Motorcycle Boot Guide
"A boot is a boot is a boot" is a common misconception made by many motorcycle riders. The belief is that any boot or footwear is good enough to wear on a bike. This is either because they think that their work boots are tough enough or because they feel that they won't ever go down and need the added protection that good motorcycle boots offer. Unfortunately, it's been proven far too many times that some things are out of the control of the rider and freak accidents can happen. Those are the moments where motorcycle boots can be the difference between walking away or finding your leg in a cast.
A motorcycle boot designed for your style of riding can be comfortable for riding and more importantly, they keep your feet and ankles protected when you ride. While work boots are built to be tough and long lasting, they are not designed to handle hard impacts, asphalt abrasion, and they do not have enough ankle support. Every style of riding has a style of motorcycle boot to match. With the correct style and correct fitment, your motorcycle boots can make your riding more enjoyable and protected.
This is the classic motorcycle boot that everyone likes to picture. The cruiser motorcycle boot has a very casual appearance and are quite comfortable on and off of the bike. They were originally adapted from "engineer" boots, which gives them a very utilitarian look and appeal. They are generally made with an all leather construction and are mid-height. Most cruiser boots have a side zip entry, while others are pull on boots. There are also a few examples cruiser boots with laces. Cruiser boots might feature buckles to cover the zippers or laces, while others are there for looks. The "harness" style of boots are very similar to engineer boots with the exception that the straps are not adjustable and the toes are squared compared to the rounded toes of the engineer style.
Most cruiser boots are constructed with heavy duty leather and are very stiff. The thick leather aids well to protect the rider from the heat of a cruiser engine as well as abrasion from an accident. They will usually have a slightly raised heel, which like the soles are made with a hard rubber. The toe, heel and ankle can be slightly reinforced for added protection. Some cruiser boots will come with a waterproof liner for wet weather riding.
Riding Shoes/Short Boots
Many riders are not fans of motorcycle boots and want to wear a shorter shoe. Motorcycle riding shoes are a perfect compromise for riders who want a casual looking and comfortable shoe, but do not want to sacrifice all of the safety features that motorcycle boots offer. Motorcycle shoes come up over the ankles to still offer support and protection, though not to the level of boots. Some riding shoes even have toe sliders and other TPU armor. About half of the motorcycle shoes have laces, while the other half has a zip or buckle closure. There are waterproof options available as well. Many motorcycle shoes have a tennis shoe or athletic shoe appearance, making them a great option for commuting and urban riding.
Motocross and off road riding requires different gear compared to street riding and boots are no exception. The changing terrain in off road riding requires the mx boot to be extremely stiff, durable and form fitting. MX boots come into contact with the bike, objects and the ground often. Like track boots, MX boots are constructed with heavy leather, plastics, metal and other composite materials. These boots open lengthwise with a series of straps and buckles to fine tune the fitment and to ensure the opening will stay shut through vigorous movements. MX boots are very form fitting and will usually come up over the calf. The added height and leather panels on the medial side aid in heat protection and allow the rider to grip the bike with their legs.
MX boots feature plastic and metal armor reinforcements in all of the high impact areas. The higher height of the boot completely covers the shin with thick plastic to protect from debris and other things that could cause an impact. Buckles are used as a closure for both adjustability and because zippers can get clogged with mud. A shift pad is incorporated to prevent excess wear on the top of the boot due to the aggressive shifting during MX and off road riding.
Adventure motorcycle boots are a very specialized and relatively new segment. They can be described as a cross between MX boots and sport touring boots. Some lean more towards the MX styling, while others lean towards touring boots. Adventure boots are slightly less stiff than MX boots making them better for off-the-bike walking. The lower half of the boot has a more casual appearance than pure MX boots do so they can be worn off of the bike. They have strap and buckle closures for muddy terrain. Many dual sport boots are waterproof to handle water crossings and riding in wet weather.
Sport touring boots are very similar to track boots in their design and construction. The key differences are that they are not as heavily armored and they provide more flexibility and less stiffness. Leather is the predominant construction material for sport touring boots with plastics and metal added supplementary. Comfort is extremely important as these boots are meant to be worn for long rides as well as commuting. Many sport touring boots are waterproof and breathable for varied riding conditions. The general appearance of sport touring boots are far more casual than race boots, making them a good boot off of the bike.
The extreme nature of motorcycle racing poses much greater risks for the rider compared to normal street riding. It's because of this that track motorcycle boots need to be extremely durable and armored to provide excellent protection for the rider. During a race, it is common for the boot to come into contact with the pavement and it is because of this, track boots are extremely reinforced. Race boots are constructed with a combination of heavy leather, plastics, metal and other composite materials. The result is a very form fitting and stiff boot that has very little flex. The stiffness does make them a poor choice for walking off of the bike, though. The height of a track boot generally will come up to the bottom of the calf to mid-calf. The soles are very flat and smooth to aid in quick movements on the foot pegs.
Track boots have hard plastic armor on all of the high impact areas. These areas most commonly include the ankle, heel/Achilles and shin. Race boots also have "toe sliders" which are additional pieces of hard plastic or metal that are added to the outside of the boot for protection and to aid it in sliding during an extreme lean angle. The medial (inside) upper of the boot needs to be very heat resistant. On the shifter side of the boot, a reinforced area called a shifter pad is commonly found to help prevent excess wear on the boot. Some track boots will include a bootie that is to be worn on the inside of the boot to increase the stability.
You can have the best motorcycle boots on the market, but if they do not fit you properly, they will do little good. Ill-fitting boots are uncomfortable boots and that will make you want to leave them in the closet the next time you ride, which do your feet no good. Boots that are too large can do not offer enough support in an accident and they can even come off. With the right fitment, your boots will keep your feet comfortable and protected for all day riding.
Below is the process for measuring your foot. Take the final measurement and match it with up to find your boot size in the sizing chart.
A and B = Narrow
C and D = Medium
Anything After = Wide
Materials to look for
High Quality Leather
A heavy, high quality leather is important for the durability and protection that is provided on motorcycle boots. Fake leather can crack and fade over time and often times does not provide the abrasion resistance that real high quality leather does.
Gore-Tex is a breathable waterproof membrane that is used in a variety of garments and boots. Motorcycle boots with a Gore-Tex liner will be completely waterproof and breathable. The Gore-Tex actually helps wick sweat and moisture away, which will keep your feet dry and comfortable all day.
TPU (Thermalplastic Polyurethane)
This is a type of plastic that is used to make much of the armor and sliders that are found on motorcycle boots. TPU is highly abrasion resistant, high impact strength and remains flexible in cold temperatures.
This is a para-aramid synthetic fiber that is very strong and abrasion resistant. Some manufacturers use Kevlar stitching to make them extremely durable and strong.
This is a process of attaching the sole to the rest of the boot. The Goodyear Welt makes it very easy to have your motorcycle boots resoled, which will greatly prolong their life as the sole is usually the first thing to wear out. The tight construction of a Goodyear Welted boot also aids in waterproofing the boot.
Non-Slip/Oil Resistant/Vibram Sole
It is important to have oil resistant and non-slip soles on your motorcycle boots. They will give you the best grip when you have to plant your feet. Vibram soles are a popular version and is often regarded as the best sole for motorcycle boots. Nitrile soles are another popular rubber sole that is slip resistant.