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I'm looking at buying my first pair of snowboard boots. I'm heading to Scotland and the Alps (Portes Du Soleil) this winter.

I ride about "Red" level runs with my girlfriend (who'c onsideribly better than me) dragging me off piste (more ot the side of the piste) occasionally and always trying to make me do increasingly harder runs...

What kind of boots/boot features should I be looking for in buying my first boots?

I've always rented before now but I would like to not end the day with blisters this winter..!

  • For all my North American buddies so they too can learn what a "Red" level run is: Piste Classifications – ShemSeger Sep 9 '16 at 18:30
  • You realize that the Alps are not in Scotland, right? :-) – wallyk Sep 10 '16 at 0:34
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First of all: the boots are the most important equipment for snowboarding! It's good to read something about it but please go to a real board-shop before purchasing them! Choose one of those fancy ones where guys hang around listening to punk/rap-music :)

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The common ski- or sport-shops are in general not that reliable when it comes to snowboarding.

The other considerations are summed up in this article from the Austrian board-shop "Blue Tomato":

Most important: the size

The most important criterion when buying a new boot is the right size. The Mondo point size, the length of your foot, is a good guideline. When your legs are straight, you may touch the front of your boot lightly. However, when you bend your knees this should not happen. Pay attention that your heel is snug in the boot and cannot move. Boots of different brands do not have the same length and width, so keep in mind that the boot should also fit your binding. Some brands use half-size liners in their outer shoes. If you have large feet but do not want to ride a wide board, you can save important millimetres in toe- and heel area with this information.

The flex value

Snowboard boots are available as hard- and soft boots. For freestyle as well as freeride, you use soft boots. They are available in different flex rates: softer boots for freestyle and harder boots for freeride. Hard boots are solely for racing and carving. They greatly restrict the freedom of movement, so that you can bring pressure to the edge, even at high speed.

As you've described that you want to ride on the slope and a little backcountry, I would choose a flex value of 7.

Lacing

The lacing of your snowboard boots is essential for the hold. As a rule, you can distiguish three different lacing systems: traditional lacing, quick lacing systems and Boa. So the question is: what is the perfect system for you? We will explain this!

The classic among lacing systems is still the first choice for many riders. No other system can adjust the pressure as well as with the old-school variant. The laces have a solid core that prevents the knot from loosening. The soft coat gives the necessary grip to your fingers to get a bombproof hold. Okay, if you ride really hard, you’ll probably have to readjust them during the day.

The quick lacing systems, speed lacing, have become a fixed part of the sport. Nowadays there is an almost bewildering array, from “twin lacing” to “speed zone”. The principle is the same for all of them, but, depending on the price range, you get a system for the whole shoe, two divided speed-lacing systems for the top and bottom of the boot or even a three-part system with extra lacing for more heel-hold. With these systems, you thread the laces through plastic- or metal devices, tighten them to the desired level and secure them in the device. This only takes a few seconds. The more zones the system has, the more accurately you can adjust the boot to your foot and preferences.

Superficially, BOA is a quick lacing system. The only difference is that it uses wire and wheels. Depending on the price range the BOA system also offers, one, two or even three adjuster wheels for the different areas of the boot and often even for the liner. Turning the wheel tightens the bootlaces evenly; pushing the button loosens the wire again. You can also use this system easily while wearing gloves. When it comes to hold, BOA is the first choice. It is not the fastest system to tighten, but it is number one to loosen: one button-push and the wire is loosened!

A few words on the Liner

The liner is included with your snowboard boots. It increases the comfort of the fairly hard outer boot. Several models even have a thermo liner, which you can heat-mould to match the shape of your foot. If you are prone to pressure points or particular parts of your feet give you problems, a thermo liner may be the solution. You can get your thermo liners customised in many Blue Tomato shops; with some liners, you can even do it yourself in the oven at home. There are liners, especially for the park, with integrated cushioning that dampens hard landings.

Sole Cushioning

Boots have cushioning so you can survive hard landings without bruising your heels. Essentially, there are four types of cushioning: EVA, an especially light and flexible plastic that is often used for cushioning. However, it loses its shape with excessive cold, and therefore diminishes in quality. PU is a strong and durable plastic that does not lose its properties, even in icy temperatures, but costs more than EVA. Air cushioning in the sole absorbs high impacts. This works especially well on the heel and forefoot areas, but less with icy temperatures. Gel pads are usually incorporated around the heel and work in the same way as air cushions, but are less susceptible to different temperatures.

Don't forget the socks

Even the perfect soft boot cannot realise its potential when you do not wear the right socks. Functional socks, which are long with reinforcements at critical points, maximise the fit of your shoe. Normal socks are too thin, can chafe at critical points and, in the worst case, slide down, wrinkle and provide unnecessary pressure points that can become really painful. An adjustment of the liner by the use of special fans and sometimes even ovens is possible and advisable for most models in the middle and upper price segment. You can find information about this in the product descriptions or on the boot itself. In case of doubt, our customer service will help you.

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    where guys hang around listening to punk/rap-music :) Ha. True dat.. :D – user2766 Sep 9 '16 at 9:06
  • @Liam No worries, I love talking about snowboarding :) – OddDeer Sep 9 '16 at 9:14
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    Flex Values are subjectively assigned by manufacturers, magazines or even shops. They are an approximation but shouldn't be taken as gospel. The number does not take into account where or how the boot flex not just effort to make it flex, the boots natural cant etc. – Glenn Sep 9 '16 at 15:20
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    I think the part about regular laces being the standard isn't really as accurate since multi-zone quick lacing system came into play. Also I'd probably add that standard laces and nearly all quick lace systems can be "field repaired" while a boa system failure will require almost always require a trip to the shop ending your day on the hill. – Glenn Sep 9 '16 at 15:21
  • @Glenn Can you quote the part where regular laces are labeled as "standard"? – OddDeer Sep 10 '16 at 8:47
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I know an answer has already been accepted but I figured I'd chime in.

Preface: I had an AWFUL pair of boots that aged terribly. They were cheap, general sports store off season specials. I don't know if the fit was wrong (I have very thin legs) or if the construction was just that bad, but the tongue would "float" to the outside on both boots after only a few runs, no matter how tightly I tied them, and always resulted in hot spots on the opposite side.

My point is - when paying close attention to fit, don't just focus on how much room your toes have like with normal boots and shoes. You put a lot of lateral stress on the boot in all sorts of situations when riding, and the calve/shin/collar area needs to fit well and still be comfortable.

Also a note about laces. The boots I ultimately purchased had a "quick lace" system where you pull on the two handles attached to the thin-but-strong laces, pull them back to lock into the grips and try to stuff the excess into the little pockets.

It was obvious this is the trend, as that style along with the weird crank dial was the only option across multiple brands in the store in my price range.

  • For the BOA's I tried, the dial felt like cheap, weak plastic that I would not trust. This was on well known major brands. I saw a floor model that had one completely broken. Others who have actually owned a pair may disagree with me but I avoided them.
  • After two seasons with the "speed lace" boots I've come to believe that this is partly a gimmick. The locks are nice and hold reasonably, but I do need an occasional adjustment. For some reason I need to pull back MUCH harder to get them to tighten as much as I would with normal laces, and with wrapping up the excess around the handle and tucking it into the small pocket, it seems to be only a bit faster than laces. Why does speed matter anyway? I tie my boots once, before I get my lift ticket, and untie them once after I get back to the car, and maybe an adjustment half way through the day. If you need the speed because you are constantly adjusting your boots on the mountain then they simply don't fit properly.

Ultimately I wouldn't let the speed laces stop me from buying my next boot, but I will definitely be on the lookout for traditional laces.

One last tip: Wear the socks you'd be boarding in to the store!

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    This is interesting stuff. Never hesitate to add an answer even after one is accepted. The more information the better! – Sue Sep 9 '16 at 20:05

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