Selecting the appropriate snowboard binding is about as important as selecting the right snowboard. Your bindings will ultimately affect the way your board performs, but with so many different styles, features, and quality characteristics available, the choices can get a bit confusing. This guide will help you determine what style binding you need, how your bindings should fit, and also outline other features that you will find when shopping for snowboard bindings.
Snowboard bindings have evolved just as snowboards have over the years. If you’ve done any shopping around for bindings you have probably seen a variety of styles available, which have no doubt left you with some questions. The majority of what you will find on the market today is categorized as a traditional, or strap-in, binding. However there have been, and still are, numerous styles available. We will discuss these in brief detail to help you gain a better understanding of what you will see when shopping.
If you’ve been into the sport of snowboarding since its inception, or if you are still renting equipment, you are probably familiar with a step-in binding. In case you are not familiar with them, the step-in system generally refers to a stiff boot with some type of pin, or metal piece on the bottom that clicks right into the “binding,” which is essentially a plate mounted on the board.
The idea behind this design was to be a quick and convenient way to get in and out of bindings. However, most riders found that the plate or the pin, or both, would accumulate ice buildup, making it impossible to click in. Additionally, many riders found that the design lacked sufficient support, and ultimately resulted in a large amount of energy loss. With a traditional strap-in binding the flex of your boot transfers energy to the strap of your binding, this is then transferred to your board. A step-in binding itself provides no support, but rather the boots are simply extremely stiff. This increased stiffness makes the boot practically impossible to flex, and therefore you have to work harder because much of the energy is lost before it gets to the board.
You may still come across a discounted, inexpensive pair of used step in boots and bindings, but be cautioned that this style of binding is outdated and no longer manufactured.
The most common style of binding available in the marketplace, traditional strap-in bindings, have withstood the test of time in the ever-changing world of snowboarding. The design simply involves strapping a softer snowboard boot onto a baseplate with a highback, by way of a toe strap and an ankle strap that fasten with a ratchet buckle system.
Over the years, strap-in bindings have evolved with the sport, featuring various levels of quality, features, and materials. A strap-in binding can be used with any brand snowboard boot, but manufacturer boots generally fit their bindings the best (e.g. K2 Boots with a K2 Binding).
Step-in bindings may have been phased out, but the desire for a binding that offers convenience is still great. Many riders feel that strapping in and out of bindings at the beginning and end of every run is a hassle. Fortunately, there are a few manufacturers that have heard their cries and decided to cater to this desire, while still offering a supportive binding that doesn’t sacrifice energy transfer.
Flow was the first company to respond the requests for a binding that offered both the convenience of a step-in binding and the response and support of a traditional strap-in binding. What spawned from this idea was a design with one large strap that went over the boot, and a highback with a latch that unhooked and released the highback down completely. With this design, riders could simply pop the highback down, slide their boot in, pull the highback up, snap it into place and go. The same process was used to remove the boot when needed.
Flow’s idea has now grown into a full line with various levels of performance and quality, while the initial design remains relatively the same. Flow also manufacturers their own line of boots, but any brand snowboard boot can be used in this binding system.
Step-ins may have been phased out, but the need for convenience has not been. Many rider’s feel as though strapping in and out of bindings at the beginning and ending of ever run is too much of a hassle. Luckily, a few manufacturers have decided to cater to this need, while still supplying a supportive binding that does not sacrifice the transfer of energy.
K2 was one of a handful of companies that produced step-in model bindings during their time. As step-in bindings were phased out, K2 still recognized the demand for a convenience style binding. As a replacement to their very popular K2 Clicker, K2 launched the Cinch design in the 2004-2005 snowboard season. This design was similar to the design developed by Flow in that the highback had a latch on it that the rider unsnapped and pulled down. However, instead of one large strap, the binding had a toe and an ankle strap, just like a traditional strap-in binding. When the highback of the binding is pulled down, the two straps will actually rise of from the frame, making it easier to get your boot in and out.
Like Flow, K2 has evolved the Cinch binding into an entire series with various performance levels and material designs, while sticking with essentially the same design. This binding style provides riders the convenience that Flow brought to the marketplace, but with the feel and adjustability of a traditional strap-in binding. Cinch bindings can be used with any snowboard boot, but K2 snowboard boots are likely to work best.
A functioning set of snowboard bindings is obviously essential to your snowboarding experience and performance. However, many people do not realize just how much abuse a set of bindings will take each time they are used, not to mention the duration of a season. Your snowboard bindings have moving parts that you are relying on at the beginning and end of every run, and like many other things in this world, do not like working in the cold. This is where the quality of your binding will begin to show its true value.
There are many differences in both quality and performance across brands and bindings in the industry. It is important that you understand what you will be getting from your binding, and also what to expect. One of the great things about snowboard bindings is that they can be transferred from one board to another, with few exceptions. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you seek out a reliable binding that you can expect to last a while. Simply put, don’t be afraid to spend a bit of extra cash here because your bindings will have longevity and you can move them from board to board if you need to.
With so many bindings to select from, it might be difficult to figure out exactly what you should look for. It is recommended that you look for the following items: aluminum buckles, how much padding exists under the heel and the toe areas, how supportive and stiff the straps are, and base plate material. Base plate materials can range from solid plastic, to aluminum, to any one of stronger composite materials. While there are various types of bindings that are specific for different types of riding, you will want to pay closest attention to the strap. A stiffer, more responsive strap is a great indicator of a quality, durable binding that will provide great performance.
The following is a quick breakdown of binding price ranges and what you can expect to find when shopping for bindings in those ranges.
- $139 or less: A binding that retails in this range represents an entry-level binding. The buckles are likely to be plastic, as opposed to aluminum, the padding under the heel and toe will be minimal, and the straps will be fairly soft.
- $149 – $199: Most mid-level bindings will be found in this price range. Thicker padding will be found on the plate of the binding, as well as the highback, making the binding more shock absorbent. The straps are also a little stiffer, making the binding more responsive. The binding buckles will also be better in quality, and will more than likely be aluminum.
- $200+: Snowboard bindings of greatest quality will no doubt be found here. They are designed to take more abuse and are thereby more durable and longer-lasting. Features will range based on the riding style, which is helpful in narrowing down the binding you need. Shock absorbent pads are often separate from the rest of the padding to provide extra cushioning in high-impact areas. The buckles will be aluminum and ratcheting closure system will be stronger and faster. The binding straps will be customized to provide support and response that is expected in only the necessary areas. In a nutshell, bindings here will cost a bit more, but they will also be lighter, more durable, and last you the longest.
If you have seen bindings that have a toe strap that more closely resembles a cap that covers the toe of the boot, that’s not a surprise. Burton originated bindings of this design, however many bindings now how have designs that use toe straps in a similar fashion. The shape of the design may vary, but the idea is to draw the boot back into the binding. This helps eliminate any pressure points over the top of the foot, and allow a more comfortable ride. Most bindings in the mid- to high-end level will incorporate a design of this type in some way or another.
Contrary to many, there are differences between snowboard bindings for men and those for women. Women are not built the same as men, thus neither should their bindings. The primary difference exists in the placement of the calf in women’s legs. The calf of a woman is positioned lower; therefore, the highback on female bindings need not rise as high up.
Additionally, women usually have narrower feet, thus their bindings are designed slightly narrower to fit women’s boots better. Place a woman’s snowboard boot into a men’s binding and you will quickly see that it isn’t a good fit. The extra space that exists causes women to lose some of the energy transferred to their board. This occurs because the binding isn’t working in unison with the boots.
A common question that is asked is, “what bindings will fit my board?” The answer here is almost all of them. We say almost because there are few exceptions. Obviously adult bindings will not work on junior boards and vice versa. However, the one major exception is with snowboards and bindings made by Burton.
Originally, only Burton bindings would work with Burton snowboards. This caused some issues for riders who liked their K2, Ride, or Rossignol snowboard, but wanted to throw on some Burton bindings. However, Burton has now made their plates compatible with traditional hole-patterns that are found on non-Burton snowboards, and in some cases they will throw in a normal 4-hole disc.
The more pressing problem however, is putting a non-Burton snowboard binding onto a Burton snowboard. Many snowboard binding discs can be rotated to fit the Burton hole-pattern, but some cannot. This is something that you will definitely want to consider before purchasing a Burton snowboard with a non-Burton binding.
It is our commitment to provide you with the most complete, accurate, and thorough information possible to help you make an informed decision. We encourage you to check out these additional pieces of media to help guide you to the best snowboard binding for you.