It depends on what you’re doing. Are you riding street, off road, or a combination of the two? Are you riding a trials bike, a big heavy ADV, or something in between? I got the nickname “The Sultan of Safety” back in the 80’s, long before the ATGATT acronym started getting thrown around like a hot potato. The nickname came from my reputation of maintaining and fixing my bikes properly as well as wearing protective gear. With well over 500,000 miles of riding under my belt, I’ve crashed or dropped all kinds of bikes in all kinds of conditions, so I unfortunately have a LOT of experience with different levels of protective gear. Sit down with me over a beer or coffee and I could blow your mind on this matter. The stories are wild and varied. Ughh…..
“Are you riding a motorcycle offroad? Foot protection is more important than you may think. I wear dirt bike boots (i.e. motocross boots) whenever I expect to get off the tarmac. The only exception is when I ride my trials bike which requires more feedback from a flexible boot.”
My golden rules
You should wear something flexible with good feeling on the pegs and rear brake. If you don’t have trials boots, no worries, you can get by with work boots, hiking boots, ADV boots, or something similar. Motocross boots are very stiff and make things difficult.
Dual Sport / ADV / Street / Roadracing:
If you’re going to see any dirt, it’s a good idea to wear motocross (or MX) boots. Otherwise, street or adventure boots are fine. If you’re managing a heavier bike off road at all, putting a foot down hard or crashing are more common than when riding on tarmac. Be prepared. Getting your foot in a bad place under a big machine such as a BMW 1250 GS or KTM 1290 is not a good thing. Trust me. I’ll write a blog on hard vs. soft panniers and share a story that involves a friend who broke his leg.
The upside of ADV or street boots is that they’re comfortable to ride in and for walking around. They’re also available with Goretex, Drystar, or some other waterproof material. I’ll wear these on street rides that may have graded dirt or gravel roads. Anything beyond that and the big boots go on my feet.
The downside of ADV or street boots is that they offer moderate protection at best. I used to tour with my super comfortable Gaerne street boots. Once I started roadracing and doing track days, I wore my Sidi race boots on the street because they offered way more protection. I didn’t wear them to look cool. I wore them to be safe.
MX boots offer great protection when you need it most, but are heavy, clumsy, and not waterproof. You should think about where you’re going, assess the risks, and dress appropriately.
Dirt bike riding:
Buy and wear the best MX boots you can afford. Period. Entry level boots are better than work boots, but they’re very stiff and hard to ride in when new. As they break-in, they keep getting softer to the point where they’re not very supportive. They will then offer almost no lateral stiffness, but will get the job done. Remember, these boots are better than the top of the line boots worn decades ago. Protect your feet!
If you can get into a pair of modern high level boots with himged ankles, you’ll find they have almost no break-in period. Comfort and rear brake control will be immediately noticed. They also have very good lateral stiffness. This feature alone has saved me from a broken ankle many times. Some good examples are the Sidi Crossfire, Gaerne SG-12, & Leatt 5.5. Try them on before buying if possible. Support your local shop. Good boots are expensive, but your feet are worth it. You’ll get over your buyer’s remorse soon enough. Good boots, knee braces, and modern helmets are super important. We didn’t have this kind of protection back in the day. Don’t live in the past. Get good gear.
Sidi Crossfire’s come with TA or SRS soles. Read up before buying.
The big takeaway
Riding a motorcycle is an activity that has inherent risk. It’s up to you to be smart about it and take responsibility for your actions. Protective gear can prevent or least help reduce injuries, but it’s not a guarantee. If you feel comfort is more important, dress accordingly. If you feel safety is more important, dress accordingly. You should know that with riding anything on two wheels, you will probably fall down eventually. Dress accordingly.