cinch down tight (unless you know the hockey-skate trick—see the vid)
  • You have to take off your gloves to tighten

Coiler Boa (One Dial)

Ride Snowboards ThirtyTwo Boots Vans Boots Northwave Boots Roxy Boots
    Pros:
  • Very easy to use
  • Can do it with one hand
  • Lightweight and minimal
  • No need to take off your glove to tighten

    Cons:
  • Pressure points possible
  • Boot tightens everywhere the same; you can not tighten the lower zone differently than the top
  • If the coil breaks, your day on the mountain is over

Boa Focus (Dual Zone Dials)


Ride Snowboards
Vans Boots
Rome Boots
ThirtyTwo Boots
    Pros:
  • You can tighten upper/lower zones independently for a fine-tuned fit
  • Very easy to use
  • Can tighten with one hand
  • Heel lift is virtually eliminated
  • No need to take off your glove to tweak

    Cons:
  • If the coil breaks, your day on the mountain is over
  • Pressure points still possible

Speed Zone

Burton Boots
B by Burton Boots
    Pros:
  • With dual zone, you can get them tight where you want
  • Very quick
  • Lightweight
  • Laces stay out of the way in their pockets
  • No need to take off gloves

    Cons:
  • The lower zone can be tough to get as tight as you want until the boot really starts to break in (outer shell material is often stiff)
  • Can loosen up during the day
  • It's hard to get them super tight
  • Difficult to figure out at first, especially when you first take them out of the box (See vid)
  • If lacing system breaks, your day on the mountain is done. Although Burton will replace the lacing at any time

Powerlace Pro / Powerlace II

Salomon Boots
    Pros:
  • You can really crank it down for a snug fit
  • Dual zone fit: tighten top and bottom independently
  • Simple locking system keeps lacing in place all day
  • No need to take off gloves

    Cons:
  • Kind of complicated at first
  • Eyelets are made of fabric, so they can break/snag a bit
  • Locking system can wear out the lace

Speed Lacer

Forum Boots
    Pros:
  • With dual zone, you can get them tight where you want
  • Very quick
  • Lightweight
  • Laces stay out of the way in their pockets
  • No need to take off gloves

    Cons:
  • The lower zone can be tough to get as tight as you want until the boot really starts to break in (outer shell material is often stiff)
  • Can loosen up during the day
  • It's hard to get them super tight
  • Difficult to figure out at first, especially when you first take them out of the box (See vid)
  • If lacing system breaks, your day on the mountain is done

Lock Down

Ride Snowboards
    Pros:
  • Very easy to use
  • Very similar to traditional lacing in terms of fine-tuning, but won't loosen as much; there's a locking mechanism on the tongue to hold everything in place
  • You can really get 'em tight
  • Minimal pressure points

    Cons:
  • Difficult to use with gloves
  • Eyelets are made of fabric, so they can break
  • Can loosen up throughout the day

Fast-In


    Pros:
  • Very easy to use
  • Very similar to traditional lacing in terms of fine-tuning, but with less loosening risk; there's a locking mechanism on the tongue to hold everything in place
  • You can really get 'em tight
  • Minimal pressure points

    Cons:
  • Difficult to use with gloves
  • Eyelets are made of fabric, so they can break
  • Can loosen

Rapid Lace

    Pros:
  • Quick system
  • Quick micro-adjustability for a fine-tuned fit

    Cons:
  • Hard to dial in upper/lower fits independently
  • Lace tends to loosen up
  • Difficult to get really tight

TLS

Nitro Boots
    Pros:
  • You can get TLS boots ridiculously tight
  • Pushes heel in to heel cup to eliminate heel lift
  • Adjusts easy on-the-fly
  • Dual zone lacing has different colors, so you know which zone you're tightening
  • Gloves on? No problem
  • Few pressure points

    Cons:
  • Confusing at first
  • Locking mechanism often loosens up
  • Internal & fabric eyelets are hard to get super tight and can break
  • Not necessarily a speed system

Super Lace

Northwave Boots
    Pros:
  • Great upper lacing locking system
  • Smooth tightening with easy eyelet rollers

    Cons:
  • Eyelet placement can cause pressure points with your bindings

Boot Test Reviews

Seven Backcountry.com employees / riders went through the pain of trying on ten different boots so you wouldn't have to. Boots from Burton, DC, Ride, Rome, Nitro, Salomon, ThirtyTwo, and Vans. Check out the riders' profiles, see if any of them sound a bit like you, and then read their reviews.

Tester Profile

Pete G.

Pete

Profile:

Age: 21
Riding Style: Park Rat
Snowboard Boot Size: 11
Street Shoe Size: 11
Foot Shape: Pretty Normal
Current Boot: Forum League
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ PETE'S REVIEWS

Lucas A.

Lucas

Profile:

Age: 21
Riding Style: All-Mountain
Snowboard Boot Size: 8
Street Shoe Size: 8.5
Foot Shape: Completely Normal
Current Boot: ThirtyTwo Lashed
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ LUCAS' REVIEWS

James R.

James R

Profile:

Age: 29
Riding Style: All-Mountain Freestyle
Snowboard Boot Size: 10
Street Shoe Size: 10.5
Foot Shape: High Arch
Current Boot: Ride FUL & Nitro Select
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ JAMES' REVIEWS

Ashley T.

Ashley T.

Profile:

Age: 27
Riding Style: All-Mountain
Snowboard Boot Size: 7.5
Street Shoe Size: 7.5
Foot Shape: Slightly high arch
Current Boot: DC Judge
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ ASHLEY'S REVIEWS

Ashley F.

Ashley F.

Profile:

Age: 22
Riding Style: All-Mountain
Snowboard Boot Size: 7.0
Street Shoe Size: 7.5
Foot Shape: High arch
Current Boot: Burton Emerald
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ ASHLEY'S REVIEWS

Mayra

Mayra

Profile:

Age: 32
Riding Style: Big Mountain
Snowboard Boot Size: W10.5 / M8.5-9
Street Shoe Size: M9
Foot Shape: Slightly narrow
Current Boot: DC Judge
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ MAYRA'S REVIEWS

Caitlin

Caitlin

Profile:

Age: 27
Riding Style: All-Mountain Freestyle
Snowboard Boot Size: M8-8.5
Street Shoe Size: W9
Foot Shape: Pretty normal
Current Boot: Ride FUL
Snowboard Sock: eesa

READ CAITLIN'S REVIEWS

The Goods

Check out our entire selection of boots. Why stop there? We have what it takes to kit you out: Snowboards, Bindings, Goggles, and outerwear.