The pursuit of convenience spawned the development of step-in boots and bindings. For the most part,they’re easier and quicker than a traditional setup, but their performance and comfort has been the source ofcontinual controversy. However, as expected, design advancements have improved these areas and helpedstep-ins continue their growing popularity. Many riders who resisted parting with straps and soft boots in theearly days are now members of the step-in movement. Part of the reason lies in the improvement of thebindings and increased comfort, flexibility, and performance of step-in boots. Additionally, respectedcompanies with far-reaching credibility have entered the step-in market, speeding up the development andacceptance of step-ins.

This year, consumers have a substantial variety of step-in boots and bindings to choose from, making individual comfort more attainable than ever. The wider array of systems also means more performance options. Freeriders, freestylers, and carvers alike are finding suitable, high-performancesetups. While selecting the right bindings and boots is a personal matter, certain features are getting thethumbs up all around. Ratcheting ankle straps have proven an effective measure for minimizing heel lift.Internal cuffs, better padding, improved lacing systems, and higher quality liners are all helping to alleviate thediscomfort caused by the stiff soles of step-in boots. But in some cases, just as with soft boots, increasedcomfort sacrifices performance.

So, once you’ve found a boot you like, make sure you step into a mounted binding and test the response and feel of the system as a whole. Clearly, the evolution of step-ins is in its early stages. No consensus exists regarding toe/heel connection versus side connection, nor as to the placefor highbacks-in the boot, on the boot, or on the binding. Some companies, previously without ahighback-binding model, have added one and vice versa-whatever you prefer is best. The main gripes aboutstep-ins compared to traditional setups haven’t changed: less comfort, compromised flexibility, snow clog,and weight.

While convenience is still the major selling point, some advanced riders remain convinced it willbe years (if ever) before step-ins provide superior performance and feel over strap bindings. Despite thenaysayers, the fact remains: pros winning contests using step-ins have proven the performance potential ofthese systems. And while most of us aren’t out there competing, we like to know our equipment can handlethe challenge.