My first motorcycle boots were pretty ill-suited to the job. I wish I’d known back then what I know now: Choosing motorcycle boots isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
First and foremost, they need to protect your feet. That’s their most important job. But they also need to feel good and offer feedback on the bike’s controls, and sometimes, they need to be comfortable enough to walk around in once you’re off the bike at your destination.
As with all motorcycle gear, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, so we’ve put this guide together to help you choose the perfect pair of motorcycle boots.
A good pair of boots needs to offer you the most protection possible, and they can do that in several different ways, with some styles of boot more protective than others.
Boots in the US do not need a CE rating, but you’ll often see a CE rating on boots, anyway, because manufacturers are also required to meet regulations for the European market.
A CE rating is always a bonus on any motorcycle clothing. It’s good to know that it’s undergone rigorous testing and been deemed fit as protective riding equipment.
However, if a pair of boots doesn’t have a CE rating, that doesn’t mean they should be written off as useless. They’re often as protective, if not even more so, than CE-rated boots. It simply means they haven’t been tested.
Instead of worrying about whether boots are CE rated, be sure to look for signs that a pair of boots are good quality and offer adequate protection.
Ratings aside, there are a few things you should see in a good pair of motorcycle boots:
- At a minimum, there should be some molded ankle protection since this area is most affected and likely to be damaged in an accident.
- Motorcycle boots should have anti-slip soles with excellent grip. You need the most grip possible on all road surfaces — even if oil/water is present — for maximum control at all times.
- They need good torsional stiffness to prevent the ankle/foot from flexing in an accident. They should be tough and have a limited range of movement.
- The boots should be constructed from tough, abrasion-resistant materials that can hold up in a slide — usually leather or Kevlar/Aramid fibers. Double or triple stitching is always a good sign.
- Be sure the boots you select fit properly. They won’t be much use if they come off your feet.
Some boots are built with even more protection. Race boots, adventure boots, and off-road boots are often the most protective, with extra features not common on a standard boot:
- Shin/toe and heel armor
- Toe sliders/protectors
- Gear-shift pad
- Steel shaft in the sole of the boot
- Enhanced, thicker sole
Generally, the more protection you can get, the better. However, all that armor can limit a boot’s productivity in other areas.
For example, if you have thick-soled, solid off-road boots that feel like riding in leg casts, you won’t want to walk around in them off the bike. So, you need to assess your needs and riding style to get the best boots for you.
You should make sure the boots you pick are comfortable and fit correctly.
They should fit snugly, like all motorcycle clothing, with no excess pressure or looseness anywhere. Loose boots could come off in an accident or rub uncomfortably, particularly at the heel.
If the boots are armored, you should be able to feel the armor in place and make sure it is sitting correctly. If the ankle armor is further up your leg, it won’t protect your ankle, likely causing more harm than good.
You should be able to do the boots up securely with no issues, whether they have laces, velcro, zippers, or a combination.
Off-road boots are notoriously uncomfortable for walking around in. They just aren’t built for it since they focus solely on protection. However, they are excellent on the bike and should be comfortable to ride in, too.
Other types of boots are more comfortable for walking around in. Still, you should remember that boots are for riding, and being super comfortable off the bike isn’t a reason to choose them — they may not offer enough protection if they feel like a regular pair of shoes.
When it comes to style alone, boots can be broken down into four categories:
- Short boots
- Long boots
- Extra-long (off-road) boots
Short boots are great for those who struggle to get long ones up past their calves or find them uncomfortable. A short boot can still offer excellent protection of the ankle and foot.
Long boots, however, do offer more protection. They cover the shinbone and calf, and you will often find extra armor in longer boots.
Off-road or extra-long, boots come up just below the knee joint. When riding off-road, you’re likelier to drop the bike, come off the bike, or hit tree branches. Due to that more significant risk, off-road riders need enhanced protection. That’s why off-road boots are the most protective motorcycle boots on the market.
Then you have trainer-style boots, which usually look like high-top trainers. These offer the least protection, basically just the ankles. They’re a casual boot best suited for an equally casual rider — around town at low speeds.
Further reading: Best motorcycle sneakers
You’ll unlikely be able to pick a style from the list above, buy a pair of boots, and use them exclusively. Many types of boots are on the market, and each has a different purpose. Like other motorcycle gear, riders often have more than one pair of boots.
Although, if you’re lucky, you might find a pair of boots that can do it all! Keep in mind these types of boots when searching for that perfect pair:
Sports boots like the Alpinestars SMX 6 v2 Boots provide excellent protection for the track. They’re built for racers, so these will suit you if you’re more of a sports rider.
Adventure boots offer the flexibility and comfort of a road boot while retaining the important safety properties of an off-road boot. A good example is the Forma Adventure Boots, which also come in a Low Boot version.
If you ride all year and in all weather, you should look at a touring boot with a waterproof membrane. A touring boot is the one type that could be the all-year, every-season, daily riding boot you’re looking for.
The Daytona Road Star GTX Boots are the number one choice for riders on their bikes every day, including riding instructors and police riders.
I have a pair of Daytona Lady Stars that are unfortunately no longer available, but the Lady Pilot GTX are, and they are simply awesome — comfortable, durable, and waterproof, with a Gore-Tex liner, and suitable year-round.
If you have a short commute and don’t want to carry other shoes or only ride short distances in the summer before hopping off the bike and walking around, then either a lightweight summer boot or short trainer-style boot could work.
There are even casual looking boots like the Stylmartin Rocket Boots that have all the style of classic Red Wings but are loaded with protection, so you can still look hardcore on your cruiser without sacrificing sense.
To establish what type of boot you need, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my riding style?
- What kind of bike do I ride?
- What weather do I mostly ride in?
- Will I ride in the winter?
- Will I be walking around off the bike?
Asking these questions will help you narrow down your choices. The type of boots you go for will depend entirely on your preferences and circumstances.
Boots are pretty limited in their features compared to helmets or jackets, but they still have some key details that can make all the difference to a rider.
Riding a motorcycle can get hot, especially when you’re riding with a full kit, so choosing boots with vents or a mesh insert can be a lifesaver, particularly in summer. Vents help keep your feet cool by allowing them to breathe.
If you ride in all weather, including the rain, you will want your boots to be waterproof.
I’ve been caught in a downpour, and I had to stop the bike just to empty my boots at the side of the road. There are few things worse as a rider than wet socks and feet, knowing you still have a lot of riding to do.
A good tip is to make sure you ride with your trousers over the top of your boots. Even the best waterproof boots can let in water through the leg opening!
If your boots being waterproof is your top priority, then look for Gore-Tex-lined boots. Gore-Tex is the one material that we can confidently state will keep you dry while still being breathable.
You pay more for Gore-Tex boots, but this is an example of “you get what you pay for,” and it is worth the investment.
Some boots have adjustable panels, so you can tailor them to fit or velcro closures for the same purpose. This can be great for riders who need to tighten or loosen things up.
Ratchet straps are also common on motorcycle boots, and these provide good adjustability depending on the width of your calf muscles.
Thanks to the extensive range of motorcycle boots on the market, there are boots to suit every budget in every style. We covered some of the best budget motorcycle boots in a previous post, so you can check that for some inspiration.
Track boots start from around $150 but can go up more than $600. Equally, short boots can start from about $70 and shoot up to $500.
The good news is that there are boots on the market accessible for everyone, so you can always be protected regardless of your budget.