The Science of Buying Snowboard Boots

The boots maketh the ride!

Honestly, you cannot spend too much time, or money on finding the right snowboard boot for you. You’ve probably heard the age old advice – “if you’re going to buy anything – buy boots” – over and over again, and I can guarantee that it is the most solid piece of advice you can get when it comes to bridging the gap between renting and owning. Below you’ll find my top tips for buying snowboard boots and finding your cinderella fit!

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Snowboard boots aren’t supposed to fit like your favourite pair of skate shoes, remember that they are a performance shoe designed with a specific purpose. Yes, you absolutely want to be comfortable, but you also need your boots to be able to do their job.

One of the most common complaints in snowboard boots is ‘toe jam’ – no, not that foul muck between the toes that you joke about as kids, toe jam is literally when your toes slide forward and jam into the front of your boot causing serious discomfort, or even bruising in severe cases. Contrary to what you might think, toe jam is caused when your boots are too BIG, as your foot is able to slide around inside your boot and ends up all squished right in the front of your boot.

The other most common boot complaint is ‘heel lift’, a problem where you can feel your heels rise in the back of your boots, most often when you’re leaning into a toe side turn. Heel lift occurs often in people with narrow ankles wearing wide fitting boots, or for people wearing old worn out ones. Buying the right shape boots can help lessen heel lift, but its also important to make sure that your boots are laced well. If you fasten your boots properly you can feel your heel being pulled into the back of the boot, tighten down and voila!


As I mentioned above, snowboard boots are designed for a ‘performance’ fit, which means they need to be worn at the right size for your foot. All snowboard boots pack out with wear, moulding to the shape of your foot, so remember that even though that half size up feels more comfortable on the shop floor – you are buying yourself into the perils of toe jam and heel lift!

The ultimate test of a properly fitting boot goes a little something like this :

  • When you stand up straight in the boot your toes ‘brush’ or lightly touch on the end of the boot.
  • When you bend your knees & lean into the boot you will feel your toes come *just* off the front of the boot.
    As that is your snowboard stance – this is the fit you are looking for.

A properly fitted snowboard boot should be snug but comfortable, with no pressure points or pinching. Straight off the rack boots need a bit of love to bring out the cinderella fit, so be prepared to wear them in!

Most snowboard stores will offer you a boot fitting service, which means heat moulding the boot to your own feet and involves heating the boot liner then strapping you in nice and tight. This process enables the boot to quickly conform to your individual needs, and is essentially a speedy version of wearing the boots on the mountain for a few days. Good boot fitters will be able to recognise and issues you may have, and remedy them with the addition of high density foam to ‘blow out’ pressure points, or the addition of j-bars to narrow the heel and lock you in nice and tight!


Ever noticed those little number ratings that come on snowboard boot tech info? Usually a scale of 1-10, the number rating gives you an idea of the level of stiffness, 1 being ugg boot, and 10 being ski boot. Without sounding like captain obvious over here, a boot with a lower stiffness rating will be more flexible, and most people find this most comfortable. Boots that are less stiff are also more forgiving which makes them well suited to beginner and intermediate riders. As you advance you may find that you prefer stiffer boots, as they are more responsive and communicate to your bindings and your board much faster.

A basic rule of thumb is :

  • more flexible = more forgiving
  • stiff boots provide higher responsiveness & can aid carving and hiking
  • flexible boots are generally better for learning, riding park, pipe etc.


Get to know your foot!
Feet tend to fit into a variety of ‘shapes’, narrow |  |, wide |     | , or wedge – narrow at the heel, wide at the toe   /. Knowing the shape of your foot will help you narrow down the brands of boots that are designed with your feet in mind. I absolutely recommend going to your local snowboard shop and spending a decent amount of time with a boot fitter who can help you learn about your foot shape and boot needs. Then try, try, try!

My top recommendations based on foot shape are :

  •  \  / For wedge shaped fit try K2, Ride and Head boots
  • |    | Looking for wide fit?  try 32, Burton and DC
  • |  | If you have narrow feet try Salomon, & Nitro

Lace Type

Gone are the days of decisions being easy, now you can also choose between a variety of lacing systems for your boot, each have their merits and their downfalls. At the end of the day, lacing system choice is all personal preference, a quick look at the differences will help you along the way:

Standard Lace

  • easily adjustable
  • easily replaced
  • potential to come loose while riding


  • quick & easy
  • tricky to replace
  • potential come loose while riding


  • quick & easy
  • conda system locks in heel & reduces heel lift
  • locks in, won’t come loose
  • tricky to replace

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