Burton Step Ons 2017/18 Review – Do They Live Up To The Hype?

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With the Burton hype-wagon in full flow around their new Step On boot and binding system, here’s my honest thoughts since purchasing a set. 


FROM PESSIMIST TO PURCHASE

onyx snowboarding - burton step on bindings and boots

Let me start by saying that like many others I was super sceptical of another step in system at first, because after all… what’s wrong with strap bindings?

Stories of old step in tech made this seem like a project destined to fail and secretly I kind of wanted it to.

However!

The more I saw and heard about the R&D process behind Burton’s new system (see video at bottom), the more boxes they ticked and more myths/cynicism they quashed. I work in engineering and the attention to detail Burton went into started to impress me, which is no easy feat when it comes to tech. Until it got to a level of ‘wow’ where I purchased a pre-order set of Photon boots and Step On bindings with my own hard earned cash.


ON ARRIVAL

onyx snowboarding - burton photon step on boots

My preorder set actually arrived before they did in many UK shops, already making me feel like a rock star. However my discovery of magnetic lids with interior photos on both boxes really did make me feel like a kid at Christmas!

It’s a small thing but it all adds up to make that purchase feel extra special before you’ve even used the product. It also shows that as much thought went into the package design as the engineering of the Step On system itself.


MYTHBUSTING – THE COMMON “MISCON-STEP-ONS’

Again I wanted to hate step on’s. However through my pre-purchase research and actually using them a lot of my initial negative impressions were actually unfounded. So to help you in the quest of “are they for me”, here are some common misconceptions around the Step On system :

  • “They only work with the channel system/Burton boards”
    • FALSE – The Step On system uses the reflex baseplate, so they’re actually compatible with any modern board and even the volle split board mounting hardware!
  • “My foot will pull out at high speed/off a big landing”
    • MAYBE – However, in a pull comparison tests the Travis Rice Union bindings ripped off the baseplate with lower force than it took for the Step On clips to fail. The Step Ons also have the highest pull loads tested of all Burton bindings.
  •  “You can’t press on them”
    • POSSIBLY – Although sorry to say that’s more likely to be down to your technique. Burton went with a 3 point locking system instead of 4 purely for this reason, as it allows more foot movement for pressing and flatland fun.
  • “The mechanism will wear out quickly and then you’re screwed”
    • WE CAN’T PROMISE, BUT – The lugs responsible for holding you in were designed and tested to last for 500’000 entry/exits. That’s a lot! The lugs are also replaceable should they fail.

SO WHAT DID I THINK?

burton step ons and kilroy custom snowboard

So far I’ve completed 11 hours of indoor riding on the Burton Step On system, predominantly focusing on carving, switch riding, flatland, jib tricks and general jumping around while going as fast as possible.

I’m currently using the Burton Photon double Boa boots and Step On baseplates mounted on a Burton Process Kilroy 159 full camber board, my stats as a reminder are:

  • Age – 38 years young.
  • Height – 178cm
  • Weight – 100kgs (ex rugby player and fan of lifting inanimate heavy things)
  • Shoe size – UK9
  • Binding size – Medium

1) PERFORMANCE

Previously on the same board I was using the Thirty-two TM2 XLT boots with a Burton Genesis X binding, so how did they compare?

The Photon/Step On package is up there with the most responsive boot/binding combos I have ridden for edge to edge transition, managing to feel very fluid while eliminating the overly “twitchy” feeling I’ve previously experienced with other bindings (e.g. Union MC Metafuse and Flux Team).

They felt very similar to my current Burton Genesis X but with a faster turn initiation. Tip to tail the Genesis X felt better for committing and holding a nose/tail press, with buttering on the new system feeling more similar to that of a Burton Cartel, Now Brigade, Union Force or Salomon Hologram.

They feel awesome when digging some edges trenches at speed around the hill, but they also offer more than the ‘old man carving’ preconceptions. There’s some serious all mountain freestyle potential here for every level of rider, feeling solid and stable for take off/landings on spins and still allowing you tweak a few grabs mid air.

However if you want to ride a lot of rails or boxes I would look for something else as I feel that this will be the Step On’s weakest area of snowboarding due to the increased medial and lateral boot rigidity.


2) COMFORT

As the boot and bindings can only be used together I’m going to discuss them as one. The internal shape of a boot varies massively between brands and getting the right boot for your foot shape has always been a crucial. I actually consider boots and bindings to be more important factor than the snowboard itself in a great days riding.

First and most foremost, you need to know if your feet suit the shape of a Burton boot.

As the Step On boots are likely to be hard to come by in stores, I highly advise you try a pair of standard Burton Photon boots on to see how they feel if they suit your foot shape. This will give you the best initial indication of whether the system will be right for you. I purchased these blind (didn’t try any on) but I’m lucky that my feet have always fitted Burton boots so the following is based on that, however I know a lot of people with thin ankles who struggle with heel lift in the Burton boot range.

There are rumours that Burton are negotiating a licence for other brands to use the Step On tech in their boots, it is just a rumours but it makes huge business sense. However there are no similar rumours for the bringing side of things!

This is the first time I’ve felt discomfort  from a Burton boot and for the first couple of hours there was considerable pinching across the front of my foot where the boot lugs are located. I’d half expected this so wanted to let the liner bed in, fortunately after 3-4 hours of riding the discomfort totally disappeared

I’d advise you do not buy a bigger boot than you normally would if you feel this pinching, instead either let them bed in normally or get the liners heat moulded.

Going to a bigger size will lead to heel lift and a very loose feel in the boot and without straps I think that this would be nasty experience to ride with.

Onyx Snowboarding - burton photon step on & remind medic footbeds - bottom

The overall support and shock absorption of the boot and binding are stunning. They deal with chunder/uneven terrain better than my current Genesis X binding and Thirty-Two boots combo, dampening the vibrations and helping reduce the associated feeling of fatigue.

I particularly like the adjustable ankle strap of the Photon boot, this allows me to adjust the boot flex on the fly from something looser for flatland or more support for carving at mach 10.

Footbeds are a personal thing with some people swapping them out for medical reasons or simply for increased comfort. The standard Photon footbed is better than most other boot brands but certainly not a patch on an after market and not designed to replace a custom orthotic.


3) EASE OF USE 

onyx snowboarding - burton step on bindingsOut of the box these are pretty much ready to go. The reflex disc means screwing them in is simply the regular matter of choosing your stance width and angles.

Also you don’t need to rotate the highbacks as these come prepped for binding angles 9-18 degrees, with a sweet spot between 12-15 degrees. Granted you cannot adjust the highback rotation, but then most of us ride within these angles anyway.

The heel first Step on process itself is quite intuitive as the majority of people naturally step into bindings this way. For beginners it’s awesome and if you suffer from a reduced range of motion (e.g. struggle to reach your feet) then snowboarding is no longer a battle to get yourself strapped in. The release is equally as effortless and would actually take some doing though for a unwanted release to occur.

On the boot front Boa lacing makes tightening a breeze and all moving parts come clearly tagged regarding what they do.


4) VALUE

This is a very subjective category as I appreciate one man’s pennies is another man’s pounds.

You must buy boots and bindings at the same time and currents RRPs are £570 for the Photon boot package or £510 for the Ruler boot package, both of which are a considerable investment.

onyx snowboarding - burton step on bindings and boots

For comparison the RRP for non-Step on versions of these boots are:
Photon Boa £300
Ruler £215.

Then add a set of Burton bindings:
Genesis £320
Malavita £260
Cartel £230

You’ll see you’re already creeping up to a similar amount and shows that the Step Ons are actually quite competitively priced, especially considering the level of R&D that Burton put into their development.

Granted it’s at the top end of some price scales which does pose a barrier for accessibility, also it doesn’t (currently) allow you to mix and match boot and binding combos from other brands to build you perfect setup.

However for me personally, I feel that I got value for money with the Step Ons.


FINAL THOUGHTS

As mentioned I was initially sceptical but was won over by the sheer level of engineering excellence Burton have invested into this particular product.

There are some pretty blinkered preconceptions on the internet ranging from “These are for over the hill old men” to “Step Ons on are for punters”. Having ridden them for a little while now I can honestly say it’s a load of B***ocks and these people need to demo the setup.

If the boots fit your foot shape then The Step Ons are a high performance boot and binding combination that should be in your short list with other gear in that price bracket. They really do excel at everything from big mountain powder runs and high speed euro carves, to bashing every piste side hit on your way to hitting big kickers in the park.

That said I wouldn’t recommend Step Ons to are those who consider themselves to be primarily a rail/jib specific rider due to the slightly reduced mobility. The Ruler combo might be better here but I’m yet to test those out.

I’m not quite at the stage to get rid of all my other boot and binding combos, but who knows, Step Ons will be my combo of choice for all holidays and a season of use may yet change that. I’m going to ride them hard everywhere I go and look out for an update at the end of the winter with my final verdict.

 

You can check out the Burton R&D video here…

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About Author

Luke Parker

Luke started snowboarding in 2012 and has been crazy for it ever since! A self confessed tech geek who sadly received bad advice about buying his first snowboard. The result... Luke has researched everything there is to possibly know about the snowboarding world and his articles are designed to help pass that advice on to you guys.

20 Comments

    • Hi George, thanks for reading the article and leaving a message.

      I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden a whole range of equipment over the years and have built up some knowledge and experience along the way of how a specific setup feels in an alpine setting compared to when I’ve ridden the exact same kit back in the dome.

      The turn initiation, stability and support of the Photon Step On setup exceeded that of my existing Genesis X and Thirty Two TM2 combo in the same indoor setting, so it’s an extrapolation of how I know the latter combo performed on the mountain.

      The Step On’s will get their first on mountain use in December and I’ll be using them all season with the aim of giving updates to the blog once I’ve taken them through all of the varied terrain that I am able.

      My personal opinion is that a binding’s ability to transfer your energy and turn the board quickly helps define how effective it is when riding mountain terrain, for this the Step On’s are incredibly effective!

      Over the last few weeks The Snow Centre (dome in Hemel Hempstead) have been ‘over snowing’ the slope due to a Glycol issue (refrigeration pipes in the floor), so there has regularly been 12 inches+ of thick heavy loose snow which the setup easily dealt with and helped to guide my on mountain theory of their performance.

      Hope that helps and feel free to hit me up with any additional questions.

      Thanks,
      Luke

  1. Scott Mathieson on

    Hi Luke,
    I just got a pair and the one thing that concerns me without trying them in the snow was the amount of play in the heel when transferring to toe side (just on my living room carpet 🙂 ) – there seems to be about 5mm of boot heel lift before the heel clip engages with the boot. This gives a very noticeable ‘clunk’ – did you notice this and did it affect you when switching from heel to toe side?

    • Luke Parker

      Hi Scott,
      I now exactly the issue that your having and its just that the heel lock is not fully engaged. The heel has a two stage locking mechanism and when the bindings are new and the EVA footbed has not compressed then it can be hard to get the second full lock to engage.
      I would recommend twisting the board by pushing down with your heel and lifting your toes until you feel a further “click” and then that loose lifting feeling should be eradicated.
      I hope that this helps you out.
      Luke

  2. Really enjoyed your article. As an old man myself (46 now!) I remembered the original step in which seemed a great idea but sucked for performance. I rode Flows for years as an alternative and most recently Cartels. I managed to get the same set up as you and just paired with a Yes standard. I have only had an hour at an indoor dome but entirely agree with you on responsiveness. I would say they were at least as good as my ion/cartel pairing if not better. I’m so glad you mentioned the toe pinch as I had that in my hour and was dreading what might happen on an 8 hour piste day – I’m off to get the liner heat moulded at snow and rock! I also agree with you about the cleat locking – I had some problems getting it to lock down beyond position 1 which feels distinctly wobbly – I found myself stamping down hard to get the full lock which concerned me about how this would work on a real piste side with a real slope in a snow storm not the flat top with perfect visibility of a dome. I guess from what you are saying it eases a little with use? Also I hope you also had an email from Burton saying that the cleat is being replaced as presumably it has been coming out for riders only in position 1? I have not been able to find out any more about what has happened – have you? As I’m not away until next year I look forward to seeing your reports from your trip in December

    • Luke Parker

      Hi Anesh,
      It’s great to hear that my review has resonated with your own experience. The Yes Standard and Step On combo is going to be amazing on the mountain, one of my best friends has just bought the exact same setup.
      As you mention the lock initiation from position 1 to position 2 can be tough for the first few hours. As I mentioned to Scott this is purely down to an increased density EVA footbed that has been used in the production model, this will definitely ease of with use. Just treat them mean for a while :-).
      Burton are replacing all heel cleats due to some people having an issue locking into position 1, please contact your retailer and they will supply you with some replacement cleats.
      For reference position 1 will always feel wobbly as its designed for riding in deep powder and you have packed snow under your boot preventing engagement of the second position.
      I will definitely provide an update at the end of December.
      Luke

  3. Thanks for the review, very helpful. I have purchased rulers with mine as I like softer bindings but think I would like the ankle boa, you can’t have it all. Going to MK monday to give them a try but my first impressions are very good having tried a couple of 180s and ollies in the lounge (while the wife was out). As a 53 year old I only ordered them so I did not have to bend over anymore, but now I have them they seem better than my previous setup.

    • Luke Parker

      Hi Tony,
      If you like a softer boot and binding setup then the Rulers were the right choice for yourself, as the Photons are designed for harder charging and more aggressive riding.
      I like your use of the living room as I did the exact same thing myself when I first received my set, unfortunately I forgot that I had video’d myself doing this so I still got caught DOH!!!!. I really hope that they help you enjoy your snowboarding and please let me know your thoughts and how you got on come Monday. Everybody takes to equipment differently and it’s always good to hear another opinion.
      Luke

  4. Hey Luke, an update for you. I received the new cleat from Burton. It’s essentially the same but a noticeably wider recessed notched area for the connection. In my limited tests it was much easier to make it connect and lock in with a much clearer click. Surprised that 5 years R&D didn’t spot the problem but this certainly seems better to me and likely to be easier to put on when on the slopes especially on the move from the chair lift.

    • Luke Parker

      Hi Anesh, I have also received the same part and noticed the exact same thing as yourself. I never had an issue engaging position 1 but was always very careful to engage my foot straight down, the new design allows for a wider variety of engagement angles within the heel channel which will definitely help people going forwards, I don’t think that there was an intrinsic problem with the old design it just wasn’t as user friendly to the majority of snowboarders which is why they have updated the design. Please remember though position 1 is not for general riding and is more of an emergency back up in deep snow for when there is snow under your boot and on the footbed, if you ride on the piste in Position 1 your going to get a lot of heel lift between the boot and binding which will really affect your turns.
      Did you get the heat moulding done on your boots, and if so has it cured the toe pinch that you were finding when you had sent your previous message?
      Keep riding hard Anesh and hopefully we can swap stories of how they have ripped up the mountains :-).
      Luke

  5. Hi Luke, I rode on them today for the first time, with the photon boots. I initially had the same concerns about the looseness in the heel until half way down my first run I landed a jump and upon landing the boots both clicked into the correct position. That sort of made me laugh, and i didn’t have any issues getting them to lock into place properly. I loved them… loved the edge to edge responsiveness, and I loved the feeling when I ollied. I really couldn’t believe the difference compared to the ride bindings and and Solomon boots I had been riding with… although it took a couple runs to get used to how little foot movement there is.

    Anyway I loved them, but the one thing that I had a hard time with was getting out of them. The heal would release okay, but I kept having a tough time getting the toe to get out. Maybe there’s a trick that I haven’t figured out yet. It was particularly a problem when I got myself in a tricky spot on a very steep back country run when I needed to unstrap to get myself out of trouble. Holding myself in an awkward position trying not to fall off a cliff below me I had a very hard time getting off the board. It made for a scary couple minutes. haha. But I tend to ride steep and deep and aggressive more often than not, and fortunately I haven’t gotten myself in to today’s precarious position very darn often, so it’s not likely that big of an issue going forward.

    However, for getting my foot out more quickly at the lift, is there a trick I should know about, or will they loosen up over time making the toe slide out easier?

    • Luke Parker

      Hi Tom your description of your riding to today is making me very jealous and even more amped for getting away next week myself, I can almost see that powder. Where were your riding today, because in my head i’m seeing big open faces being ripped up?
      The heel release does become easier but I think thats through muscle memory. There is a technique that Burton recommend themselves, which is to rotate your heel out as you lift your toes out. Effectively after you release the heel lock and you lift your heel up, push your heel towards either the nose or tail of the board depending on which foot your getting out.
      I hope this helps with any further tricky spots going forwards :-).
      Please let me know if this works for you and keep riding hard Tom.
      Luke

      • Hi Luke, I was at Lake Louise (in Alberta, Canada)… I was out there again today enjoying about 16″ of fresh snow. I let my son skip school to come with me. Good times! Thanks for the tips about getting out of the bindings. It seemed a little easier today. : )

        Tom.

        • Luke Parker

          Haha he’s a lucky lad Tom and the conditions sound pretty perfect where you are. I’m glad that the tips have helped, and I can confirm from personal experience over Christmas that it does become easier and easier as your body starts to move automatically without you having to think about the release technique etc. I rode mine in between 24″ and 36″ of fresh snow in France and had no issues at all locking in or out in the fresh snow as long as I cleared the binding footbed first.

    • Luke Parker

      As far as I am aware Burton do not release the imperical data from their tests as I have written to them before asking for sheer loads and burst tests for their channel system and they wouldn’t release the data to me. Potentially though if you write to Burton they could supply you with the data that you are asking for though.
      However if you watch the video above or one of the many interviews with Dave Downing they show clips or describe the tests carried out.

  6. Great to hear all views on these, I want to get my hands on a set but can’t find any for love nor money. Hope you all enjoy these maybe I will wait till next season stock is out. I contacted Burton they said they had sold out for this season!

    • Luke Parker

      Hi Rich, I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling to find a pair. Depending on your size and which country that your in there are still a few sets kicking about through some of the specialist retailers out there. If your based in Europe its always worth checking German or Italian shops as I have ordered several things that are sold out in the UK by doing that myself.

      • Cheers Luke, good shout I will have a look. I am in England so will search about on the Italian and German sites. Have a great winter.

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