For years there has been a theme in women’s sports equipment of taking the men’s version, making it smaller, and throwing some pink on it. Then it is magically supposed to work for, and appeal to women. For some women that works- anything that is pretty pink or purple and features unicorns or kittens, is enough to make the sale. But for women who are serious about snowboarding, that’s usually not enough.
It’s obvious that women and men are different in shape and size. Being generally lighter weight than our male counter parts, just making men’s gear smaller may not provide the best solution for the way we ride. We can benefit from a board that flexes differently than a small men’s board, one that is lighter weight, and one with a smaller waist to accommodate smaller feet.
Some companies do a great job with their women’s lines, and there are even a couple of lines that only produce women’s gear like ROXY. And in some lines, women’s products are clearly an afterthought- offered to round out their offerings, but without any specific attention paid to their designs. Some companies also skimp on materials used for women’s gear making boards less durable, or not geared toward performance, features no serious rider wants to deal with.
This is also the reason that learning to ride on your brother’s or boyfriend’s old board isn’t the best way to learn. It’s harder to learn on gear that’s not sized and scaled for you than it would probably be to learn even on junky rental equipment that fits you.
Boots are another area where it doesn’t work to take a man’s boot and just make it smaller. Women’s feet are built differently than men’s and a women specific last is important when designing boots for women. The last is the foundation of how the boot is built. It determines the fit from the width of the boot to where the arch falls to everything else about it. Women tend to have narrower feet and our calves start lower than men’s. Boots that are too wide will allow your foot to move around too much, and will likely have too much play in the heel allowing it to lift up when you ride. And heel lift is the enemy. Boots that come up too high, or that are too tight up higher because they are not designed properly will give you calf bite and you may not be able to properly tighten the boot for support without cutting off the blood supply to your feet.
photo example of a last from wikipedia photo of important measurements from agleathers.com
Even bindings should be designed differently for women. They should also fit a smaller boot profile. You don’t want a lot of play in your bindings, you want proportional stiffness to your women’s specific board, and you want the binding to fit your foot and your legs. Too high highbacks can cause calf bite, and padding patterns are sometimes different for women’s bindings to accommodate our legs. If the baseplate is too large or small, you might not get proportional overhang between your toes and heels and that can make it harder to ride too.
What does this all mean? Don’t limit yourself to pink, purple, kittens, and unicorns…many good quality women’s boards aren’t quite so gender specific. Ride what you love and love what you ride. But if you can’t test out your options before you commit to them, do yourself a favor and choose based on what the setup will do for you and how the elements work together, rather than just how it will look with your pants and jacket.
It’s not always easy to find women who ride all of the gear for sale in a store. And it’s not always easy to find women who work in the stores. So if you have to take to forums on the internet, those can be a good resource, just be careful because you’re not sure who you are talking to. If you have a good local shop, they should be able to help you select based on your level and style of riding.
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