Ask RideApart: Let’s Talk Motorcycle Boots

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We’re turning our reader’s questions over to RideApart readers. This week: motorcycle boots. How much protection do you really need? Which boots work on which bikes? What boots represent the best value?

The question comes from longtime reader and commenter Mark D, who writes: “After 3 years, one cross country ride, and 20,000 miles, I believe I’ve finally worn out my Puma Bonneville boots. A featurette on boot-buying would be much appreciated! How much protection is necessary for general touring and commuting? Are waterproof boots essential, or just lead to sweaty feet and stinky boots? Are off-road boots too clunky for a sports-bike? Are there any boots that you’ve found meet the same ratio of high quality to low price as the Icon Airmada (which is a great buy)?

We get a lot of questions here at RideApart. By Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and email. And, while we do a pretty good job of responding to all of them, we figure there’s a greater good that can be achieved by creating a public discussion. So, once a week or so, we’ll collate and publish them and turn it over to our fantastic community for responses. The editors will respond too, right here, where you can all see it. Have a question for us? Email

info@rideapart.com
with “Ask RideApart” in the subject. Try to keep questions relevant and interesting and on topic.

  • http://jeffersonsnewspaper.org/ E. Bell

    I’ve always worn “fashion” boots or Chuck Taylors (usually the latter) while riding, but I’m
    interested to hear what everyone thinks about “technical sneakers” [1]
    which offer some – probably minimal – protection, while still looking like normal shoes. Some of them look pretty cool but do they provide $150-200 worth of protective/functional value?

    [1] Example: http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/dainese-technical-sneaker

    • Rob

      I second this, I have been looking at the TCX X-street, and in person they were quite stiff. I would love to be in a proper boot all the time, but it’s not in the cards. My fear is that they really won’t do much good if I come off at 80.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Quick boot safety test: grab the heel in one hand, toe in the other and twist as hard as you can. Look at the result, that’s what’s going to happen to the boot in a crash. Do you want to have your foot in there when it happens?

        • Rob

          I read that in your article a while ago. I looked closely at getting the jump boots, but I found them miserable when I tried them on, and I am not sure how well they go with my style. I did the twist test to the TCX X-street and was very impressed. Reinforced heal and toe box, steal shank, and waterproof. I am honest with myself, and I know if I come off it’s more likely going to be at a higher speed than a slower one. I am not sure how much additional protection I would be getting from a race boot. I plan on buying all of this gear within a 2 year period, I just need to prioritize the timing.

    • Matt Mason

      yea the TCX looks like chuck taylors, I was thinking of getting a pair.
      I have a pair of shift fuel shoes and they’re “comfy” but not comfy enough to justify the little protection they offer. Better than my addidas sambas though

    • Tyler H

      I own the Technical Sneakers. They look like casual shoes, but unfortunately, they don’t offer much more protection. The ankle bits have some abrasion resistant plastic, but there is no stiffness to them at all. This means that they will twist and crush with little-to-no resistance. If I were you, I’d step up to their dyno shoe – I got the misses those after I had my technical sneakers for a while.

    • jonoabq

      Fashion footwear is mostly useless for keeping your feet and ankles protected. Easy to walk around in but thats not why we wear ~ $300-$400 boots. I want to be able to walk around for many years after a crash (without a limp or a prosthetic).

    • appliance5000

      Tcx just came out with a higher version that I mentioned in a previous post . This helps answer some of my concerns about sneaker style boots. I guess I’d also ask if the materials used have abrasion resistance and how much that factors into boot safety.

    • worker88

      I have the TCX X-Street WP. Love them. I went from wearing Vans and similar style shoes as my usual choice, never again. The construction of the TCX is great, the looks are deceiving. They aren’t a sneaker trying to be a boot but a boot that looks like a sneaker.

      Don’t expect to show up to a track day in them, but they do provide great support, traction and while not complete, there is decent protection. The waterproofing works great as well. Search for videos and read the reviews on the retailers.

  • Matt Mason

    I like my Icon Reign waterproof boots. They feel very solid and are comfy enough to wear around walking. I feel protected, it has a moisture wicking lining, and they don’t give you a power ranger feeling that some other boots do. I haven’t crash tested them, but Sean already did http://rideapart.com/2012/02/this-is-the-city-gear-that-saved-my-life/

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      love the boots, but that zipper will be my undoing.

  • Clint Keener

    My friend cracked his ankle when he crashed in his neighborhood at low speed, while wearing sidi low boots / riding shoes.

  • KeithB

    I recently purchased a pair of Alpenstar SMX plus (water proof) boots to replace my 8 year old Alpenstar touring boots.

    More protection and still quite comfortable.

    However, not for hipsters that want to look cool at the price of protection.

    • Joe Bielski

      What? My Chuck Taylors won’t offer adequate protection in the event of a crash??

      • E Brown

        A buddy of mine low-sided and his shift lever poked thru his Chuckie Ts to scrape his foot and it was amazing how surprised he was that it happened! I mean, when you can’t count on canvas, what CAN you count on? ;)

  • Stuki

    In SF and LA; Waterproof boots are waaaay beyond an utter waste. Ditto for waterproof/breathable, which in reality means only one of the two, plus equal heapings of clammy, expensive and fragile. In general, human skin does a reasonable job of being waterproof, so getting your skin wet, isn’t really some kind of problem.

    Now, getting your insulating layers wet, when it is cold; that can be a real serious problem. But as far as MCs go, I’ll leave that to people with more experience riding in cold places. In Cali, I’d suggest a “summer” boot that breathes, with enough space for a wool sock or two, for those days when “the morning fog may chill the air…”

    A more important issue in the rain, in my view, is the sole’s grippiness on wet pavement, and particularly on road markings/manhole covers. Just like tires, the grippier the sole, the more expensive it gets per mile walked…..

    Shifter feel is another nice property; and one that can be at odds with protection/stiffness. Old school, one piece half inch thick leather boots were probably very sturdy in a crash, but perhaps a reason why old, and new, Harleys have heel-toe-shifters.

    • Kevin

      I would say that if you are only going to buy one boot, get a tall waterproof touring boot with good protection. That’s the one that can always keep you covered. And don’t overthink the heat issue; I’ve ridden with waterproof leather touring boots in 100+ heat and my feet weren’t any more uncomfortable than the rest of me. It’s not that big of a deal.

      If you are going to buy two boots but you aren’t track riding, then maybe you get something that still has protection but is more stylish, more breathable. If you want to ride track, then you may want a boot with lots and lots of protection instead.

      If you are going to buy three boots, then you can cover all those bases.

      Finally, if you have a shorter inseam (29″ checking in here), then seriously consider dropping serious $$$ on the Daytona M-Stars or Lady Stars. The boot is built like a tank, looks good, is waterproof and most importantly, it makes your legs longer. Helimot has them. I had to wait like 3 months to get mine, but they were worth it.

      • Shon

        I ride in hot and humid Georgia, and I’ve never found my waterproof boots to be a problem. Like you said, Kevin, my feet are no hotter than the rest of me. The waterproofing is pretty handy sometimes.

  • CP

    I have a pair of Dainese TRQ Out boots, they are comfortable on and off the bike. When walking around town, you can unzip the back and get additional range of movement and more air flow. The only issue I have with them is the durability of the leather. The leather near the front of the toe started to degrade and fall apart. And that’s only in my second season and 6,000km of riding… for some reason the leather quality is not as good as my Dainese leather jacket or gloves… very disappointed.

    I am considering the Aplinestarts Supertech R boots to replace them, I heard great things about them.
    Or may be the Daytona boots, but it might be overkill for the street.
    I ride mostly on the street, weekend backroad type rider. Plus a few track days per season.

    • Khali

      Its not leather, its Lorica. That maybe explains why they degrade so fast…but 6000km is way too low durability.

      I have Dainese ST Giro boots, which are from the same family. Almost 2 years and…lets say 15.000km on them, maybe more…and still in good shape.

      • CP

        Oh… I didn’t know it was lorica.
        May be I got a bad one, because one boot was fine but the other one is already falling apart…
        Dainese said it was “wear and tear” so it’s not cover under warranty, even though it was only 6,000km old…

        I am staying away from Dainese boots and will try something else.

        anyone have the Astar supertech R? How are they on the street?

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          I’ve gone through two pairs of Supertech Rs and had a few crashes in them. I trust them totally. Wayyyyy too bulky to fit under jeans though. I wear them with my leathers or Roadcrafter when riding sportsbikes.

    • Kr Tong

      I’ve had my TRQ in boots for about as much time. No problems yet.

      • jonoabq

        Same here. White/vented, all day comfortable. I wear them for a long three seasons, in the rain, etc., considering a second unvented pair for winter as my Sidi Canyon’s are comfortable, dry, and warm they offer much of nothing to prevent ankle damage.

    • Faysal Itani

      Hmm… I have these (Race Out Airs). So far so good. Feel very safe and very comfortable as well. Though I don’t feel any of the claimed ventilation.

  • Scott Otte

    I love almost everything about my Sidi Gortex boots. They keep my feet dry and are comfortable as long as I’m on the bike. It doesn’t take much walking though before my feet are killing me. I wish they were just a little better at the walking, but since it’s not what they are made for I give them a pass. I haven’t crashed in these, but my other Sidi Boots held up great in the worst case scenario.

  • Khali

    Based on my personal experience, ankle torsional cage should be a must in every motorcycling boot. Reality is tough, that boots having that kind of protection are just stupidly expensive and racing-oriented (power-ranger looks).

    For those us who cant afford 500$ boots, I would check the boot’s ankle strenght. If it bends too easily, your ankle will too. Thats how I dislocated my right foot, and as a consequence, broke right astragalus bone. Google for it, and see how problematic it can be. I was lucky on that, as I can walk normally and even run. Most people cant after fracturing that bone.

    I am considering now about buying offroad/trail boots. Those feel super stiff on the ankle, and cost much less than a road boot with anti-torsion cage… I am afraid tough that they wont fit with my leather suit.

    I also need boots with as much protection as possible, that look like a pair of normal shoes to untrained eyes. So wearing them in the office wont drag all my mad bosses’ attention. Was thinking on checking Dainese Cafe boots on a store, to see how they fit and look. What do you think? Any other recommendations?

    • CruisingTroll

      Go for protection over looks, and just change out of your riding boots and in to nice shiny Oxfords when you get to work.

  • Brian

    I have been mostly pleased with a set of Falco Mixto boots I got back in May of ’12. Back a couple/few months ago, there was a similarly styled set of Dainese boots that Wes reviewed ( the model name I can’t recall at this point) I was interested in as a possible replacement for the Falco’s when that time comes. I recall they were cheaper than the comparable model Sidi’s, and given the experience I had with some Dainese Virunga’s previous to the Falco’s, I look forward to them. My riding style paired with the east coast weather conditions make this something I prefer.

    • Brian

      I went back and searched and found that it was the Dainese Carroarmato Gore-Tex Boots I was talking about which apparently list for $370. Not inexpensive, but having been down and had a bike severely contuse ( spelling?) several bones in my ankle ( which my ankle would have been crushed and broken lots of stuff had I not been wearing my A-Stars boots at the time), it is worthwhile to me to have the protection!

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Love my Carroarmatos.

        • Brian

          Having read your comments on them, I can understand why. When I got the Falco’s, those weren’t even on my radar, and I was looking at the Sidi Adventure boots, and I just didn’t have Sidi money at the time. I had just worn open a hole in the Sole of my Virunga’s, which I’d still be wearing otherwise as those are/were awesome! I don’t expect the Falco’s to have as long a life of use due to the ultra soft sole, so I might end up with a pair of the Carroarmatos sooner rather than later.

  • http://instagram.com/real_jason_ip Jason Ip

    I’ve got those Alpinestars S-MX2 half booties, love em… tried many full booties and, as per usual, when you’re a short rider and need to be on your tip toes a lot of the time, a full boot does not offer the flexibility to bend your foot down enough. Other problem, I want to be able to feel the controls with my feet, a lot of the power ranger booties have too much ‘stuff’ on the inside side of the boot and thus, hard to use/feel the controls.

    • taba

      Yeah, have and like them too.

      Giving up shin protection to be able to walk around seems fair.

  • Nick Gerber

    The Sidi Canyon is a great boot as well! They are light on the foot and comfortable all day.

  • HoldenL

    I wear Gaerne G-Flows. I bought them in June at MR Cycle in Asheville, N.C. The boots have Gore-Tex and my feet have never gotten wet while commuting in the Florida summer. They have a subdued look — they’re not fashionable, but they don’t look bad, either; I assume that people don’t notice them. Except when I take off my ‘Stich and I walk around in the boots while wearing shorts. Then people gawk and point and they wonder if I’m gonna start gibbering like a schizophrenic homeless man.

    In short, the Gaernes are nice for commuting, and I’ve worn them in twisties when touring. They don’t do well in Wes’s twist test, though, so maybe I should find another boot for the steep-and-curvies.

  • bwarper

    I’ve broken both left and right tibia and fibula while road riding. I decided after having this happen while wearing Alpinestars Supertech that I would get smart and wear my Sidi Crossfires exclusively right? Wrong! I am finally back up and walking after a brutal crushing of my left tib and fib 4 months ago. I was riding an enduro in the Mendocino forest and lowsided. The swingarm came crashing down between my knee and ankle and made many large and small pieces of my tib and fib. Is there a boot out there that if laid on the floor and I stood upon the calf, would resist crushing? Or, do I need to learn to crash better?

    • Stephen Mears

      I think you just need permanent cement castings about your limbs.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      That’s a pretty specific injury…

      The strongest boots out there are going to be the Alpinestars Tech 10. They totally isolate your ankle and prevent any hyper flexion or tension or sideways movement and the ankle to calf section has a TON of armor and overall strength, but it isn’t a totally rigid structure. Close as you’ll get though.

  • Scott Birdsey

    Sidi adventure gore-tex. I walk around in streams with them and pin my feet under the fat piggy 800GS on the regular. Did not need to replace when I was hit by SUV last spring. Gerbings socks for day trips in the winter.

  • appliance5000

    I saw these sneaker style boots that are higher than average and seem to have reinforcement in all the right places. http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/tcx-x-rap-wp-shoes

    What’s your take on this stuff?

  • Tyler 250

    I haven’t seen a mention of Sidi On-Road Gore-Tex boots yet. I’ve put at least 25K miles on mine and they’re fantastic all-around boots. Comfortable to walk in, actually waterproof and really good and tall to make sure water doesn’t sneak over the top. I’ve never crashed in them, so I’m not positive about the protection, but they seem like a good compromise, given the comfort level.

    On the off-road side, I’ve been making a pair of Alpinestars Tech-6s last probably far beyond their intended lifespan. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t walking right now if not for them. I think the Tech-7 is the modern equivalent. Good stuff.

    For the track, I have Sidi Cobra Rain boots. I’d go with the Air or the Gore-Tex if I were to do it over. The Rain model is just a little too unbreathable for summer riding.

    • mickedard

      The Falco Raid 480 is a copy of the Sidi On-Road Gore-Tex, it was tested by weBikeWorld and turned out to be one of their best boots. At $188 half the price

      • Ceol Mor

        The Falco Raid 480 is no longer in production and the only Falco distributor in the US dropped the brand many months ago.

        • mickedard

          Advanced Motorcycle Gear hasn’t dropped the racing line of clothing, boots, etc., and presently they’re having a sale on the rest of their Falco stuff. They still have 2 pairs of the Raid 480. But you right about the Raid 480 it’s gone, gone.

          • Ceol Mor

            Ok, perhaps you have updated information. I spoke with the owner of AMG months ago and he related he was selling his remaining stock of Falco boots and dropping the line to focus on some sort of performance underwear (no joke). Maybe he changed his mind since then. I wish I would have purchased a pair of the 480 boots when I had the chance.

    • enzomedici

      Have the Sidi On-Road Gore-Tex as well. They are great boots. In the rain, your feet never get wet. In the winter, my feet stay nice and warm with just a regular pair of socks. Love the Sidis. I also have a pair of Dainese Dyno C2B Shoes too which are great when you don’t want to wear full boots.

  • Jono

    Personally if I’m going to spend money on a non- track boot, it has to be all day comfortable. My icon el bajo boots do that whilst offering decent protection. They’re no tech-10s but they’re great for commuting ect

  • UrbanMoto

    This might not be 100% on target for the discussion, but WTF’s up with scooter riders? Do they hate their feet? I’m seeing a ton of scooter riders here in NYC and I’ve yet to see one with even a pair of sturdy shoes or regular timberlands or something, never mind moto boots. It’s all flip flops, maybe a pair of ankle high canvas sneakers. The best (?) was a guy I saw heading west on 59th st (Central Park South) entering Columbus Circle, which is an insane, huge rotary on the corner of Central Park. Going about 30 mph, as he began to turn right into the rotary he had his right leg extended, his sockless suede Euro looking loafer sharply pointing out a few inches above the road surface, as if he were going slide his practically bare foot along the pavement as he cornered (he obviously had no faith in his lean into the corner and felt getting his foot ready to slide was the thing to do.) I got wierded out the one time I went to move my bike for alternate side parking and forgot I was in my sneakers. The idea of deliberately heading out for a ride like that just seems insane.

    I’m curious: Are there any accident statistics broken out for scooter riders specifically? My footwear needs improvement, and I’m working to improve all my gear, but holy smokes it seems most scooter riders are just asking to be de-footed.

  • gregory

    The type of footwear you don depends on where you’re going and which bike you’re riding.

    On the 90cc scooter in the neighbourhood, all you need is a pair of Crocs or equivalent flipflops.

    On the 1’300cc standard, for a four-day, cross-country trip, use a pair of Aerostich Combat Tourers. If it’s winter, too, they keep you warmer. These boots are awesome and are everything proof. Even bee proof! They look better worn. Wear them outside your jeans, of course. You’ll look like Toecutter.

    On the 250cc maxi-scooter going to work in the morning, and picking up groceries in the afternoon, any old thing will do. Get a pair of old army boots.

    I wear a pair of Red Wing Iron Ranger boots. They’re good enough for my office (journalism; probably wouldn’t work in a bank) and they let me think my feet are protected.

    -g

    • TuneCzar

      Crocs, flip-flops — seriously?
      It doesn’t matter how many CCs your bike is, or if you’re just going to pop ’round to the shops for a bit >> try taking a fall at 30 or 40 in your flip-flops and tell us how that works out…

  • Melissa Craig

    I love my Alpinestars SMX-5′s. I’m female (US size 41), and these are Men’s SMX-5′s size 42, and despite being slightly too big just above the ankle, everywhere else the fit is great. They feel solid, supportive, and it feels weird to the ride a bike without them now. Ventilation is adequate (but my feet tend to be cooler in general), no issues in wet weather, and I wore them daily (on a CBR125R and then a CBR600RR, for commuting, hills riding, walking around university, shops, up and down stairs, etc) up until a 100kph lowside on my CBR600RR has rendered me bikeless until I finish repairing it. And despite the scuffs and scratches they sustained, I have no plans on replacing them. I’d say the only let down is its flexibility between the ankle section of the boot and the shin section – it has too much movement in sideways direction that would become a liability in a crash that caused movement like that.

    Can’t wait to get back on the bike and wear them again. I got them for $250 in store (Australia), which I think is a fair price for the protection (and looks!).

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      Those boots have seen some love. Keep on keepin’ on.

    • Damo Von Vinland

      My everyday riding boots from spring to fall are the SMX-5 Vented and I love them. They break in reasonably quick and I have worn them out to dinner and not looked full power ranger.

    • Nick Gochnauer

      I have these boots as well. I have crashed in them twice. I still wear them daily. If you don’t want to step up to a less-flexible racing boot, these are the way to go. I think they were $200 at Cycle Gear.

  • Daniel

    I wear the Corcoran Field Boots daily. Soles are a bit better than the OG ones (oil resistant lugged Vibram soles) and the lacing system is a bit easier. All day comfy and I can get away with wearing them under my work slack (they look enough like dress shoes).

  • Chris McAlevy
  • runnermatt

    I have been riding all year with a set of Alpinestars Roam WP boots and love them. If you have sweaty or stinky feet they probably are not for you because they are waterproof and will take a long time to air out. They were a little tight in width initially, but once I broke them in they fit fine. Also they are CE certified which was one of reasons I chose them over a different pair from another brand. I don’t see them on the Alpinestars web site, but they are still listed on Revzilla (and not on closeout).

    http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/alpinestars-roam-wp-boots

  • runnermatt

    Piloti makes a set of riding shoes/boots called the Moto 800. Anybody have any experience with them? I have a set of the Piloti driving shoes and they are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I’ve ever owned. The Piloti website is down currently.

  • Travis Zilch

    I wear Puma Roadster GTX boots for most of my everyday riding. Decent protection, water proof, and easy to walk around in – I’ll even toss them on my feet in the mornings to keep my toes dry in the damp grass while going to get the paper – I can get them on and off faster than any of my other boots/shoes. For the track or aggressive street riding I wear Sidi Vertigo’s. More protection, but at the price of comfort when off the bike.

  • Damo Von Vinland

    I can’t say enough good things about my Corcoran zip in paratrooper boots. Had them for 7 years and crash tested them once. They are still in great shape and offer all day comfort. (Although I wear them less since getting my SMX-5s)

  • mickedard
  • Mark D

    I think I’m going to go the two-boot route. Corcoran Jump Boots for casual, in-city riding (and to replace my beat-to-shit Doc Martens), with Alpinestars SMX’s (or similar) for dedicated riding boots, eschewing waterproofing.

    Thanks for the input everybody!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      That sounds pretty good. It’s more or less what I do, justt with a closet full of (free to me) fancy boots to pick for the specific occasion.

  • _dc

    Icon 1000 Truant boots because they offer nice protection but don’t look like motorcycle boots, so I can wear them all day at the office.

    • Mark Davis

      Hey there. Keen on the look of these, how’d they brown leather hold up? Thinking I might go black to account for the grease etc?

  • Mister X

    Well, I’m finally going to retire my ancient (1980) Malcolm Smith riding boots, the soles are paper thin now and I can’t resole them, so thanks for this informative discussion now that I’m back in the market for M/C boots.

  • Shon

    Although evidently not as sturdily reinforced, with plastic skid guards here there and everywhere, as most dedicated riding boots that you might take on a race track, I love my pair of Chippewas. With a steel toe, I feel it’s unlikely my foot will get crushed if I’m in an accident, and I think they offer plenty of protection for ordinary riding. They’re also nice looking and don’t totally screw up the way I walk, so I can wear them casually if I want. Besides that, they’re waterproof, which I like. That’ll keep the ol’ feet a lot warmer on wet days–unless, of course, your pants soak through, as mine have, and then the water that is running down your legs ends up in the boots. On hot days, of course, my feet sweat in them–but they would even in any shoe. This has never lead to stinky feet or smelly boots, though.

  • Juan Francisco Castillo Villal

    Hey rideapart! I am looking for a pair of boots that I could use on a Dual Sport bike. I commute everyday on it and ride offroad on weekends. I’m on a budget too! What would you suggest?
    Thanks!

    • John

      I’m curious to see a response to your question, as my situation is similar. I’ve been eyeing the Alpinestars Web Gore-Tex boots, but am not yet decided.

    • Juan Francisco Castillo Villal

      Hey guys; any suggestions? @seanmacdonald:disqus @wessiler:disqus

    • Von

      Icon 1000 Elsinore!

  • Stephen Miller

    I find the Tourmaster Solution to be a great all-around boot. They’re less than $120 on Revzilla or Compacc, and very comfortable to walk in. The sole will wear out in a couple of years if you walk in them a lot, and old style waterproofing will stop working in 10-20k miles. I think the new waterproofing (on the Solution 2.0) uses some sort of gore-tex-like liner, which will probably stay waterproof longer. But whatever, for the price they simply can’t be beat. Good protection, far better than a combat boot or low-cut riding shoe. I have a pair of Alipinestars I never wear anymore because the Tourmaster boots are so comfortable.

  • jefflev

    Ugly, expensive, look terrible off the bike. But the best non-track/race/canyon boot for urban riding. Sidi Streetburner. Love them.