The differences between a woman’s and a man’s snowboard boot are as follows: 1) A woman’s boot must be made from a woman’s last–if it’s not it just a smaller version of a men’s boot; 2) Women have a narrower heel, so the heel pocket should have padding to accommodate for smaller heels and perhaps even a heal strap; 3) Women usually have a higher instep so the top of a woman’s boot needs to have room–try riding in boots that flatten your arches and you’ll quickly discover the need for room to accomodate your instep; 3) Women’s calves are lower than men’s and so the top of a woman’s boot shouldn’t be too tight or narrow. Our calves flare where most men’s boots narrow down–at the top of the boot. Make sure the boot doesn’t constrict your calf muscle.

Burton gets kudos for taking the first big step for women’s boots in 1993 when they came out with the Burton Women’s Freestyle. It was the first snowboard boot on the market that was actually shaped from a woman’s last. It offered a narrower heel cup, and higher instep.

“It seemed so obvious,” says Eric Lonsway, Burton’s soft-boot man. “Our women team riders said that was the biggest thing holding them back,” he said. As more women found out about this boot, not only did they buy up everything Burton had, but it signaled other manufacturers to start pumping out women’s snowboard boots. By 1995, Burton added six more Women’s Freestyle boots to their line retailing anywhere from $139 to $209.95.

“All offer room at the top for a wider calf, narrower heel pockets, and a female-specific Lightweight Freestyle Bladder,” says Nancy Carlson, Burton’s PR Coordinator. Fortunately, all of these fit Burton’s custom bindings as well.

Soon after Burton came onto the women’s boot scene, other companies followed such as Boons, Vans, Grunge, Blax, and Airwalk. All claimed women’s lasts, but Blax ($139-$189) gets high ratings for their heat-moldable liners and additional two women’s hard boots ($299 and $369).

Van’s production developer Eldon Hargraves said there was a huge demand for women’s boots (they’d been developing them for three years) and so pumped out a freestyle boot called the Pinion ($169.95) developed with Circe Wallace and a woman’s extreme boot called the Caprice ($249). The cool thing about the Caprice is that it’s compatible with the Switch Autolock step-in system. “We also offer women the linerless boot,” says Hargraves, “which allows for better control because you’re closer to the board.”

Airwalk took Tina Basich’s opinion to heart this season and stiffened the Freeride boot, while making their linerless Oblique just a bit lighter (but not necessarily with more support).

K2′s Clicker system–another boot/binding step-in system which K2 developed with Shimano–got a lot of lucky women stoked last season because they provided a compatible women’s boot/clicker system. “They’ve been very popular,” claims Hayley Martin about their three women’s Clicker boots ($179, $189), “and in particular, the Yeti,” which is a high-performance women’s Clicker boot meant for aggressive riders ($219). For non-Clickettes, check out K2′s two other boots–the linerless Dealer($149) and the Lighter ($179). These two are probably the lightest boots you’ll find out there and surprisingly, offer enough support for aggressive freeriding.

Kurvz is the only women’s company coming out with women’s freestyle boots this season. They have one boot that’s compatible with the Switch Autolock system ($220) and a linerless called the Achilla ($180) which, according to Kurvz President Kriisty Roach is the most female-specific boot out there. “With the linerless, you can get breakdown in the padding so we added extra padding to compensate for this, but made changes to where the extra padding was located so that it doesn’t just push your foot forward,” she said. Instead, according to Kurvz philosophy, you get snugness where it counts–in the heel and around the ankle.

Other new introductions include Killer Loop’s Tractur HER boots ($139) to go along with their HER snowboards, which incorporates a light shell composite called Flubber (like blubber), and N Boots, which boldly claim to offer “a whole new set of lasts for 21st century women,” according to manager Daryl West. The confusion with the N Boots, again, comes from not knowing if this “21st century last” is indeed a woman’s last. They also claim a much lighter shell to match the new last, so would that mean it’s a woman’s lasted shell? Confusing. Raichle’s got something cool for hardboot fans–the SB122 –a hard boot with a woman’s last and a lower cuff height.

Many other snowboard manufacturers are also making women’s snowboard boots, including Grunge, DaKine, Preston, Boon, and Aunt Mables. Make sure you try on the boots you’re thinking of purchasing. Just because one manufacturer has a boot that you may think is right, the feel is still your best resource.

BINDINGS

Only two years ago, many women had problems with bindings being too big. Upon purchase, we’d punch new holes then cut the straps to avoid drag (because they were too long), grab some maxis and duct tape them to the insides of our bindings to fill up the space and stop slippage. Fortunately, most board manufacturers that have produced soft bindings in the past are now making bindings for smaller boots. Secondly, for step-in women riders, there are the K2′s Clicker system and the Switch Autolock system (see BOOTS). And thirdly, is the Derringer Binding ($TK). In conjunction with Pure snowboards, pro rider Michelle Barnas, and Tech 9 bindings, Derringer came up a with a “woman’s binding philosophy.” The Derringer has a smaller heel cup, narrower plates, and customized straps and pads to match pressure points between boot and binding. Pretty cool.