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  • Writer's picturecgsnowboarding

"Burton Step On Bindings: By Popular Demand, Here Is My Honest Review"

Updated: Feb 27




Almost every guest I get these days, whether it be on my Swedish Freeride Camps or private lessons, asks me what I think about the Burton Step Ons. Up until today, I have only been able to give these people my impressions based on observations I've made when coaching clients or trainees. All of these observations from the past will be listed here, as well as all my personal thoughts about the product after having tried it for a day. I will also be making lots of comparisons with my current setup as this is all I have to work with, but just know this setup of mine feels perfect for my needs.


The Setup

The boot I wore for this exercise was the ION SO Boot Size 10 US. My current and usual setup for boots and bindings is a NOW Drive binding size medium, with a K2 Thraxis boot size 9. I also wear a Superfeet supportive insole which I inserted in the Burton boot for the trial. I weigh in at 100 kg, this will be useful when discussing stiffness and responsiveness.


Disclaimer:

I am in no way, shape, or form sponsored or provided any support by anyone for boots and bindings. I bought the boots and bindings I have because I love these products and they provide a great ride for my needs.


The Preconceived Notions

A few years back, when the Step On came out, I need to admit that I was fairly excited to see what Burton was going to release to the public as a product. I remember seeing the short clip on social media, where Terje Haakonsen would get off a lift, step on and go. Sick! As always, when a new product comes out, I tend to have my doubts, a little bit like a grumpy old man. One of my mottos is "if it ain't broken, don't fix it", but if Burton could pull this off, it could be really good for the sport, I thought to myself.


Then came the first production models. They started trickling in front of me via some of my pupils. First, the boots wouldn't always click in, or there was powder under the boot, the pants got in the way, etc. The ones who found themselves in the intermediate range of riders had trouble balancing to get their foot in and would end up sitting down anyway. In the case of the more advanced riders, it was more subtle, and there were fewer of those who had made the switch on year one of this new binding being released. Until the day I found one. A guy who ended up being another candidate on my CASI Level 4 exam. We spent a couple of days together so I had lots of time to observe. One of the things I noticed was how much the boot actually moved in the binding. The toe clips weren't fully snug into the hooks, so there was play when he was rolling his foot from side to side. This translates into a delay when moving body weight or pressure in the fore and aft (nose to tail) or lateral (edge to edge) planes while riding. To me, this was a big no no. I am a big believer in that there shouldn't be any play between the boot and the binding so that an action would create an immediate reaction. If there's a bit of free space or looseness, that will result in a lack of responsiveness.


This other Level 4 candidate had an area of struggle in his riding when dealing with bumps, or off piste. When assessing a trainee's skills in order to make them better, one must always look at external factors that could be affecting one's performance. Equipment is one of these factors. For example, someone who shows up to a freestyle lesson in hard boots with a double positive stance could succeed in reaching their goals, but said person could also reach them quicker if they had a park orientated twin snowboard with a duck stance. So in the case of this candidate, I did make suggestions of movements he could do in order to reach his goals, but also made sure to say that in my personal opinion, at that point in time he needed a more responsive setup to achieve his goals.


This is the kind of recommendation we often make as instructors. We can quite regularly get more novice riders, who, from their inexperience, just have no idea that the boots need to be tight, and the bindings need to be ratcheted in all the way. Otherwise you may be moving more than what you actually need to reach the desired outcome. Anyway, all that being said, that was year one of the Burton Step On. It made me realize that, personally, it wasn't something for me. Yet...?



The Trial

As the years went by, the Step Ons became more and more popular, and more and more frequent amongst my clientele. I kept an eye on it. Folks became better at balancing and clicking in, less pants got stuck in the way, and powder, by some miracle, became a non issue. I also started noticing less and less of that looseness in the system. It got me a little interested.


As I have mentioned in my disclaimer, I love my stuff, because everything is tight. My binding is one of the stiffest non-carbon model on the market, and my boots are rated a 10/10 in stiffness. But with my 100 kg, I can bend them and get the support I need. For these reasons, I was even hesitant to even try one. But one day, I showed to Åre Hjärtat, a public relations firm in the heart of the Swedish mountains. They asked me if I'd like to try one while we're out riding for the day. So, since I'm comfortable with who I am and what I want, I decided to give it a go with a fully open mind.


As I am trying to make this a review, and make it helpful for people who may be interested in this system, I would like to compare the fit between my K2s and the Burton IONs I tried. In length my size 9 K2 was only slightly shorter than the Burton. When stepping into my K2, my big toe fully touches the end of the boot. Since I prefer a "performance" fit, that works for me. In the trial boot, my big toe also touched the end, but I could not feel any pressure on it in comparison. The entirety of the toe box was also much roomier on the Burton boot so much so that I had to insert an extra insole (only a few mm thick of soft fabric) on top of my Superfeet to get rid of the space. That did the trick so I laced up.



During a brief trial on a carpet inside their office, I clicked in just to have a feel of how to do it when I'd be out on the slopes. Right away, I noticed that once I finally stood in the bindings, that looseness I have been mentioning, had not actually gone away. I noticed quite a high degree of heel lift when I pressured my toe edge. Something I also noticed on Teodor (70 kg) from Hjärtat when he also clicked in on the mat. According to him though, this is the best binding in the world right now. This is a man who rode hard boots as a teenager and carves like a beast. So still, I am convinced I can do this and get out to try them.


We get to the top of the lift. I click in and ride away. Just like Terje. I am a god!


That! That is cool! As an experienced rider, it only took a couple of tries before the motion became easy. I am still of the opinion that you might not get more laps in a day just because of that though. There just isn't enough time saved. But I am of the opinion that this is the exact thing that will keep this sport alive and growing. As a mountain biker, I had exactly the same adverse notions towards eMTB when they made an appearance, coincidentally around the same time Step Ons hit the market. At first, I thought it would never be for me, and it's completely unnecessary, why "fix it if it ain't broken" type of thing.


Electric mountain bikes have actually changed the whole face of the mountain biking industry, and brought into the sport a whole demographic of people who either would've never tried the sport before, or would quit because they are just not physically capable anymore. That has brought popularity (and mostly money) to an industry that had a hard time finding funding for expansion in trail systems for example. But now, so many municipalities are investing heavily in trail systems, bike shops are alive and well, and more and more people mountain bike, because the sport has become more accessible. Well, my friends, the Burton Step Ons are the eMTBs of the snowboarding industry. They are convenient. They are easy. They are effortless.


As I went down for my first descent on them, I could feel the play and looseness between the boots and the bindings. So when we got back to the lift, my two riding partners wanted to hear my first impressions. In all honesty, I replied that the looseness was bothering me. After a few runs, I adapted. I would just make a bigger movement to compensate for the lack of responsiveness. But I was kind of ok with it. For a while... When the adaptation period was over, I then decided to start pushing on the board, and finding the limits. It didn't take long before I started missing my stiff boots and extremely responsive bindings. I felt like the conditions and my board could give me more if I had had the ability to engage my edge earlier, and with more confidence. It was hard packed, but not icy, the kind of hard packed when it's really fun to go carving. But I was just slipping away. That being said, Teodor, with his 70 kg, managed really well and had a blast! Check out this video below of him ripping it!


My Conclusions

All in all, I think the Burton Step Ons have a place in the snowboarding industry. They are definitely not for everyone, tough. The rider who prefers a more precise feel to their boot/binding combo will probably be served better by some other setup out there. But the light charger (like Teodor) and the average weekend warrior will probably find that it is a very efficient binding for them. The whole concept is really cool, the feeling you get when clicking in makes you feel like a snowboarding god, and so I hope Burton is working on some more responsive iterations of the product. It is new smart products like these ones that will keep more people in the sport, which in turn will develop and evolve to be around for a long time still.

PROS

CONS

God like feeling when clicking in

Looseness between binding and boot

Comfy like my slippers

Performance limiting

What are your thoughts on the Step Ons? Have you tried them? Do you own a set or two? Let me know in the comments!


CG


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