Gear: Alpinestars SMX-1 boots

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These Alpinestars SMX-1 boots promise to combine real protection and good riding feel and ergonomics with all-day, off-the-bike comfort and low key looks. The perfect compromise between a riding and casual boot?

Unlike some of the hardcore ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) folks around here, I am willing to concede that not every trip on a motorcycle requires the same amount of riding gear as your average deep sea diving expedition or lunar landing. At the same time, I still look down my nose at squids wearing next to nothing just as much as the next daily rider. I guess I follow MOTGATT (most of the gear, all the time).

As a daily rider with a fifty-mile commute, I’m always going to wear a top spec helmet, a decent jacket (with some level of back protection) and a good pair of long-gauntlet gloves. From there, it’s a bit more hit or miss.

I like to be able to ride to work without changing out once I get there, so I’m looking for riding gear that won’t violate the office/casual dress code. For me, that means riding jeans from Shift (RIP), Icon or Teknic and a good short street boot.

Some people are quick to dismiss riding jeans as one step above useless, but I ate shit on the freeway wearing Shift’s Torque jean and came away with bumps and bruises but no road rash. In fact, despite taking a Volvo to the right leg, the same pair of jeans remained in service for at least another year.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to open the jeans debate; I came to discuss some new footwear. The problem with full-length boots is that they aren’t exactly all day comfortable in an 80-degree office. But most short boots are either a) barely more protective than tennis shoes or b) look like a mix between a sci-fi military prop and a fetishistic hiking boot.

A short boot should do all the things expected of a full-length riding boot with a minimum amount of compromise. This includes a firm fit, a rigid sole, and as much armor as you can squeeze in. It needs to be more comfortable than a full boot, otherwise there isn’t much point. And finally, it needs to be subtle enough to wear around non-riding folks without starting another one of those conversations.

For me, the latest Alpinestars SMX-1 short boots fulfill the mission perfectly. They take most of their styling cues from Astars’ more conventional sport boots, including the reinforced heel cup, sole design and minimalistic toe sliders. Entry is via a single side zipper with a Velcro close. Adjustment is via an over-arch Velcro strap. Shoelaces are great and all, but I consider them in the same category as black and white television: functional, but long since superseded. This solution is faster while being just as adjustable and probably more secure.

Once in the boot, the fit is perfect. Not too narrow, but still with decent arch support. Of course, I’ll probably replace the insole with something more comfy before too long. Walking around is super natural, with none of the friction or resistance or squeaking found in a racing boot. The SMX-1 isn’t tennis shoe comfy, but is certainly all-day wearable. Finally, much of the boot’s upper shell is a mesh material that aids both airflow and flexibility.

On the bike, the SMX-1 is perfect. The extra flexibility feels great, and the toe box is super narrow to make reaching under the shift lever easy. The sole design grips both the pegs and the asphalt with authority. The airflow feels great on all but the coldest days. I haven’t tested the toe sliders yet, but hey, it’s been raining. And I feel that the boots offer a decent level of protection despite the low cut. Unlike casual shoes, they’ll stay on your feet in a crash.

The obvious downside is that, compared to a taller boot, you lack shin and Achilles protection in the SMX-1 boots. And there’s a lot less support protecting against extension and rotation injuries. But that’s the nature of compromise.

For $159.95, the SMX-1 is a great value compared to similar offerings. They fit well, offer decent protection for a short boot, and don’t look like part of a Power Rangers costume.

  • http://www.facebook.com/OMG.Awesome Clint Keener

    My friend cracked his ankle when he had a low speed highside wearing Sidi short boots.

    • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

      Short boots aren’t about ankle protection. Think of them more like non-gauntlet gloves, for your feet. They’re better than sneakers that’ll tear apart instantly, but not nearly as good as something that immobilizes your moving parts.

      • Robotribe

        So by that logic of being “better-than” but not best, I guess short boots are the open-face helmets or non-armored leather jackets of footwear.

        • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

          Exactly! They’re the kevlar riding jeans without shin-guards of shoes.

          • Greg Coombe

            They’re the birth control equivalent of the withdrawal method.

            • Robotribe

              Both of the above are great comparisons. I guess then that one better plan on crashing in a manner that doesn’t twist or crush your ankle, as well as one hopes to pull out just in time while in the throngs of passion. Good luck with that.

              • George Roberts

                Use Dane Cook’s “Push and Pray” method instead?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.jones.56481 Jordan Jones

      From my own personal experiences, all my lowsides usually end up pinning at least one ankle underneath the bike and the rest of my body twists in the opposite direction as I’m dragged along with the bike… so I’m apprehensive about short boots myself.

      • socalutilityrider

        I just had that exact thing happen for the first time on a motorcycle. Back is still sore from the twisting! Had Vendramini marathon steel boots on, which completely protected my pinned foot and ankle.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.jones.56481 Jordan Jones

          It happened to me last month on just a quick trip not far from my house. I’m fortunate that my Gaerne boots did their job protecting my foot and ankle because the bike and I skidded off the road, into the ditch and the rest of my body got tweaked pretty bad with all the twisting forces from the lowside.

          • socalutilityrider

            damn.

  • David Strakovsky

    I was very interested in getting these boots, or a similar short boot style, but a lot of people seem to be against the idea, mainly reason poor protection, and as Clint mentioned possible injuries involving the ankle. Still tempted to get this.

  • Bigeauz

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get the subtle distinction between this and power ranger. Less color I suppose, but they still look like something the space marines would wear. I wear my main riding jacket off the bike a lot, armor and all, because it’s comfy, warm, and looks like a regular jacket. I can find subued helmets, pants, and gloves, but this is as close as I can get for boots? I just don’t get it. Probably just me, though.

    • KevinB

      ^This. These would look exactly the same as my SMX-5′s tucked under a pair of pants.

      • Ben Wipperman

        Absolutely. They DO look exactly like my SMX-5s tucked under my jeans. All I see in comparison is compromised safety, a mild comfort increase, and “skinny jeans” approval.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.howard.9889 Michael Howard

      Most riding gear is automatically off my shopping list because of logos and other “advertising”. If I’m going to be a billboard for your company, give me a discount. Otherwise, tone it down.

      • Bigeauz

        Couldn’t agree more.

      • Emmet

        I don’t want to be seen as either a pirate or a power ranger. If anyone has any recommendations for denim pants/full length boots, let me know!

        I remember grabbing an early Icon Strongarm jacket right before they threw on so many badges and adverts you’d be mistaken for a waiter at Shenanigan’s.

        • Cockroach

          I really like my Kushitani jeans. No logos on the outside at all, pockets for knee armor and the company claims their “Zylon” weave is 5x stronger than kevlar. Haven’t yet tested that though.

          • Emmet

            at $195, these are right up my alley. thanks!

          • socalutilityrider

            Where did you order those? I keep trying off of their site and it doesn’t work. Been wearing Dainese jeans last 7 months, they’re great but a bit eurotrashy looking.

            • Cockroach

              I live in Los Angeles, so I actually picked them up from their Venice beach shop. If you can’t visit them in person, give em a call maybe? 1310-823-9111

              • socalutilityrider

                Thanks for the tip, I’ll call them and stop by on my next LA trip. Only two hours away since I’m in SD.

  • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

    Short boots are gloves for your feet. They don’t protect against torque injuries (destroyed ankles), but they’re much better than sneakers for abrasion protection. For highway speed riding I’d much rather wear a pair of full length boots and throw a change of shoes in the backpack/tailbag/saddlebag.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.zipprian Tommy Zipprian

    I still don’t get this hangup about a boot to wear at the office. Is it that hard to leave an extra pair of shoes at your desk?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Once you start dealing with a flexible workday — riding to meetings, going to lunch, just going places — riding gear your can wear off the bike starts making a ton of sense.

      • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.joshua.silverman Daniel Silverman

        My only vehicle is my motorcycle which means backpack everywhere with my gear – the more dual purpose it is, the more convenient it is for everyday use. If it wasn’t so damn hot here, I’d be wearing racing leathers all the time – I have multiple sets of gear that I have to switch out depending on weather.

    • George Roberts

      What Wes said. The cubicle farm doesn’t have a ton of space to store gear, either.

      I don’t own a car, so my entire life is on the bike. If it doesn’t fit in my Kriega backpack, it stays home.

      • Ben Wipperman

        Might be time to get a Kriega tailbag, as well!

  • http://twitter.com/adamarp Wandering Adam

    For bit more protection without sacrificing comfort, but leaving behind the Power Ranger look, check out the Vitesse Vulcan boot. Under jeans they look like bulkier Converse All-Stars and are very close to all day comfortable. I love mine!

    • http://twitter.com/VagrantCoyote VagrantCoyote

      Those are a lot more low key, minimal logos. I still have yet to find a pair of boots that I think would look completely acceptable with jeans though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stempere Sean Tempère

        With a pair of jeans, their Hunt model looks awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/KeyserBroze JB

    I like the looks of the F1 driving style shoes best for subtle riding shoes, granted you compromise some of the protection. Good examples are the Dainese bravo/charlie and the Astars fastbacks. These boots look great and offer the feel and protection of a low tech boot.

  • Telemachus_1

    Personally, I hate Alpinestars boots. And most MC boots. They are all ridiculously wide. I never have any problem with off the shelf shoes, so I know my feet are close to average. But with the exception of Dainese, every brand of boot I have gotten is ridiculously unstable due to the excessive width.

    • George Roberts

      Including Sidi? Every Sidi i’ve ever owned has been almost, but not quite, too narrow to wear.

      • Telemachus_1

        Never tried Sidi, though now I might!

        • Jay

          I have Sidi boots. They’re too wide.

    • socalutilityrider

      I have the same problem. Give Vendramini a shot, they’re great and not too narrow or boxy. I have two pairs.

  • Eric Desjardins

    Who’s VFR? And so they want to trade plastics? Mine have seen the pavement up close too many times…

  • Kerry Swartz

    They look like Air Jordan’s to me.

    • BigRooster69

      ..and only dorks still wear Air Jordan’s

  • OtisGerald

    Finding what this article is looking for has always been high on my list of holy grail riding gear items. I live in NYC and ride 4-5 times a week, usually to a friend/girl’s place, a bar, or to my shop. My style is such that I don’t mind wearing a pair of work boots out at night, so I rode in Doc Marten’s for the longest time when I was just bumming around town. These also fit the bill as a work boot when I was at my shop.

    After going down and having the bike land on my foot, I realized what I had always known deep down: I needed to be wearing proper riding boots all the time. What I ended up settling on was the Icon Super Duty 4 boots in dark brown. Despite being pretty substantial and having a rigid sole, they are all day comfortable, even walking around. They are a little chunkier in person than they appeared in photos, but as long as your style doesn’t include skinny jeans (Wes) they don’t look out of place. In fact, worn with my Carhartt double front, flannel lined work pants that have become my favored winter city pant, they fit in perfectly. They appear as though they would be as protective as the SMX-1′s without being quite so alien looking.

    • George Roberts

      I like the Super Duty series a lot, but the chunky sole makes shifting a bit of a chore for my size 13s. The latest Super Duty supposedly uses a smaller toebox, however. I’ll need to check them out asap.

  • taba

    I’ve the Alpinestars Miglia shoes and S-MX 2 half boots. Really like them both.

  • kentaro

    Can you tell me more about the off you had on the freeway with Shift Torque jeans? Glad you had no road rash… I have been wearing just regular jeans because I have a hard time getting the motivation to look like an astronaut every time (Revit Sand) I ride plus I hear kevlar jeans are useless.

  • Railroad

    I, personally, find the Icon Elsinore boots to be very comfortable and all day wearable, once broken in. Plus, I don’t feel they stand out much more than any pair of regular work boots……unless your jeans don’t happen to fit around them…