Buying Your Boots

Snowboarding, more than most other sports, relies heavily on the performance and functionality of gear. You need to worry about everything from your board to your gloves. Even for someone who has been riding for years, the task of gear shopping can be daunting. One of the most important items for a snowboarder is the boot. Let’s face it. If your feet and ankles aren’t happy, they’re going to let you know about it and possibly run the risk of ruining your first pow day of the season. Fortunately, the snowboarding industry has been taking the needs of female riders a lot more seriously lately, so there are plenty of great options for us. Unfortunately, this makes the process of buying boots that much more confusing. This guide will help you understand exactly what you’re looking for and how to find it.

We’ll start with a basic anatomy lesson.; with all of the focus on women’s gear lately, it’s sometimes hard to remember that women need more than just a pair of guy’s boots dressed up in pink and white. The differences between a womea’s body and a man’s body goes beyond ours being (generally) smaller and having boobs and hips. Women’s muscles tend to be longer and softer, a difference that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is especially noticeable in a woman’s calf. Take a look at the difference between a guy’s leg and a girl’s leg. Notice how on the guy, the muscle is more defined and seems to be concentrated more towards the knee? Now look at a girl’s leg. The muscle is a lot smoother and ends much lower on the leg. Men’s boots are designed for men’s calves, which means their going higher up on the calf. For a lot of women, this can cause problems as the top of the boot cuts into the muscle. Women’s boots take this into consideration. What this means for you is more general comfort and less muscle fatigue. Women also generally have smaller, slimmer feet. While a pair of guys boots might fit you lengthwise, there’s a good chance they will be too wide for you, giving too much wiggle room. Likewise, girls have smaller ankles and heels than guys. If the boot isn’t locking you in, you’re going to be at risk for the much-dreaded heel lift. Avoid this at all costs!

There are a lot of factors that go into what you want in a boot other than fit. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you want a boot that’s stiff or has a lot of give to it. Boots can flex two different ways (front/back and side to side). Ask yourself what kind of rider you are and what you want from your boot. Are you an aggressive freerider who needs quick response from your boots to get you through trees and chutes? You probably want a stiffer boot. Or are you a jibbing queen who wants a comfy pair of boots that allows for tail presses and landings with ease? Maybe a softer boot would be right for you. However, even this isn’t set into stone. If you have weak ankles that roll a lot, maybe you need a stiffer boot, regardless of your riding type. The best thing for you to do is think about your current boots and what your specific problems are with them, and try to think of what kind of boot will help you solve this problem.

Just to make things more interesting, companies have been adding tons of other features onto boots to convince you that their product is the best. Whetheer these features really a benefit, or just a hassle Among these are new, innovative lacing systems. While many people prefer traditional laces, speed lacing systems and BOA systems have replaced traditional laces on some boots. Once a limited option, now most high speed lacing systems allow you to tighten different zones of your boot independent of each other. So if you want the bottom of your boot tighter than the top, you can do that without a problem. Lacing systems shouldn’t be your sole factor in purchasing a boot though.When trying to find the boot that fits you perfectly, don’t assume that one lacing system will be uncomfortable or difficult to use until you try it out for yourself. Instead of focusing on the operation of the lacing system, check for uncomfortable pressure points caused by the laces. You can adapt to a lacing system. Your foot can’t adapt to a ill-fitting boot.

Many boots can be heat molded to create a more custom fit for your foot. Brands like 32 have special heat-molding machines, but if your boots are moldable, any decent store should be able to help you out with them. Or, you can drop the extra cash and have custom foot beds made for your boots at your local ski/snowboard shop. And of course, there’s always the appearance of the boot to think about (although this shouldn’t be what you look at first or second, or even third in a boot!). Boot design has come a long way, and you can now find boots made from a variety of materials and colors to give your look that much more steeze. The patterns and prints that are found on newer outerwear mirrors itself in our boots. Long gone are the days of running around in boots that resemble moon boots. But remember, no matter how cute (or ugly) a boot is, you really can’t see it anyway once your pants are covering it up and it’s strapped into a binding.

No matter how much advice you get and how much research you do, you absolutely cannot know if a pair of boots is right for you unless you try them on. And really, you’re not going to know if that pair of boots is right for you unless you try on other pairs too. So get yourself to your favorite snowboard shop (preferably one with a good women’s section and with a good variety). Try on lots of boots. Lots. Don’t worry about annoying the shop guys buy asking them to pull out another pair. This is their job after all. In fact, if you can go to a store that has a certified masterfitter so you can get the best possible boot for you. Jump around in the boots. Walk around the store. Crouch down to check out the flex. Make a total fool of yourself. After all, it’s all in the name of finding that perfect boot that lets you get that perfect day on the mountain!

Posted by julie on 11/10/06

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