If you start watching motorcyclists carefully, you’ll notice that the variety of footwear worn while riding motorcycles varies, a lot. From flip-flops and slippers, to tennis shoes and work boots, and everything else in between, an sturdy set of riding boots and/or shoes is a wise investment.
Motorcycle footwear is specially designed to meet the needs of the rider. Reinforced shift pads, ankle and shin protection, durable outer soles, abrasion resistant materials, and in more premium examples there’s toe sliders, waterproofing, replaceable bits and pieces. You’ll be happy you made the investment.
Where to Start
The best place to start is with an assessment of the type of riding you’ll be doing. There are boots designed specifically for racing or off-road riding, there’s all-purpose boots built to handle a variety of conditions, there are shoes that are casual in style as any pair of off-bike shoes you’d find at Foot Locker.
You might want to decide whether you want a full-length boot, something three-quarter length or something more casual. Full length boots offer the greatest amount of protection, with many options providing shin guards in addition to features designed to defend the rest of the foot. Three-quarter options will lack shin protection, but many have similar degrees of protection available for the rest of the foot that full-length boots provide. Riding shoes are casual and provide the least amount of protection, but will likely be more comfortable off the bike than selections in other categories.
This is another factor to take into account. Will you be living in the shoes and walking around in them all-day? Full-length boots might be stiff and not the most comfortable to walk in for extended periods. For track riders or off-road enthusiasts, it may be part of the program to bring along a separate pair of shoes to wear when away from the bike. If you’re commuting and have limited storage space, a more versatile product that can transition from the bike to the office may be the more desirable option.
Full length boots span a variety of riding styles, with footwear available for sport, cruiser, touring and off road riders. When you get to extreme ends of boots designed for specific ride styles, you’ll find numerous features specific to the demands of that type of riding.
For sport riders the Sidi Mag-1 Air Motorcycle Boots have a host of bolt-on parts like toe sliders, heel protectors and shin pads that have a tendency to wear down in racing conditions and need to be replaced from time to time. The Mag-1 has reinforcements in high impact areas and an internal bracing system to keep the foot and ankle protected as best as possible in the event of a high-speed off. Boots like the Mag-1 and others like it are specifically tailored to meet the needs of riders on track, in racing situations.
Boots like the Mag-1s can certainly be used on the road, but track-designed boots like these are often on the higher end of the price scale and can be fairly uncomfortable or impractical off the bike.
For the rider that wants a relaxed, more work boot-like look there are products like the Tourmaster Coaster WP Motorcycle Boots. In terms of styling, the Coaster WP resembles a standard pair of boots and can easily transition off the bike. They also feature motorcycle-specific elements like thermoplastic heel and toe cups, side entrance zippers in addition to the lacing system and nylon ankle guards.
If you expect to encounter a variety of weather on the road and want something that’s on/off bike versatile, there’s choices like the Alpinestars Super Touring Gore-Tex Boots. There are a number of protective features along with Gore-Tex lining to help keep your feet dry and warm if you ever find yourself in a downpour.
For the benefit of ankle protection without the restrictive confinement of a full-length boot, many riders will choose a three-quarter length setup. These come in a variety of styles, with choices that range from race-boot derived selections down to boots that would suit a business casual atmosphere and everywhere in between.
The REV’IT! Bleeker Leather Boots strike a balance between casual design and the work-boot style. There’s reflective material on the heel and reinforcement at the heel and ankle with gear shift pads and slip resistant soles. A side zipper enclosure and buckle keep the boots tight and secure. Many options will have laces, and in most cases these work well, but keep in mind that laces that have come undone have the potential to get caught in the moving bits near your foot.
ICON 1000 El Bajo Motorcycle Boots
ICON 1000 El Bajo Motorcycle Boots available at JakeWilson.com $190.
Riding shoes can look like boots, sneakers, Chuck Taylors, loafers. There’s definitely a diversity of style in this category, but protection is limited compared to three-quarter and full length options.
Some, including the Icon 1000 El Bajo Motorcycle Boots are sturdy and well suited for on bike demands, while others like the TCX X-Groove Boots are basically casual shoes built with abrasion resistant material and some additional reinforcement in the heel, toe and ankle.
Remember that your left foot will be moving on the peg to cycle you through the gears, so you want to be comfortable getting your toe underneath the lever. Take the outer sole into consideration as well. You’ll want something with adequate grip, since these boots are going to be keeping you planted at a standstill. You don’t want to be sliding around and struggling to keep the bike upright due to inadequate grip. Know, too, that many motorcycle boots, regardless of style, will be fairly stiff at first. Time and wear will break most boots in, and they’re likely to get more comfortable as they’re used.
Sizing is straightforward, just start with your regular shoe size and go from there. Sometimes half sizes won’t be available, so you might need to decide whether to go bigger or smaller depending on your foot, or personal preference. Always check the manufacturer’s specific sizing recommendations. Make sure to find a fit you’re happy with because, as with all motorcycle gear, you want to wear it without discomfort, so all focus can be given to the road ahead.