Boots you can wear on and off the bike

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Back to that eternal conundrum: how do we look good while we ride bikes? The vast majority of real riding gear is pretty good at keeping you safe, but was designed for Teletubbies, not 18-34 year old people that live in cities. The streetwear worn by our non-riding peers won’t protect us in a crash. Enter these boots: the Dainese Anfibio Cafe and Corcoran Jump Boot.

What you need out of protective footwear
Your feet are made up of 26 delicate little bones. Break one and you can’t walk so hot any more. Bust your ankle and you’re looking at seriously limited mobility for a decent period of time. So you want to protect them. How?

Any old boot will do, right? I mean they are, by their very definition, tough. Right? Right? Here’s a little test for you: go grab any item of footwear by the heel in one hand, toe in the other and twist it as hard as you can. Now imagine your foot inside there. That’s what’s going to happen in a crash. Scary, right?

To prevent that, you want strong soles, often ones reinforced with a steel shank. You also want solid, retentive heel and toe boxes. Just to make things confusing, you probably don’t want a steel toe, crash forces can make them guillotine your toes.

You also want some impact protection to, well, protect against impacts and you want that around your toes, heel and ankles, if not elsewhere too.

And because most bikes weigh 400lbs+ and you have to support that weight on uneven, broken surfaces (before you add luggage and a girl and your own beer belly), you want good ankle support. That’s also a good idea during all that crashing stuff.

So yeah, your typical pair of girlie work boots or hiking boots isn’t going to pass muster. You’re a smart guy and you wear real racing boots when you ride fast or real dirt bike boots when you go off-road, but you also have a life outside of bikes and need something to wear when you’re just going to work or dinner or whatever. Enter boots like these.

Dainese Anfibio Cafe
At first glance, these appear to be fairly basic. Just a nice-looking boot with some shift guards and round ankle protectors. Then you put them on. Or, more accurately try to.

Getting your feet into the Daineses is genuinely difficult, even with the laces fully undone. It’s clearing that lip under the tongue that does that.

That’s no criticism thought. Being hard to put on, means they’re also hard to take off. That’s a good thing because these seriously hold your feet and ankles in place. Sized right, they are absolutely not flying off in a crash.

Lace them up and suddenly you feel more like you’re wearing a pair of race boots than nice-looking set of footwear. Your feet and ankles are totally locked in, the degree of ankle flex is limited and those round plastic discs hug your ankles securely.

Those discs are literally just slices of plastic, with no real ability to absorb impact forces, but feel safer than they look and should redirect those forces away from your ankles. It’s a decent solution given that the boots remain slim and easy to wear under even skinny jeans.

The motorcycle riding focus of the Anfibio Cafes is also evident in the soles, which are thick and soft. So soft that I wouldn’t want to bet on them lasting a long time if you’re walking distance in them every day, but the return on that is seriously good grip on footpegs and pavement, even in the wet. The tread on the bottoms is not very deep at all, again working great on the bike, but providing limited traction while walking up a dry dirt hill or similar.

These are serious motorcycle boots that will protect your feet and ankles in a crash that just happen to look stylish. And that makes the Dainese Anfibio Cafes serious winners in our book.

Corcoran Jump Boots
As you can see, I’ve had these for a while. These are what I was wearing when I crashed in the fall, busting my ass, tailbone, ribs, arm and knee. But not my feet or ankles.

Vietnam-era boots designed for paratroops, the Jump Boot is reinforced with a steel shank in the sole and strong heel and toe boxes made of multiple layers of leather. Internal canvas webbing provides additional ankle support, but there’s no impact protection there. The 10-inch upper laces super tight, locking them to your feet and further supporting your ankles.

The rubber soles are smooth and hard. Good for making them last, not so great for gripping pegs or being quiet when you walk. You can hear me coming from a hundred yards away when I wear these.

At $120 to $150 (depending on size), they’re about $100 cheaper than the Daineses, but don’t offer the same impact protection or on-bike comfort and feel. These have actually created calloused ridges on the front of my ankles from pinching when I have to contort my 34-inch long legs onto a sportsbike.

But, they are a little more normal to walk to do normal things in. I can even dance in these. Go ahead and make fun of that, I’m taking one on the chin for purposes of a thorough review.

Because my feet are pretty big, an ex-girlfriend thought they looked like clown shoes, but they’re pretty on-trend with the whole workwear thing and you’ll find many more expensive options imitating their look. Make no mistake though: the Corcoran Jump Boot are the original and the toughest.

  • Lance LeFort

    I’ve had a pair of Canadian infantry boots for a few years now. They look a bit like the Corcorans. The military call them “stormtrooper” boots. The best part is they are leather outside with Goretex on the inside. After 3 years it’s time for a new pair but they did well on and offroad in all weather.

  • Frank Emmanuel DeBros

    Corcorans date back farther than Vietnam. The 101st was wearing them when they jumped into Normandy. I believe they were brown back then, though.
    There are versions that have lug soles (they are called the “Field Boot” instead of the “Jump Boot”).
    You can also still buy the brown version, which in my opinion gives a more casual, less military “tacti-cool” impression, and there’s a “tanker” version with a wrap-around leather strap instead of laces (not particularly comfortable, but might also have a slightly less military flair to those who don’t know what they mean).

  • Shaun

    “These (Corcorans) have actually created calloused ridges on the front of my ankles from pinching when I have to contort my 34-inch long legs onto a sportsbike.”
    The trick to avoid this is to skip one row when you lace them up. I.e. Cross lace normally until you get to the fifth eyelet (counting from the bottom) and then run the lace straight up from the fifth to the sixth eyelet, and then resume cross lacing. This provides enough extra “give” to avoid the problem.
    Or at least it did when sadistic sergeants made us run vast distances in ‘em.

    • Wes Siler

      Well that sounds obvious. I’ll give it a try.

      • Damo Von Maciel

        I have been riding a pair Corcorans 8 years now. They have held up great (they even survived two high speed crashes) and I still use them for foul weather boots.

        Even better than the standard jump boot pictured above is the side zipper access model they make of the same boot. They offer all the protection, but without the 15 minutes lace up procedure. They also take a shine from some Kiwi black real well and last forever. You should check them out.

        • Scott Jones

          ^ This.
          I wore Corcorans when I was in the Navy, but never thought about them for the bike. If they can survive being trashed on an Aircraft carrier for four years I’m sure they’ll do fine for street wear.

  • josh

    I used to wear corcoran tanker boots before giving up on the idea of a shoe working all the time and instead wear a* sms+ boots on the bike and new balance mx20 trainers off the bike. They pack almost as flat as sandles.

  • contender

    I was missing these kinds of articles.

    • TP

      Scrolled down to post this

  • NoneMoreBlack

    I wear all leather Altamas, they are a current provider of combat boots to the US military. Obviously not a true “motorcycle boot,” but when laced properly they prevent a great deal of lateral motion of my ankle, they have heavy reinforcement in the heel and toe, rigid soles, and have an internally sewn tongue so when properly oiled are totally waterpoof even if you step in a puddle up to the top of the boot. They are basically invisible under jeans, and I have been wearing them on and off the bike for maybe 8 years now with no visible wear.

    • Grant Howe

      Same here. I love the Altamas.

  • Marie Delgado

    These companies need to make women’s sizes.

    • stever

      corcoran does. check their webpage.

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ladies’ Dianese gear in the store, too.

    • Wes Siler

      These Daineses ARE available in women’s sizes.

      • Luke Mazza

        I see no signs anywhere that these are offered in women’s sizes. Can you point me in the right direction?

    • Ron Hendon

      Corcorans are unisex they are sized as mens get two sizes smaller than the mens size and that would be equivalent in women’s example : if you wear a women’s size 8 get a size 6 in a mens boot you most likely want to get the narrow width

  • Gregg

    it’s like you read my mind…I’ve been searching for boots that work both on and off the bike

  • Chris Owen

    And you can probably find Corcorans second-hand at Army surplus stores.

  • markbvt

    Another great choice is the Corcoran (formerly Matterhorn) model 102494, or the slightly more basic 1949 (difference is that the 102494 has a nonmetallic safety toe, which is actually useful protection in a crash and, unlike a steel toe, doesn’t endanger your toes).

    I’ve been wearing these boots as my standard daily footwear for well over a decade now, both on (for commuting) and off the bike; I think I’m currently on my fifth pair. Awesome boots, super comfy with basically no break-in required. I destroyed my last pair a year and a half ago when I got broadsided by an SUV while riding home from work; I think my foot got trapped under the bike as it slid, because the boot was covered with scuffs, and the thick leather was abraded through on the side down to the safety toe. My feet/ankles were totally free of injury (my femur wasn’t, though…). My current pair has many miles of commuting on them this past year, and I also tend to wear them when getting out for cold-weather rides because they’re warmer than my Sidis. Really great boots — I got seriously worried when I could no longer find them in the Matterhorn section of the manufacturer’s website, until I realized they’d been switched to the Corcoran section. I’ll definitely buy another pair once I wear out the current ones.

  • orthorim

    I can dance in anything, given enough alcohol….

  • Porter

    I had a pair of those Corcorans when I was active duty Air Force. Comfy, but you look like Ronald McDonald.

  • JB

    Danner RAT boots make really good on and off bike boots if you don’t mind the desert look. They’ve got reinforced toes with some sort of plastic coated leather on them so they hold up well, plus they are relatively flat so you don’t have to struggle to get a toe under the shifter. Only downside is their price (american made Danners are very expensive, but no other boot compares).

  • Daniel Hammerberg

    I know this sounds critical, but “Know imaging your foot inside there.” should probably be fixed.

    As a former member of the armed services, we used to love those jump boots. They looked awesome with the uniform and they shined up to a nice mirror finish.

    • Wes Siler

      Thanks. I think there was something in my water yesterday.

  • Damo Von Maciel

    The Corcoran 10″ jump boot is also available with a side zipper (as I noted below). Makes life alot easier:

  • thumpthump

    Check out Stylmartin too. Have a pair of the Stone lace-ups that are comfy, protective and waterproof. The Indians look good too.

  • Hugh Simons

    Ah Wes, I think you should start a spin-off blog *only* about motorcycle fashions.

  • Scott Jameson

    “… don’t want a steel toe, crash forces can make them guillotine your toes.”

    Not according to Mythbusters:
    “Steel-toe boots are more dangerous to your toes than normal boots when a heavy weight is dropped on them. Whereas a normal boot would just crush your toes, a steel toe would curl and crumple in, cutting your toes off.
    Using similar tests to those used to test steel toe boot certification, Adam and Jamie determine that your toes are much safer with steel toe boots than without. There was no toe-cutting curling of the steel toe, and even using a blade attachment didn’t work, only glancing off the steel toe to cut right above where it ended.”

    • Wes Siler

      Well, lesson learned.

      • Tom Witoshynsky

        I wear a pair of steel toe Timberlands sometimes. They are comfortable but suck for shifting. The toe is too big for when you’re moving quickly.

        • Scott Jameson

          And, steel is not effective thermal insulation.

          • Tom Witoshynsky

            Mine are insulated.

    • Ron Hendon

      Isn’t that what he just said ???

  • Marc Fenigstein

    The side zipper and lug sole are your friends:

    Haven’t tried ‘em myself, but doesn’t take a genius to know they’re better than the Frye harness boots I still use sometimes, and I’d bet better than the Alpinestars S-MX I no longer bother with.

  • nwdothage

    I have been wearing Corcoran boots for probably ten years as both my primary footwear and as my motorcycling boot. Two years ago, I had a get off at the track and the only damage to my body was to my left foot. The impact tore the sole off of the boot and I broke several foot bones including my pinky toe. Granted, I still love these boots and wear them daily to commute in but I would not advocate them in place of real protection on the track.

  • Jonathan Berndt

    anyone who rides and wears stuff to look good is in for a rude awakening if things go bad. nothing is gauranteed to save you but why would you not want to were gear that was designed to protect you, timberlands, jump boots, harness boots, really? id much rather have the protection of a race boot, i can look good off the bike.

  • jackbyo

    Just thought it’s worth mentioning, the side zip jump boots don’t have any ankle support, at least according to an email someone from corcoran sent me.
    The zip interferes with the wrap-around placement of the ankle webbing.

    The field boots (1525). They DO have ankle support, as well as a lug sole. No zip, but they do have speed lace eyelets which are pretty quick.

  • justink

    Add Aerostich Combat Lites to the list. Low key with full protection. Semi-comfortable to walk in when they break in. Have crash tested more times than I’d like to admit, including once when a minivan sideswiped me driving the brake peg clear through the boot missing my foot by literally a hair.. my foot was fine. Several girlfriends, including a fashion stylist, have complimented them. Oh yeah, they last forever.. going on 4 years of almost daily commuting & work duty for me.