Snowboard boots are one of the most important parts of a snowboard setup. They are also one of the most varied. Here is a basic guide:
Snowboard boots evolved from SorelsTM or Sno-pac type boots. These basic outdoor walking boots origins can best be described by their makers.
For people who live and work outdoors – from hunters, skiers and winter campers, to lumberjacks, explorers and bush pilots – the name Sorel is synonymous with quality, durability and value. Launched more than 40 years ago by Canadian footwear manufacturer William H. Kaufman Inc., Sorel designs, develops and markets rugged footwear and apparel for outdoor industrial and recreational use. The brand was acquired by Columbia Sportswear Company in 2000.
Early snowboard boots were Sorel shells with ski boot type bladders for waterproofing and insulation.. These early boots did not supply adequate support for the ankle and inhibited control of the boards. The first hard-shell snowboard boots were in fact ski boots, adapted to attach to a snowboard. Soft shell boots were developed by snowboard companies trying to make a harder boot without actually descending into the realm of plasticized ski boots.
Currently there is one main factor that distinguishes between snowboard boots, the binding style.
There are two types of snowboard binding, step-in or strap-in. There is also a hybrid known as Flow, which is a mixture (and is used with soft boots).
Step-in boots must be purchased with the corresponding bindings or they will not connect to the board. Step in boots feature a clip on the sole of the boot that allows them to attach to their respective binding. This saves the user time and effort, but can leave the worry that the boot will become unattached under high pressure, as with skis. Step-in boots can either be soft, like strap-in boots, or hard, like ski boots. The soft boots give the ride a more ‘surfey’ feel, whilst hard boots deliver extreme responsiveness from the board.
Strap in boots, or ‘soft boots’ can be used with all strap-in bindings, although it’s a good idea to get some that fit together nicely. Strap in bindings leave the user completely attached to the board with next to no chance of popping out. These boots are favoured by freestylers due to the increased flexibility and margin for error.
When purchasing a high-end boot, the customer will usually be offered a range of features designed to make the boot more comfortable/practical.
- Air Pumps - Air pumps, usually fitted around the ankle/heel mean the inner lining of the boot can be inflated to give a more customised fit to the user, allowing a greater degree or comfort.
- Heat Pads - It’s cold on top of a mountain in winter! Heat pads stored underneath the ball of the foot help keep the users toes warm (usually the coldest bit) for up to an hour.
- Heel Crash Pad - If the user happens to be a fan of the freestyle discipline of snowboarding, these are a good thing. When landing from a jump, heels can take a lot of the pressure which ends up with them hurting or even breaking! Heel crash pads work like a nice bouncy pillow to land on, thus reducing the chance of damage.
- Gel Toe Pad - Crushing your toes up against the front of your shoes hurts and even more so with stiff snowboard boots. A gel toe pad in the front of the shoe makes the discomfort a little less for happy snowboarders!