Snowboard bindings are where rider meets board
Connecting boot to board, your snowboard bindings need to be kept well-maintained and adjusted for high performance, comfort, and safety (check out our ranking of the Best Snowboard Bindings).
Some riders, especially those new to the sport, immediately assume adjusting snowboard bindings is all about the straps—which isn’t the case. Adjusting your bindings involves several parts of your binding, not just the straps. And just because the binding “feels” secure does not mean you’re getting its maximum performance. In any event, knowing how to adjust your own snowboard bindings should be a part of any rider’s skill set.
It’s a matter of ownership pride. If you happen to own a snowboard, you should learn how to adjust your own bindings. The task is highly technical, but we’ve made it simple for you. It requires no special tools or training and takes only a few minutes—once you get the hang of it. So if you’re ready to become a fully realized snowboarder, here is everything you need to know about adjusting snowboard bindings.
Why Should You Adjust Your Snowboard Bindings?
Adjusting your snowboard bindings is crucial for a few reasons:
Bindings are the mechanisms that connect you with your board. They are the junctures of steering and power transfer. Bindings that are too loose will negatively impact your control, comfort, and maneuverability. Your adjustments are pre-determined by your riding style. An aggressive race and a freestylist are not going to want the same adjustments.
Snowboard bindings revolutionized the sport. When adjusted to suit the style of snowboarding you want to do, they will reduce fatigue and strain while making power transfer more effective. This drastically reduces the chances of injury and gives you full control of the board.
Shops and sports centers can charge up to $20 to do a single adjustment of your snowboard bindings. Over time, that adds up. But you don’t need a professional technician for this job—and there’s no reason you would need one. As we hope to show you, adjusting is a simple task. It takes only a few minutes of manual labor. It’s also a good way to bond with your own equipment.
How Often Should You Adjust Your Snowboard Bindings?
There are at least four occasions for adjusting your snowboard bindings:
1. Annual check
The more you ride, the more frequently you should adjust your bindings. Once a year is a minimum for the average rider.
2. Borrowing or swapping
If you like to loan and borrow or swap equipment with friends on the slope, the bindings for each board need to be adjusted for each new rider.
3. New snowboard boots
Even if you purchase the same set of boots—same brand, same size, etc.—you should still adjust your bindings accordingly. Remember, snowboard bindings are made to pair with boots, not boards. (See our review of the Best Snowboard Boots.)
4. Random safety check
Excessive checking can’t hurt your bindings. Our recommendation? Play it safe. Check your bindings often—make it part of your preparation ritual before a day on the slopes.
Types of Snowboard Bindings
All snowboard bindings are adjusted in generally the same ways. Still, it pays to know the difference between them. Each type has unique features that determine the adjustment process. First, bindings are made with boots in mind, not snowboards. Second, snowboard bindings are complex machines. Purchasing a pair might not be as straightforward as purchasing a board. There are two major styles of snowboard binding:
1. Strap-in bindings
Strap-in bindings are probably the most common snowboard bindings. (In fact, our winner for the Best Overall Snowboard Bindings is a strap-in: the K2 Lien AT Snowboard Bindings.) With this style, an ankle strap wraps around your ankle, and a toe strap either sits on top of or wraps around the front toe of your boot. This design equalizes the pressure across the entire foot. The downside is that it is difficult to strap while standing.
2. Speed-entry bindings
With speed-entry bindings—sometimes called rear-entry or step-in bindings—there’s only one strap covering both your ankle and toes. A big difference between strap-in and speed-entry bindings is the highback. You can adjust the highback a little bit, but for the most part, it is fixed in place. The biggest asset to these is that they are easy to use—simply stick your boot in, close the highback, and presto, you’re all buckled in and ready to ride.
In this how-to, we don’t cover speed-entry bindings, though similar principles apply.
Before You Start
Adjusting your snowboard bindings is easy, but don’t let that fool you. You should not take this task lightly. Your safety is at stake. A poorly adjusted binding could result in injuries as minor as blister or as major as a crash. So before you start, make sure you are well-prepared.
Set up a workbench
For this job, you will need a broad and level working surface that raises your snowboard just above your waist. A table will do. Just don’t try to adjust snowboard bindings on the floor, and make sure your workstation is well-lit.
If you want to take things to the next level, use a snowboard vise which clamps down on your snowboard and allows you to view it from almost any angle: vertical or horizontal, right-side-up or upside-down. This makes it super easy to wax or tune your snowboard (if you don’t know how to wax your snowboard, check out our tutorial).
When you’re adjusting snowboard bindings, the snowboard needs to be in a resting position with the bindings up. A workbench and two stacks of books or two-by-fours will do.
Grab a Phillips-head screwdriver
Adjusting snowboard bindings requires no major equipment. All you will need is a standard Phillips-head screwdriver—maybe. Several more recent models replace screws with levers and knobs that can be tightened or loosened without a screwdriver. But if you must use one, make sure it has a long neck. A “stubby” screwdriver may not be able to reach the screws through the binding.
Mount your snowboard bindings
Obviously, long before you get down to adjusting snowboard bindings, they should already be attached to your snowboard. You should consult a professional technician at your local sports store to get the best results, but there are a lot of factors to consider when you mount your snowboard bindings. It can get complicated real quick, so here’s our simple checklist of things you need to determine to mount your bindings:
Stance refers to which foot you lead with while you ride. Which foot is in front when you picture yourself sliding downhill on a snowboard? Since you have two feet, there are only two types of stance: regular and goofy. Regular riders lead with their left foot. Goofy, with their right foot.
Usually, your “dominant” foot follows in the rear. For example, if you are standing upright and decide to start walking, which foot swings out first? Another example: Which foot do you prefer to use to kick a soccer ball? That is your dominant foot. So, if you are right-foot dominant, you will likely prefer the regular stance.
2. Binding position
Now that you know your stance, it’s time to decide where on the board you will position your bindings. This will vary depending on what type of board you use (twin, directional, or asymmetrical). Most boards include a “recommended stance” on the top of the board. If you aren’t sure what you want, here are some guidelines.
For most riders, there are two bindings positions: centered stance and setback stance. Centered stance places the bindings equidistant from the nose and tail of your board. This binding position maximizes control of the board and is great for both beginners and freestylists.
The setback stance positions the bindings closer toward the tail of the board so that you lead with more board, which is great for conserving energy when riding power. Many advanced freeriders prefer this board position.
In any event, nobody—NOBODY—positions their bindings closer to the nose than the tail.
3. Stance width
Stance width refers to how far apart your bindings are from each other. There is no calculus for this—really, it’s all about what you find most comfortable. Many boards have reference points on the top sheet of the board, which is a good place to start. But your own comfort is the final judge.
Practice different stance widths. Start by assuming a power stance: knees aligning just outside of your shoulder. This is an extreme position that is good for jumping and lunging. Widen or shrink the distance between your feet until you find your sweet spot. Once this is done, measure the distance between the centers of each foot. This will be the measurement you use when you mount your bindings.
4. Binding angles
Binding angles determine the direction your toes point when riding. Most snowboarders prefer “duck” stance. This is when your feet are slightly angled away from each other. Some freeride or all-mountain snowboarders prefer when both feet face the same direction, angled toward the front of the board—like a surfer.
Again, there’s no “correct” way to calculate your binding angle. It’s all about comfort. But if your bindings are not angled properly, you will fatigue early by placing extra strain on your calves and knees. Technically, this isn’t something you need to know before mounting—but it is part of the mounting process. You can adjust the angle with the mounting disc in the center of your binding.
We recommend getting your bindings mounted by a professional technician. But, if you are confident enough, it is pretty easy to do from home and requires no special equipment—just a screwdriver.
First, align the baseplate hole with the inserts that best match your stance width.
Second, rotate your binding around the disc until you reach the angle you want.
Third, screw the binding into place. Don’t screw the binding too tight (or too loose).
And you’re done and ready to adjust your snowboard bindings!
How to Adjust Snowboard Bindings
Adjusting your snowboard bindings is not difficult or complex, but it should be done carefully. Once you get the hang of it, the whole process should take less than a minute. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1. Adjust the highback
The highback (also called the forward lean) is the long plate of hard plastic rising from the heel of the binding. In addition to added protection, the highback is designed to support your calf and ankle. When loosened, the highback can lean forward or backward. When leaning all the way back, it stands at a right angle to the binding.
The highback should never be loose. The question is how far forward you want it to lean, which depends on your riding style. The angle of the highback not only affects power transfer and maneuverability but also your posture. At a right angle, your legs have more range of movement, making it easier to make corrections, sudden turns, and do tricks. Many urban riders like to have their highback leaning as far back as possible.
The more your highback leans forward, the more it will force your knees to ben, which gives you a lower center gravity. Aggressive riders and racers—and anyone else who enjoys half pipe and big mountain riding—prefer more “lean” on their highback. It gives you more control over the power transfer and helps you power through turns. The drawback? It’s more difficult to make corrections.
If you don’t know how much lean you want, start out by inserting your boot in the binding and adjusting the highback so that the plastic is flush with the back of your boot. You can experiment with different leans on the slope.
To loosen the highback, most bindings have a single quick-release lever (or cam) on the back of the highback. Simply flip it and the highback will become loose. Older bindings have screws, usually two on each side of the heel. A few bindings have a third option: a micro-adjustment dial that you rotate to get an extremely precise fit.
Once the highback is loosened, grab your snowboard boot and insert it into the binding. Slide the boot back until the heel is firmly in place.
With the boot in place, lean the highback to the desired angle and then lock it in place by securing the quick-release lever or tightening the screws. If you want the most aggressive stance possible, lean the highback until the plastic makes maximum contact with the back of your boot.
Step 2. Adjust the toe ramp
Many bindings include a feature that allows you to adjust the toe ramps. An adjusted toe ramp increases your leverage. For maximum leverage, the toe ramp should be flush with the bottom of the boot.
To begin, remove the shock-absorbing footbed of the binding. Doing so may require a screwdriver, but for most models the footbed is secured with plastic nubs and it simply “pops” out. Once it does, you will see the exposed bed of the binding.
If your bindings have this feature, the toe area of the bed slides forward and backward. You may need to loosen the screws that secure your binding to the snowboard itself. You won’t need to remove the screws entirely—just loosen them enough so that the toe-bed will slide. Once this is done, slide the toe-bed as far out as it will go.
Don’t tighten anything just yet. First, put the footbed back into place (again, don’t screw it back in, if applicable). Second, slide your boot into the binding. Compare the toe of the outsole of your boot with the toe ramp. Is there a gap between them? If so, remove the boot and footbed and slide the toe-bed back a bit. Repeat these steps until there is no gap between the boot and the toe ramp.
The smaller the gap, the greater your leverage.
Step 3. Adjust the straps
Straps are the most visible part of the binding. Too often, they are treated like glorified shoelaces. But just because a strap feels tight and secure does not mean it is giving you the performance you want. You won’t need to experiment as much with your straps as, say, the lean of the highback. But that just means you need to get it right the first time.
To begin, slide your boot firmly into the binding. Push the heel all the way into the heelcup. Then, fold the straps across the surface of the boot. Secure and tighten. Now, look at them. The goal of adjusting your straps is to make sure that the pads for both straps are precisely centered across the face of your boot when fully tightened. Pads that veer too much to one side don’t give you the maximum level of comfort and security.
If a strap is not centered, find the adjustment screw for the strap. Each strap will have its own adjustment screw. These are located on the opposite side of the buckle. Some bindings will require a screwdriver. Others can be unscrewed or tightened by hand.
Remove this screw entirely, center the strap, and then replace and tighten the screw into its new hole. Make sure to compensate for the loose strap—the pad should be centered when the strap is fully tightened! You may need to replace the screw one notch at a time until you find the right length.
Ready to Adjust Your Own Snowboard Bindings?
Snowboarding is a sport of freedom and daring. Perfectly adjusted bindings are a critical part of keeping this sport comfortable, safe, and thrilling.
While adjusting might seem like a chore, it’s a basic skill for anyone who owns a snowboard. And the more you hit the slopes (or the more you want to do so), the more important it is to learn how to adjust your own snowboard bindings. You will save money while familiarizing yourself with your equipment. You will increase its performance, boost its speed, prevent injury, and have more fun! So take it from us: Adjust well and regularly. And who knows? You might even enjoy it.