Updated Jan 12, 2023 ...
New Kicks: Motorcycle Shoes For Every Occasion
The bridge between casual and safe motorcycle riding gear is pretty thin. Such form vs. function rarely shakes hands without an opportunistic price tag. With that, exploring good shoes for riding motorcycles might seem futile but fear not! We've done a bit of legwork for you and the results are better than expected. Also, where one pair of motorcycle riding shoes suits that live punk band in your buddy's backyard, another is just what you need for business meetings with 007.
“Seasoned riders know boots are the safest bet for touring. That doesn't mean there aren't good shoes for riding motorcycles locally, though!”
Yes, there are definitely local events we motorcyclists consider ride worthy. I stress the word "local" because true-to-form touring boots with your casual clothes packed away is the only way to go if you're on a journey. For sixty minutes or less, however it's probably better we not walk around at a wedding reception wearing track leathers.
Understanding which shoes are best to ride motorcycles in starts with safety. No opportunity for an accident should ever come with compromise. That's why ya' really gotta hand it to some of these gear designers. They've managed to come up with multiple types of motorcycle riding shoes that either don't draw attention, or do for their cool factor. Let's get cookin' ...
What Shoes Should I Wear When Riding A Motorcycle?
If we're breaking it down to basics, your riding shoes should protect your skin and ankles when sliding down the road (independent of your bike) at expressway speeds. Do with that information what you will for your other extremities (ATGATT). Thanks to modern science and new materials, good shoes for riding motorcycles don't have to be ugly.
Kevlar. Level 2 armor. Enough material to protect you on and off the bike. "On" could mean a hot exhaust. "Off" means doing your own stunts involuntarily.
Requirement Quick List:
- Premium Material - The "fabric" should be any combination of thick leather, Kevlar or high-test denier.
- Premium Construction - Not all stitching is the same. Ideally, we want triple stitching with nylon-bonded thread.
- Comfortable Armor - Protective shielding also means it doesn't impede your flexibility and ergonomics.
- Minimal Heel - The shoe's exterior sole should be as flat as possible front to back for operational safety.
- Style - While yes, this is the last concern on the list, it's surprisingly doable and the proof is below.
Keeping things real, we all want to look good. Show me a person who rides their motorcycle purely for practicality, never grinning or catching a moment of thrill, and I'll show you a drop jawed me. We're scoping options for motorcycle shoes not only because we want protection but style to boot. <- get it?
This is probably where I should mention how motorcycle shoes for men are easy to find. Motorcycle shoes for women are a bigger challenge and to much complaint, they're always some pink or turquoise nonsense. I've refrained from including any of those below in favor of greater variety (and protection).
Onto the good shoes for riding motorcycles ...
Motorcycle Tennis Shoes
With the advent of motorcycle shoes (vs. above the calf boots), the armored sneakers catalog grew exponentially fast. Being able to hop off the bike and walk around comfortably has obvious appeal but again, the difficulty is bridging safety with that comfort. Here are some motorcycle tennis shoes that successfully do so.
Guys! Good Shoes For Riding Motorcycles
If you're after that standard tennis shoe look and feel, Alpinestars and Stylmartin have you covered.
Stylmartin's Audax Air shoes provide a distinctly basic visual profile - or - a color scheme that's worthy of any 80's pop video. Perforated leather and suede are joined together by synthetic air flow textile. The breathable liner is secured by dual laces. The anti-slip, anatomic insole is removable for when you want to toss in a pair of gel soles. There's also a reflective insert at the heel for those behind you who've forgotten how to brake. As for armor, we're looking at CE Certified EN 13634:2015.
For significantly more style variety, check out Alpinestars CR-X Drystar riding shoes. Alpinestars always rescues us with multiple color schemes and these riding shoes are no exception. Billed as waterproof, the company boasts their comfort long game, meaning you can wear it all day on or off the bike. Their "outsole with inner bootie" engineering aims to match that of modern running kicks. That means athletic comfort ... and motorcycling is (or can be) athletic, right? Drystar membrane, 9mm drop sole (smooth walking), EVA midsole, full length TPU CE-certified inner sole plate for sturdy protection with TPU ankle and gear shift pads. These are pretty full featured and CE certified EN 13634:2017.
But what about when you get to your boxing match, you're being called to the ring and there's no time to change hoof covers? Again, Alpinestars is in your corner. Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee in the Faster 3 Rideknit motorcycle shoes. The ultimate summer riding shoe, these combine armor and airflow in the best of ways. Seamless thermo-welded microfiber and mesh work with strategically positioned vents for breezy pass-through cooling. TPR is waiting at the lateral toe box, heel and hook/loop closure system. Dual density ankle protectors are flexible enough to maintain ease of operation. All of which is CE certified to EN 13634:2017, with a few of the comfort components being simple to replace.
Good Shoes For Riding Motorcycles Doesn't Necessarily Mean Jogging!
Sometimes, what we need is that motorcycle shoe that's a bit more, well, rock 'n' roll.
Stylmartin antis up via their Iron riding shoes. Cousin to the Vans Sk8-Hi, these glossy leather shoes make for comfortable riding as well as breakdancing. The leather itself is water resistant and there's a waterproof/breathable interior liner. Protection includes CE certified PU ankle protective inserts and an anti-slip rubber sole. You even get two sets of laces (red and black).
Similar but with less gloss and more color schemes, the Street 3 WP by TCX is Stylmartin's club competition. The "WP" stands for water proof (in and out). Protection is in place at the ankle cups, midsole and toe box. These really are good shoes for riding motorcycles in that they're protective without compromising comfort. Standard features include T-Dry waterproof membrane, D3O inserts and Oil-resistant Groundtrax rubber outsole, all of which is CE 13634:2017 certified. Stylistic options include full grain, suede and Nubuck leathers.
Our "A" game favorite, though, has got to be Dainese's York D-WP shoes. These rugged round-towners look great (stylistically up to date) and come complete with all the side orders. Gear shift guard, rubber sole + design options, suede inserts, rigid ankle inserts (all armor is CE level 2 EN 13634) and of course a D-WP® waterproof interior.
Gals! Good Shoes For Riding Motorcycles
Good news! The aforementioned Dainese York D-WP (previous paragraph) are available in women's sizes! Whether or not they offer the same colors is between you and customer support (I don't see blue in there). That makes this our apex product in the motorcycle shoes sneaker department. Highly recommended.
Identical in every way with the exception of airflow is Dainese's York Air Women's motorcycle shoe. It comes with all of the exact same features as the D-WP but is mostly constructed from mesh and lightweight materials, which is perfect for hot weather riding. Consider this our "gal's answer" to the Faster 3 Rideknit men's riding shoe outlined earlier.
For vintage styling, look to TCX and their Street 3 WP women's riding shoes. They've managed to combine Vans simplicity with Chuck Taylor geometry. They didn't compensate on safety, either! Suede, T-Dry waterproof membrane, a higher posture internal wedge (heels bad, wedge good) gives you 28.5mm of rise ... plenty of comfort. On the safety side, this shoe has a reinforced ZPLATE shank midsole, D30 inserts, a rigid toe and heel and is CE 13634:2017 certified.
Motorcycle Dress Shoes
Not that many of us own an elegant antique motorcycle with steampunk characteristics that's road ready but if we did (and to those of you who do), wouldn't it be great arriving at that wedding with sophisticated confidence? Of course it would. Absolutely.
Not just any gentlemen. Distinguished gentlemen. Distinguished gentlemen who ride distinguished gentlemen rides!
The finest of the bunch has got to be the classically titled F@#k Luck motorcycle riding shoes. Story goes that the creator caught flak for the funk he found on his fork at the folk festival (say that five times fast). Anyway, they look great and hide below a pair of dress pants with aristocratic sophistication. We're in premium territory here. Full grain cowhide leather, cup style anti-slip gum sole, YKK side zippers over waxed faux laces and metallic pull aways are all you need to turn every head at the vineyard. In all safety seriousness, you've got CE certified construction, reinforced material at the shank, toe, heel and ankle. They're an elegant bit of hooligan attire.
Then there are the Belstaff Resolve boots. Wait, what? Boots? Well, yes and no. I'm revisiting the dress pant rule whereby all you can see while standing beside the bike are shoes under a pant leg. In this case, they have a Doc Martin effect. Not only are work boots of this type simple and effective, they're technically acceptable with formalwear. These are full-grain, 1.8mm ~ 2.0mm thick leather over a rubber sole. The membrane is waterproof and breathable. Baked in protection delivers toe, heel and ankle reinforcements along with the universally expected shifter pad. Hold your teeth together, say "Belstaff" and point to the embossed tongue logo for that Tyler Fitzgerald effect.
Now, if you're working the waitstaff gig at the golf course restaurant or are crashing a wedding disguised as one of the caterers, count on the easy-to-run-away-in Dartwood GTX series by TCX. They're Gore-Tex. 'Nuff said for where waterproofing is concerned as that's the trademark name people want to see if water displacement is the topic. The Dartwood series are once again full grain leather, with a ZPLATE shank midsole and D30 inserts. Also in threepeat are the reinforced toe/heel as well as a reflective insert. What sets them apart, however are the lace enclosures (elastic band), easy insert side zippers and highly breathable OrthoLite cushioning. They're CE 13634:2017 certified.
I asked my wife about this one. Thank goodness I did. Her response(s) confirmed my expectations about good shoes for riding motorcycles.
Basically, safety first. Again, that means wedge beats heal but there's some wiggle room there. Depending on whatever social standards you set, ya might get away with Daytona's Lady SL Pilot GTX boots. That is if you're alright representin' the world of motorcycle kick arse with your pinky out for etiquette.
If, however, you can't work around prerequisites, absolutes or high society regulatory committees, you'll need to fold your nicest appropriate footwear into luggage sized origami.
Mrs. Maggie Dean's easy-pack finds for dressy shoes (after extensive Googling that lasted all of three minutes):
Sandals: Metallic Snakeskin Embossed Gladiator | Topshop Nadia Block Heel Ankle Tie In Gold
Wedges: Crown Vintage Ludawen Pump | Ankle Strap Espadrille Court Shoes
Flats: Alessia Red Suede Low Pointed-Toe Heels | Women's Love
Motorcycle Shoes For Camping
Cue old timey banjo. We fishin' up at the ol' outpost, spendin' a night under them stars. It's a hike but first we have to ride to the grounds!
For the dudes, Klim's Range GTX boots are at your service. Billed as an "everyday to-and-from" riding shoe, they definitely look the part. They'll keep you bone dry from heel to toe while you make your way to the summit. Of course they're Gore-Tex. It's Klim! Conveniences include that BOA system you keep seeing, the one that's turn-to-tight simple. Just don't turn-too-tight! These also qualify as a boot in that their design targets ankle support specifically. These riding shoes (I mean boots) shape to your feet every time you put them on courtesy of an integrated Netsfit system (with Ortholite insole).
The Women Have More Options, For Once!
Oxford Magdalen women's boots. Boom.
They're tall, tough, well armored, heeled (not so much that it creates operational hazards). What's cool is how you "set" the laces to your preferred feel and can leave them tied, using the side zippers to take each boot on and off. All of the excellent usual suspects seen elsewhere are present: waterproof membrane with heel, toe, ankle and sole reinforcements built over a heavy duty tread.
If you're reeeeeally okay with having a heel on your riding boots, another option is the Maxim women's boot by Z1R. They're slightly more robust than the Magdalens and at the same time, more compact. They offer the same lace-then-zip design for adjustment and on/off access. The liner, however is moisture wicking and anti-bacterial, with a climate control cushioned insole. These are the most "camping, hiking, fishing, working, full force" off the bike motorcycle shoes in this category.
Which Shoes Are Best For Riding?
Honestly, this depends on the type of riding you're doing. We're talking about riding here, not the destination or event specifics. This is all about good shoes for riding motorcycles along the route (not where it takes us).
For street purposes, it's clear to me that the Dainese's York D-WP wants to treat my ankles with greater care. Their armor and flexibility add dexterity and comfort as well. Then there's curb appeal, in which case these look nice and casual off the bike.
Opposite pavement, things get dirty. Dirty means rough. Rough means we need protective durability. Go with Klim's Range GTX boots. No question.
What Is The Most Important Feature Of Motorcycle Footwear?
Safety. Safety is the most important feature in motorcycle shoes which, again, is better with touring boots. Safety doesn't just mean how it protects you during and after an accident. It also means they're comfortable, so you aren't physically distracted in ways that could cause an accident. They should be there when we need them and forgotten when we don't.
Of lesser importance is overall look. It's better we de-prioritize aesthetics so we never need prosthetics. It's after we find what's safe for daily use that we can then ask ourselves "which ones aren't clown shoes and might even land me a few cool points?"
So, try on as many as you can grab! Consider the purpose of your purchase. Be it a local gathering, spy convention or banjo competition, there's a perfect pair of motorcycle riding shoes with your name on 'em.
What Are Your Favorite Armored Motorcycle Riding Shoes?
There are a lot of good shoes for riding motorcycles out there. Which ones have you tried and why? Your input is invited. Leave a comment!