Soft boots are most comfortable and can be used with highback bindings and flow-in bindings. They consist of two parts: an inner bladder and an outer boot. The inner bladder is padded to keep your feet warm, dry and protected from heavy impacts. It usually has its own lacing so you can tighten the inner bladder independently from the outer boot. The outer boot has a sturdy upper part that allows for ankle movement. The outer lacing allows you to further tighten the boots.
In contrast to hard boots and skiing boots, soft boots are pretty comfortable for walking when you're not on the board. Soft boots are currently the most popular type of snowboard boots and are preferred by freestylers and freeriders.
This type of snowboard boot supports your foot, ankle and lower leg firmly, making them best for racing and high-speed carving on hard snow. Hard Boots have a padded inner bladder similar to the ones in soft boots. The outer shell however, is made out off hard plastic and is usually adjusted (or closed) using buckles or ratchet bails.
Hard boots resemble the traditional skiing boots. Only, the hard boots have lateral mobility for the ankle. To provide some flexibility, hinges are often built into the ankles. The soles of hard Boots usually have a mechanism that allows them to be connected to plate bindings. Hard boots are often used with plate bindings by alpine racers who want their movement to be directly transferred from the hard boots and bindings onto the board.
Still, hard boots are pretty specific and seriously reduces your freedom in choice. If you're planning to buy this, make sure you find an exact match between the binding mechanism and the hard boot mechanism.
HYBRID STEP – IN BOOTS
These snowboard boots are a good choice for those who want the convenience of a strapless system. Hybrid step-in boots combine the flexible, soft upper part of soft boots and the sturdy hard soles of hard boots. They are used in combination with step-in bindings. People who are looking for a mix between the comfort and flexibility of soft boots and the control of hard boots will often opt for hybrid step-in boots.
As with hard boots, you will need to find a match between the step-in binding mechanism and the Boot mechanism.
Before you select a snowboard boot, you must first decide whether you want to go with a step-in binding or a traditional strap-in binding. Remember, while traditional strap bindings will work with any non step-in boots, step-in bindings must be purchased together with their corresponding boots.