It's a given that all motocross boots are designed to protect a riders lower leg and foot from the hazards of riding a motorcycle in an off-road environment (Motocross and FMX Included), and to provide this type of protection motorcycle boots are constructed in a rigid fashion. However that's generally where the similarity ends as all motocross boots are not created equal, and in short time the lesser quality boots will deteriorate and no longer provide adequate protection, or ankle support, but have no worries because we'll steer you clear of these below.
What To Look For In Motocross Boots
When shopping for a pair of riding boots you'll find they vary greatly in price and although all of the full sized boots are designed to protect a riders foot, ankle and lower leg, it's important to pay attention to the durability, construction and protective qualities which vary greatly between boots.
Although designed to be stiff and restrictive in movement to prevent injuries, a motocross boot needs to allow a certain level of flexibility while retaining their supportive nature, as this flexibility is what allows the necessary movement of a riders ankle to facilitate precise operation of the shifter or brake pedal.
However, speaking of flexibility, although the lesser expensive boots may appear to be supportive when new, the lesser expensive boots quickly deteriorate and become way too flexible, way too soon and generally don't provide quality ankle or footing support through harsh landings and G-Outs, so are generally only recommended for recreational, non - competitive applications.
The problem with cheap boots is the overall durability and protective qualities of the boots will be lacking, as they're not constructed with much armor, nor an outer supporting structure, and often have buckles that don't stay closed.
For any boot to do it's job most effectively, and for the rider to be able to maintain precise control of the motorcycle's foot brake and shifter, it's critical that the boots fit properly and are broken in
Another thing to keep in mind is that the shorty half boots don't offer much in the way of lower leg protection since they are primarily intended for pitbike use, casual riding, or possibly kick starting a bike ahead of a race for a rider.
The recommended full size motocross boots are generally between 14 - 15 inches in height from the insole to the top of the gaiter, and these allow the rider to grip the bike with their lower leg, as well as a full size boot provides excellent protection against lower leg burns, or tendon damage when (not if) your foot slips off the kickstarter on the way down, or you find the bike's exhaust against your lower leg.
Lastly, With the preceding points in mind, before purchasing a new pair of motocross boots, be sure to assess, and consider the following points of any particular boot's construction:
- Protection and Support
- Any motocross boot's primary objective is to provide lower leg, foot and ankle protection from the hazards which often arise when riding a dirt bike, so the protective qualities of the boot should be of utmost concern. When evaluating ANY motorcycle boot, first ensure that the boot is not little more than a leather boot with light armor stitched to the leather in wear prone areas, as these boots may appear supportive when new, but once fully broken in will quickly deteriorate to the point where they offer little to no support or protection.
For Maximum Protection, the ideal boot will be constructed with a structural integrity comprised of injection molded plastic (including other protective materials) which surround the riders foot and ankle, as these are of much higher quality than the aforementioned style, as they create a much more durable and sturdy boot, and as stated above, Alpinestars Tech 3's provide superior protection and ankle support at a very reasonable price.
- Quality of Buckles and Means of Securing Each Buckle
- It's important that once a buckle is buckled, that they stay buckled throughout the ride, or more importantly, a race. However, there's NO boot that the buckles will ALWAYS stay closed, but considering the higher end boots generally get more developmental resources, and their construction is established through rigorous testing, the more expensive boots will generally be equipped with buckles which do a much better job of staying secured than the style of buckles which merely fold over with no definitive latching "Click", and are commonly found on cheap boots.
- Bootie or No Bootie
- Some of the higher end boots such as Alpinestars Tech 10 (among others) are equipped with an inner bootie which provides additional comfort, as well as provides a more precise feel during shifting or braking, so a boot with an inner bootie, or a boot that laces up internally before being secured via the buckles externally are a solid choice, and should be taken into consideration, as the boots with an insert are more comfortable, and DO allow more precise control of the motorcycle.
- Padding and Interior Comfort
- When ordering boots online, the perceived padding and comfort, including how the weight of the boot feels on your leg obviously cannot be established beforehand. So, before ordering a set of boots online we recommend you read other's reviews of a particular motocross boot, and if possible, try on a similar boot that a friend may wear, or head down to your local motorcycle dealer in hopes that they stock the boot you're interested in so you can try one on, as trying a boot on before ordering can save you money and aggravation from having to send back a pair of boots which turns out to be uncomfortable.
- Materials and Durability
- All motocross boots will be constructed of impact, abrasion and burn resistant materials. However, as pointed out above, remember the lesser expensive boots may be adequate for light recreational use, but the durability and protective qualities of the boot will not be parallel with the more expensive boots, and may even present problems with buckles or other features of the boot snagging on radiator shrouds, or other parts of the motorcycle, potentially hindering a rider's control.
- The sole of any motocross boots will get chewed up from pivoting your foot on the footpegs during shifting and braking operations, as well as the soles of a boot routinely take a beating while gripping the motorcycle with your lower leg, or when landing from a jump. For these reasons, the higher end boots often offer replaceable wear inserts that anyone can change themselves, or they'll offer a sole replacement alternative. Both very important criteria when selecting a boot for long term use.
Which Motocross Boots Should I Buy?
With consideration of this article not being written to promote any boot in particular, and considering the boot selection criteria discussed above, the Alpinestars Tech 3 boot provides unbeatable protection and styling at a very affordable, entry level price, while sporting many of the features found in Alpinestars higher end boots which include the Tech 8's and Tech 10's.
Is There Any Boots I Should Avoid?
As discussed above, any motocross boot will provide better protection than a standard boot, or worse, a tennis shoe, but boots without polyurethane or plastic supports are best avoided since these style of boots do not provide much support or protection of a riders lower leg and ankle, which becomes obvious after break in when the boots begin sagging, and falling over just above the ankle area.
How To Get the Proper Size Boots When Ordering Online
Most motocross boots are sized very similarly to how a men's size tennis shoe would fit, although unless you're already familiar with a particular boot, you may want to consider going to a local dealer beforehand and trying on a pair of boots similar to what you'll be buying. This way you can get a feel for the toe box area, how heavy the boot is on your leg, how comfortable the footbed is, or how sensitive the feel for a shifter or brake lever may appear to be.
How To Break In New Motocross Boots
New motocross boots are usually so stiff right out of the box they may initially cause you to miss shifts, and not have precise control of the rear brake, but this stiffness subsides as your boots get broken in, and fortunately there are a few things you can do to a new pair of riding boots to make them not so stiff and more comfortable right away. However, if you find that wearing motocross boots are causing missed shifts or lack of ability to shift, or if you have problems getting your foot under the shifter, it may be necessary to adjust the height of the shifter.
- Manually Flex Each Boot
- Before putting each boot on, reach into the foot area with one hand (insert your arm backwards into the boot), then with your other hand flex the toe box area fore and aft, while also firmly pulling downward, stretching the area just above the toe box where the boot transitions into the shin area, and is designed to flex, as stretching each boot like this right out of the box will work a level of flexibility into each boot, helping to enable precise control of the motorcycle's foot brake and shifter right away.
- Do The Squats
- After manually flexing each boot, put the boots on and secure the straps, then stand with your feet shoulder width apart and squat, going all the way down until the toe box area of the boots are flexed, repeating this process until the boots allow a comfortable range of natural fore and aft movement.
- Take the Boots For A Walk
- After flexing each boot, and doing squats as described above, before the first ride, it's advisable to go for a walk while continually placing pressure on the balls of your feet with your heels in the air, continuing this until the boots feel natural on your feet, as breaking in a new pair of riding boots using the methods discussed here can greatly improve a rider's ability to control the motorcycle, resulting in clean shifts and precise operation of the rear brake from the first day of riding with a new pair of boots.
How To Know When You Need New Boots
If you have an old, worn out pair of motorcycle boots that are sagging, or worse, folded over above the ankle area, these should be replaced, as the soles, structure and integrity of a well used, low quality boot, even though designed for off highway motorcycling, will deteriorate to the point where they no longer provide adequate protection, or support as evidenced by their collapse, and riding with these leaves your foot and lower leg more vulnerable to injury during harsh landings, or when stabbing a foot in a turn to maintain balance.
If you wear a boot that still offers good support but the sole is chewed up, the manufacturer may offer a replacement sole, or sole insert which some high end boot manufacturers use to facilitate "Do it Yourself" sole replacement, and boots with a sole replacement option are generally worth replacing the sole, or sole insert, as they are constructed with better materials than the lesser quality boots which will start drooping above the ankle, and often don't provide adequate protection or support to warrant sole replacement.