Many riders have one foot longer than the other. Some have a half size difference between the two feet, some a full size, and some even a size and a half. For example, your left foot might be a 31 while your right foot is a 29.5.
Size differences between feet can range rom 0.3 cm (slight) to 1.2 cm (a lot).
As a result, buying new boots is always a challenge: you either end up with blisters and/or toe pain on your bigger foot, or you have lack of snugness on your small foot resulting in heel lift, pressure points, and ankle pain.
Should you go for the smaller size at the expense of tightness for your bigger foot, or the larger size at the cost of extra space? Are there other alternatives to work around this problem so as to get the comfort and performance you should have out of your snowboard boots? Let’s dig in.
How snowboard boots should fit
Let’s put aside the issue of feet with different sizes for a minute. In general, your snowboard boots should be sized such that your toes gently graze the front of the boots. Your foot should be perfectly snug in the boot and not move at all.
Even if you’re the kind of person who prefers loose shoes in everyday life, when it comes to snowboard boots you should look for tight feet. Your heels should feel locked down. Many riders out there would be much better off downsizing as they would gain in comfort, response, and power when boarding.
Having snug boots will reduce heel lift and calf stress for you. It will also result in less pressure on the top of your foot, and remove that cramped feeling in your toe box. Nice and tight fitting boots will typically eliminate numb toes.
This often means choosing snowboard boots 1/2 or 1 size smaller than your regular shoes depending on the manufacturer.
OK so now, how do we deal with different size feet? Should we buy 2 pairs of boots? Here are a few great rider tips that should help you solve this problem.
Consult with a good boot fitter
Many riders with different feet size strongly recommend investing in a good boot fitter in order to be able to enjoy your snowboarding season pain-free.
If the size difference between your two feet is significant (e.g. a size and a half) you may need to order 2 pairs of boots. If so, the boot fitter will help you figure out which sizes to choose and will often give you a discount.
Alternatively, the boot fitter may recommend an in-between size and work on making room for the big foot and reducing space for the small foot. They may use an aftermarket liner and build a footbed to close the gap and reduce arch spread.
It’s important to note that most snowboard boot manufacturers don’t make boot shells in half size, the shell length is the exact same for a size and half size (e.g. 30 and 30.5). Depending on the manufacturer, half sizes are obtained through a thicker footbed (liner) and/or thicker base board inside the boot.
Choose the smaller or larger boot size?
If you don’t have access to a good boot fitter, or you’re not willing to pay for that, what size should you choose for your snowboard boots to accommodate the difference in size between your feet?
For example, suppose you’re a 29 Mondo for the right foot and 27.7 for the left. Should you get a 28.5 Mondo boot and let the larger foot pack out, or get a 29 and add foam inserts for the smaller foot?
Most riders and boot professionals will agree it’s better to have your bigger foot a bitt too snug that having your smaller one too loose. Boots tend to pack out so your bigger foot will eventually have a bit more space.
It’s a lot easier to make a snowboard boot bigger than it is to make it smaller, so aiming to get the best size for your smaller foot is generally the best strategy.
Of course, it depends on the size difference. Packing out may not be sufficient if your big foot is a full size or more over your smaller foot and boot size. You can also try adding a custom insole for the bigger foot to raise the arch.
For a 1/2 size difference or less, you should generally choose boots that fit your smaller foot perfectly even if they’re initially a bit too tight for your bigger foot. Once you get on the snow, you’ll likely won’t notice the tighter boot – you might notice it when walking though.
If you have a full size difference, you can also try fitting to the smaller foot, but chances are you’ll suffer a bit for the first few days on the snow (not worth it if you only have a few days of riding).
Again, if the size difference between your feet is significant, this approach can result in your bigger foot hurting, which is not a good outcome.
Larger boot size with custom inserts
If you have a very large size difference between your feet, then buying boots that fit your larger foot snugly may be a better approach. While your smaller foot will be a lot looser, you may be able to reduce the looseness somewhat by tightening your laces more.
That may not be sufficient though and you may want try adding heel wedges (available everywhere) or J-bar soles. You can also try adding double foot beds and extra foam inserts. Adding thick socks can also help filling your smaller foot boot – however it might reduce your response when riding.
If you choose to go the smaller size route, and fit your smaller foot perfectly, getting your other boot heat molded can turn it from too small for your bigger foot to just about the right size. Heat molding can make a big difference by packing out the toes on your larger foot.
Heat molding can be done in most snowboard shops. It will not only make the boot more comfortable for your bigger foot, it will also improve the performance by removing negative space.
Another trick riders with different foot sizes often use is to get a separate pair of lines that can be heat molded for a custom fit on one or both feet.
That said, some riders and boot pros argue against heat molding. Modern snowboard boot liners are designed to naturally self-mold to your feet (e.g. Intuition liner). Heat molding can add wear to the shell and reduce the boot’s lifespan compared to natural molding.
Contact the boot manufacturer
Another approach when buying snowboard boots for different size feet is to contact the boot manufacturer, explain the situation, and ask them if they might sell you a pair with a different left and right boot (possibly at an additional cost).
Many snowboarding companies are nice and helpful, and might respond positively and be willing to break up boot sets.
Before you contact a manufacturer, make sure you try on different boot sizes from different brands and figure out which model and sizes would work best for your feet.
Go to a rental shop
Another great tip is to try asking a snowboard rental shop if they have spare boots with different sizes that match your two foot sizes.
In rental shops, it’s common for one boot in a pair to wear out faster than the other, so the staff will put aside the remaining boot to match it later if another pair gets broken up.
Who knows, you might get lucky!
Trade a boot
If you’re a participant in a snowboarding online group or forum, you might try putting out an announcement and propose trading boots of different sizes.
So if your right foot hurts with your size 30 boots, while your left foot is fitted perfectly, you can try trading your size 30 right boot for a size 30.5 / 31 right boot with someone.
Swap the liners in the store (unethical)
I wasn’t sure whether to mention this one as it really sucks ethically… Anyway, there goes: at the store, some riders exchange the liner of the larger foot boot with the liner from a bigger size – stores generally don’t check the liner size, just the shell.
Once at home, they cut off the toe and heel of the liner a bit so it will fit into the smaller size boot.
If you feel like your snowboarding skill level has been stagnating, it may very well be due to ill-fitted boots that result in heel lift, ankle or foot pressure or pain, and an unresponsive feel.
If your feet are of different sizes, chances are you might be wearing at least one boot that’s too big for good performance. Try seeing a competent boot fitter, or look into DIY ways to achieve a better custom fit for your riding feet.