Motorcycle Boots Buying Guide & FAQ
Are Motorcycle Boots Necessary?
Yes. There’s no way around it: a good pair of motorcycle boots will make your motorcycle riding experience a whole lot better. The road is a dangerous place, and it’s filled with hazards, some obvious, others not. Your boots are what connects you to the road when you’re not in motion, they’re close to the road when you’re moving forward, and of course, in the event of an accident – no matter how great or small – they’re going to be hitting that ground HARD. Crash protection is the obvious reason for wearing proper motorcycle boots, but there are some other reasons why you should wear good footwear, here are some that you might have overlooked!
To Keep Your Feet At The Right Temperature
Your boots will keep your feet from getting too cold. Riding around at speed even in a hot country can leave your feet feeling cold if they’re not properly protected. The wind can cool you down pretty quickly, especially when you’re traveling fast. Similarly, a good pair of boots will stop your feet from overheating too! Strategically placed vents will stop your feet from sweating and getting wet and horrible. They’re designed to cope with a range of weather conditions, unlike regular boots which aren’t really designed to handle anything useful.
To Keep The Rain Out
A proper pair of motorcycle boots will provide some rain protection. Regular boots generally do not. Riding in the rain isn’t fun, even when you’re wearing all of the right rain gear. But if you get caught out in a rain shower without your wet weather jacket and pants, most riders can usually count on their feet staying relatively dry thanks to the base level waterproofing properties of their riding shoes. Getting wet feet isn’t nice. Motorcycle boots help prevent that happening!
To Protect Your Feet & Legs When You’re Riding
Good boots will also protect your feet and legs when you’re just riding around. The road is full of nasty debris and grime, and it’s not unusual for a stone or a bit of grit to get kicked up and hit you in the shin or something like that. Good boots will deflect those annoying little pieces of stone and keep your legs safe. Similarly, good boots will also stop you from burning your leg on your exhaust pipe. Most seasoned riders won’t let this happen anyway, but if you’ve ever been to South East Asia, you’ll see hundreds of exposed backpacker legs with nice burn scars on their calves. The ol’ Thailand Tattoo. If they were wearing proper riding boots and riding gear, they wouldn’t have such a rookie scar on their legs…
And of course, motorcycle boots will protect you in the event of an accident. They’re superior to other boots in this respect because they designed and built to provide protection in the most common trauma areas. Proper riding boots have substantial ankle and calf support which prevents your ankle from being twisted in an accident, which could lead to a horrific breakage. Similarly, these boots are also designed to resist abrasion, lessen impacts, and stay on your foot in an accident. Regular boots and flimsy sneakers don’t offer any of that, and in an accident, you’ll want the best protection available, not the most stylish.
What Makes A Good Motorcycle Boot?
The properties of a good motorcycle boot largely depend on what you’re using it for. For example, a Harley-Davidson rider may not require the same kind of sports performance design than a track racer would, and an off-road rider would have very different needs to that of a Monday to Friday city commuter. However, there are a few things they should all have in common:
They should be fully enclosed, covering every part of your foot and ankle. Motorcycle boots should also be made out of a strong, abrasion resistant material, such as strong leather or synthetic materials that have been developed to withstand heavy abuse.
Each boot should also be reinforced with sturdy but comfortable padding that can comfortably grip on to your foot and ankle whilst being comfortable at the same time. Additional protection should come in the form of reinforced paneling on the exterior of the boot to add extra protection in known trouble spots. Some boots will use advanced materials for additional armor on the shin, toe, and heel.
The sole should also be very strong. Ideally, it will be able to resist gasoline and oil, improving your grip and extending your boot’s working life.
Also, they need to have strong closures. A boot that flies off after an impact is no good to anyone. Strong zips, tight clasps, and Velcro fastenings are popular choices for modern motorcycle boots. Laces aren’t recommended these days, unless you’re wearing a moto shoe or more casual riding boot.
Finally, they need to fit correctly. Any boot that is too small will cause the rider discomfort which will develop into an unwanted distraction. A boot that’s too large may hinder their access to their motorcycle’s foot controls, putting themselves and other road users in danger. Proper fit is essential. Luckily, we’ve got a good sizing guide a little further down. First, let’s look at the styles of motorcycle boots available.
Styles Of Motorcycle Boots
Street style motorcycle boots are arguably the most popular style. They appeal the broadest cross-section of riders and they’re quite versatile in nature. These boots are designed with a healthy balance of safety, comfort, and practicality in mind, and they’re often designed with aesthetics in mind too. They come in a wide range of shapes and styles, including short boots and tall boots, with buckle-up closures, zippers, or Velcro. They’re almost always waterproof to some degree, and usable in both hot and cold climates. These boots do offer a lot of protection, but not the same as you’d get with dedicated sports, off-road, or adventure boots. What they lack in overall protection they make up for in everyday practicality. You can wear these on and off the bike, and very few people would ever know that you’re wearing dedicated motorcycle boots without having a very close look.
For those who enjoy riding sports bikes on the road and those who enjoy letting loose on the track, there’s nothing better than a specifically designed sport boot. These track boots are very similar to what professional racers wear in professional road racing competitions, and they’re designed to offer the best protection possible, with a high focus on abrasion resistance, impact suppression, hyperextension, and protecting from twisting joints. They’re also designed to stay attached to your foot in the event of a high speed crash. These boots are quite flexible, despite all of their armor, and they offer excellent dexterity to the rider. It has to be said that they’re not particularly fashionable, they’re not terribly comfortable when you’re off the bike either. These are best reserved for sports riders and real track racers.
Dirt biker boots are the only thing you want to be wearing when you’re tearing up the trails off-road. They’re designed to offer the best protection against a wide range of off-road injuries, including everything from flying debris, sharp tree branches, and jagged stones, to hot exhausts, heavy impacts, and gravel rash. The vast majority of these boots are tall and extend up the rider’s calves, offering the most protection possible. Like all off-road apparel, these boots typically come in vibrant colors, though there are some restrained color options if you prefer. These boots aren’t the most comfortable to wear when you’re not riding off-road. They’re not very waterproof, they’re not great for walking around in, and the color options usually make them poor choices for refined commuters.
Typical cruiser boots or Harley-Davidson riding boots are very similar to regular urban, street boots. The only difference is that they traditionally shun any fancy thermoplastic adornment or over-the-top design. These boots can come in tall or short configurations, and they’re almost always made of leather, reinforced with more leather, or with steel refinements. In terms of practicality, they’re usually quite safe to wear though they’re not as protective as more dedicated riding boots, but they’re generally quite comfortable, and wearable in a wide range of situations and not just when you’re riding. They’re old school in nature, but they do the job just fine.
Adventure Boots & Touring Boots
There are two very interesting types of dual-natured boots on the market: touring boots and adventure boots. Touring boots are designed specifically for long distance riders who need boots that are very comfortable, weatherproof, and incredibly protective. They’re an evolution of the street boot but with additional water-proofing, and a more padded interior. An adventure boot, however, is more like a mash-up of a dirt-bike boot and a touring boot. They’re comfortable to wear, since they’re designed for long-haul riding trips, but they have the added off-road protection for when the road gets a little bumpy. They’re also weather resistant, and very protective. Adventure motorcycle boots are incredible popular for these reasons.
Female Motorcycle Boots
Women’s motorcycle boots come in the same shapes and styles as their male and unisex counterparts, but women’s boots are actually designed differently to men’s boots. Since female anatomy is different to men’s, it’s only right that their boots are specifically designed to protect and fit their form. For example, a man’s foot is typically larger with slightly different shapes. Women’s boots cater for the narrower foot shape and smaller volume. Similarly, men’s boots are often heavier, and women’s boots are designed to eliminate the unnecessary weight without compromising protection. Another interesting point is that women’s boots are usually equipped with thicker soles or a heel to help give shorter women a bit more ground stability. This can drastically improve a rider’s confidence. Big time.
Sizing Motorcycle Boots
The right pair of motorcycle boots will fit your feet perfectly. You should be able to get your foot in and out without a struggle, and there shouldn’t be any uncomfortable pinching or unnecessary unused space inside. They should support your feet in all the right places, particularly around the heel and ankle, with additional comfort around the toes. Unfortunately, unless you’re sitting in a motorcycle apparel shop, the chances are that you don’t have the pair of boots in front of you or on your feet to help you make the right decision about a purchase.
Buying boots blindly can be a struggle, especially when it comes to choosing a size. The most comprehensive way to size your feet is to use one of those sliding measurement things that they have in shoe stores. For those interested, it’s called a Brannock device. These aren’t household items, so you’d be forgiven for not owning one. However, we recommend that you head down to your nearest shoe store and get measured properly.
Once you know your shoe size, it should be easy to find boots, right? Well, not always. While most manufacturers are fairly uniform when it comes to boot sizing, some come up with tighter or looser fits for a certain size. We recommend that you try out a boot before you buy it, or at least check the sizing advice from any online forums or comment sections. If a size comes in a little small or a little large, someone will mention it somewhere. Also, if you’re buying online especially, read up on the returns policy. Most places offer great returns policies, sometimes with free shipping too, on the condition that the apparel in question wasn’t used whilst riding.
As soon as you’ve worn an item out on a ride, most retailers will be reluctant to take them back. They won’t be able to guarantee that an item is still as protective as the moment they shipped it if it’s been worn out on a ride. This is understandable, so keep it in mind before you by!
Things To Consider When Sizing Your Motorcycle Boots
Boot buying can still be a pain even when you know what your shoe size is. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re buying boots to ensure that you’re really getting the best motorcycle boots for your needs.
Like with buying wet weather gear, sizing slightly larger could be in your best interests. With rain gear, it’s wise to buy a strategically oversized outfit that will fit better over the top of your regular riding gear. Your boots might need to be a little bit bigger to accommodate thicker socks that many of us wear when we’re out riding. This is particularly true in areas with a colder climate.
When your desired boots arrive, try them on with the rest of your gear and wear them. Don’t just try them on for a minute and call the job done. Really wear them for a good 10 minutes, whilst walking around the house. You can wear boots for a moment or two without any uncomfortable pinches developing, but after a good 15 minutes whilst walking around, and problems will begin to make themselves known.
During this “walking in trial period” pay close attention to the level of support that you’re getting in the ankle, heel, and calf region. If it’s too little or too much, try and play with the adjustments on the boot (if there are any). If the support and padding is in all the wrong places and there’s no adjustment available, you’ll want to send these back and buy a different pair.
Lastly, you’ll want to look at how easy it is to get your socked feet in and out of these boots. They should slide in and out without a fuss. If they don’t, you might want to consider a different shaped boot. Similarly, you should look at how easy the fastenings are to do up. If they have fiddly zippers, or awkward buckles, then another boot might be a better idea.
Keep these things in mind and you should be well on the way to finding the best boot for your needs!
Motorcycle Riding Boots FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How to buy motorcycle boots?
A: It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying leather motorcycle boots, heavy suede moto shoes, full on racing motorcycle boots, or adventure boots, the physical act of buying them is the same. You should find a pair that suits your style of riding and taste, ensure that they have all the relevant safety features that you need, and most importantly, they should fit correctly. Boots that don’t fit well will be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable boots can be an unwelcome distraction that takes your concentration away from the road, and you don’t want that.
Q: Where to buy motorcycle boots?
A: The best place to buy motorcycle boots are from legitimate motorcycle apparel vendors. These can be physical shops that stock other riding gear like full face helmets, top of the range racing suits, and motorcycle gloves, or dedicated online selling platform like Revzilla and Amazon. You should take care to search for these specific places because there are a lot of places that claim to sell motorcycle boots, but they’re only talking about fashion boots that mimic real motorcycle boots – and you don’t want those. If you’re looking at a pair of cheap motorcycle boots from a shop that doesn’t look like a motorcycle apparel specialist, then you’re probably not buying real motorcycle boots.
Q: Are cowboy boots good motorcycle boots?
A: No. While it might be tempting to throw on a pair of cowboy boots, they’re not going to be all that useful in a crash. Their leather nature may be abrasion resistant, but there’s just not enough protection in other places to make them real motorcycle boots. They don’t have adequate ankle support or ankle protection, and their soles aren’t grippy enough to handle the conditions. There’s no replacement for specially designed motorcycle boots, and while some other boots can work in a pinch, it’s not worth taking the risk.
Q: Can you wear steel toe boots on a motorcycle?
A: The value of steel toe caps has always been hotly debated. Some riders say that the extra steel on the toes helps to protect the foot in the event of a crash. Others insist that having the steel can actually cause more damage, even severing toes in a hard landing. That debate won’t settle down anytime soon. However, it is true that steel toe caps aren’t flexible, and they’re not well insulated either, which can be quite uncomfortable. It’s a matter of personal preference whether you want steel toe caps on or not, but always ask yourself: “what do the pros wear?” and the answer is: boots without steel toe caps. And professional attire should help to inform your decision making process.