Snowboard Boots vs Regular Boots | Why Proper Boots Matter?

When you start snowboarding, it soon becomes very clear that it’s not a cheap sport when it comes to buying the appropriate equipment and clothing. Some people may be tempted to use what clothing and equipment they already have to reduce the cost of getting on the mountain.

Snowboarding with regular or snow boots will not give you enough control or support you need for snowboarding. Snowboard boots are designed to fit with your bindings and are stiff enough to give you control while protecting your ankles from injury. So, you need to buy proper snowboard boots.

It’s not unheard of for beginner snowboarders to strap in with regular boots or snow boots. In this article, I will go through all the reasons why you need a proper pair of snowboard boots and shouldn’t even bother trying to snowboard with hiking boots or snow boots.

Snowboarding In Hiking Boots

Now you know that snow boots are not stiff enough for snowboarding, you may be tempted to use a pair of hiking boots, especially if you have chunky ones in the back of your closet.

Hiking or mountaineering boots are much stiffer than snow boots, but they’re still unsuitable for snowboarding.

Hiking and mountaineering boots flex too much around the ankle and the upper part. Therefore they have too much range of motion, preventing you from carving and effectively going from edge to edge.

The extra range of motion will also be too much for your legs, and this will become very apparent when you have to do a long traverse on either your toe or heel side edges.

Some snowboarders who attempt to ride with hiking boots add an additional strap around the boot to make it stiffer.

But this still isn’t a good enough solution to ride properly and enjoy your time on the mountain. Like snow boots, hiking and mountaineering boots are not made to work with your snowboard bindings.

For example, the vertical piece of the back of bindings is called the high back, and this helps you turn on your heel edge.

But hiking and mountaineering boots don’t perfectly fit with the high back, which reduces your control significantly.

Your calves need to be aligned with the high back, which you only get by wearing proper snowboard boots as they are designed for the job.

Snowboarding In Hiking Boots

Differences In Lacing

Another characteristic of hiking boots is how they are laced. Snowboard boots have intricate lacing systems or boas to ensure that you get a secure fit and sufficient support.

Hiking boots don’t have suitable lacing systems, so your heels will lift under the extreme pressure you have to put into your toe side turns, especially when carving.

This gives you insufficient control when riding, but it also makes your leg muscles tired much more quickly. This is because you will have to overcompensate for the lack of control.

With hiking boots, you will need to over-tighten the straps to ensure that your boots don’t move around in the bindings.

This will cause incredible foot pain, and it won’t be long before your feet feel like they are on fire.

Snowboarding In Snow Boots

Snow boots are made for walking in the snow. They are super comfortable, provide plenty of grip on slippery surfaces, and are very soft.

These characteristics make them ideal for walking to the shops in the winter or walking the dog, but not for snowboarding.

Even though a pair of snow boots may look quite bulky and similar to snowboard boots.

The main problem with trying to snowboard in them is that they are not very stiff, and the lack of stiffness means they don’t give you the support you need to control your board, especially when going from edge to edge.

Snow boots are also not designed to work snowboard bindings, as their shape is not optimized to fit in the heel cups of your bindings or base plates.

The shape and stiffness of snowboard boots mean they work perfectly with snowboard bindings.

The stiffness gives you the necessary support and control while turning, holding an edge, riding powder, and hitting the park.

The stiffness also protects your ankles while performing all these maneuvers, so you don’t injure them.

If you still decide to strap in with snow boots on, you have to do the straps up extremely tight to get any kind of control.

This may be enough for you to make some pretty untidy turns at low speeds. But as soon as you start increasing the speed, you will undoubtedly lose control, and there’s a good chance you will hurt yourself.

Can You Ever Wear Snow Boots Snowboarding?

The only time you would really snowboard with snow boots is if you were powder surfing. Power surfing is a form of snowboarding without bindings.

It gives you a more natural feeling, just like surfing, but in deep powder. However, these days committed powder surfers use special powder surfer boots.

These boots have special flexible rubber soles that give you lots of grip on the board, so you don’t slip off.

This enhanced grip also allows powder surfers to drop cliffs and make powerful turns in deep snow.

Snowboarding In Ski Boots

It’s pretty rare to see these days, but you may come across snowboarders carving around the mountain with boots that look like hard plastic ski boots.

These boots are not ski boots but are specialist snowboard boots known as hard boots.

Although hard boots can be lots of fun on the slopes, they are mainly used for racing on slalom, giant slalom, and sometimes boardercross courses.

Hard boots are used with specialist race boards and bindings. The design allows you to change edge exceptionally quickly and get around the racecourse gates as fast as possible.

You don’t see many hard booters, as they are pretty limited compared to soft boots, and they are no good for jibbing around and hitting the park.

You also lose one of the main benefits of snowboarding over skiing, comfortable feet.

Some ski boots can fit in hard boot snowboard bindings, so if you have ski boots, you may think that they will do the job. But, while ski boots look very similar to hard snowboard boots, they work very differently.

The two main differences between ski boots and hard snowboard boots are how the ankle flexes and the boots’ footprints. Ski boots are rigid around the ankle, preventing you from articulating your ankle.

But you need an element of flex in your snowboard boots to carve. How much flex depends on the snowboarder’s preferences and the conditions they are riding in.

What About Actual Ski Boots?

The footprint of snowboard boots and ski boots are very different. Snowboard boots are designed to minimize how much the toe and heel hang over the board’s edge.

This is so you don’t catch them in the snow while carving hard. Whereas ski boots are shaped to fit into the ski bindings with an extension protruding from the toe.

If you manage to turn a snowboard while wearing ski boots, there’s a good chance that this piece will cut into the snow, causing you to crash hard.

When I first tried snowboarding, we didn’t know any better, so my dad and I rented a freestyle snowboard between us with hard boot bindings that we used with ski boots.

This was a bad idea as we found it incredibly challenging to control the snowboard, so much so we didn’t try again for another four years.

My dad was put off when he broke some ribs and his wrist while attempting to learn how to snowboard with this horrendous setup.

So What’s So Special About Snowboard Boots?

As with any sport, you need equipment and clothing that is made for the job. Snowboard boots are designed to work seamlessly with the rest of your equipment.

You wouldn’t wear stilettos to do a long jump, so why would you wear anything other than snowboard boots to go snowboarding?

1. They Give You All The Control You Need

As I’ve already mentioned, snowboard boots are designed to work perfectly with snowboard bindings.

You will see this when the boot heel fits perfectly in the binding heel cup and how the high back is positioned up the back of the boot, giving you the support and leverage you need for heel-side turns.

The stiffness of snowboard boots is also a key aspect of staying in control while riding, as it allows you to transfer your inputs into the snowboard.

You can buy snowboard boots with different flex ratings to suit your style, ability, and preference. More flexible, snowboard boots are great for beginners as they are more comfortable and forgiving.

They are also good for freestyle snowboarders as the extra flex allows them to tweak their snowboards for style, and their forgiveness makes landings easier.

However, softer snowboard boots compromise your control and edge hold at high speeds.

Therefore, when you are a more advanced snowboarder who likes to ride aggressively, it’s best to buy stiffer snowboard boots.

They Give You All The Control You Need

2. Snowboard Boots Are Comfortable To Wear

When you get snowboard boots that fit you properly, they are incredibly comfortable.

The inner linings mold to the shape of your feet, making your feet more comfortable and giving you more control and safety.

Snowboard boots come in all different shapes and sizes to suit different riders’ feet. Therefore it is incredibly important that you buy snowboard boots that fit you properly.

If you purchase ill-fitting snowboard boots, your comfort will be severely compromised. You can get blisters, experience hotspots, and even bruising if your snowboard boots don’t fit properly.

The best way to ensure that your snowboard boots fit you is to visit a qualified snowboard boot fitter in a good snowboard shop.

A snowboard boot fitter can choose the perfect pair of boots for your foot size, shape, ability, and riding style.

If necessary, a snowboard boot fitter can fine-tune the liner of the snowboard boots, so they perfectly fit you.

They may also recommend an upgraded inner sole that perfectly molds to the shape of your feet using heat.

Earlier I talked about how the straps of snowboard bindings need to be tight enough to give you control.

One of the good things about snowboard boots is that they reduce the pressure of the straps over your feet, which means it will take longer for your feet to feel discomfort when you have a good pair of snowboard boots on.

3. Snowboard Boots Are Adjustable

You can buy snowboard boots with various lacing systems. Some use traditional laces, while others use speed-lacing systems or boas.

The more high-tech lacing systems allow you to quickly and easily tweak how your boots feel.

Therefore, you can customize the fit throughout the day to suit how your feet feel and what kind of riding you are doing.

You won’t have this level of adjustability with hiking or snow boots, as they will need to be ridiculously tight for as long as you can stand them.

4. Your Feet Stay Warm And Dry

have a high level of waterproofing which is essential for the soggy nature of snowboarding. Some snowboard boots now even come with gaiters that enhance the waterproofing properties.

Snowboard boots also have an excellent level of insulation, which, combined with a good pair of snowboard socks, will keep your feet warm all day.

5. Snowboard Boots Last A Long Time

Snowboard boots are made out of durable materials, and more expensive snowboard boots are more durable than cheaper ones.

Still, even the most affordable snowboard boots would be better than using snow boots or hiking boots to shred.

Stiffer snowboard boots are more durable than soft ones. But they all get softer over time and have a limited lifespan. A pair of snowboard boots should last one or two full seasons or 50 to 70 days of riding.

How you ride also determines how long a pair of snowboard boots last. If you ride aggressively, you put more pressure on your boots than if you ride conservatively, making them wear out more quickly.

Snowboard Boots Last A Long Time

Why Snowboard Boots Should Be The First Piece Of Equipment You Should Buy?

Let’s assume you’ve caught the snowboard bug after a couple of weeks of riding and want to buy your own snowboard equipment. You should buy a pair of snowboard boots before the board and bindings.

This is because you need to ensure that whatever snowboard you buy in the future will be suitable for your foot size.

If you buy a snowboard and then your boots, you may find that your toes and heels overhang the edges, which can cause many problems when turning.

But if you buy your snowboard boots first, you can ensure your snowboard is wide enough for your feet.

Also, you can use your snowboard boots with a rental snowboard, allowing you to try a few out before you commit to buying a complete setup.

Snowboard boots often have heat-moldable inner linings, which means the more you ride with them, the better they will fit your feet.

You will not get this if you try to ride with snow boots or hiking boots or even if you rent your snowboard boots.

You will also get used to how stiff they feel, which will help you perform as well as you can on whichever snowboard you ride.

Final Thoughts

So, with all this in mind, don’t scrimp on your snowboarding footwear. Do the right thing, and buy some proper snowboard boots that fit you perfectly.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not digging my head deep into the world of snowboarding, tricks, techniques, and related safety measures.

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