FREESTYLE BOOTS & BINDINGS
Freestyle Boots & Bindings
Since its inception four years ago, Tested + Approved has swiftly and proudly established itself as snowboarding’s most comprehensive product test. With an endless sea of gear to choose from—bindings and boots, helmets and goggles, gloves and layers—it’s not getting any easier to know where to spend your money when seemingly everything is touted as the next great innovation. Our aim is to sort claims from competence because, like everyone, we get bummed when something fails on its word.
We start the Tested + Approved process by reaching out to brands with reputable product offerings, asking them for submissions across an array of categories. We then distribute this gear to insightful, diehard shredders across the country with distinguished knowledge of product and an astute ability to critique it. Committed to eliminating inferior items, blown out soles, gimmicky tech, busted zippers, and fogged up lenses, are sifted out.
This season, these results will be featured across four issues, starting in this one, with the best in men’s and women’s freestyle boots and bindings— solid companions to those Good Wood-winning park decks you hopefully pored over. From icy winter hot-laps, to springtime jump sessions, to summer digging on Mount Hood, our dedicated crew of testers decided the most bulletproof boots and bindings with freestyle-oriented performance to match. Before you tweak a grab or lock into a press this season, see if something in the pages to follow piques your interest, because it might make these inherently gratifying acts even more satisfying.
VANS IMPLANT PRO $250
Like a Vans skate shoe, this is a simple and reliable piece of footwear complete with timeless style and functionality. With a rugged sole capable of handling countless days spent digging or hiking, and a heat-moldable liner that, although snug at first, ultimately packs in to the perfect fit, the Implant Pro proves to be a no-frills boot with limited pressure points, that holds up to harsh landings yet still provides the tweakability typically associated with a softer boot. Thanks to a traditional outer lacing system paired with an exterior ankle Boa, these boots provide the freedom to dial in your fit each morning, while also offering the ability to make on-the-fly adjustments as the day progresses.
RAD: Power strap on the liner is long enough to wrap around outer tongue, ensuring a secure fit.
BAD: Very snug liner creates longer break-in period.
ADIDAS TACTICAL ADV $350
Classic, clean, and simple both inside and out. Would you expect anything else from footwear branded with three stripes? Right out of the box, the Tactical proves to be cushy and comfortable, meaning the break-in period is short, sweet, and welcomingly painless. The exterior is held together with classic, reliable laces, offering simple and highly adjustable tightening options, while the inner liner is kept snug with a drawstring system that does exactly what’s required. If you’re seeking support and response, know that the medium out-of-the-box flex will end up a tad softer than advertised. This is a true freestyle boot.
RAD: Articulated cuff minimizes weird folds and pressure points. BAD: Testers found the flex to be softer than advertised.
RIDE FUSE $350
Unique in functionality and styling—especially in this Lick the Cat colorway—the Ride Fuse blends tried and true technology with a bit of modern flair. Featuring an inner liner free of lacing, the Fuse depends on traditional exterior laces and a unique tongue-incorporated Boa system to maintain a snug, solid fit, morning through last chair. With a Michelin-branded sole, these boots provided ample heel cushioning and full-season durability while keeping the overall weight to a minimum. As an added piece of insurance, Ride even incorporated a waterproof layer beneath the laces of this medium-flexing, all-terrain boot, meaning your toes will remain cozy and dry even when you find yourself riding into the spring and summer months.
RAD: Ankle Boa connected to the tongue keeps feet secure all day.
BAD: Low profile spine felt narrow in some bindings.
THIRTYTWO ZEPHYR $220
The Zephyr is ready for the park before you even try it on. It’s a basic-looking boot free of unnecessary frills or gimmicks—only exactly what you need to get to jibbing and tweaking. And while the liner is, in fact, heat-moldable, it might be a step worth overlooking considering how soft this boot already is. In a freestyle sense, that’s a compliment for this set of kicks that feature an even flex and not a hint of pressure points. If you’re the type of rider who spends day in and day out jibbing through the park, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Zephyr.
RAD: Comfortable right out of the box.
BAD: Break-down period is on the quicker end of the spectrum.
SALOMON LO-FI $400
Salomon has long been recognized for producing high-quality boots. The brand’s cult-like footwear following has often cited the boots’ propensity to hug narrow feet and ankles, with a liner that forms well to unique contours. The LO-FI perfectly fits this archetype but sports a traditional lacing system that has largely been replaced by more technical options in Salomon’s line for the last decade. Combined with a Boa dial, the LO-FI is a modern, best-of-both-worlds approach to a freestyle boot—its exceptionally comfortable and supportive, yet not overbearing, profile are attributes riders who value freestyle-inspired flex will enjoy.
RAD: Foot-hugging comfort.
BAD: Some felt the boot looks cheaper than it rides and costs.
THIRTYTWO WOMEN’S LASHED MELANCON $240
Attention all speed demons and flame fanatics: feast your eyes on the Lashed by Desiree Melancon—one heater of a boot that rides even better than it looks. Simple, comfortable and responsive, this ThirtyTwo staple possesses a classic style and design built around a tried and true traditional lacing system. Testers noted a medium to stiff flex pattern for the freestyle category, meaning these versatile boots not only held up to multiple styles of riding but also hinted at the construction’s longevity. With zero gimmicks, thick laces, and the option to insert heel holders for potential lift issues, this boot is a hot commodity for the hard-charging chick.
RAD: Traditional laces are simple and reliable. BAD: Required a bit of a break-in period.
DC LOTUS $250
Testers immediately took note of this boot’s out-of-the-box comfort, praising the Lotus for its pressure point-free design. Featuring a footbed comprised of small, gel-like circles on the surface, these boots not only reduced fatigue but also made for a seriously damp ride. While they were one of the softer offerings in the test—leading some to question their longevity—the Lotus certainly had it all for fans of a hyper-flexible boot. And with a lacing system that features an exterior Boa on the tongue, a pulley system on the liner, and Velcro for additional support, testers found the Lotus to be a detail-oriented yet minimalist boot.
RAD: Gel-like insoles make for a damp ride and fatigue-free comfort. BAD: Likely too soft for 100-day seasons.
SALOMON LUSH $350
The Lush was praised for its immediate predictability and natural comfort. Proving to be one of the softest boots in the test, its lightweight construction and slim design appealed to testers who enjoyed surfing through transition and keeping things loose in the park. Plus, its formfitting profile featured a soft, impact-absorbing footbed, which was a welcomed attribute on those occasional harsh landings. And although the quick-lace system, featuring upper and lower adjustment latches with a pulley on the liner, required some heavy pulling to effectively tighten, the Lush’s overall performance proved top-notch, especially for those in search of a soft ride.
RAD: Natural and cozy fit out of the box.
BAD: Some testers questioned the durability of the quick-lace system.
BURTON FELIX BOA $350
Stiff out of the box—signaling a long lifespan ahead of them—these boots were light and supportive while also providing a natural feel when lapping through the park. The aggressive flex didn’t inhibit performance, but rather encouraged it, resulting in higher ollies, more stomped landings and an overall increase in confidence. With a heat-moldable liner for a customizable fit, and a dual-Boa system for efficiency and on-the-fly adjustments, the Felix’s design proved to be dialed and user-friendly. And although response and control were paramount through each turn and hit, one tester did find that long days on-hill resulted in the emergence of a few aches and pains.
RAD: Stiff, durable design signals a long lifespan ahead of them.
BAD: Some testers noted foot aches and pains after a long day.
NITRO MONARCH $240
Landing near the top of the list for our testers, the Monarch’s lacing system, while initially intimidating, proved intricate, efficient, and strangely satisfying once figured out. These beefy boots with their snug, secure fit also served up exceptional, immediate comfort. But even without a noticeable break-in period, the Monarch never felt mushy. In fact, its middleof-the-road flex combined with a natural and responsive boot-to-board connection resulted in instant familiarity, creating an at-home feel across any conditions or terrain.
RAD: Enough comfort to last from morning through happy hour.
BAD: Not the warmest boot of the test.
BURTON MALAVITA $320
There’s a reason the Malavita graces the decks of Burton team riders and unknown local rippers alike. Its well thought-out design prioritizes comfort and performance, and the versatile medium flex makes it fully capable in any terrain. Testers were impressed by the asymmetrical strap, which provides the option to actually flip the ankle strap depending on support preference. Run them in the out-of-the-box setting for optimal response, or flip them over for maximum tweakage. Whether it’s laidback park laps or hard-charging freeriding, the Malavita is equipped to adapt and destroy.
RAD: When unstrapped, ankle straps fall open and out of the way for easy entry and exit.
BAD: While said to be minimal, one tester reported undesired pressure points from highbacks.
UNION STRATA $280
The Strata may be Union’s new kid on the block, but it spared no time impressing testers with its dynamic personality and all-terrain dominance, and the innovative Vaporlite Fused Bushing System is partially to thank. This unique design, which one tester likened to a vulcanized skate sole, elicited maximum board feel and unrivaled dampening properties. And with the incorporation of Union’s Mini Disc mount, riders found that the Strata minimized hard surface contact between binding and board, maximizing the deck’s natural flex. Paired with a relatively stiff highback that balances well with the bushing system, the end result is a lively and precise freestyle-driven package.
RAD: The bushing system creates a damp, naturally-flexing ride that needs to be experienced to be believed.
BAD: Size large baseplates may overhang on narrow boards.
BENT METAL LOGIC $240
The Logic is the softest binding in Bent Metal’s lineup, but that’s not to say it lacks support. Its ergonomically cupped highback wraps around the back of your boot, providing a secure feel countered by a soft flex—you can give this thing a good bend by hand. This pliability makes the Logic the ultimate in tweakability, letting you forget it’s there until you need response. That’s when it steps up to provide support. Testers welcomed its simplicity and clear freestyle tendencies. Artwork by Sean Genovese is the finishing touch on what testers concluded to be the ultimate in no-nonsense snowboard attachment.
RAD: Simplicity that anyone with an affinity for flex can appreciate.
BAD: Some testers reported getting poked with the ratchet spring.
K2 FORMULA C $300
Yielding a stiff and responsive ride, the Formula C has an appetite for aggressive park riding and allmountain proficiency. With energy-transferring carbon fiber in the chassis and a highback equally stiff edge-to-edge and laterally, testers found the Formula C ideal for railing hard turns in an out of the park. But with the incorporation of canted footbeds and ample padding, the stiff nature of the Formula C is still balanced out by a comfort-driven fit. It’s a simple, lightweight, and aggressive binding geared for speed and response wherever you choose to ride.
RAD: The carbon fiber in the chassis makes for a response-driven personality.
BAD: Some testers reported snow buildup underneath the snap-on footbeds.
ARBOR HEMLOCK $200
Testers immediately took note of this binding’s Stretch Armstrong-like asymmetrical highback that seemed to infinitely twist in every direction, wondering if it would provide support. Well, this is why we test these things. After strapping in, riders quickly discovered the Hemlock was adept at transferring energy while simultaneously providing unrestricted flex. Although malleable, the highback was supportive in a surfy and unconstrained way. On days when you feel like jibbing every object in your path or scouring for every last sidehit, the Hemlock will invoke a flowing, creative and skate-inspired style to compliment the mood.
RAD: Asymmetrical highbacks come pre-rotated five degrees for a comfortable and ergonomic stance.
BAD: In some cases, snow would get lodged underneath the footbed.
NITRO COSMIC $200
This binding ranked especially high in the plush department. Every inch of the Cosmic is covered with soft cushiness. The ankle strap feels like a memory foam mattress and features a bit of grip, so it stays snug and in place. Testers noted these bindings’ balance between flex and response. Adjusting the straps and highback angle is easier than ABC and can be done in one quick click. A few laps with the Cosmic was enough to sell testers. The Cosmic is a cushy, mid-flexing ride geared for resort ripping.
RAD: Super comfy and everything is easy to adjust.
BAD: Testers reported occasional stuck ratchets.
ARBOR SEQUOIA $200
Arbor is a newcomer to the binding game and even newer to the women’s side. Despite their adolescent presence, testers were impressed with the result. Upon ratcheting in, the ankle and toe straps hug your boot, while the footbeds elicit a feeling like stepping on little pillows. The comfort factor is all-time. With a fun, forgiving, and slight surfy feel, they remain responsive enough for most riders. Whether riding jumps, rails, or even steeps, this binding seemed to increase the probability of a good time. The Sequoia provides ultimate versatility for all-around riders.
RAD: You can take these puppies anywhere.
BAD: One of the heavier bindings tested.
ROME FLARE $200
Testers were immediately struck by the comfort of the Flare. “Every part of this binding felt like it was sculpted to fit my boot,” one said. The EVA tray provides the right amount of cushioning. It’s forgiving and able to take impact but not too thick. Testers found these bindings to be among the stiffest in the bunch. They’re responsive, reacting quickly and seamlessly to subtle movements, and the toe and ankle straps were sweet and simple— supportive without pressure points. The Flare doesn’t leave much to complain about, which is why it landed near the top of the list for testers. With cat-like reflexes and amazing comfort, this binding might be your new favorite.
RAD: The strap moves out of the way for easy entry.
BAD: The sizing seems to run large.
UNION LEGACY $280
The Legacy embodies the non-compromising reputation Union has established in the binding market. Its performance backs up its badass aesthetic, with a sleek design as durable as it looks. Lightweight, with the performance and feel of a binding suited for the most serious of riders, this binding is seemingly indestructible and responsive in ways that make the hardest riding feel natural. Minimal but effective padding on the ankle strap molds to your boot to provide the perfect combination of stability and comfort. The Legacy is a true performance binding made specifically for females. It’s light, rugged, responsive, and tough as you are.
RAD: You could run them over with a bus and they’d probably be fine.
BAD: We’d like to see the same baseplate as the men’s Strata.
BURTON LEXA $300
A high-end originator in the women’s binding game holds its place in the pack of femalefriendly freestyle foot attachments. The Lexa has impressed riders year after year, and this season their pliable highback coupled with quick heel-to-toe response did it again, with testers noting an impressively sturdy feel. The highback fits nicely around your boot, offering snug support, and the minimalist straps offer enough material for the job without unnecessary bulk. This is a low-profile hardcharger for females who test the limits in all conditions and invite a challenge.
RAD: Sturdy as an old Ford truck.
BAD: Heelcup isn’t adjustable.
Taylor Boyd testing boot and binding tweakability at Copper.