What’s The Difference? Ski vs Snowboard Boots

by Simon Naylor | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

New skiers often ask, can I use ski boots for snowboarding and or the other way round? It's a great question and here's your answer.

The only thing similar between ski and snowboards boots are that they strap your feet in.  Ski boots and snowboards boots cannot be used interchangeably. Skiers face downhill whereas snowboarders face sideways. Ski boots have a rigid shell while snowboard boots are more flexible. 

ski vs snowboard boots

We are reader supported. We may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Is anything the same?

Both ski and snowboards come in pairs, one for each foot and they attach you firmly to the ski or board.  With both boots, you lock firmly into the base to keep your legs attached (unlike a skateboard or surfboard).

Both are warm, waterproof and keep your feet as protected as possible from the elements and damage.

Both ski and snowboard boots come in a range of different sizes for kids and adults and at different price points.Both sports have beginner boots through to advanced technical boots with improved features, construction and built quality.

You wear warm ski or snowboard socks in both boots and you need to break in all new boots for a better fit.

The more you wear your boots, the more compressed the liners become around the profile of your foot. That's one major advantage of owning your own boots vs renting boots that are fitted to no-one.

Ski vs snowboard bindings.

ski snowboard bindings

Ski boots are attached to each ski individually, skiers have two skis, one for each foot and you clip into them facing forward.

Snowboarders, on the other hand, are bounded into one board and the feet face at a sideways angle to the direction of travel.

Skiers can click into their skit bindings whilst standing up. The toe goes first and then you push down with the heel for the lock mechanism to attach to the base of the boot, (How to Put Skis On).

While snowboard boots lock into the bindings, the rider must bend over or sit down on the snow to get their boot onto and locked to the board.

Snowboarders must fasten the mold of the bindings to their boot whereas skiers stand into them.

Crucially skis are meant to detach from the skier during a crash. The skis detach when they're put under a certain amount of pressure. (a different release value is set for different weights and levels of experience which makes it harder or easier for the skis to detach.)

Snowboarders, on the other hand, are locked into their board during any fall and the board will not come off their boot. There is no automatic mechanism to release the binding. It must be attached and released by the boarder himself. This can make falls more dangerous for snowboards.

ski down

Using ski lifts 🚡

Skiers and snowboarders must use ski lifts in different ways because of the way they are bound to their binding.

Skiers enter and exit lifts wearing both skis attached at all times, whereas snowboarders commonly leave one foot free to scoot along the snow.

On the lift, skiers can rest both skis on the bar to support their weight, while snowboarders must support the weight of the board by resting it on top of the free foot.

Skiers can ski straight off the lift, while snowboarders must be able to ski with one foot attached and one loose foot resting on the board until they come to a stop and bind it up.

Here are some tips for using lifts on a snowboard...

If you're a skier check out this beginners guide I wrote about using ski lifts.

Boot materials.

Ski Boot Materials🎿

Ski boots are made from a hard plastic that is very rigid whilst the inside is highly insulated with a soft fleece padding.

Ski boots have evolved over the years from leather boots - to the modern highly rigid boot.

Since the 1970s ski boots have elongated and now deliver much greater ankle support, reducing the number of lower leg injuries significantly.

Ski Boot
                                                   Photo by I G licensed under CC0 1.0

Ski boots are designed to lock in the skier's ankle and heel so that movement is transferred directly to movement in the ski (rather than internal movement inside the boot). The less negative space the better, If you're interested I wrote an article on getting a perfectly fitted ski boot.

Snowboard Boot Materials 🏂

Snowboard boots are more flexible and look more like a traditional hiking boot.

Many agree that snowboarding boots are more comfortable because they're less rigid and the materials are much more flexible.

The main reason snowboard boots are more flexible is to have greater flexibility while performing jumps and tricks.

Some racing snowboard boots are more rigid and more closely resemble skiing boots - for greater precision and control while moving at speed.

Likewise, a few beginner skiing boots are more flexible and use a softer shell for learning.

Photo by Tore Khan licensed under CC BY 2.0

Boot Straps.

Ski Boots Straps 🎿

Ski boots use strong buckles to snap the hard shell into place and tightly around the skier's foot.

The most important buckle - the heel buckle - locks the skis heel into place and stop the foot from moving while skiing.

The other buckles reduce negative space within the boot and block snow from getting into the boot.

Ski have 3-6 buckles depending on the size of the boot.

A velcro power strap at the top of the boot helps to seal the top of the boot.

Snowboard Boot Straps 🏂

Snowboard boots use laces like a traditional boots and often have a side adjuster for tweaking the tightness of the fit.

How to care for boots?

Ski Boots Care🎿

Fitting Ski boots

At the end of each day, take out the liners from your boots and leave them to dry.

Boot dryers are great for drying soaked liners; don't use a hot radiator for long as it can deform or disintegrate the material.

You can clean your boot shell and liners with a damp cloth to keep them nice and fresh.

Some skiers wear a flexible boot sole guard known as a cat track which protects the boot while walking around.

Snowboard Boots Care 🏂

Take out the boot liners and allow the entire boot to dry.

Use dryer sheets after their dry to give your boots a nice smell.


While it's universally agreed that snowboard boots are comfier, it doesn't mean your ski boots should hurt.

Well-fitted ski boots might need some time to break-in, but they should be comfy.

Sure, pressure does build up over the day and you should definitely release a few buckles at lunchtime, but don't mistake a snug fit for a bad fit.

If you're suffering from sore feet too early in the ski day, then make sure your boots are the proper size and you're doing them up correctly.

Keep a spare of trainers handy for when you come off the slopes, so you can jump into something lighter when you stop skiing for the day.

Snowboarders are in luck, and walking off the slopes to Apres ski, after a long day on the slopes.


Can ski boots be used for snowboarding?

No, but future boots may allow this to happen.

How to store ski or snowboard boots?

Clean them with a wet cloth, take out the liners and store them away inside a boot bag at room temperature, in a shaded spot.

Can ski boots be stretched?

Yes, over time the boot liners will compact but the shell can only be stretched by a professional boot fitter to relieve pressure in specific areas. More on stretching your ski boots for a better fit here.

How long does it take to break in new boots?

5-6 days of skiing to fully break boots in but less if you are heavier or ski more aggressively.

Final Thoughts

Snowboard and ski boots are very different and unfortunately, you can't interchange them. Snowboard boots are softer and more like work boots, while ski boots are more rigid. Each has developed to suit the style and movements of its sport.