Ask a snowboarder about their boots and you’ll not get an indifferent reply. Boarding footwear illicites such a strong response because comfort makes or breaks your day. So after 14 years of comfort, I decided to write a review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots.
OK so it has not been comfortable every moment of every day. Breaking them in, doing up bindings too tight and breaking a toe playing football – and still snowboarding – have all lead to times my feet have been uncomfortable.
But on the whole I have now been snowboarding in Northwave Legends for 14 seasons of comfortable riding. In that time I have worn out two pairs and have recently purchased my third pair of Legends. So I thought it was high time I wrote a review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots.
The old adage that the best snowboard boots are the ones that fit you properly is still true. But boots these days fit a wider range of feet, meaning rather than choosing by fit alone, you can start thinking more about the features you like and boots that are known to last well.
Warning this section is the backstory – if it was a movie it would be a musical montage – feel free to skip to the this review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots further down. But would you skip the musical montage in Karate Kid, Team America or Rocky?
On the back of my first snowboarding holiday I’d quit my job and moved to Whistler in 2003. I was mightily unprepared, having previously rented gear I needed to buy everything except jacket and pants.
I spent a day trying on pretty much every pair of boots in the many shops around the Whistler. Phrases like ‘heel lift’, ‘packing out’, and ‘they should feel tight’ had given me a sore head. I’d done up so many laces – yes remember them? – that I’d rubbed my fingers raw. But still no boots.
I was recommended trying Northwaves, as they were known for being good if you have a narrow heel and ankle but are wide around the toes. But the few places that stocked them didn’t have my size.
In the end I hunted down a pair in a small store who miraculously had one pair of Legends in my size from the previous season. The Northwave boots instantly felt right. And a decade and a half later I am heading into another new season rocking Northwave Legends.
The first pair lasted over 100 days riding that season, plus 7 years of snowboarding holidays riding 6-10 days a year. When, with a heavy heart, I retired them they’d ridden over 150 days – considerably longer than the recommended amount.
To be fair at the end they were no longer waterproof and the inners were gaffer taped together. They had so much give that their flex rating must have reduced from 6 to 1 out of 10. But they were still so comfortable it was hard to let go, but the vile smell made it a bit easier!
Having loved them so much I replaced them with new Legends for the 2012 season. At first they felt stiff and uncomfortable, but after a day of pain they were broken in. The extra stiffness compared to my loose old boots made them more precise, and they were quickly just as comfortable.
By now I had found a new career as an adventure sports writer – tough gig I know – and was snowboarding around 20-25 days a season. The boots lasted me 6 seasons and around 135 days of riding before they started to feel a bit sloppy.
This time I replaced them well before I needed to use gaffer tape. However, I have kept them as although less stiff than I like they are still perfectly rideable. The boots are still waterproof in all but exceptionally wet or slushy conditions. Like the first Legends they have not fallen apart and have lasted much longer than friends boots.
At the end of the 16/17 season I purchased a new pair of Northwave Legends – white ones from the 15/16 range. This time I wore them around the house for a few days to help wear them in. There was still some foot pain when I first hit the slopes, but I broke them in much quicker.
It was a good job I had, as their first day was riding in 50cm of fresh powder in Les Arcs. Again the increase in stiffness was noticeable from my old boots and once I had adapted it lead to more precise riding.
For this this review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots it’s worth letting you know what kind of snowboarder I am. In a nutshell I tend to ride hard and fast, early to late.
If there is powder I will be off-piste, even if there isn’t powder I am still often out backcountry looking for it. I often hike for lines away from the piste and sometimes end up walking back out too.
I like to hit natural features and do small tricks, and although I will do a run or two through the park freestyle isn’t really my thing. If I hit the apres straight from the slopes it’s very likely I will be dancing in my boots into the small hours…
So I’d say my boots get very well worn, more so than the average shredder. But both pairs of Northwave Legends have lasted well beyond the expected life of snowboard boots. In comparison to friends who have other brands I ride two to three times more days before needing to replace my Northwaves.
It’s also worth noting that I have never had a technical problem with any Northwave Legend snowboarding boots. Friends with other boots have had wires/laces snap, locking mechanisms break or boots have started falling apart and letting water in after less than 50 days riding.
If you haven’t already guessed by the back story – or you skipped it – I love Northwave Legends. They are comfortable, responsive and last incredibly well for boots at the lower end of the price range – the RRP is £180 but you can usually pick some up for under £130.
For this review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots, I am now discussing the white, grey and red Legend SL from the 15/16 season. The first thing I noticed is they are noticeably lighter than the legends they replaced, which is a great start.
As with previous legends the flex rating is 6, which makes them suitable for everything from freestyle to freeride. I find them nice and responsive, as do Whitelines who wrote ‘the mid-stiff-flex makes these pretty versatile and we found them surprisingly responsive for a boot at this price point’.
I have had the excellent Northwave speed lace system on my last two pairs of boots. You tighten the lower and upper parts of the boot separately, so you can get the right tightness for different areas of your foot. Which is almost impossible with traditional laces.
You set the lace clips part open for one way tightening, and simply pull the laces up with the useful handle. Once you reach the desired tightness you close the clips and they stay tight for the day. To take them off you open the clips, and pull on a handy toggle to loosen both sections at once.
The SL system is very quick and easy to use. I sometimes find that after a few runs I like to tighten my boots, which is a doddle. If ever you over tighten, by opening and reclosing the clips you loosen them slightly giving you great control over tightness – perfect for boarders who like to fiddle!
The inner of the Legends is what provides all the comfort. They use Thermo-Fit-Foam that moulds to your feet for a truly personal fit. You can do this instantly with a heater or over time with natural body heat. Personally I let my sweaty feet to the job.
Apparently Northwave have analysed athlete movements to minimise contact points and add support where needed. Plus they use reinforced injected memory foam to increase comfort. Personally all I know is that they are very comfy and sturdy with all round support and good shock absorption.
Of course a great inner is no good if you can’t do it up tightly. It uses a sliding lace lock which is easy to use, combined with a power strap in the upper part of the liner to provide extra support.
The footbed is made from EVA for support, insulation and shock absorption. This is moulded with side support and a huge improvement on the first insoles I had in Northwave boots.
For this review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots I have to say that with previous Legends I have ended up replacing the footbed after about two weeks riding. Not because it is uncomfortable, but I’ve found as the boots pack-out I need to take up some of the space, I’ve found Superfeet insoles do a great job.
As any snowboarder will tell you heel lift is a no no. Northwave have pretty much eliminated this in their boots using the 540° Heel Retention System. It wraps your heel in webbing that connects to your laces. When you tighten your laces, it pulls the webbing around your heel, sucking your foot into the heel cup.
I have had this on the last two pairs of Northwave boots – although possibly an earlier version in those from 2012 and it’s a revelation. As you tighten the laces the boots don’t just get tighter, the webbing actively pulls your heel down and keeps it in place. No more heel lift!
The new Lightstep Outsole is 35% lighter compared to traditional snowboard outsoles – which you can tell when comparing the Northwaves to earlier models. This weight saving is the result of years of research
and development seeking higher-performing but lower weight materials.
Of course a light sole is only any good if it still grips the snow. Having hiked over an icy ridge to reach fresh lines, I can testify that the new design geometry provides good grip on icy surfaces. Apparently it is also stronger with higher abrasion resistance, which all sounds good to me.
On top (or perhaps I should say below) all of that it also provides a high level of thermal insulation doing a great job at keeping your tootsies warm. Furthermore, the Lightstep Outsole is the first line of defense against vibration and impacts, reducing both to keep your feet happy.
Northwave has been at the forefront of thermo welding construction for many years, and have perfected the application of Thermowelded Piping. This is what holds your boots together, joining different materials to each other in a durable, resistant and seamless construction.
Some of my friends with boots by other brands have had issues with them coming apart at the seams. Over my three pairs I have never had an issue like this with Northwaves Legends.
But the thermowelding does more than just hold the boot together. By joining the materials in this way it provides better support and increased control, because the entire boot works together rather than in separate sections.
So if you haven’t guessed already I love Northwave snowboarding boots and think the latest Legends are an improvement on their already excellent footwear. I have tried on a lot of other boots, and not only did I find the fit was not right but they were heavier, larger (even though the same foot size) and just not as well made.
I have also listened to my friends complaining about uncomfortable boots, lack of support or wet feet. One guy insists on buying a very big brand and his boots only last 30-40 days before they need replacing. So I honestly think I was lucky to stumble on Northwaves when I was starting out.
What you get with a pair of Legends are boots that will last over 100 days of riding. You get boots that once worn in are as comfortable as wearing slippers, but still provide all the support you need for a responsive ride. Plus this seasons boots come in decent colour options as you can see above.
To conclude this review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots, I’d say that if they fit your feet buy them. And like me you could have 14 years snowboarding comfort. Oh and did I mention they are relatively cheap? The RRP is around £180 but you can often pick them up for around £130 or less.
I hope you found this review of Northwave Legend snowboard boots useful and entertaining. To find out more about them head to: www.northwavesnow.com/legend-sl