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
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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
Out 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.
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.
For comparison the RRP for non-Step on versions of these boots are:
Photon Boa £300
Then add a set of Burton bindings:
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.
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…