Gear: Aerostich Combat Touring Boots Review

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Aerostich Combat Touring Boots

They may not look like it — no fancy embossed plastic logos, no titanium toe sliders — but this understated pair of boots is just as protective as any of the flashy dirt boots out there, while being all-day comfortable on virtually any bike, in any weather and lasting literally forever. Find out why in this Aerostich Combat Touring Boots review.

The Gear
So I’ve owned these for a year now. Showing them to my girlfriend the other day, I was emphasizing how understated, yet fancy they were. “See that interior? It’s white leather!” She was suitably impressed, as all girlfriends are by bike gear, but asked why the white leather interior was unmarked. I’ve worn these things off-road, in the rain, through the city and in the hottest possible weather, eliciting the most possible foot sweat and, honestly, I didn’t have an answer for her.

Where more modern-styled boots are all plastic armor, ankle hinges and metal inserts, these Combats do without any of the above, instead opting for good old-fashioned quality.

What do you really need from a boot? It turns out that hinges and magnesium and other assorted marketing claims are largely hullabaloo. Instead, what protects your feet and ankles is a good, solid sole, strong toe and heal boxes, good ankle support and decent impact protection. You probably also want stuff like arch support, ankle support and shin protection.

These aren’t the kind of boots you wear every day. You’re not going to throw them on to go get groceries. I’m writing this review from Paso Robles, three-and-a-half hours north of my home in Hollywood. Two hours of that ride was during a torrential downpour. Know what wasn’t wet? My feet. My feet were also as well-supported as possible, the boots gripped even slick wet pavement with authority and I felt extremely well protected throughout.

Despite their lack of ridiculous scoops and vents and aluminum mesh inserts, the Combats have worked equally well in 100-degree deserts. Off-road, on-road, in town and everywhere in between. I’ve got a ton of boots and, if I need a pair to work across multiple environments, these are the ones I go for.

Aerostich Combat Touring Boots
Aerostich uses Side soles, which are replaceable.

The Good
Extraordinary safety. As much foot protection as a hard-shelled off-road boot in an understated package.

Excellent comfort. A year in, I’m only about halfway through the break-in process, but man, are these things comfy.

Designed to take orthopedic inserts. Need more arch support? Or a super cushioned heel? These are specifically designed to accept those inserts in your own size. Lifetime quality also means tailoring them to your own needs.

100% weatherproof. I haven’t treated these with any lotion or wax or whatever and they’ve never let so much as a drop of water through. Even in multi-hour storms.

Secure footing. I’ve opted for the wedge sole and I can put my foot down on anything and be totally secure in my footing. Wet manhole covers, sand, gravel, whatever… it works.

Replaceable soles. Wear them out? Any cobbler or Aerostich itself will replace them.

Strong buckles. The single set of metal-and-plastic buckles on each boot are easy to adjust, easy to close and totally secure.

While they’ll just about work on most sport bikes, they’re not ideal for cramped ergos.

Aerostich Combat Touring Boots
Buckles ‘n stitches. All of this will last forever.

The Bad
There’s little ankle impact protection. I’ve actually fallen pretty hard in these with no problem, but I’m never going to trust them quite as much as I will my Tech 10s.

Comfort takes time. Like most other Aerostich products, lifetime quality equals big break in requirements. It was three months before these felt good, but man have they felt good since.

Annoying laces. The “Speed Lace” system is a pain. I ditched the binders in favor of just tying the laces, but they still get stuck on the Velcro every single time.

The Verdict
Do you like your feet or want to show off? I rode in these for 3.5 hours yesterday, will do so again tomorrow, then plan to do 8 hours in them the next day. And the day after that. They’re the only boots I’d feel comfortable doing so in. On-road or off-road. These are the absolute best boots you can buy.

  • William Connor

    Nice boots, little confused. Aerostitch using Sidi parts or are these the wrong pictures?

  • lennard schuurmans

    They sure look great! How much are they or did I miss something?

    • Ben W

      Click the link at the top of the article.

  • Craig Wixon

    “as all girlfriends are by bike gear”
    Hmmmm.

  • Scheffy

    Any details on actual impact protection, like around the shin area or heel? The closest thing the Aerostich website has to describing this is “generous internal ankle and toe padding.”

    • Ben W

      The Manual goes even further to say, “Inside the boot, between the inner and outer leather, are several areas protected by dense foam padding and/or hard plastic layers.” Ah, that cleared it up!

  • HammSammich

    These look infinitely better than the atrocious Gaerne boots that I need to replace, and it looks like they might offer better protection. The ONLY thing my Gaerne’s have done well is to remain completely waterproof after nearly 6 years.

    • HoldenL

      What model? I have Gaernes (this year’s model) and I’m curious. Mine are, um, let’s see … G-Flows.

      • HammSammich

        I don’t remember the model but they don’t seem to make them anymore. The closest in styling that is currently on their website is the King Touring, but mine don’t have any solid ankle armor…just a reinforced patch of leather. Glad to see they’ve improved their styling though.

        • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

          Did you get those vintage look oiled ones?

  • Speedo007

    There must look great with pants over them, kind of remind me of Dr. Martins :)

  • Vince.L

    Absolutely beautiful boots. Thanks for introducing them to us. I’m sold. Will be a 8 as soon as they are in stock again.

  • Ben W

    Wes, I’m curious about why you feel these are the best boots. Since everyone probably defines the ideal differently – do you feel these are the best because of the overall balance/compromise between safety, adaptability, and quality? Subquestion – why wouldn’t you wear them for shorter rides and what do you wear instead?

    • Stuki

      Very thick, stiff leather, and a minimum of seams, make for a very different approach to safety than the highly engineered boots sold by most other in this price range. It’s an approach that has worked for ages, and there’s no reason to believe it no longer does.

      With the more “technical” boots, you get features that are in theory better, assuming everything works all the time, but the sheer complexity, and the (perhaps fashion dictated…) pace of change means none of those are very well tested in the real world. All the metal hinges with articulation stops in the world don’t mean much of some mud works it’s way into the hinges and lever one arm to where it no longer makes contact with the articulation stop. And will a plastic disk over the ankle work the day after it saved your ankle from having the bike dropped on you with the hot exhaust canister landing right o the plastic disk? Or perhaps get brittle in the arctic, or after exposure to solvents in some repair facility in the middle of nowhere?

      And, all the fancy cuts and seams on new high end boots, does put a big premium on bringing down labor cost, often by trying to find shortcuts to get the work done in less hours. Which could cut into testing time, how much time each line worker has to ensure every stitch is perfect etc.

      In general, it’s a different approach to what makes a boot “safe.” Whether you buy into it, depends a bit on how much faith you have in “newfangled” stuff. The Combats work well all the time. Chances are, most of the time, the best of the moderns work “better”, but in some corner cases, they may not work all that well at all. And while I’m sure there are theoretical nstances of Combats failing as well, the simplicity and well provenness of the design, probably makes those instances rarer. At least that’s how I would bet.

      As for shorter rides; even worn in (which takes several annual mileages for the average “rider”, they’re stiff and more awkward to get on and off than simpler “city” boots. They also have no venting, and quarter inch thick leather treated to be virtually waterproof, is a pretty good thermal insulator…..

      • Jeffw

        Is a plastic ankle disk any more likely to fail in repeated accidents than a plastic toe or heel cup? Does avoiding a failure on the second incident make you any safer?

  • Rich

    No shift pad? My shifter eats left boots like nobody’s business. :)

    • HammSammich

      I have a pair of leather boots (not motorcycle specific) that I wear for casual rides. They are extremely thick leather, and have no toe pad, and they’ve lasted for 6+ years without even a bit of marring…I suspect that these are similar…is your shifter damaged with sharp edges or something?

      • Rich

        No, it just seems to collect road grime and oil, (from my daily commute), that it self-assembles into leather destroying sandpaper. :)

  • Kirk Roy

    Ok, while I know these are nice boots (a friend wore a pair for at least a 200k miles) I am having trouble seeing how these compare to serious dirt boots in terms of protection. Hinges are hullabaloo? Where is your proof of that or that these boots are “just as protective as any of the flashy dirt boots out there”? When I’m going through a rock garden at speed I want more than a patch of leather and some padding protecting me. That said, I wouldn’t mind a pair of these for usage other than serious off road riding.

  • C.Stevens

    They look really protective as far as street boots go – look great for dual sporting too, but they don’t look like they would hold up to serious high-speed desert riding. There’s nothing magical about these – they are made from high quality, supple leather I’m sure. But no matter how well built, that doesn’t replace a steel toe cap.

    That said, I would buy them if the price wasn’t so astronomical or I could find a pair used. I spent $45 on a pair of almost-new A* Tech6′s from Craigslist that have lasted years and years. They are so broken in, I can hike in them (and have – unwillingly).

  • Vince.L

    Wes, could we get a pic of you with those boots on any type of motorcycle ? ( or more pics of them ) Would like to see how they look when worn under jeans for example. Thanks a lot.

  • HoldenL

    I’ve looked at these in the catalogue for quite a while, and considered buying them last summer to replace a worn-out pair of boots. But the lack of shin and ankle protection was a deal-killer.

    I low-sided on the track in my old boots, and the ankle protection spared me considerable pain. I wish Aerostich would sell a model of this boot with better shin and ankle protection. And I’m not sure how well they protect the toes, either.

  • Vincent T.

    These are great looking boots, but they should be classified with the Biltwell Gringo and the like. They’ve got vintage styling and the “cool” factor, but they lack modern amenities. You can call it “hullabaloo” but that stuff was invented for a reason; it makes them lighter, safer, more comfortable, etc.

    Airbags, fuel injection, and radial tires…now that’s a bunch of hullabaloo

    • roma258

      Neah, these aren’t a fashion statement. That’s not what Aerostich is about. Just good solid boots, though Wes is probably overselling them as hardcore dirtriding equipment.

  • phoebegoesvroom

    They don’t just use Sidi soles, they’re made by Sidi.

  • katesy

    I’ve wanted a pair of these boots for a long time, unfortunately they don’t make them in sizes small enough for my lady feet.

  • appliance5000

    How do they compare to the Icon Reigns?

    • Ben W

      I believe Sean lightly compared them back in the writeup of the Icon Reign. I’d guess these are: better constructed, more weather proof, at least as protective, and heavier.

  • Guzzto

    Great review Thanks,

  • Thatmanstu

    “Heels” are on your feet and at the end of a loaf of bread…”heals” is what time does to all wounds…great boots,to be sure…….And Steve Mcqueen was literally a world class rider and not just “some actor”…..

  • markbvt

    Out of curiosity… ever tried the Sidi Discovery model? Similar boot overall, except with three of the buckles instead of interior laces and velcro. Sidi clearly uses a lot of the same parts in making the Combats for Aerostich as they do on the Discovery. And it too is a very comfy and high-quality boot.

  • Steel cap

    I’ll stick with my Alpinestar HiPoint boots, everything these boots have plus added shin protection. If you want new ones look for Metro Racing Super Victory boots

  • Davidabl2

    Just looking at these things(and watching people walk in them) it’s always seemed to me that they wouldn’t pass HFL’s own”twist test?”

  • mulderdog

    FWIW I’ve had my “lites” for about 6 years/120,000m and absolutely love them. Comfortable, waterproof, long lasting, every day commuter boots. Agreed : not : serious off-roaders. You get use to the annoying laces !

  • DucMan

    I love my CBTs!!! Your review is SPOT ON.

    Here are two mods that complete these boots:

    Here’s the fix for laces sticking to the velcro–http://www.aerostich.com/clothing/footwear/combat-touring-boots/cbt-boot-laces-1.html

    Here’s the fix for “Shifter toe”–http://www.aerostich.com/tuff-toe.html

    I have both of these and have also seam sealed the stitching. These boots are amazing. You can wear them under a business suit and get away with it. You can walk on them all day long at a shopping mall. You can ride around the world with them and then go to a business meeting and they work equally well for each.

    They only down side is that they don’t work on my RC51.

    But they work beautifully on my V-Strom and my Ducati Monster.

    Just buy them and start enjoying life.

  • Jeffw

    I’ve had these for 3+ years and they have many great qualities, but for the cost i’m amazed at what they don’t include and it looks like keeping them much longer will turn into a money sink.

    For $350 you think they could skip the crappy $2 laces and put in $6 worth of paracord? Ok, did that, not much investment on my part, just an indicator that Aerostich cultivates ‘sloppy’ and ‘careless’ as a brand ID. What about the shifter area? After half a year, the top of the left boot was pretty scuffed up. I spent the next year going through a series of bike innertubes over the shifter lever, only to watch the wear grow deeper. I noticed my left toe getting wet in rain and my cobbler agreed the boot didn’t have that long of a future at that rate so i ended up doing the tuff toe thing. I understand that stitching in a patch there would hurt the integrity
    of the boot, but they do make glue. Couldn’t be any worse than putting
    that tuff toe stuff on there. Again, don’t mind customizing my own equipment like this, but not something i should have to do after paying that much for the boot.

    Now the real pisser: After a year of frequent wear (i do love how they feel and wear them even for short rides unless it is hot), the velcro just wouldn’t hold. I love that the Stich literature tells me that i am in internet crank experiencing a theoretical problem that don’t happen in real life. The only explanation that i can think of is that Aerostich is a bunch of weenies that only ride to work in theoretically harsh conditions and don’t see the kind of cold riding real commuters do. I retired my ‘race’ leathers for pants that go over the outside of the boot so that they at least don’t flap around in the wind, but the speedlaces falling out is still getting pretty annoying.

    I’m satisfed with the (cleated) soles which are just about worn out, and might order new ones and have them replaced, but if i have to do that for the velcro annually, these things are going to end up costing more than oil changes for my Dakar. I saw a forum thread where some guy replaced the velcro with two more of the buckles. these looked extremely nice and i was about sold on that route until i priced out the buckles (without labor) over a hundred bucks. Which has me tallying up the total bill here and looking at what else is out there…

    Speaking of the buckles, i had a good laugh at the irony of the buckle picture in this article and the caption “this will last forever”… unless you happen to go down. I favor simple, solid leather stuff like this because of the durability. A 25 MPH low side doesn’t mean i have to get new gear. My Atlantis suit has numerous tumbles without signs of duress, my Held gloves have some stitching coming off the slider pad but i only notice it visually. Not so with the CBTs. Nothing noticeable about the rest of the boot, but the plastic on the buckle is worn away at the hinge. It hangs on enough to sort of snug it up when i pop it back in, but it looks like it would pop out if it comes under stress again, which is the basis for the anemic ankle support.

    Since it seems the buckle might not keep the leather firm around my ankle that brings up the final feature to spotlight; ankle protection. At a rally i went out to try some technical off-road stuff. The fact that my bike weighed twice as much as anyone elses, that i had street tires, that i was in street leathers and helmet in 90 degree heat, that i had never gone off road before, none of this made me think i shouldn’t give it a try, but going over the first tree trunk all i could think of was that if i get my foot pinned under the bike against this stuff, it is game over for my ankle, so i ditched back to camp at the first fork. If you have safety plastic in the heel and toe, why not something to spread the force of a blow to the ankle around?

    Right now i’m torn about fixing these up to continue to use them. $200 is about what i think they would be worth as long as i don’t have to deal with the velcro crap. they are great all around boots if you aren’t going on tight, uneven terrain. Love the look and feel. But there’s little doubt in my mind that starting from scratch, I’d spend the money on a pair of Discoverys and a sharpie to black out all the billboard junk, or spring a little more for the Sidi Adventures.

  • Daytona Ben

    Wes, This was the 2nd thing I ever bought from Aerostich 14 years ago with the Courier Bag being the first. I still use both today on my daily rider. I’m on my 3rd set of soles and they are finally ‘breaking in’. I’m always impressed with gear that works in all conditions. From cross country to track days to just hanging out they have served me well. I own several pairs of Sidi rain and race boots but still keep pulling these out of the closet. Good Article.

  • CB

    In an effort to buy some lifetime gear, thus have more money to spend on various motorcycles, I’m buying these. The only thing I worry about is sizing. Good boots that fit great are one of the best feelings in the world. Stiff boots that don’t fit are the worst. There used to be a little tutorial for measuring your feet on the Aerostich site, but now I can’t find it. Anyone have any sizing tips?