We all know that the strongest motorcycle clothing is the most protective. We know that a set of racing-style leathers offers the best combination of abrasion resistance when we slide and impact protection when we hit the ground. Pair a set of leathers with an airbag vest, for example and you are protected pretty much the best you can be on a motorcycle – that’s why racers use this system.
However, there are times when we want a more relaxed a casual look and feel. We want to wear a pair of jeans, for example and a more informal and less ‘bikey’ jacket, as we’re heading out to meet some friends, spending some time off the bike or just want a less full-on ride. And the same goes for boots…
Of course, a set of sporty boots with bracing and external armour will give our feet the best protection in the event of a high-speed tumble but for an urban ride or commuting, a lighter, more subtle boot might be what we’re looking for. Still protective, still either waterproof or vented for cooling airflow and still far, far better than a pair of trainers, these shorter, more casual boots will keep your feet dry and protected when you head off on your journey.
Related: Top sporty motorcycle gloves
Like other footwear, if you want an idea of their protective ability, look for their CE rating and in particular, as many ‘2’s as possible; boots are rated in three or four key areas (depending on which standard they are rated to – there are two, one 2015 and one 2017) but the more ‘2’s, the better.
Alpinestars CR-X Drystar Boots
These short boots from Alpinestars have a definite 'trainer' look to them but a motorcycle-boot level of protection. The upper is finished in camo though other colour schemes are also available and the boot is secured with laces and a Velcro-equipped flap at the ankle. The rubberised outer provides abrasion resistance and there are TPU discs over the ankles. The boots are fitted with Alpinestars' Drystar waterproof and breathable membrane to keep the feet dry and cool.
TCX Dartwood GTX
Tested by Mike Armitage for three months, 1,000 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 4/5
Being grumpy and obstinate means that I have a natural leaning towards traditional clobber. With boots this means tall, enclosed and clumpy. Who’d want to wear trainers on a motorbike?
Er, I would. My son Ed started riding just over a year ago and being an imagine conscious teenager wanted kit that he could swan around college in without anyone spotting it was bike gear. When he ordered some lace-up TCX fashion booties I grumbled about how his socks would get wet, there wouldn’t be proper protection and they’d fall apart. Then they arrived and disproved everything I thought I knew. Quality and protection were high, they shrugged off winter weather, and though he’s literally worn them every day (even when not using his bike) they’ve been faultless.
And so I’ve got myself something similar. These are TCX’s Dartwood Gore-Tex, which obviously means a fancy membrane that beats the weather and allows breathability. Proper CE-approved protection includes full-grain leather, a shank in the sole to give torsional rigidity, and clever D30 armour – this has ‘free flow’ molecules that look together to absorb impacts but otherwise are soft and flexible, meaning comfort on and off the bike. You get posh-sounding insoles, lining and ‘Groundtrax’ soles too. I like the subtle reinforced areas for the gearshift and brake pedal, too.
Stiff when new, the Dartwood have broken in a treat and have become my go-to riding treads. This is partly because they look cool with riding jeans and a leather jacket (as if I know what ‘cool’ looks like), and partly because they feel like I can genuine trust them should I run out of riding talent. But the main reason is that the laces, side zips and short rise make them a doddle to sling on and off, and they’re comfortable to wear all day – so there’s no need to clamber out of riding gear when you reach the office, and you don’t feel conspicuous paddling around the beer garden.
Two-hundred quid isn’t peanuts, of course. But don’t forget that value and cheap are not the same thing.
Forma Hyper Dry Boots
Tested by Ben Clarke for 2 months, 1,000 miles
Quality 4/5, Value 4/5
I’m a big fan of urban motorbike boots like these from Forma. They’re ideal for bumbling around on a summer’s day or nipping out to the shops and you can wear them off the bike without clomping and squeaking around and drawing attention to yourself. The first job of an urban boot for me is to be practical. If I need to lace them up every time I put them on, I probably won’t bother and so the zip on the Hyper Dry is a welcome feature (and one not all urban boots have).
Worn with a pair of riding jeans, it would take a very keen eye to spot that these weren’t a normal pair of high-tops and they feel comfy and airy, too. In terms of safety, they score a CE rating of 1, which is about all you can expect from casual style boots. In fact, some far more expensive boots aren’t CE rated at all. There are subtle reinforcements in all the right places that are reassuring without being obtrusive.
Would I want to have a heavy accident in them? No, but I also don’t feel particularly exposed or vulnerable in them. The waterproofing works well but once they’re wet they get cold very quickly so this is more of a convenience in quick showers – I wouldn’t plan to use them on wet days. They’ve also started to mark on the left toe as there’s no pad – which is annoying.
TCX Ikasu Lady WP Boots
Tested by Emma Franklin for three months, 1,500 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 4/5
Unique looks, design and great spec, the Ikasu have made an impression on me. They’re without doubt the most comfortable short boots I’ve ever worn, and here’s why: Firstly, the OrthoLite foam insole provides soft, spongy support for feet meaning that they feel more like trainers than rigid bike boots when you’re walking around. The plushness continues further up with soft D30 armour inserts at the ankle bones, padding around the collar of the boot, and a fat padded tongue which is accommodated by an elasticated panel and the central zip closure that runs along the top of the foot.
Meanwhile, down below, the chunky Groundtrax outsole gives great grip, stability and vibration reduction. The overall effect is one of close-fitting, cocooning security without compromising comfort. I’ve worn them for 12-hour days, in some stinking hot temperatures, and not once felt irked by them. There’s a T-Dry waterproof membrane to provide rain resistance which I’ve not yet tried out, but from the looks of it unless you’re wearing trousers that completely cover the ankle area, water will find a way in at the top of the boot.
Spirit Motors Ladies Mary Taillight
Tested by Ali Silcox for 2 months, 1,000 miles
Quality 4/5, Value 4/5
These are a youthful looking pair of trainer style riding boots that I’ve been wearing from spring into summer. Made from black microfibre and CE level 2 approved, they will resist a light shower, should you get caught out, I found on first wear, the right boot caused a small blister on my heel. This was from walking in them, rather than riding, but once I’d got them broken in, I’ve had no further issues. I feel they look great when paired up with riding leggings and a casual riding jacket, they don’t look too ‘bikey.’
They are lace up with sixteen eyelets and tough laces, which haven’t started to show any signs of wear. The tongue is extended, which ensures, once they are done up, there’s no rubbing or chaffing from the laces plus to make it easier to pull them on, there’s a little loop at the back, which is attached to a reflective panel. The rubber sole is non slip and, for extra comfort, the footbed is shaped.
They have a small element of protection with inserts at the ankle. One thing they are missing is a gear change pad, when clicking up the box on my Honda NT1100, my left foot ends up quite sore, as there’s no protection.
These are a great addition to my riding wardrobe and are ideal for riding through the summer but I’ll need to switch back to my more traditional riding boots once the weather turns.
TCX Blend GTX
Tested by Jim Moore for 3 months, 1,200 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 4/5
These retro-style boots from TCX are all-day comfortable, both on and off the bike. There’s a touch of Timberland about them, but being motorcycle kit they come with reinforced toes, heels and extra protection around the ankles. That said, I’d like to feel a bit more substance above the ankles to complete the feeling of safety.
Unlike most race boots, and many all-season offerings, the Blend 2 is made from leather and the slightly distressed charcoal finish really plays into the whole vintage look. Better still, they come with a breathable Goretex liner that prevents water ingress right up to the second from top eyelets.
So far I’ve worn them in conditions varying from a lowly 5°C to a positively tropical 30°C and they’ve kept my feet warm when needed yet allowed them to breathe in warmer conditions.
Grippy soles make light work of greasy petrol station forecourts and all manners of footrests, but I’ve found the gear change pad – a lightly ridged area covering the big toe – doesn’t go far back enough and the top of my left boot is already starting to mark just back from the area designed to connect with the lever. Overall, however, I’m impressed.
Momo Firegun-3 Boots
The name Momo has been around in car motorsport for decades and these boots from the Italian manufacturer represent that experience. The mesh outer layer allows the foot to remain cool in hot rides but the waterproof membrane prevents water from entering if the heavens open. They are done up by a quick-lace system with retaining clips and the extra lace length is stored in the pouch at the top of the tongue. The Z-plate shank helps prevent the ankle bending in an accident and there is reinforcement over the malleolus and the heel and toes. Seal of Approval - we've tested this product and have found it performs well. Read our in-depth review here.
TCX Street 3 WP Boots
With a leather upper and fitted with TCX's T-Dry waterproof membrane, these old-school urban boots offer a surprising level of hidden protection. The full-grain leather upper, lined with Nubuck, is secured with laces and is fitted with a rubber sole for good grip on the bike as well as off it. The mid-sole features a reinforced shank for stability and there is D3O protection on the malleolus area hidden inside the boot's profile as well as additional reinforcement to the heel and toe areas.
RST IOM TT Crosby Boots
Available in suede as shown here as well as leather, this boot from RST forms part of their Isle of Man TT heritage range and combines style with performance. The Suede upper is backed by a Hipora waterproof and breathable membrane to keep the weather out while a mesh lining helps to keep the foot cool on warmer rides. There's an anti-twist polycarbonate shank in the sole and the toe box is reinforced while there is internal ankle protection as well.
Oxford Kickback Air Boots
These ankle-height boots from Oxford are built with perforated leather to make sure the rider's feet stay cool in warm weather and come with padded tongues and padding by the ankles for protection. There's reinforcement around the heel and the mid-sole is also reinforced to prevent injuries from the foot twisting in an accident. The sole is also reinforced with a shank and rubberised for grip on and off the bike.
Falco Tensho Boots
Available in black, grey or this classic camel brown, these ankle boots from Falco pack a serious specification. The upper is oil-treated leather and this is backed with a 'High Tex' waterproof membrane to keep the feet dry. There are reinforced heel and toe boxes as well as D3O protective panels around the ankles while the sole is also reinforced. There are laces at the front though there is also a side zip to make putting them on easy and there are also Mycro-Synth padding around the ankles.
Spada Strider Boots
These ankle boots from Spada are available in black or Java (brown) and also in a smaller ladies' fit and offer both style and protection. The Leather and Nubuck upper is backed with a Hipora waterproof and breathable membrane and there's a gear-change pad on top to protect against wear. The heel and toe boxes are reinforced to keep the feet safe and there are also TPU inserts to protect the ankle bones. They lace up at the front over a full storm tongue to keep the elements out.
Dainese York Boots
These stylish boots from Dainese are available in a perforated and cooler 'Air' version as shown here or a waterproof alternative (for £155.95) for those who prefer dryness to cooling airflow and a ladies version in smaller sizes. The leather upper is formed from cowhide suede with gear-shift panels over the toes and there are rigid inserts on the ankles for protection. The mesh liner further helps to promote air flow on warm rides and the boots are closed with laces at the front.
Gaerne G-Voyager Boots
Inspired by fashion but with protection built-in, these boots are designed to come up just above the ankle and provide protection to the foot. There is reinforcement in the ankle area and the heel is also strengthened while the gear-shift pad offers additional protection to the toes. The outer material upper is backed with a Gore-Tex membrane to ensure the feet stay dry but can breathe in warmer weather and there is a zip on the outside of the foot to make getting them on and off easier.
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