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DC Shoes, Burton Partnership Fuels Next Evolution for Snowboarding Boots

A new partnership between Burton Snowboards and DC Shoes will extend the reach of what Burton calls “the quickest and most intuitive boot to binding interface,” thus changing the game for the snowboarding cohort.

Burton announced its first licensing agreement for its patented Step On technology, setting DC Shoes up to become the first brand outside of Burton to make snowboarding boots compatible with Step On bindings. The agreement will allow DC Shoes to create its own style, preference and technical nuances indicative of the brand aesthetic and construction for the boots. The union will inevitably signify an uptick in the production of Step On binding snowboarding boots.

The exponential growth of new Step On snowboarders could potentially trend over the next decade, shifting production volumes of traditional strap bindings from manufacturers across the snowboarding industry.

As brand competitors in the marketplace, the Burton and DC Shoes partnership is unique from the profiting standpoint of technical innovation, and represents a unifying effort to meet increasing demand for snowboarding boots as the sport grows. The ‘stepping in system’ is similar to how ski boot and bindings work—standing upright and clicking in. This new system also shifts physical demands on a snowboarder where one leans over to buckle into their binding.

Ensuring the technical performance of the DC style of Step On boots was top priority for both brands in executing the first licensed iteration for the Step On system.

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“We’re in the infancy of Step On and Burton is learning a lot,” said David Appel, DC Shoes global director of hardgoods who took the reigns on the project. There are tolerances within millimeters that are necessary to adhere to in ensuring this system will work for both brands. Burton’s current factory already has five years under their belts of development and prototyping. They also understand what the finished product needs to look like and how it needs to perform.”

Another aspect of ensuring seamless quality control was the agreement to manufacture the DC boots in the same factory Burton uses to create its own styles. “Any opportunity to minimize the variables—I’m going to take that opportunity,” Appel enthused. And the feeling is mutual on Burton’s side.

“We’re coordinating it so the boot is made with all of DC’s lasting. They are developing it with their own style of boot fit, but mastering it with our technology at the factory,” said Chris Cunningham, SVP of global product for Burton Snowboards. “Production is really complex. What we’re doing is taking a soft, flexible boot—anyone who works in footwear understands that when you’re putting a boot together, the stitching and sewing can change so much. Many points can move, then you send it through ovens; things shrink and expand, so much changes.”

That DC Shoes has fair reign to make use of the technology in a style that’s its own means it can approach snowboarding through a skate lens, according to Appel.

As a leader in creating skateboard sneakers for more than 20 years, the skate lens approach of DC Shoes speaks to both the technical construction of a snowboarding boot along with the cultural nuances that shape snowboarding style on the mountain. Appel explained that DC snowboarders, “like to snowboard in soft boots. They don’t like stiff boots. The athletes are more into the descendant of a skate shoe. The unique point of difference in the marketplace between Burton and DC is our approach to the snowboarding boot itself.”

From a Burton sales perspective, sell through for the Step On technology has so far been, “remarkable,” according to Cunningham.

“It’s well beyond our original projections. It sells out so quickly, that we haven’t found that mark where sell through slows down. It keeps outpacing our expectation.” Snowboarding has been up 16 percent in the marketplace with Cunningham enthusing his theory of, “The Step On Affect,” being the true reason the sport is growing.

Down the pipeline Burton foresees exponential growth for its own Step On Boot and binding system and further growth with additional licenses, though for now, the brand isn’t disclosing its next partnership.

The consumer release date for the DC Step On boots is slated for fall 2020.

—reporting by Jessica Kaplan