Vans Flyaway boots and Switch Special X Bindings
By Cori Jones

I started snowboarding back in the 80's a few years after the sport was invented and I have watched snowboarding evolve over the years. In 1992 Switch released their Autolock step-in bindings and introduced a whole new dimension to the sport. Many snowboarders were reluctant to give up their traditional strap-in bindings but many others jumped on board and over the years the step-in binding has gained in popularity. Many other companies have developed their own versions of the step-in binding and today most rental shops use step-in bindings for their rental snowboards.

Every step-in binding needs a boot that is fitted with the correct hardware to connect to the binding, Switch was wise and fortunate enough to team up with one of the worlds best shoe companies to develop a boot specifically for the Switch binding. That company is of course Vans. Over the years Vans and Switch have refined the step-in experience and convinced many riders to give up their straps.

I myself have been hesitant to try step-ins, but of all the step-ins out there I thought that the Switch bindings looked the coolest and I was impressed with the advancements they had made. So I was glad when the opportunity came up for me to try out the Switch bindings with Vans boots.

The Switch Special X bindings
The concept behind the Switch binding is to firmly attach the boot to the board while leaving the bottom of the boot in full contact with the board. They accomplish this by having a 2 1/2 inch metal bar running parallel to the foot on each side of the boot. These connect to the bindings, which have a wide latch that clasps on to each rod holding the boot securely to the board. This design allows the bottom of the boot to make full contact with the board giving you much the same sensitivity and control as a strap-in binding. The Special X bindings have a high back that locks forward to give extra heal edge control and to help eliminate any slop that the binding might have.

The concept and mechanics are fairly simple and it didn't take me long to figure out how to get locked into the bindings. However I was rarely able to just step in and ride off, I usually had to sit down for a moment and make sure I clicked in correctly without falling over. I really liked the way the high backs locked forward and I never felt any slipping or looseness in the bindings. The latches stand up off the board about an inch and have large openings through them. This makes it easy to keep your bindings free of snow, which could clog up the latches and turn to ice. I didn't have any clogging with these bindings though those big openings did let snow back in when I was trying to step into the bindings in deep powder and I had to keep brushing it out of the way.

Because of the high backs the Special X bindings are just slightly lighter than your basic strap-in binding, but the boots are a slight bit heavier than non-step-in boots so the weight balances out, to be about the same as a strap-in system. To me the system felt light and I really liked not having to readjust straps every time I got back in. I felt no loss of control with these binding vs. strap-ins and my feet were very comfortable.

The Vans Flyaway Switch Compatible Boots
The Flyaway boot is specifically designed to be used with Switch high back bindings. This means that they leave the heal edge support up to the high back on the binding and that allows for a boot with a greater range of flexibility. They have an ankle strap so you can snug up the heal and get nice forward lean support but still leave enough movement in the ankle to make quick response movement and big air tweaking possible. Like many of Vans boots they have the "Duel density heat molded thermal fit liner" that I love. This liner wraps nicely around your foot and leaves no big seam to cause you damage. And they conform or mold to the shape of your foot. You can have this done at the shop or I have found that just by riding them a few long days they heat up enough to mold to my feet. The flyaways are rated a 3 on Vans 1-5 flexibility scale (1= the most and 5= the least) but they felt quite a bit more flexible than the Fargo Pros, which are also rated a 3.

I really liked these boots they were very comfortable and they were light enough to not slow me down to much when hiking backcountry. The ankle strap seemed to hold in just the right place.

To sum it up
I didn't think I would like to ride step-ins but I really did enjoy riding the Switch binding, Vans boot setup. I am converted. I was able to make the change very easily and I didn't feel that I was sacrificing any control. Most of our testers liked riding the step-ins and wouldn't mind changing their setup, but at least one tester did say that he would prefer to stick with his strap-ins. Cost is a factor when considering a step-in system. A step-in binding/boot setup could cost as much as $200 more than a traditional strap-in binding/boot setup. Another factor to consider is that you cant loan out your board unless the person you are loaning it to has your same size feet or has his own switch compatible boots. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. All in all I would defiantly encourage you to give this set up a try if you get the chance.

Cori Jones is a new contributor to GearReview.com and specializes in snownboarding and mountain biking.

For more information, contact:
Vans inc.
15700 Shoemaker ave.
Santa Fe, CA 90670-5515

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