I ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and I always wear motorcycle boots while riding (never sneakers). I own a lot of different styles of motorcycle boots, and have worn all of them (one pair at a time LOL!) while riding.
Following is my opinion of the best motorcycle boots of each of these styles: engineer boots, harness boots, “shortie” or tactical boots, and patrol boots.
Each style is listed below — note that the header is a link to the style of those boots in my motorcycle boot collection. Click on the link to see them.
Many bikers wear engineer boots. These boots present a solid, rugged, masculine appearance. You can get them in various heights, from as short as 8 inches (20cm) to very tall (as high as “crotch high” of 34 inches [86cm]), though there are two “typical” heights — 11 inches (28cm) and 17 inches (43cm).
My favorite, all-around engineer boots are made by Chippewa in the USA. These boots are available both with and without a steel toe. I have both types. I cannot say whether I like the steel toe better than the non-steel toe versions. I wear the non-steel toe boots in the summer when I want lighter weight boots on my feet. I wear steel toe boots when I may end up on rough terrain, dirt, or mud. These boots can certainly take a beating, and remain sturdy, solid, and water-resistant yet are affordable and a great value for the price.
Some may ask, “you own Wesco Boss (engineer) boots, too, why are they not your highest recommendation?” Good question. Yes, I own (and wear) Wesco boots. While the boots are built like a tank and will last forever, they also feel like a tank and become heavy on the feet, especially after a long day of riding. Great boots, and I highly recommend them, particularly for use in cold weather, because the boots are made with the thickest premium cowhide of any boots around. I just prefer the Chippewa boots for the affordability and rugged durability they present to the average biker.
Harness boots are also a classic style worn by many bikers. They present a rugged appearance. Harness straps on boots date back over 100 years, but are only on there for an added decoration; they serve no useful purpose.
Most harness boots are 12 inches (30cm) tall. You can get them shorter or even as tall as “crotch-high,” but most bikers find the 12-inch tall harness boots the most commonly available and typically worn by their peers.
I made a video and comparison of various harness boots a while back (See this blog post). In that review, my overall recommendation for harness boots that meet high quality standards and are affordable, so you get a great value for the price paid, are Chippewa harness boots. A close tie to highest recommended for value and quality construction are harness boots made by Boulet of Canada.
I really cannot recommend harness boots made under the Harley-Davidson label — actually, these boots are made by a third party manufacturer in China that pays H-D for a license to use their name. Cheap labor and materials makes cheap boots. Also, I have not found harness boots made by Dingo, Durango, or Double H to be a good value for the price paid. Again, cheap materials and construction makes lower quality, less-bang-for-the-buck boots.
Again, you may ask my opinion about Wesco harness boots. Yes, I have several pair. Like their Boss Boot brothers, these boots are built like a tank — but they feel like a tank and make my feet tired if I wear them all day. Great for shorter rides and for use when riding in cold weather, but not an all-day warm-weather ride.
Some bikers do not want to wear boots at all, but realize when they grow up that they can’t wear sneakers while operating a motorcycle — not if they value the bones in their feet and ankles as well as the skin on their legs.
These bikers look for shorter motorcycle boots. That is, boots that will at least cover the ankle and provide protection, as well as have a sole that will provide better traction than cheap rubber found on the bottom of sneakers.
There are many different manufacturers of tactical boots — many more than I have experience with. For those with which I have experience, I have long regarded my Chippewa Firefighter boots to be the best for this purpose. These boots are built exceptionally well, are leather lined, but do not get hot. They are easy to put on and take off (once you get the zipper installed correctly.) The lug sole provides great traction, while the boot performs well in all kinds of weather. After years of riding, I find myself often choosing these boots over all others when I mount my iron horse to ride.
A close second are station boots made by All American Boot manufacturing. They are great, too, but I do not have as much experience with them as I do with the Chips. Overall, Chippewa Firefighter boots present a terrific value for the price paid. You can get both Chippewa Firefighter boots as well as All American boots from Stompers Boots.
Police Patrol Boots
There is a reason why cops wear tall black boots. Not only for the commanding appearance that the boots present, but also for the protection, durability, and ease-of-maintenance.
Many cops wear Dehner boots, which have a unique appearance of their own. Classic beauties — but fragile and expensive! I use the word “fragile” when I refer to stock Dehner boots made with a combination of leather for the foot and “Dehcord” (which is plastic) for the shaft. The Dehcord material can crack, chip, and be easily damaged by exposure to a hot motorcycle pipe (i.e., the shaft can discolor and melt.)
I recommend two alternatives to Dehner boots: Chippewa “Hi-Shine” engineer boots, which many cops on the U.S. East Coast wear regularly, and All American “Blue Knight” Patrol boots, which are more widely available nowadays (e.g., you can get them through Stompers Boots.)
The All American patrol boots are winners in my book. Sturdy, durable, and well-constructed with a big lug sole and thick leather shaft and foot. The boots are coated with a light plastic top coat which makes them easy to maintain.
I have worn All American patrol boots for a few years now, and like them a lot. They wear well and have proven their durability. You get a much better value for the price paid compared with Dehner boots (especially all-leather Dehners which cost about double what all-leather All American boots cost.)
You will get the best bang-for-the-buck with a purchase of Chippewa Hi-Shine Boots (model 71418), but if you want the style of patrol boot worn most often by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and many U.S. state and local police motorcycle officers, then you should consider stepping up and into a pair of All American Blue Knight patrol boots with the bal-laced instep.
And yes, anyone can wear motorcycle police patrol boots. You don’t have to be a sworn peace officer to buy or to wear these boots. However, don’t put them on with a uniform and go out in public. Cops take a very dim view of non-L.E. guys doing that. If you want to wear them with a fetish uniform, that’s fine — just keep the cop-look-alike image behind closed doors.
So, there you have it — my opinions and my personal recommendations on what I consider to be the best boots for each of the four major styles of motorcycle boots made in terms of construction, appearance, and value for price paid.
Life is short: wear boots when riding a motorcycle!