How to Choose Splitboard Boots

How to Choose Splitboard Boots | Outdoor Gear Exchange

In this installment of the OGE Spectrum Series, we’ll be exploring how to choose the right splitboard boots for your riding style. Just like when picking out AT boots, there’s a whole spectrum of options to consider: Boots designed for splitboard mountaineering, boots designed specifically for splitboarding, and—last but not least—your everyday snowboard boot.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when you’re shopping for new splitboard boots:

  • What kind of snowboarder are you?
  • Do you want to climb steep technical lines?
  • Are you looking to ride trees and find hidden powder stashes all winter, or will you only take your splitboard out for a couple of times each season?
  • Is this boot only going to be used for splitboarding, or do you plan to ride the resort with it as well?

The Spectrum:

Splitboard Mountaineering Boots

With the growing popularity of splitboarding, backcountry riders have naturally been exploring snowboarding in ever steeper, more technical terrain. For a long time, the only option splitboard pioneers had to do this was to modify AT ski boots or plastic mountaineering boots, using crampons to kick-step up steep chutes. Now, we’re lucky to have a few great soft boot options to keep that snowboarding feel intact—with the added ability to conquer burly ascents.

These are the boots that fall on the lighter end of the spectrum:

Deeluxe - Spark XV TF

Deeluxe went all out on the build of the Spark XV: An ultra-durable mesh outer lightens things up, while a stiff, semi-automatic crampon-compatible mountaineering sole provides climbing prowess. Inside the boot, a TFP liner with Sympatex Moisture-Tech membrane keeps your feet dry and warm. Finally, Deeluxe’s C3 construction allows you to customize the stiffness, flex, and feel of the boot with just two lace pulls, making them ultra-quick to adjust in the backcountry.

The Spark XV is one of the best and most reliable splitboard mountaineering options on the market today. Though designed to be an aggressive splitboard mountaineering boot, it offers great performance at the resort as well. One drawback? The tall mountaineering soles definitely take away some of the board feel that you may be used to at the resort, so if you don’t see yourself needing a crampon-compatible boot, it may not be the right boot for you.

Splitboard Boots

So we’ve just looked at a boot meant for steep, technical lines and mountaineering—but maybe that’s not your type of riding. Don’t worry: There are boots out there that are designed specifically for splitboarding, but don’t have mountaineering as their main function. These boots feature the best of both worlds, excelling on the hike up and behaving like a true snowboard boot on the way down.

Salomon: Trek S/Lab

The Trek S/Lab was designed in the French Alps with splitboarding performance in mind. If your days look like multiple pow laps or hikes before and after work, then this may be the boot for you.

The key feature to the Trek S/Lab is its Trek and Ride boa system: Allowing the upper cuff to articulate forwards and back, Trek and Ride provides the “hike mode” splitboarders have been missing out on until now. It’ll give you optimal glide and hike performance on the way up, then you just lock and spin the boa for a true snowboard boot feel on the ride down.

Salomon’s STR8JK heel locking technology is another one of the best enhancements to the ride of this boot. After you find the happy medium between snug and not too snug (to the point you’re cutting off circulation) and this small feature can make your ride, especially if you are prone to heel lift. The lower lace system has an easy-to-use quick lock and a gaiter, so freezing into your boots is a problem of the past. A Full Custom Fit Pro liner that is fully heat-moldable and an Ortholite C3 insole that features a molded heel cup will keep those feet feeling great pow lap after pow lap, morning or night.

This boot seems to be the best option out there for a purely splitboard-specific boot. While there are some varying reviews of Salomon’s STR8JK feature, the trick is to fine tune the feel. For years, to get a proper fit in a snowboard boot you would just yank as hard as you could and tie it up; with new boot features—like the Boa, power straps, and STR8JK—and new purposes (read: splitboarding), you may need to fine tune the feel of your boot a bit more.

Resort Boots

A common question we get at Outdoor Gear Exchange is, “Do I actually need a specific boot for splitboarding?” Thankfully, the answer is no. But if you're in the market for new boots and you find yourself out on the skin track from time to time, but you don’t want to dish out the money for one of the boots listed above, there are resort-style boots that will cater more towards splitboarding than others. Be sure to check out the key features that these boots share to get an understanding of just what exactly caters to splitboarding best.

Salomon - Dialogue Focus Boa

The Dialogue Focus Boa from Salomon is designed to be a stiffer, more freestyle-oriented boot. It would be ideal for someone who comes from a freestyle background, or for someone who still spends their days in the park when they’re at the resort but will get out to splitboard when the snow is good.

The Dual Zone Boa and Salomon’s Winter Contagrip are the key splitboarding-specific features to this boot. The Dual Zone Boa—as its name suggests—consists of two zones: the Lower Zone controlled by the side Boa, and the upper zone controlled by the front Boa. The lower lace zone on the boot locks in the lower part of the boot to create a snug feel for the foot. The upper lace zone on the boot allows the snowboarder to gain more ride control the tighter the laces become. For splitboarding, you may decide to keep the lower zone snug for as little movement in the foot as possible, and the upper zone on the looser side to allow for a greater range of motion on the ascent. Once you transition over to snowboard mode, you can tighten the upper zone for a responsive snowboard feel on the ride down.

Salomon’s Winter Contagrip is their patented durable outsole technology (AKA: the part of your boot that connects you to your snowboard or the ground). Since a splitboard binding does not have EVA foam on its baseplate, it can be considered less comfortable to ride. Contagrip does a great job absorbing vibrations alleviating, any possible discomfort.

Salomon - Ivy Boa

Salomon’s Ivy Boa SJ is designed with the female freestyle rider in mind. This mid flex boot has a narrower foot and lower boot cuff. It's ideal for the woman rider who sees the mountain as a playground: Popping in and out of the trees finding powder, but also spending some time in the park. The Ivy Boa's mid flex also makes this boot more forgiving for a woman transitioning from a beginner to intermediate splitboarder, and who may only be taking their splitboard up their local ski resort or on their first few tours into the backcountry.

The highlight features of this boot are Salomon’s STR8JK heel lock technology (which we covered on the Trek S/Lab boot above) and Salomon’s Contagrip, which absorbs vibrations to create a more comfortable ride (also covered above on the Dialogue Focus). Though this boot doesn’t have a dual zone Boa to offer a more forgiving upper on the ascent, the boot is soft enough to be comfortable on the way up as well as the way down.

K2 - Maysis

This is a great quiver killer boot. As the number-one-selling snowboard boot in the US, the K2 Maysis is stiff in its performance and equipped with a few extra-epic features for a resort boot:

K2 uses a Vibram Pro-lite Outsole on the Maysis. This outsole, like Salomon’s Contagrip, allows for a more comfortable ride by absorbing vibrations, and it’s grippy for walking around in winter conditions. Additionally, for the rider that has a wider foot, the Maysis comes in a wide version.

Another key feature to the Maysis’ superb ride performance is the Boa Conda, a K2-patented urethane harness that locks the heel in place while riding. The Boa Conda is controlled by the Boa knob on the side of the boot. The boot’s Intuition Control Foam 3-D liner is built for comfort, and includes J-Bars for added ankle support. If you are looking for one boot to rip on-piste and off, this is your boot.

Burton - Photon Boa

Burton’s Photon Boa is the Swiss Army Knife of the Burton boot line. It’s a stiff-flexing boot that has a number of drool-worthy features that allow it to excel from park to backcountry.

Burton includes B3 Gel cushioning combined with Vibram’s 30% recycled EcoStep Rubber outsole to give the Photon ultimate grip in wintery conditions and to absorb vibrations. The dual-zone Boa uses New England Ropes, and allows a rider to use the side boa to lock the lower foot while giving them customization options for the upper when hiking uphill. Combine these features with Burton’s Imprint 3 liner and you have one fantastic boot! This boot also comes in a wide fit.

Burton - Felix Boa

If you’re looking for a boot that delivers on performance, while also being cushy on both your wallet and your feet, Burton's Felix Boa is your boot. This mid-flexing boot has the customizability for performance on the up and down with its New England Ropes Dual Boa, and it keeps your feet warm with sleeping bag-comparable heat reflective foil.

This boot is for the rider who takes it to the whole mountain: That means in the park, on steep groomers, or in the trees. This is a boot that is fully capable of backcountry adventures and the women-specific Truefit design will keep those legs moving hike after hike, run after run.

Making Resort Boots Work For Splitboarding: What To Look For

So, as you can see, there are plenty of resort boots out there that fall on the far right (stiffer, heavier) side of the spectrum. The boots mentioned above all excel at the resort and, if you find yourself splitboarding from time to time but don’t want to splurge on two sets of boots, they’re some of the best options out there for infrequent trips to the backcountry too.

Since there are still quite a few options outside of the ones listed above, here are a few key features to keep in mind when looking for your one boot quiver:

  • A Dual Zone Boa: Having a dual zone Boa allows you to keep your feet locked in place, while also allowing you to customize the tightness of the boot upper for better range of motion and easier touring.
  • Heel Locking features: Systems like Salomon’s STR8JK and K2’s Boa Conda allow for your heel to stay planted in the boot for better performance hiking and on the downhill.
  • Overall Flexibility of the boot: If the boot is stiff, you can ideally open or loosen up the upper for comfort on the hike up, or choose to sacrifice some efficiency on the hike up for exceptional performance on the way down. If the boot is soft or mid-flexing you can get away with having the boot fully tight while still having comfort on the way up and a surfy feel on the way down.

It All Comes Down To Fit

When it comes to fit, each boot and each brand will be different. Some brands will fit narrow, and others will fit wide. Overall, you want your boot to be snug (like a firm handshake), and ideally, your toes to be touching the front of the boot. Some snowboarders like to cram their feet into boots that are a size too small for extra performance. Though this may work for some at the resort, where you can just jump in the lodge when your feet fall asleep, it’s not the best option for splitboarding—sometimes you’ll be out all day, and you don’t want to be the one who has to stop the group every mile so you can take your boots off.

Remember, it’s always best to try a boot on before buying it. If you can’t try it on ahead of time, wear the boot around your house once it arrives for about 30 minutes. If there’s pain in that short amount of time, it’s probably not a great fit—return the boot and try another brand. There’s not much worse than having foot pain out on the mountain, let alone in the backcountry.

As always, if you have any questions, hit us at our live chat, by phone, social media DMs, or simply come into the shop. We’d be stoked to work with you!

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