Few pieces of motorcycle kit are as important to your riding safety as your footwear. At the same time, few pieces are as overlooked. You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve come across who drop thousands on the best helmet, jacket, and jeans, and then just run Adidas Sambas or Jordans — it’s wildly shortsighted.
Responsible for shifting gears and braking, your feet are the second most important point of contact with your bike, after your hands. On a basic level, your feet are also responsible for getting around and performing everyday tasks, so you absolutely shouldn’t skimp on what you slip onto your piggies if you enjoy your continued upright mobility.
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Finding the right boot can feel intimidating, given the breadth of what’s available. And the question routinely becomes: Which type of boot should I buy? Fortunately, what you have that I didn’t have when I started riding is The Drive. God, I’m old. We’ve built a guide on why you need motorcycle boots, what boots are available to you, how to choose the right boot, and a few other frequently asked questions.
So, stop your mindless scroll, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive into the world of motorcycle boots. I promise, it’ll all make sense by the end, and you’ll keep all your toes secure the next time you head out on your stead.
Why Do I Need Motorcycle Boots?
Motorcycle boots are a lot different in their construction than normal everyday boots. Kevlar is prevalent within the industry, as are abrasion-resistant fabrics, and sturdy leather. Moto footwear is also produced with armor, since in the event of an accident a normal shoe isn’t going to protect your ankle, feet, or calves.
Likewise, most normal shoes aren’t rated to be sent down a highway and its rugged tarmac at speed. If you accidentally put your foot down while riding with a normal shoe, you’re likely to burn a hole through the sole and your foot. Do you want to sandpaper your feet at 80 mph? I didn’t think so.
What Are the Different Types of Motorcycle Boots?
Given there are a lot of motorcycle-riding disciplines, there’s an equal number of boot styles. One for every occasion, as it were. To give you a better sense of what you’re looking at while scrolling online for your next set of kicks, we’ve broken down the different boot styles below. Check it out.
Motorcycle shoes are a more recent invention, as a lot of people didn’t like the styles of motorcycle boots of yesteryear. They wanted something with similar levels of protection, but more stylish and easily paired with their everyday clothes and riding gear.
These shoes still go over your ankle but have a more shoelike appearance. Their soles are far sturdier than your average shoe, as are the side panels, which can be made of leather, Kevlar, or other tear-resistant material.
Everyone wants to go out, right? You want to ride to the beach, take your significant other on a date, and ride home. What you don’t want to do is look like a dingus when you pull up to Smith & Wollensky in a set of ratty moto boots you’ve had since you were 17.
Motorcycle boot manufacturers now offer a whole range of boots that can be paired with nicer clothes and riding gear, so when you get off your motorcycle and enter the premises, you aren’t asked to leave or forcibly removed by security.
These boots offer mostly the same level of protection as standard motorcycle boots, but you’ll want to look at their specs and design before purchasing. Watch out for boots that prioritize looks over strength and security.
Sport boots are great for the average sport-bike, naked, or cruiser rider. These boots are designed for protection at speed but don’t extend to protect the calf. Those taller boots make walking around a pain after you dismount.
This type of boot goes over the ankle and often features laces, pull-ties, velcro ankle straps, and stiff, hard plastic around your heel and ankle for increased protection. Sport boots are often made of Kevlar and tend to be slightly pricier than other offerings.
Half-calf racing boots are what the pros wear whenever they step onto a MotoGP track. These pair with their full racing leathers and actually slide over their calves. This height of these boots is set to keep their ankles safe during a high-speed crash, which they often walk away from as if nothing happened.
These boots are sturdier and have thicker sidewalls running up from your ankle to the calf but are lightweight, strong AF, and still offer enough flexibility for quick shifts out of apexes. Racing boots are top spec and command top-spec pricing, though. They’re good for riders who regularly race or go canyon hunting where absolute safety is a necessity.
Adventure motorcycling (ADV) is one of life’s great pleasures. With a motorcycle beneath you, some knobby tires, and some solid boots, there’s no terrain you can’t conquer. The boots above, however, are woefully improper for this particular style of riding.
These boots are some of the sturdiest around. They’re made with stiff ankle and calf protection; multipoint latch systems to cinch the boot tight around your feet; tough heel, sole, and toe protection; and grips to handle off-road dirt and debris.
ADV boots range in price, but the durable, long-lasting models that’ll keep your feet and legs safe aren’t cheap.
Dirt-bike motorcycle boots look a lot like ADV boots. They’re of similar size, stature, and construction, but they feature harder plastic outer shells to keep your shins and feet safe from rooster tails of pea-sized gravel being shot out the back of a dirt bike at full tilt.
They feature the same type of latching that ADV boots have, including velcro and latches, along with increased padding around your shins. Dirt-bike boots tend to be a little more expensive than the comparative ADV boots, but you do get increased protection.
Motorcycle Boot Metal Sole: Flat Track
If you’ve ever watched AMA Pro Flat-Track racing, you may have noticed that the racers have dirt-bike boots with an additional metal skid plate on the sole. Placement for these metal soles are on the foot of the inside corner of the track, so if the track runs clockwise, it’ll be on the right boot.
This metal sole is to aid the rider sliding around the track and around the turns, reducing the threat of your boot catching dirt clumps and sending you flying or losing time. You’ll only need this sole attachment if you’re flat-track racing, something I recommend doing at least once in your life.
How Do I Buy the Right Motorcycle Boot?
The type of motorcycle boot you purchase will come down to a few factors:
- What type of motorcycle you ride
- Your riding style
- How much money you have to spend on your safety
For most riders, a standard motorcycle boot, whether that’s a shoe, style, or sport boot, will be the proper footwear for the occasion.
Hardcore riders — the folks who do track riding, serious off-road adventuring, or racing around dirt ovals on bikes without front brakes — will want to invest in a boot that works for specific riding. You will be spending more for those, but your ankles and feet will thank you when you’re old and gray and telling your grandchildren how much of a bad ass you used to be.
You’ll also want to get the size absolutely right. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of a boot that’s too loose or too tight when you’re trying to shift through a motorcycle’s gears, get the right footing while standing up during overlanding, or cramping up on an Iron Butt ride.
A boot should be snug. Not tight, not loose, just snug. It should curl around your feet and give you enough movement so that you can wiggle your toes but not too much so that the boot can shimmy while riding. The goal is to keep your foot and ankle pretty well locked in, but you don’t want pain after a ride.
The wrench in this variable is that sizing varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Luckily, each and every one has a sizing chart on its respective websites so that you can get your exact fit at home. Do the homework, and your boots will fit perfectly.
Lastly, keep cost in mind. Motorcycle boots range from a hundred or so dollars to many hundreds of dollars. Name brands like Alpinestars, O’Neal, Dainese, Icon, Rokker, TCX, Spidi, Fox Racing, Klim, and others tack on extra dollars. In my experience, they’re worth it.
I get it, we’re not all readers. Some need to see the product being handled to get it, so why not check out this video from us explaining the different types of motorcycle boot.
FAQs About Motorcycle Boots
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. Do I really need motorcycle boots?
A. Do you like your ankles and feet?
Q. They’re alright, I guess.
A. Yes, if you are riding a motorcycle, you need proper protection and gear, which includes motorcycle boots.
Q. Are all motorcycle boots equally safe?
A. Proper motorcycle boots offer increased safety compared to their more fashionable daily-use counterparts. That said, some have enhanced safety features that will further protect your feet and ankles in the event of an accident.
Q. Is there really a difference between ADV and dirt-bike boots?
A. There is. They aren’t the same disciplines, and as such they feature different types of armor and padding.
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