Gearing up for a ride on your motorcycle sometimes feels like going to battle with all the necessary and required protection.

Thankfully, a lot of riding gear removes easily and allows you to go about your day once you reach your destination. However, your choice of footwear often impacts whether you need to bring along a spare set of shoes.

Riding shoes have become popular as manufacturers implement sturdy soles and better protection but the pinnacle in foot safety remains with the boot. That's not to say you can or should dismiss riding shoes completely. They have their place and as long as they meet your personal comfort threshold enjoy the use. As with all forms of protection, and how much you wear, the decision rests with you. So, we'll lay out the case for each so you can make an informed decision on the best motorcycle footwear.

Riding Shoes vs Boots

Motorcycle Riding Shoes

Riding shoes look like regular street footgear to the outsider but those wearing them have a solid package of protection. Stylmartin makes several types of riding shoes and so does ICON though their offering resembles more of a casual boot than a shoe, same with Speed & Strength. Riding shoes of any make or model generally offer:

  • Comfort on and off the bike
  • More protection than your average shoe
  • Typically has reinforced sole, toe box, ankle protection
  • Very stylish

The Stylmartin Arizona Riding Shoe

Keep in mind, when we talk motorcycle riding shoes we do not mean tennis shoes, running shoes, dress shoes or even those stylish boots you bought at the mall last week. Riding shoes offer at least basic safety from the elements and protection in the event of a crash but comfortable enough to use as everyday wear.

No riding shoe is complete without reinforced ankle protection similar to high tops that basketball players wear. The common low top shoes leave your ankles and feet vulnerable plus you need some armor around the protruding ankle bone to protect from road debris, an accident or even a tip over. Finally, riding shoes don't cut it on the track so stick with boots and only boots for track days.

Motorcycle Boots

Riding Boots come in all shapes and sizes but generally rise well past the ankle and some hug just below the knee protecting your calf. Racing requires boots but many riders won't use anything else whether commuting to work, enjoying long backcountry excursions or even a quick trip to the store. Alpinestars and Sidi have sport style boots with full armament that maximize protection but do not adapt well once off the bike. Others, like Oxford or Joe Rocket feature a bit more style but likely not an ideal choice for long term casual wear. Bottom line, motorcycle boots leave the fashion trends behind to focus on optimum protection while riding the bike and generally feature:

  • More surface area to protect from burns, crashing, and other road hazards
  • More safety features like toe sliders, ankle support and shin protection
  • A better more aggressive fit that appeals to sportbike riders
  • Most boots (especially waterproof) have a better seal around the leg than shoes
  • Some boots may last longer because of the ability to replace the sole, buckles and other moving parts

Alpinestars Supertech R Motorcycle Boots

What's more, both riding shoes and boots offer the hardiness to regularly shift gears something street shoes lack and might after a while turn painful or uncomfortable. Regardless, whatever footwear you decide, ensure you wear shoes or boots meant for riding motorcycles and leave the Adidas at home or in your backpack.