Spare a thought for the humble motorcycle boot or shoe. It has a lot of jobs to do, possibly the most tasks of any single piece of gear. A boot must protect your feet, ankles, and possibly lower legs from the worst of a crash or fall. At the same time they have to be comfortable, weather resistant, and practical for walking around in. That last job is the one thing that sets boots apart from all the other types of protective gear out there.

Unlike jackets, helmets, and gloves, we tend to keep our boots on when the ride is over – unless you cart a spare set of shoes around and have somewhere to stow your boots, that is. In which case – good for you. But most of us would rather not go through that whole song and dance.

This also means the boots have to be attractive enough so that you’ll actually want to wear them, but that’s up to you, what you think attractive is.

The first thing you should know is that you can’t just wear any old boots and expect them to work as a bike boot. I’ll prove it to you, right now in the next paragraph.

Why Bike Boots are Different

Now, I don’t always keep track of what the kids are wearing, but it’s always been true that some regular boots and some bike-specific boots look nearly indistinguishable. It makes sense. Two cars may also look the same – four wheels, a roof; you know, car-like features. Under the hood, however, cars couldn’t be more different.

Lots of the special motorcycle features in these boots are invisible to the naked eye. Most bike boots have a molded ankle that prevents that joint from painfully twisting when you come off your bike. Wearing a regular boot in this situation would mean you have nothing between you and having feet that point backwards.

The soles of bike boots can usually resist slipping when put down in stuff you often find on the road surface such as oil and hot tar. Not the stuff you walk on in the local mall, which may be some kid’s spilled ice cream cone.

Apart from the ankle, the whole boot is much stiffer and resistant to twisting forces. Any laces or other fasteners will also be tougher and designed not to come loose under crash impact. In accidents where riders were just wearing regular shoes or boots you often see them come off entirely. Same deal goes for the toe, which often has a metal cap which prevents the toe and foot from being crushed.

Other little details all add up to the total package. There may be little shifter pads on the boot or shoe that stops the gear shifter from messing up the leather or fabric. Also, there’s probably lots more double stitching than a regular boot or shoe would have. Bike boots are specially designed so that they don’t have stuff that can snag and be pulled into the works of the bike.

Off-Road Boots

Road Boots

Pricing

The other big difference that you are probably painfully aware of is price. Motorcycle boots and shoes are way more expensive than their regular counterparts, but given what we just talked about above it should make sense to you that they should cost more. You are getting specific extras that will make your biking experience safer and more pleasurable.

That said, you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars on a pair of track day racing boots. You should pick the products that have the right features for your needs and then look at the various brands and retailers to figure out which will fit your budget.

The Right Stuff

That brings us to some of the most important questions about your choices. We’ve established that you need to get something meant for riding, but within the category of motorcycle boots or shoes there is so much variety and competition that it can become bewildering. So there are a few things you have to decide.

Karma Chameleon

The first thing you have to think about are the sorts of looks that you are going for. It’s better to do this first, since you can then quickly discard the products you just don’t like the look of without even looking at other specs.

Most importantly, do you want something that LOOKS as close to non-bike boots and shoes or are you OK with everyone knowing you ride a bike? This is not just a narcissistic issue, if you work for a company there may be a dress code to keep in mind.

Getting High

Whether more boot-like or shoe-like, you need to go for something that ends above the ankle. Obviously if it does not cover the ankle it can’t protect it, so this is a fairly important point. Beyond that, it’s up to you. Having higher boots that provide shin and lower leg protection can be a great boon, but walking around all day in such bulky footwear may be impossible. So you need to find a balance between safety and comfort.

Material Evidence

What should your boots or shoes be made of? Traditionally your options were either thick leather or really thick leather. Thanks to science and the nerds who use it there are now synthetic products on the market that bring a whole heap of new things to the table.

So now you can also look forward to breathability, weather proofing, and other neat features.

Tied Up

Laces, straps, velcro, etc. – there are a lot of ways to fasten a boot, but which one you like and will manage easily is up to you. Personally, I think laces are a bad idea since they provide an inconsistent fastening and run the risk of getting snagged on the chain or other component. Velcro is probably the best general option, although there are some nice plastic clip-in fasteners that boot makers have come up with over the years too.

Under Construction

If you are evaluating a boot or shoe, take note of how much reinforcement it has. Is everything double stitched? Are there multiple layers to shore things up? The boot or shoe is only as strong as its weakest part.

Fit and Finish

Buying online is all the rage now, which means you can’t really try stuff on to see how well it fits. Luckily, manufacturers are now providing detailed measurement and sizing charts, so you can easily make sure that your feet will fit. Just pay close attention to how different manufacturers say you should measure your feet, since each may differ and that will have an impact on sizing.

Booting Up

A great pair of boots that look good, feel good, and properly protect your delicate footsies will keep you happy for years. It can be a big investment, as the entire biking hobby can be, but remember how much we expect from our boots and you’ll have an appreciation for the value you’re getting for your hard-earned money.