First! Buy your boots first! If you buy only one piece of equipment, make it your boots–even if you still rent a board. Boards vary in width, which should be based on the size (sole length) of your boots. You’re feet, on the other hand, are unique, and foot size is set in genetic stone.

Rug fit versus ride fit. Rug fit is a term for how a boot feels in the store, when you try it on. Most riders mistakenly buy boots based on rug fit. But, fact is, boots break in (pack out). Don’t get carried away with initial impressions, buy what will feel good later. Basically, downsize (buy a half- or full-size smaller) to anticipate the boot packing out.

Extras–souping up your boots. Boots are made from a mold. Feet are not. Ride better and more comfortably by at least getting a footbed (conformed insole). Go trim-to-fit or custom, cork or some variation of plastic, but steer clear of the gushy, take-up-some-space foam ones. Expect to pay anywhere from fifteen to 100 dollars, depending on the style and quality.

Brand awareness. The fact that you recognize a company’s name is a good sign. Most likely, they’ve been around a while and make a decent product. Ask some friends and the shop jockeys about durability and warranty. But don’t be fooled by big advertising campaigns; the more a company spends on marketing, the less there is for R&D.

Hey ladies. There are boots made just for you, and for kids, too. Don’t fall for the color-scheme fake out, though. A real woman’s boot is designed around a woman’s foot and lower leg. Try them on.

Hold Me, Don’t Hurt Me

Get the right size. Yes, we’re talking about bindings. They also come in different sizes–usually small, medium, and large. Strap length and highback height should be relative to the size, which leads us to …

One word: Highbacks. You can’t ride well without good support back there. Your highback should be tall, but not so tall that it peaks above your boot top. You bought your boots first, right?

Look for adjustability. That means forward lean, strap positions, heelcup, highback rotation, toe ramps, etc. Pay more now, keep your bindings longer.

Tip: Halfway through the season, replace your straps and hardware. If you don’t ride regularly, replace seasonally. You’ll feel brand new.