How to Buy Motorcycle Boots

A checklist for the motorcycle boot buyer. From the June 2001 issue of _ Motorcycle Cruiser _ magazine.

We ask a lot from our motorcycle riding boots. They need to be comfortable enough for long rides and walks, yet sturdy enough to protect our feet during a fall. They must provide a superior amount of traction, but not wear out easily. A motorcycle boot should also protect our feet from cold wind and rain, yet not lock in moisture as we sweat our way through the summer riding season.

Here, from top to bottom, are several things you should consider before shopping for your next pair of motorcycle boots.

When considering slip-on boots, remember they are more likely to slip-off during a spill.

Many boots incorporate sophisticated membranes which claim to be waterproof and breathable. Many work well in moderate rain, but most will leak when truly challenged. In our test of 12 boots that claim to be waterproof we found Sympatex, followed by Gore-Tex, to offer the most reliability membranes.

For large or small calves, consider boots that close at the top or entirely with large swatches of hook-and-loop fastener. Uncovered zippers introduce wind and water.

Boots need to be protective yet flexibile. The best boots may require break-in, so use them before that big ride. A flexible ankle panel (ribbed or bellowed section) is a great enhancement. Engineer boots lack this since they allow room for the foot to flex.

Sport boots differ from all-around touring or cruising boots in the angle of the upper. A touring boot typically has a right angle, while sportier fare cocks forward to mimic the leg's angle while riding. Touring boots are easier to walk in since they don't cause that clumsy ski-boot effect.

We recommend some ankle protection, such as reinforcement in the upper front of the ankle, usually a plastic panel hidden between the liner and leather, as well as soft cups or pads for the anklebones).

We like reflective inserts. They should be set low on the back of the boot so your pants do not cover them.

A shifter pad will save your boot and foot from undue stress.

The welt (where the upper meets the sole) will be welded or sewn. Stitched-on soles can be replaced, but cost more. Welded soles bring down the cost and aid in water protection.

Heels are a matter of style, but we believe the ideal boot has a heel between 1.5 and 3.5 inches high. Taller heels (even cowboy-boot height) combined with footpegs, uncomfortably lock your feet into one position and won't allow for instantaneous coverage of the brake. Look for a beveled heel instead of a boxed heel, which is better for walking.

We like meaty tread patterns on oil-resistant rubber soles for good adherence both to the ground and to foot controls. Thick soles also damp vibration.

For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of