These tips to buy snowboard bindings will help you choose the right pair for your riding style. We’ve also included a guide to the different types of binding for snowboarding, so you can identify what is best for you.
When I started snowboarding nearly 20 years ago choosing bindings was simple. All you needed to know was foot size and riding style, then you’d buy some that fall in your budget in a colour you like.
But two decades of innovation mean that these days there is more choice than ever. Or course budget, size, style of riding and matching (or deliberately not matching) your board are still key factors.
But the first decision you need to make is the type of snowboard binding you wish to have.
Different types of binding for snowboarding
Broadly speaking there are five different types of binding for snowboarding:
Traditional two strap
The bindings that most of us know and love and by far the most common. This type of binding for snowboarding has two straps, one across the toes and the other across the ankle.
This gives you a very adjustable set-up so it is more likely you can ride with all day comfort. They can also be made to be firm or flexible, with either a solid high back or plenty of give to suit your style of snowboarding.
However, they are also the most time consuming to put on with four ratchets to do up. Furthermore, the level of adjustability means you will sometimes do them up too tight or too loose.
Nearly all pro-snowboarders use traditional bindings. This is because they are stiffer and provide a more precise ride. They are the most popular of the different types of binding for snowboarding for a reason.
Rear entry bindings
Flow were the first on the scene with rear entry bindings and a host of other brands now offer them. There are a few different systems available but Flow and Fastec (sold through a variety of brands) are the major ones.
All revolve around a high back which folds down so you can slide your foot in and then clip it back up in place. Traditionally these looked different to traditional bindings with just one strap over your foot. However many now look, and also work, like traditional bindings but with a rear entry option.
It is undoubtedly much quicker and easier to put your bindings on, plus you always get the same level of tightness. On the downside the highbacks have more flex, and some rear entry bindings provide a different feel.
Of the different types of binding for snowboarding the new Burton step-ins have been the most discussed in the last couple of years. However it is worth noting they are not the first to make them.
Step-ins have been around since the beginning of the sport. The difference is the new Burtons have a high back, as opposed to stiffer boots, and so give a similar feel to traditional bindings.
I have not used them myself but feedback has mostly been positive – no bending the strap in just step and click. However, they are expensive and they tie you in to using Burton step-in boots although other brands are now also making them under licence.
Of the different types of binding for snowboarding, splitboarding has seen the most growth in the last decade. Splitboard bindings need to work for skinning uphill as skis so they are attached to the board in a slightly different way.
Splitboard bindings are usually traditional two strap bindings but have a cut down base. This saves some weight but also leaves space to use the pins to attach them and have the heel lift for skinning up steep slopes.
Splitboard bindings are a lot more expensive than normal bindings. So it is not recommended to buy them unless you will be using them on a splitboard.
Of the different types of binding for snowboarding these are the most different. Exclusively for those that do the hardboot style of snowboarding, these very different and work in a similar way to ski bindings.
Tips to buy snowboard bindings
The advice below mainly applies to traditional bindings and rear entry bindings. Although some of the tips will also apply to the other types of snowboard bindings with the exception of those for hardbooting.
The following tips to buy snowboard bindings are roughly in order of how important they are.
What size are your boots?
When choosing snowboard bindings the most important tip is to get the right size. Bindings normally come in three sizes, small, medium and large, although some brands have XL and XS, and others only have S/M and M/L.
All manufacturers will quote the boot size range each binding is made for. Don’t just assume that because you are large in Nitro bindings you will take the same size in other brands.
The footprint of snowboard boots varies considerably. For example, my friends size nine Burtons are much bigger on the outside than my size ten Northwave Legends.
So to ensure the best fit, try the bindings with your snowboard. The key is having a close fit, but not a tight one. If there is too much room your foot can move when boarding. Which is not good. Too tight and getting your binding on will be problematic.
What board do you ride?
Just like the size of your foot, the board you ride will take some bindings off the menu. So one of the most important tips to buy snowboard bindings is to know what board you will be attaching them to.
The standard ‘4×4’ or micro (smaller size) screw pattern is used by almost all snowboard brands. It is a good safe bet for a secure ride. With four points of contact there is less chance of the screws loosening or a binding breaking off.
However Burton, by far the biggest snowboard brand, do things differently. If you own an older Burton board then check if it uses the ‘3D’ insert pattern. It is compatible with all bindings as long as you have a 3D binding plate (they cost about £10).
All new Burton boards use the ‘Channel System’. To take advantage of the infinite range of binding position and angles you need Burton EST or Re-Flex bindings. With the correct binding plate you can still use normal bindings, but will not have full use of the channel system.
The channel system is a great idea, it offers you lots of adaptability in your setup and is much quicker to adjust during the day. However, there are only two points of contact and I know snowboarders who have to tighten the screws a few times a day.
Finally, if you do not have a Burton board do not get Burton EST bindings. If you really want to buy Burton, don’t worry they make plenty of other bindings suitable for all boards.
What is your budget?
We all dream of sponsors providing us with whatever gear we fancy. But the reality is we all have our budgets to stick to.
Personally I would say bindings are more important than the board. So if you are getting both, spend a little more on the bindings and a little less on the board. You will thank me for it as bindings usually outlast the board.
Compared to the other toys we spend our money on (boards, goggles, outer clothing, beers…) bindings are both longer lasting and fairly good value.
You can pick up bindings from £50 for very basic to £400 for state of the art carbon fibre. However, you can get good bindings for less than £150 and top of the range ones for £250.
In most instances you get what you pay for when you buy snowboard bindings. More expensive options are often lighter, stronger, with more adjustability and better features.
However, bear in mind that with big brands you pay for their marketing which pushes prices up. Also some cheap bindings are still good and will be fine for the majority of snowboarders.
What’s your riding style?
Of the tips to buy snowboard bindings, this is where you start to make decisions with than being forced into them. Just like boards, you will see bindings described as being for freestyle, freeride, powder, carve and all-mountain.
Just as with boards any binding can ride any conditions, it’s just more suited to a particular style. So, do you send it big in the park? Spend all your time hunting fresh lines in the backcountry? Stick to riding the groomers? Get your kicks from sessioning rails? Or love to carve?
Whatever your style, there will be a binding setup for you. Typically bindings are rated on flexibility, with more flexible being more suited to beginners and freestyle, and stiffer more suited to experts, off-piste and carving.
But it is not quite as simple as that. The stiffness of your boots and board also play a roll. For example, if you have a soft flexible jib board and a soft pair of boots you can make the set up more responsive with stiffer bindings.
However, if you have a stiff board, you should pair it with stiffer bindings. Because while flexible bindings will allow for errors the board will demand precision. So if you put soft bindings on a stiff board you will struggle to use its potential.
Ultimately flexibility is a sliding scale and a matter of personal preference. So choose what would be best for you. If you are not sure go for a mid-flex, all-mountain binding which offers good middle ground.
Higher highbacks = higher performance
The highback supports the back of your calves when pushing on your heel edge. First test their flex, both vertically and laterally – less flex means a more precise ride, more flex makes them more forgiving.
Also consider their height. A taller highback gives more leverage and response, whereas shorter is a little harder to engage but more forgiving. Shorter highbacks send to be for beginner and freestyle snowboarders – they make tweaks and jibbing much easier, while taller high back is more suited to backcountry, carving and speed.
You also get pre-curved or straight high backs. Curved gives more support around the boot but tend to be more forgiving and less responsive than straight highbacks. Asymmetrical highbacks are shaped to suit a duck stance so are aimed at freestyle.
Finally winged highbacks have an extra bit of material at the top that wraps around the outside of your boot. This provides more lateral control and leverage for spinning, pressing and buttering.
How much adjustability do you want?
All bindings offer some adjustability, but higher quality ones tend to offer more options. Toolless strap adjustment and highback lean is pretty run of the mill. Never buy any that do not offer adjustable highback lean.
Personally I look for bindings where the angle of the highback can be adjusted so that it is parallel with the edge of the board. I find this gives you more control and response on the heel edge, but many riders don’t bother with this.
On some boards you can also adjust the heel cup. Or how far back or forward the base plate is. This is so you can get as much binding under your feet as possible. Some also have interchangeable footbeds for different levels of support and cushion.
Snowboard at a canter
Of the tips to buy snowboard bindings this is a good one to improve comfort. Some bindings come with a canted footbed. This is a slight angle of around three degrees from the inside to the outside of the foot.
With your feet spread apart and your knees bent, a slight angle aligns your lower body. This puts less pressure on your hip, knee and ankle joints.
I use both types but find canted bindings a little more comfortable. I don’t notice it when I first hit the snow, but after riding a full day my joints ache less if I have been riding a cantered setup. You can also get canted insoles for boots if your bindings do not offer it.
Straps vs caps
The binding straps are what attach you to the board. To be honest I have never had an uncomfortable heel/ankle strap unless I have done it up too tight. But you need one with a enough give to mould to the shape of the boot and enough padding to avoid boot damage.
The toe strap or cap on the other hand is an area you have plenty of choice. There are three main options, a strap across the foot level with your toes, a strap that goes around the end of your toes or a cap that encompases your toe area.
I personally prefer a cap, or a strap that goes around the end of the toe as it is more comfy and is less noticeable. The only drawback is when you kneel down on a steep slope it sometimes pops off.
I find across the foot feels more secure, but is not as precise a ride. However it stays in place an absolute treat, on the downside it is easy to over tighten and get numb foot.
Your straps are the most likely part of a binding to break. When they do it is not the end of the world, you can usually still ride down carefully and most rental shops have spares. However look out for straps that are wire reinforced to avoid breakages.
Look for easy to use ratchets
Maybe the most overlooked part of a binding, if not your whole snowboarding setup is the ratchet. It should be easy to do up and undo in the most extreme of environments. Think getting battered by wind and snow and ice, on a 3000m high knife-edge ridge, with thick gloves on.
When choosing snowboard bindings in the shop they should be pure silky smoothness to use. Once you add a little of nature’s cold stuff, gloves and an exposed position everything becomes tougher. Having a system to lock them closed, so they don’t accidentally undo, is a nice bonus.
But they don’t match my board…
Finally, the least important aspect when choosing snowboard bindings – what they look like. It is nice when bindings match your board, but it doesn’t affect your riding. If you are more worried about image than performance then you are not a snowboarder.
So last of my tips to buy snowboard bindings is to find what suits your boot size, board type, budget, riding style and experience. Then if they have a choice of colours go for one that matches your board. If not don’t worry about it.
We hope you found this guide to different types of binding for snowboarding and tips for buying bindings useful. Next up check out our snowboarding holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.