Although all motorcycle gear is important, boots rank up there pretty high. More specifically, though, I’m talking about boots designed for riding motorcycles, as not all boots are created equal when it comes to offering proper protection.
Someone once said: ‘Keep your motorcycle in good repair, for motorcycle boots are not made for walking.’ Actually, boots have a huge job to do as they have to protect you from the elements, as well as that worst-case scenario, a crash. In addition, boots are pretty much the only piece of motorcycle gear that you can hang out in while you are out and about on your motorcycle. The other stuff – helmet, gloves, jacket – generally comes off once you arrive at your destination. Boots need to offer comfort wherever your ride takes you – and of course, looking good also counts.
If you’ve been riding a long time, I’m sure that you have gone through many motorcycle boots. And maybe for you, as with me, many of them failed pretty soon after purchase. Loose stitching, sles wearing out far too soon and leather cracking prematurely, even after proper care, are disappointing failures in my view.
With so many motorcycle boots on the market – some good and some not so good – what should you look for? There are certain features you need, and while some are shared with high-quality work boots, there are others that are specific to riding. A few basics to look for include boots that come well above the ankle; have a good, grippy sole; and have high-impact areas made of durable material, usually thick leather. Waterproofing is also an important feature.
Let’s talk specifics. Think leather is probably the best choice for high abrasion resistance, to protect you in the event of a mishap. Non-riding or fashionable boots are not designed with that in mind, and are not robust enough if there’s high-speed contact with the pavement or they get wedged between the motorcycle and the ground in a minor tip-over. Some boots are constructed from textiles that both are abrasion resistant and allow airflow, but look for additional reinforcement in the high-wear areas, like a reinforced shifter toe or plastic toe sliders, for example.
And while a motorcycle boot upper that comes well above the ankle may take a bit longer to break in than one that is just ankle height, the taller boot provides more protection, especially for your shin. A tall, sturdy boot also provides support for your ankle, reducing the risk of a sprain in a minor spill. And higher boots offer better protection from various objects, such as rocks and debris.
There’s a wide selection of fasteners, including laces, buckles, zippers, Velcro or a combination thereof. Some offer practicality, some adjustability. If you go with laces, ensure that they are done up properly and tucked away, so as not to get caught on a shifter or foot peg. Velcro and buckle fasteners are often adjustable and can allow for a better fit. Zippers are the most convenient, but if they’re not combined with Velcro or buckle fasteners, the boot won’t be adjustable for fit.
Riding boots should have rigid soles with good treads, and a good riding boot will have a reinforced sole where it rests on the foot peg to prevent it from deforming, especially when standing up. This is why motorcycle boots are not necessarily the best for walking, but you’ll have the security of knowing that when you put your foot down at a stop, you’ll have a solid platform.
Wet feet don’t equate to a fun ride, so look for waterproofing measures, like interior webbing material at the boot’s fastened opening that helps keep out water, as well as sealed seams and waterproof zippers.
Finally, comfort is key, because even if boots are very protective in a crash, you won’t wear them if they hurt your feet just walking around. Also, if the fit isn’t good and the boots are causing discomfort, this may distract you from the task of simply riding.
If you find a pair of boots you love, get a second pair. I have a pair of buckle boots and I love them. I’ve had them resoled three times over the past 20 years, and I wear them constantly when riding, on and off the motorcycle. They are my go-to boots. The leather on the upper is still in fantastic shape, but not so much around the base anymore. Unfortunately, I’ve been looking to purchase another pair but can’t find them anywhere.