We've all been there. It's the first day of the season, and we're rocking a new kit head-to-toe—lookin' good and feelin' good. But then we take that dreaded first run of the season and learn (the hard way) that our boots suck. What started as the best day ever has quickly turned into the worst day of all time, and the foot pain is unbearable. This used to be a normal rite of passage in snowboarding; something we all had to endure, painfully spending five to ten burning days breaking in our new boots. Thankfully, developers have taken our pain to heart and they've engineered boots that, for the first time ever, feel great right out of the box.
This installment of Alpine Lab is dedicated to finding the most comfortable boot on the market and that's it. Nothing fancy about this test—these boots require absolutely no break-in period, and are tested and approved by the Golden Seal test team. So forget about the price tag and drop into one of these beauties, because when it comes to comfort on-hill, price is no object. Trust us…your feet will thank you later. -AXIS MEDIA
Nima Jalali × Ashbury
Alpine Lab Seal of Approval: Lightweight, cushy liner and a smooth flex make the ThirtyTwo Nima Jalali the perfect choice.
ThirtyTwo got it right when designing Nima Jalali's pro model boot—with the help of Nima, of course. The low-volume, smooth-flexing shell and gooey liner combination make a great first impression, and the fuzzy foot beds are the icing on top.
Tight: The boot comes with heat-moldable liners that form-fit to your foot for a perfect customized fit.
Loose: The only flaw we could find was that when the boot came off, the liner stuck to your foot.
As a general rule of thumb, you can't go wrong with the fit and feel of a Burton boot. Of course, there's one in the line that's a bit more slipper-like than the rest of 'em: The Grail. Since its introduction to the line three years ago, the Grail has been a standout in terms of comfort. Its traditional lacing is easy to operate (if you're over the age of four), and expect a fairly soft flex.
Tight: It's a high-top slipper.
Loose: The Grail's flex is somewhat lifeless. It's soft, but not resilient.
With its speed-lace liner and outer shell, the new Flight is super-quick to get in and out of. One handy-dandy upper and lower pull-handle connects to both areas of the Flight, so snugging it up around your foot is quick and easy. Its liner is soft and lightweight, helping add to the airy feel of the Flight.
Tight: You've got quick zonal lacing right at your fingertips.
Loose: The first thing you'll notice is what feels like a built-in toe ramp, which tilts your toes up.
There's a reason Nike is the biggest footwear brand on the planet. Their product is well thought-out and constructed to perfection, and the Kaiju is no exception. This is a basic boot with conventional lacing, which is nice, so you don't have to waste time/energy adjusting all the bells and whistles. It's all about comfort from the second you slip your feet into these babies.
Tight: When you slide your foot into the boot, you actually hear a suction sound, so you know your foot is encapsulated and cozy…like a Snuggie for your feet.
Loose: Big-mountain riders may find this boot a bit too soft.
Salomon's quality, lasted boots are a thing of beauty. They fit and they're resilient. The Outsider's interior is welcoming, and as always, the performance of this soft boot is top-notch. If you're looking for a good boot with a little twist, the Outsider's Velcro upper cuff is quick to operate, and allows you to control your upper and lower boot tension as two separate zones.
Tight: Its cool Velcro upper makes lacing up a breeze.
Loose: Its cool Velcro upper limits how tight you can get the top of your boot.
Is toe-box volume usually a problem for you? Check out the Libertine—it's got plenty of room for your piggies. Its articulated upper cuff creates a seamlessly smooth medium flex, and the Libertine's outsole is extra soft, which will absorb hard landings and spare your heels from bruising.
Tight: The roomiest toe box of the bunch.
Loose: With so many lace grommets in the forefoot, it's tough to get the bottom of the boot tight.
The first thing you notice when you put on the Blaze is the super-soft micro-fleece strip at the top of the liner. Your foot slides in smooth and easy, making booting up effortless.
Tight: The bamboo footbed was a nice eco-conscious addition.
Loose: The boot stands up tall and has minimal forward lean, so it was a bit clunky when walking around the lodge.
K2 Maysis DB
A very well-constructed boot, the Maysis has two Boa control dials to fine-tune the fit. One Boa adjusts the shell's tension while the other Boa micro-tunes the liner to create the perfect fit. With the Boa system engaged, your foot is solidly locked in place with virtually no heel lift.
Tight: The top of the liner has a furry substance making for a welcoming experience.
Loose: A bit stiffer than other boots tested, so it was not as comfortable when walking/skating around the resort.
The Ceptor has a nice articulated cuff that contours and cradles your shinbone, making for a good fit, especially when ridden through choppy snow. The super-thin sole allows your feet to feel everything beneath the boot, and the tongue has a Velcro closer that prevents it from shifting while you ride.
Tight: Overall, the boot has a nice soft feel and a low-profile shape, making it so lightweight that you hardly notice it's there.
Loose: The boot is on the narrow side, so wide-footers should be cautious.
The stiff-flexing Matlock's Boa lower and Velcro-strapped upper cuff are a quick-operating duo. Slide your foot through the über-padded upper, pop it in place, and you'll find your feet in total bliss. The liner is free of pressure points, and the Matlock offers plenty of support for whatever you plan on getting into.
Tight: The Boa lower and Velcro upper work seamlessly together.
Loose: The Matlock's flex is a bit stiff and sluggish.