His and Hers: Boots made for walking

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Packing for our west coast Goldwing tour, we each opted to bring along an extra pair of shoes (which took up valuable space in the saddle bags). Would our new riding boots be comfortable enough to walk around in? How about hiking? Days when we weren’t really on the bike much? As it turns out, we could have saved the trouble and the space. Sean’s Icon Reign boots and my Alpinestars Stella Armada boots were the only shoes we wore for 10 days straight (and pretty much ever since).

Sean: Icon Reign boots
Icon designed these as waterproof boots. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but the waterproofing fails. Here’s why you should still buy them: Icon has actually made a $160 pair of comfortable everyday street riding boots that offer serious protection, yet blend in with normal clothing.

There isn’t much competition in this arena—serious protection that doesn’t look like a racing boot and can be worn more like an everyday shoe. One of the few other options to get you close to this look are the Dainese Axial Pro boots, but they come in at more than three times the cost. A certain Rogelio Ramos purchased $500 Axial Pro’s specifically because they would fit under jeans. Aerostich Combat Lite boots are another option, but have a much more utilitarian aesthetic at near double the cost. I’m happy to have gotten my hands on Icon’s version.

To start, these have amazing protection for a street boot. There is obvious ankle protection on the outside of your ankle and a hidden ankle protector inside. There’s also a steel shank that runs the length of the sole to prevent the boot from folding, a reinforced toe box and a large padded plastic plate that protects the shin. The fit is more like a race boot, so all this protection stays in place. Structurally the boots are very stiff, but the smart design allows for ankle movement. They don’t have a toe slider, but the sole is extended and beefed up on that side, so you can touch down on pavement quite a few times before it starts to wear. The shiftpad design is very functional (even if I think it may be the source of waterleaks).

But with all that protection, these boots are great for daily riding because they don’t fit like clunky moto boots. They fit like shoes are supposed to fit. I can even wear my skinny jeans over them. They’re really nice to travel with because they go on and off extremely easily with a zipper and velcro (real velcro, not hook and loop closure).

The biggest reason I’ve been wearing them everyday? The Reign boots are comfortable. Comfy enough to walk several miles, hike slick rock, wear all day long and happily put back on the next morning. My size 10.5 boots run true to size, which is to say slightly tighter than Alpinestars or Gaerne. Expect them to break in a bit over the first two weeks and pay close attention to the zipper the first few times you put them on.

I didn’t sugarcoat the fact that these boots aren’t waterproof. Water resistant? Sure. A half hour riding through light to medium drizzle is no big deal and you can expect dry socks. Try wearing them in what’s commonly called a toad-choker and you’ll be wringing your socks out and cursing the soul who put those giant “Waterproof” tags right inside. Waterproofing is a black art. The last similar boots I owned cost $9 more, looked like shit, fell apart much faster and needed a lot of silicone before they were anywhere close to water-tight. They also didn’t have the superb ankle and shin protection of the Reign boots (read: they had none), and never in a million years would they fit under my jeans.

Icon got enough right to make these boots well worth $160, and I’m going to see if a tube of silicone can’t fix the rest.

Icon Reign boots

Ashlee: Alpinestars Stella Armada
Some day long after we became best friends, Jessica told me that the first time she met me she really didn’t like me. In much the same way, I got to know the Stella Armadas. I’d been curious ever since a pair was given away during Alpinestars Lagniappe. These were pretty much the only non-racing ladies’ motorcycle boots I’d ever seen pictures of that weren’t heinously ugly. Now I finally had them in my hands, and I really wanted to like them more than I did. But the leather—a little too shiny. The protection—a lot too little. The branding—a little too much.

As a rider there’s one obvious thing you notice when you pick up these boots: there’s no armored ankle protection, rigidness to the sole or numerous other features that we should probably be expecting from boots to be seriously considered as honest-to-goodness protective gear. I think it’s safe to say there’s an industry wide disparity when it comes to the protective features found on most men’s gear versus most ladies’ gear. Gear for ladies is slimmed down, leaned out, and, quite frankly, less fully safety featured. True to that form, the Stella Armada boots offer protection in a few limited ways: the quality leather is clearly going to provide good abrasion resistance. And while the leather is soft and pliable, the large area the boot covers combined with a full length lacing system allows you to tweak compression and fit through the foot and all the way up the leg. A super snug yet comfortable lacing job gives structure that helps keep the ankle and foot from twisting in ways they shouldn’t. There’s also a small added cushion that covers the outside ankle bone, and the design of the boot places a thick amount of padding against the shin bone.

There is some protection, but as ladies’ boots that are being sold by a motorcycle gear company as motorcycle specific boots at $330, they should simply have more protection than they do. However, I can’t punish these boots for not being the mythical unicorn that doesn’t exist. I’ll be the first in line as soon as the fully armored, fashionable street boots for ladies’ come around. In the meantime, how about a practical option for local daily riding? And by that I mean boots that I can comfortably walk into a client meeting wearing, and not look like a lumberjack or a streetracer.

Sometimes I wear my trusty old cowboy boots. Or there are options like the Melissa Tall Lace Boot by Frye. Almost any quality leather boot, motospecific or not, is going to provide the basic abrasion and rigidity protection I describe above. Assuming they’re constructed from high end materials, most all of these options are also likely to hit at or over a $300 price point. So if the Armadas don’t have race-level protection, what won me over instead?

They are fashionable boots that really work on a motorbike
And when I say work, I mean these are smartly designed boots for actually riding. Hard soled boots are slippery and don’t grip pegs. Leather can be stiff and limit ankle movement. It gets even worse if you add in chunky heels, or any kind of significant notch before the heel. None of this is a problem with the Armadas. The textured rubber sole performs great, yet is low profile enough that it pretty much just looks like a black sole while you’re wearing them (it’s also replaceable by Alpinestars if it ever wears out). I wish there was a shiftpad on the left toe (more for looks than anything else) so I might add one, along with some quilted leather to cover the subtle Astars logo on the shin strap.

They are pretty damn durable
I couldn’t wait to scuff up the leather and make these things look worn in. Every time I sat on the asphalt for a parking lot picnic, hiked up or slid down a rock face, or tromped through spiny vines, I’d hopefully check for scuffs, scrapes and scratches. Nothing. These things are robust. I finally succeeded at scratching the leather pretty admirably on the inside of the right boot when I was attempting to kickstart the XR100 for a solid ten minutes (so if you don’t have an electric starter, beware). I was able to wear down the shiny-ness a bit, but this leather takes a lot to beat up. Impressive. I’m keeping an eye on the zipper; it’s my only reservation about their longevity.

They are the most comfortable shoes I own
From unbroken-in to ten straight days of wear, I was most won over by the comfort. These boots end up being stiff where it helps, but flexible where it’s needed. I can (and have) walked and hiked miles in them. The zipper also means quick on and off and a set-it-and-forget it situation for the laces. When you’re gearing up and down all the time, this is a life saver. These are great boots for touring.

They are 100% waterproof
Lastly, the waterproof liner is magical. Where Sean’s boots faltered, these excelled. I emerged from the aforementioned toad-choker with socks as dry as could be.

I still wear my (men’s) SMX+ boots in the canyons, but I wear the Armadas almost every day (even when I’m not on a bike). Yes, as a whole, ladies’ protective gear needs more robust protective features. But while we’re all seeking the holy grail of motorcycle gear, I’ll happily settle for these with their top grain leather, amazingly comfortable fit and great riding performance. The Stella Armada boot is not necessarily any safer than any other $300 leather boot, but its design features make it much more functional when it comes to riding.

Alpinestars Stella Armada boots

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  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

    I have two pairs of older SIDI motorcycle boots that look like street shoes underneath my pants but offer hard plastic protection around the ankles as well as good coverage everywhere. One of them has a Gore-Tex lining with a folding “bellows” behind the zipper, and it’s remained waterproof even with water streaming heavily onto it for hours at a time.

    • Sean Smith

      Ha, the referenced Aerostich Combat Lites are made by Sidi. Are you talking about the Laguna Gore-Tex or the Street boots? I see where you’re coming from, but try on the Reign boots if you get a chance. The way they fit, specifically near the bottom of the ankle and top of the foot, is completely different from any other touring boot I’ve worn. The armor feels like serious race boot armor, not flimsy second rate stuff that usually goes in black rain boots. The way it’s held in place by that trick fit means your ankles are very well protected from hyper-flexion too.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        They’re not the Laguna or the Street. They’re back at home, so I can’t get the model names off them. (Does SIDI even print the model name on their products?) But both sets are about 7 years old or more.

        The Gore-Tex pair kinda looks like the SIDI Fusion Rain Boot, except all black (even the logos).

  • GoFasterPB

    Just bought a pair of the Armada’s for my lady two weeks ago as a x-mas/anniversary/these look cool present.

    Thanks for giving me hope she’ll actually like ‘em.

  • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

    I’ve got the Reign’s too and can pretty much echo everything said above. I got caught in a pretty good downpour/snow storm last week and my feet were soaked when I got home. They’ve kept my feet nice and dry the few times I’ve gotten stuck in normal rain. Definitely worth the asking price. I wear boot cut jeans and I like they fact they look like fairly normal and are super comfy to walk around in. I may even be a good boy and actually wear them instead of Van’s once summer comes back.

  • daniel

    Anyone have experience with Vitesse Boots? They look digestible and space age, I could pull it off. My Red wings are getting tired from the daily grind.

    • Sean Smith

      That space age part is the reason I don’t have a pair. I’ve handled them in person and they felt and looked more plastic than the look in the pictures. That’s not to say that they’re bad or ugly though, just not something I want to wear everyday.

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      I got a pair of Hunt as soon as they were available and have worn them everyday since.
      Here’s what they look like after a year and a half and something around 10k miles (sun, rain, snow) on them.
      Water-resistant and all day comfy. Forget about hiking though.

      • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

        Your photo makes me want them even more.

  • Glenngineer

    Reign’s don’t come in 14:G

    Almost nothing does – I think my next pair of boots (to replace the CHEAP but aging and wearing Fox boots I wear) will be Combats. As ugly and old manish as they are, they make them in 14.

    I’m 25, and my feet are still growing. Sucks.

    • Sean Smith

      Outdoors enthusiastish? Sure. Zombie apocalypseish? Definitely. Old manish? Come on man. Make the choice to be awesome.

      • Michael

        Hooooooooohhaaaa!

  • Kevin

    I’ve been pleased with the look and feel of my Dainese Nighthawks to date, though I haven’t tried them out in a toad-choker yet.

    On my last tour in the Sierras, one of our group waded right out up to his calves in Alpine Lake to demonstrate the watertightness of his boots (don’t know the brand). Nothing got through. That’s a bold thing to do in 50 degree weather.

  • Zach

    I’m surprised you didn’t compare the Reign to the Dainese TRQ-Tour , which are still north of $300/pair, but subtle and all day comfortable. I can’t say I’ve tried to test their waterproofness too much, but they do use Gore-tex (take that as you will).

  • ike6116

    Alpinestars Harlem WP boot, featured on this very site.

    I bought them because of it. WP, look decent under jeans.

  • Campisi

    Sometimes I wear my trusty old cowboy boots.

    I wear my Justin Work Boot cowboy boots whenever I ride. They’re not motorcycle boots, but they’re all I have that’s even close. Wool socks and plastic produce bags keep the warmth in and the water out, though.

    • Beale

      KLR?

      • Campisi

        CBR.

  • David Phillips

    I just ordered the Reigns two days ago, sorry to hear they’re not waterproof as that was one of the main reasons I got them. I was excited too because they had both the style and the function. Now I guess not so much of the function part. Bummer.

    • Sean Smith

      If you’re not as hardcore as I am, they’ll probably work just fine. I never had any trouble on our trip to Portland.

      Our ride up the 605 was a little on the insane side. We rode a Bonneville through standing water that must have been 3 inches deep and got sprayed with it too. And I wasn’t going slow either. Water has a hard time beading up a rolling off my shield at anything less than 80mph. The extra rotational inertia that comes from fast spinning wheels at that speed adds valuable stability for when you hit standing water. We rode something like 48 miles in that weather, at a very high rate of speed. I knew in advance just how shitty the weather would be and the only reason we went out is because we needed to test waterproofness.

      Most importantly, there are very few products that are actually waterproof. Wear them in the rain and see what happens. They may work just fine. If not, find the point of entry and seal them up with silicone. After a few rounds of this, you’re boots will actually be waterproof.

    • FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

      Dainese Nighthawks are similarly styled and totally waterproof so far.

  • Gene

    With the way my feet sweat, I can’t wear waterproof boots. By the end of the day, I’d be sloshing around in a bucket of warm spit, and the next morning the inside would be fuzzy and green. One time at bike week, I had to take my boots off and wring my socks out.

    I found boots that are ventilated like race leathers and I just watch the weather radar and wear the Tourmaster slipcovers when necessary (or when it’s cold). It’s the only way I don’t end up with orange socks at the end of the day.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      This is the grossest thing I’ve read a day. Also, check out seal socks.

      • Gene

        Yeah, I’ve tried those. I got it from my dad, he’s got the same problems. It’s pretty damn horrid and I wish I could amputate the damn things.

        But at least you know why I shudder when someone goes “waterproof boots”

  • Myles

    You’d have to be a Blackwater Wannabe/Military Channel nerd to have those Icon boots “blend in with normal clothing”.

    Anyone else wish Nike/Jordan made boots? Especially with the whole zook team sponsorship and all? I ride in Jordan 1s and IVs all the time, and would kill for some protective-ized versions.

    • Archer

      Those of us who are Blackwater/Gunsite/Thunder Ranch “actually are’s” wouldn’t wear those either.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    If I didn’t just get a great deal (like, almost free) on some Teknic waterproof boots, I’d be all over those Reigns.

    Those A* look the part.

  • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

    I can’t believe you still wear skinny jeans. Just docking around trying to get the boots under the pant leg would be enough for me to go to Marshals and buy the first pair of cheap regular cut jeans by whatever brand. Honestly, the great thing about denim is it’s comfort and durability. Why would you want to wear ‘stockings’ made of denim? Your ‘boys’ need room to breath just like your feet do.

    • Nick

      Why? Because you meet more chicks shopping in the women’s section.

      I need a new pair of boots. My old A* SMX5′s have seen their day, but still continue to be pretty damn waterproof. I guess I’ll keep searching…

    • Sean Smith

      When I say skinny jeans, this is what I mean. You’ve got me confused with an emo kid that wears jeggings and shops at Hot Topic. Jeggings are not jeans and skinny jeans are simply jeans that fit skinny people.

      • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

        I am just going off pics. Did you mention skinny jeans? I should reread the article. I swear on my life that even my 16 year old niece makes fun of guys in skinny jeans.
        BUT, wearing Dickies for Dickies sake (part of our uniform at work or I’d never own em), carrying a 70′s style trucker wallet or Nam style super wide leather watch band to fit the OC punk look or wearing 3 popped collar polo shirts are just as stupid to me.
        Levi 505′s or Carpenter jeans were what ‘jeans’ meant as far as style for the first 20 years of my life until 501′s made a comeback for some stupid reason…. most likely due to that horrid 90210 show. (shrink to fit…. WHY?! Why would I want my balls crushed?). And all of them were stiff as boards for the first 30 washes. Then came acid wash….. and loose fit…. and baggy fit….. and pre sliced up….. and on and on until some 95 pound kid made skinny jeans cool and some lazy working stiff’s kid stole a pair of dad’s Dickies.
        I’ll admit, there are worse things to wear, but the ‘cafe/hippster’ look of the past 5 or so years is just as old as the HD pirate look that get mocked on here.
        Why do I keep sounding like Thom? Somebody shoot me. Just don’t bury me in my Dickies.

  • Mike

    Daytona urban GTX. They look like traditional engineer boots and really are waterproof. A little pricey at 300ish but what do you expect for a nice boot from zee Germans

  • R13

    Thought about it and ordered the Dainese Nighthawks instead. The goretex is guaranteed waterproof for life. should fit under my “skinny jeans” as well.

  • Tom Gabriele

    Anyone have fitting info on the Icon Reign boots? I wear a size 10 Nike running shoe and ordered a size 10 Reign boot, but it feels almost a size too big and the ankle protectors really cut into the bone. Should I go with a size down, or go for a different boot altogether?