If you’ve ever tried to use regular shoes as daily riding shoes, you’ve probably noticed that things like gear levers and tar road surfaces are not all that kind to your shoes. Also, snapped ankles and missing toes have a way of ruining an otherwise nice day.

Luckily, there’s a whole world of good-looking and, above all, protective boots and shoes out there that you can get your feet into; these can prevent anything untoward happening to your feet should you run out of luck or ability. I’ve reviewed several of the most popular choices here. I’ve put my top picks at, well, the top of the page and the rest follow in no particular order.

Top Overall Pick – Alpinestars Toucan On-Road Racing Boots

My love for Alpinestars products is no secret, and once again they’ve nailed the styling for me on these Toucan boots. These are meant for on-road sports bike use, but definitely have elements of MX boot styling. I like the simple two-clasp design and the lovely mix of textures on the boot. If you don’t think these look stylish, then, frankly, you need to check your pulse.

As usual, Alpinestars have put a lot of thought into the boot from the rider’s perspective. The Gore-tex material is a proven waterproofing textile and ensures that the Toucans will keep your feet dry. This boot has a pretty smart linkage system that lets you flex your ankle from side to side, but it still protects you from lateral ankle roll in a fall – a neat trick to pull off.

This boot has armoring and reinforcement from top to bottom and front to back. You can go read the list of protection features yourself, but suffice it to say that there’s no part of the foot or ankle that isn’t provided some sort of protection with this boot. At the same time it has lots of parts that are replaceable, as well as advanced molding and adjustments to ensure long-range comfort. If you want to go on a cross-continental tour, these are the boots you want. At about $500 they aren’t cheap but, knowing Alpinestars, they will be worth every penny.

Best Riding Shoe – Dainese Motorshoe

Like the Joe Rocket Big Bang 2.0 boots elsewhere on this page, the Dainese Motorshoe presents us with a riding shoe that we can also keep wearing when we get to our destination. Unfortunately, riding boots make for impractical daily footwear, which is one of the reasons many people just wear sneakers or other regular shoes when they ride. The average person wouldn’t look twice at the Motorshoe, since it is basically indistinguishable from a normal shoe. As a regular shoe it looks pretty good and if you work at a place with a smart-casual dress code you should have no problem wearing these.

Of course, this isn’t just a regular shoe and Dainese have built several motorcycle-specific features into them. The shoe is made from a tough polyamide fabric. There are stiff nylon inserts to protect your ankles, suede microfiber for breathability, and nylon insoles. A very important feature is the shifter guard. Nothing messes up a nice pair of shoes like the shifter on a bike – you’ll very quickly wear the material away. Luckily, Dainese has thought of this small but significant detail. The shoe has polyurethane reinforcement at strategic locations as well, so in general I would feel quite protected in these. Not as much as a boot, but you trade off practicality for safety in this case.

These shoes would most likely be my choice for daily work or school commuting, leaving the serious boots for weekend riding and breakfast runs. Best of all, they cost less than 200 bucks, which is a bargain.

Best Sports Bike Boots – Spidi XP3-S Street Bike Racing Boots

Oh, hell yes! These look awesome. Spidi is like the Lamborghini of motorcycle duds and the XP3-S is as audacious as I’d expect from the company. This boot also comes in white, which looks nice, but the red is where it’s at if you have the right- colored bike. These would look fantastic with a traditionally red bike like those made by Ducati, but any bike with a significantly red color would go great with these.

These boots are unabashedly meant for sports bike and amateur trackday hooliganism. They are so loud you need earplugs to look at them. They are also packed with tech. There’s external microfiber, vented microfiber, heat and wear-resistant inner suede, oodles of polyurethane reinforcement, and shock absorption. There’s a lot on the list, let’s just leave it at that. Tellingly, it also has sliders for those who are brave enough to get a knee down and just about everything in this boot is aimed at racing performance. Just don’t expect any sort of weatherproofing. That’s not what these guys are about at all.

O’Neal Rider Boots

O’Neal has a long, long history in the off-road and motocross business, so these boots promise to be perfect for all dirt bike related activities. These boots have injection molded plastic plates for impact protection. This is shored up with metal inserts. It uses snap locks, which are easy to operate while wearing MX gloves and, of course, has a metal toe guard. These boots are for track, trail, and ATV riding, so I wouldn’t recommend them for road use. I mean, you really aren’t going to be walking around a mall in these anyway. These are just well-made, straightforward off-road boots at a very good price, given O’Neal’s reputation.

Joe Rocket Big Bang 2.0

Not everyone wants to wear high boots, especially if you need to walk around a lot at your destination. These boots from Joe Rocket go just above the ankle and no more, which means that they can be worn as regular workboots on your normal daily business. Suddenly biking to work seems much more practical.

The only issue is that the low price of these boots seems to correlate with build-quality issues. They have a great design and are an attractive buy, but stories of poor durability and small things like shoelace eyelets breaking within minutes of opening the box make me highly skeptical of this product. It’s probably better just to spend a little bit more and get something that will last longer and hold up to abuse better.

Vega Touring Boots

These touring boots from Vega are very sexy-looking numbers. They also have male and female versions, so everyone is catered to in terms of foot proportions. At less than $100 the pricing on these boots is great, but I see very little in the way of protective features. The uppers are, however ,waterproof – an important feature in a touring boot.

Again, as we’ve seen at this price point, quality issues crop up. It turns out the boots may be more water-resistant than water “proof”, for one thing. It would also appear that there is little, if any, real leather in these boots, if user stories are anything to go by. Despite this, the boots are functional and very affordable. They at least work mostly as advertised and, at this price, it’s a miracle they work at all. Would I recommend them? No. If it’s this or nothing, however, I’d say they are literally better than nothing.

AXO Road Boots

The AXO boots have a solid design and, although they are closer to $200, still represent good value closer to the entry-level part of the market. These boots are really attractive. They aren’t audacious, just good-looking boots with enough little details to prevent them from looking boring. The uppers are water resistant for riding in the rain, but there is still a breathable mesh that has anti-bacterial and anti-sweat attributes. It also has two cool looking faux leather bellows on the front and back, which should give it a nice comfortable flex when walking. Overall the AXO WP boots look like a solid deal.

Milwaukee Trooper Boots

Milwaukee is one of the longer-running and better-known brands out there, but unfortunately this doesn’t mean that they haven’t produced their fair share of products to avoid. They do have a knack for creating stuff that has exactly the right bike image, and I think that’s one of the reasons that they have proven popular with a certain set of riders; those that don’t really care much for safety and don’t even bother with helmets where they can get away with it.

If you are into the whole Easy Rider thing then these trooper boots will be right up your alley. Milwaukee has nailed that army boot look 100% and this is a good tough-guy accessory. The uppers are full leather, which I find surprising at this price point. There’s a flexing sole that they say is quite ergonomic, and customers don’t really have any complaints about the comfort of these boots.

Interestingly, these boots have both zippers and laces. I suspect that the laces are really only there to complete the look. You can use them and they are functional, but most riders are probably going to zip in and out, given the choice. The soles are Goodyear-derived and are designed to resist skidding on things like oil dumped at the lights by someone’s old junker. I don’t see anything related to crash safety, though, and I think these boots are really aimed at riding comfort on a cruiser, rather than any sort of protection beyond what you would get from a tough leather boot in the first place.

That being said, owners of this boot seem to love it and it does exactly what it claims. If you are looking for some nice Harley-ish cruiser boots then you could do a lot worse than the Troopers – especially at this price.