You might be wondering are snow boots and snowboard boots just the same? Using your hiking boots or regular winter boots may sound like a good idea if you’re a snowboarding newbie. This option may be a satisfactory solution for the first few times. Or until you’re ready to invest in proper snowboard boots.
Besides, mountaineering boots may be a solid one-time solution if you’re on a hiking trip and suddenly decide to go board riding. However, regular snow boots do not provide the proper ankle support and binding fit. Unlike snowboard boots, they cannot provide adequate heel and toe control in turns. And snow boots can also slip out of the binding. You don’t want to end up injuring your foot, ankle, or even leg, right?
Snow boots and snowboard boots are not the same. If you’re looking for a true, yet safe riding experience, you should definitely opt for snowboard boots. Although there are many alternatives, none of them really provide all that’s necessary: safety, comfort, and the general feeling of satisfaction. Snowboard boots are specifically designed to meet your every need.
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Snow boots vs snowboarding boots
What do experts say?
Snowboarding experts will unanimously agree that snowboard boots are imperative. This is because they’re made to ensure support and stability. As well as secure and reliable fitting in the bindings.
The importance of comfort
While safety must be your primary concern, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of comfort you’ll have with well-fitting snowboard boots. It’s a critical part of every rider’s experience, even if you’re a beginner.
The risk of getting injured
The downside of regular winter boots is the fact that they are soft and floppy. You may find snow boots the size of which will fit the bindings. But because they’re soft, they’ll probably become loose and slip out of the bindings. And if they slip out of the binding, there’s a serious risk of getting injured.
What’s so special about snowboard boots?
Contrary to regular snow boots, snowboard boots have a stiff base which is why they can fit safely and comfortably into the bindings. Being bulky and stiff, snowboard boots provide adequate support and control. If you ride with snowboard boots, your ankles will be stiff and secure. Even if your moves are extreme.
While we’re at it, if you’re curious about whether or not snowboard bindings are expensive, find the answer here.
There’s no need to miss out on a great snowboarding experience
Although you may avoid getting injured while riding with regular boots, but inadequate ankle support will typically create a lot more strain on your feet and ankles. And also make your riding experience an average one. Snowboard boots provide lots of support and will significantly reduce redundant ankle muscle work.
Furthermore, snowboard boots are made to be buried in snow all day. Along with keeping your feet warm and dry, of course.
Some snowboarders complain that with snowboard boots they’re suffering the toe drag. However, you can resolve this issue by using a wider snowboard capable of fitting larger snowboard boots and bindings.
Snowboarding with hiking boots
Besides regular winter boots, some riders also use mountaineering or hiking boots. They are bulkier and stiffer than regular snow boots, and you can adjust them to fit in snowboard bindings. And you can hold them for a long time.
There are superb hiking boots people that almost feel like snowboard boots. Most riders argue that they can do well in soft, powdery snow. These conditions make them more responsive, almost surfing-like. Nevertheless, these hiking boots do not provide adequate ankle support on harder snow due to the flex in the ankle and upper boot.
This range of motion also overburdens your legs, especially over long traverses. This issue may be overcome by adding a booster strap to compensate for the boot flex. Yet, the level of responsiveness and control may not be sufficient for the hard snow.
Can you tweak your hiking boots?
Hiking/mountaineering boots can be adjusted to be better suited for your snowboarding adventures. You can adjust the highbacks to match the angle of the boot, with as much forward lean as possible. And you can also pad them with mini-cell foam.
In consequence, you may feel them closer to snowboard boots regarding responsiveness. The thing is you’ll need to squat a bit more.
Lacing issues and highback alignment
The integration of hiking/mountaineering boots with the bindings is far from great. This is because they are not designed to be used with snowboard bindings. Namely, the highback (the backing plate on your binding) is designed to assist you in edging.
With mountaineering boots, the highback merely gets in the way when edging and messes with the boot. You may feel it as a hit in the calf and it is the result of the loosened foot inside the boot. Thereby, you need to focus on aligning your calf with the highback, which is something you don’t need to think about when using snowboard boots.
Without proper ankle lacing, your heels will lift frequently, creating fatigue in your muscles. Mountaineering boots have a smaller footprint than snowboard boots, which is why need to tighten them. Besides, they are softer than snowboard boots and you’ll need to push the strap into the foot, thus making your footsore.
Snowboarding with Pac boots
Pac boots are a special type of snow boots that come with a thick removable liner for extra insulation. Many newbie riders use Pac boots before deciding to purchase real snowboard boots. While these boots are warmer and thicker than regular snow boots, they still lack the stiffness of snowboarding boots. And they don’t provide the same level of support and control.
Accordingly, you’re exposed to the same risks of injury as with regular snow boots.
Why are snowboard boots the ideal option?
Snowboard boots are designed to fit your feet specifically. If you’re looking for more comfort, you need to invest in your own pair. You can find them in regular shoe sizes, but the size can vary for different manufacturers. Snowboard boots should be tight, but not too tight as to restrict your feet and ankle.
Even ski and snowboard boots are different in that the sports use different types of foot and ankle movements. Regardless of being used for snow sports, these boots only have one thing in common – they attach to the bindings of equipment.
While there is a gamut of brands available on the market, there are three major types of snowboard boots:
- Soft boots – preferred by freestyle snowboarders, SBX, and freeride boarders for their flexibility and control required to pull off difficult tricks. There are different flex ratings, ranging from soft to stiff. While the park and beginner riders prefer softer flex, free-riders, SBX, and all-mountain riders opt for a stiffer flexing boot.
- Hard boots – Alpine snowboard boots provide more fore-aft ankle flexibility. Their soles are beveled to avoid dragging in the snow during deep carves. Contrary to general belief and thanks to heat-moldable liners, these ones are often more comfortable than most soft boots you’ll find on the market. Hard boots provide more support and do not use strap bindings thereby relaxing your feet from the typical pressure you need for edge control.
- Hybrid step-in boots – typically have the characteristics of both soft and hard boots – they provide both sturdiness and flexibility.
All three main types of snowboard boats – soft, hard, and hybrid – may come with different lacing systems. Although some of them tie up like regular shoes, most snowboard boots have laces that are pulled tightly and tied off by wedging them in special slots around the boot.
Zonal tightening is accommodated through the single-pull, corset-like lacing system. Basically, you can quickly adjust the tightness of the forefoot lacing independently from the ankle and lower leg. This system is fast and convenient and you can even tighten the laces with your gloves on. There are systems that come with independent high-low (ankle-foot) laces for a more customizable fit.
However, this system may initially seem complex. Some riders argue that it is impossible to exert enough pull to tighten laces as snugly as necessary. With eyelets where laces attach to boots occasionally creating pressure points, this system may be prone to unintended loosening.
This lacing system consists of small-diameter cables attached to one or two knurled wheels/dials for adjustment. The Boa system allows for a precise fit and is easy, fast, and convenient.
You can easily modify it using only one hand and with gloves on. Great for a fine-tuned, precise fit and excellent at shedding grit and slop. The downside of this system is that upper and lower-foot regions cannot be independently customized. Similar to quick-pull laces, eyelets can sometimes create pressure points. And if a strand breaks, it could spoil the fun and add to the overall cost of boots.
To sum up
As we’ve already discussed, proper snowboard boots are considered the best option for snowboarding. Their construction specifically supports the ankle and binding fit provides the needed comfort, control, and safety. Opting for snow boots or mountaineering hiking boots will expose you to unnecessary risks and provide much less riding comfort.
You can get solid snowboard boots even if you’re budget-oriented. Or try older boots in decent condition. Whatever you choose, you should try the boots before buying them as they will fit differently than regular boots.
Getting the right snowboard boots is important. After all, your snowboard boots bind you to your snowboard. If you get the wrong type of boots or opt for winter/hiking boots, your snowboarding experience may be a bit disappointing. It’ll be about discomfort, lack of safety, and exposing yourself to unnecessary risks.