Since it is your feet that connect you to your board the correct boots are vital for achieving maximum board control and general boarding enjoyment. There is nothing worse than having sore, wet and cold feet which will without doubt ruin a day out on the hills. When seeking to buy the best boots possible you should select those that suit the style of riding that you believe you are most likely to adopt.
Three varieties of snowboard boots are available: the hard boot, the soft boot and the hybrid boot. What tends to change the most is the exterior of the boots, the inner linings remaining pretty much the same between each boot type. Inner bladders are the liners found on the inside of all snowboard boots which cushion and support your feet. They wick water away from your feet, keeping them warm and dry. The inner bladder tends to have its own laces incorporated which function to tightly wrap the liner securely about your feet. This ensures no movements/ rubbing which could damage skin. Additionally it allows the wearer to adopt the tightness of fit to their desired comfort levels.
Hard snowboard boots, have, as the name implies, a generally less flexible tough/ rigid outer layer(s) that seek to promote increased control with relation to body movement and boot performance. These boots are typically only used on-piste in events like slalom and sometimes boardercross where small movements of the participants feet translate into greater edge performance/ board responsiveness than would be achieved in softer snow offpiste conditions. These boots additionally support your ankle, foot and lower leg well, with the outer shell typically made from hard plastic. A small degree of flexibility is frequently supplied via such modifications as hinges, many found on the ankle sections. As can be imagined, ski boots have had a large influence in their design. This type of boot tends to have toe and heel clamps to secure the boot to the board.
At the other end of the snowboard boot spectrum are the soft boots. These are by far the most comfortable boots available, various forms existing. Soft boots can be used in conjunction with binding highbacks for increased control on your heel edge. Flow-in bindings exist, where the boot (typically very lightweight and slim) is secured by a large cushioned plate placed over the top, ratcheted down. Another type of soft boot allows the wearer to step in or out of the binding with relative ease, small but strong plastic gripping points existing about the arch (or other area) which the bindings click and grip on to when stepped on. A simple release mechanism lets go of the boot. Since the boots are soft they allow the wearers feet to move more naturally and in comfort, therefore are best suited to freestyle. Heavy landings on hardpack require the body to bend and absorb, something not entirely possible with harder boots. Most people choose this boot type as other daily movements like walking and even quick trips out in the car are possible with them on.
Hybrid snowboard boots contain elements from both the hard and soft boot technology to provide typically give a sturdy hard sole and softer upper boot. A mix of flexibility and comfort alongside a good deal of control characteristic of hard boots is achieved.
When in shops trying on boots (by far the best way to asses fit) it is a good idea to take with you the footwear and leggings that you will be wearing on the slopes. This enables the correct sized boot to be fitted, reducing the purchase of a boot that could be too small. Small boots can have painful problems such as making leggings pinch your skin or crunching up your toes which can be painful when landing tricks. Walk around the shop in the boots, run, jump, crouch, do all the moves you can imagine are required when snowboarding to see if they are comfortable and how much support is offered.
Remember, small problems at this point could become a huge problem on the ski slopes. Finding a pair of similar boots in a ski resort is often difficult and can be pricey. If all these basic points are adhered to many days of snowboarding bliss await! Many boots today have various so called ‘enhancements’ like air cushions, gel/ heat moulding inner liners (can be very good, especially for unusual shaped feet). Try as many boots out to see what they’re like. Ask people who have done the same, basically build up a good idea before you buy. Boots are the most important aspect of a boarders hardware, get them right and you’ll be able to improve your riding in leaps and bounds.