It is not unusual that you’ll experience some pain in your feet when snowboarding. There can be lots of reasons for this and lots of solutions to the problem. Here I’ll outline the most common foot pain issues that I’ve come across and how to fix them.
Painful feet whilst learning to snowboard.
This one is pretty common. I’ve taught hundreds of people to snowboard over the years and I would say at least 50% of people comment that their feet hurt. This usually happens on the first day snowboarding and the main cause is tension! When people try their first few runs on a board they are normally pretty scared and tense and this tension tends to manifest itself down in the feet.
I find that after a few runs when the person learning starts to feel more confident the tension drains away and so does the pain. Of course this can come back and often does in the first few weeks of snowboarding when you try a new steeper run or any time that you freak out just a little bit.
Too much stuff tucked into the boot
The only thing that should be inside your boot is your foot with a sock on it! Its definably worth investing in a good quality pair of snowboard socks. Not only will they keep your feet warm and dry but good quality socks will not bunch up which could cause pressure points inside your boots.
All other clothing should be kept outside the boots. I often teach people to snowboard who complain that their feet are hurting only to find they’ve got all sorts of stuff tucked in there. The most common things to find are the thermal leggings tucked in, which should be folded up above the boot. And the gaiter from the snowboard pants tucked in, this should go over the boot.
Are snowboarding socks worth it?
Although snowboard socks are not cheap, in my opinion, they are definitely worth it. A good quality pair of socks will not only keep your feet warm and dry but will also hold their shape so you avoid any bunching up of material which can lead to uncomfortable pressure points.
I always use socks with some merino wool in the fabric. Although these are a bit more pricey, they help keep your feet dry and also don’t smell, so you don’t need to change so often and only need so many pairs.
Boots and bindings not tight enough
Another common problem with people learning is that they haven’t got their boots and/or bindings tight enough. This tends to cause more of a problem when you are on the toe edge of the board. The underside of your feet and calves have to do all the work that should be being done by your boots/bindings. The result can be a burning pain on the underside of your feet and calves.
Numb feet whilst snowboarding
When choosing a snowboard boot its important that you get the right kind of boot for your foot. If you are experiencing a numb throbbing pain in your feet when snowboarding then it might be that your boots are too tight or that your feet are too wide . This kind of pain tends to build up after a few runs, and can get really painful. It is caused by the boots or bindings squeezing the foot and restricting the blood flow.
If it is worse in your front foot then it’s probably that your bindings are too tight as your back foot gets less rest when you are riding a chairlift. If you are experiencing this try loosening off your bindings a couple of clicks each time you get on a chairlift.
If you are feeling the throb in both feet then it is more likely a problem with the boots. Boots that are tight might feel ok in the shop but out on the hill when you are working your feet they can really restrict the blood and become painful. Boots only have to be really tight around the ankle so you could try loosening the front of the boot around the widest part of your foot to let the blood flow. If that doesn’t work then it might be that your feet are too wide for your boots. You could try a model of boot specifically designed for wider feet.
A good tip is to get yourself a pair of boots with a Boa lacing system. This makes it really easy to loosen off and re-tighten your boots on the fly without having to take of your gloves to do your laces. These boots from Ride have a really easy to customise fit with three different Boa dials – one for the liner, one for the upper and one for the lower lacing. This means you can release the pressure on your foot wherever it builds up and without having to open up your boot or take off your gloves.
Ankle pain in snowboard boots
This one is less common but still can be really uncomfortable. If you are experiencing ankle pain or pressure on the balls of your feet when snowboarding then is more likely to be caused by the set up of your equipment. The pain you are feeling is due to too much pressure through the inside of your foot. The solution is to try and get your stance setup so that you stand with your feet more flat on the board and relieve some of the pressure on the inside of your ankle.
Common stance issues which can cause ankle pain:
To work out if this is a problem try standing in front of a mirror at home strapped into your board. You should be able to stand comfortably with your feet flat against the board. Then feel how pulling your knees together or rotating your hips to the front of the board puts pressure on the inside of your feet. Next…stop doing it when you’re riding!
If none of this fixes the problem then it could mean your boots are just a bit worn out. Then it could be time to update your equipment. One solution could be to get some bindings with canting footbeds.
Canting adds a little bit of angle to the base of your binding so that the outside of your foot is slightly higher than the inside, which is a more natural position to stand in when your stance is wider than your hips. A physio friend of mine, recons this totally makes sense from an anatomical point of view…and he also rips on a snowboard. A lot of brands now make bindings with bindings with canted footbeds, such as Union Force and Ride bindings.
If you are not ready to splash the cash a new set of bindings then you could try Shred Soles snowboard boot insoles which add 4 degrees of canting right under your feet.
How to strengthen your feet for snowboarding?
Snowboarding can be a real workout for your feet! Oftentimes the cause of pain is that your feet just aren’t used to it yet. I often get some cramp at the start of the season, especially if the conditionals are a little icy or if I’m having to ride on a long traverse to access some powder. Usually this only lasts a few days but if you only snowboard for a week every season how can you get your feet in shape beforehand?
For me the most fun and effective way to get my feet and ankles in shape is on a balance board.
Calf raises are less fun, but are really good at strengthening the chain of muscles from your feet through your achilles and up to your calf.
Painful feet when snowboarding is not uncommon and can really ruin your day! The good news, however, is that most times the problem is fixable. Before rushing out and buying new boots, try some of the fixes mentioned above and try and get your feet in shape before your next snowboard trip.
If the problem persists then really think about getting snowboard boots which suit your feet. Whether that be boots for wide feet, narrow feet or a new insole to give your arch more support there is a solution which will work for you!