I see or receive this question (or questions related to the same topic) frequently: “How do you determine the right size for police motorcycle boots?”
I own and wear police motorcycle boots — called patrol boots — regularly. Here is how I do it (your experience may be different):
1. Determine the correct size of both of your feet. Note, foot size is not necessarily the same thing as your shoe size. Your feet change over time. If the last time you got your feet measured using a Brannock Device (the metal thing you use to find your shoe size in better shoe and athletic stores) was longer ago than you can remember, it’s time to go have both of your feet measured again. Do not be surprised if one foot is slightly longer or wider than the other. Select your correct foot size as being the larger of the numbers for both feet.
2. Go get a tape measure — the flexible kind that you can find in fabric stores and some better-equipped drug stores. Do NOT consider measuring the next dimensions of your lower leg with anything other than a flexible tape measure. This means you, Mr. Guy-who-is-too-cheap-to-pay-US$1.00-and-adapts-what-he-has. Do NOT use a wooden or metal yardstick or ruler and estimate. Won’t work. Believe me!
3. Put on a pair of breeches if you have them, or a pair of jeans, then sit down in a chair with both feet planted flat on the floor below you (not extended.) You should wear whatever clothing with which you will wear the boots and measure over that clothing, because patrol boots are meant to be worn with pants inside them, not the other way around.
4. Find the widest part of your lower calf, which is about one foot (25cm) above your heel. Measure your calf circumference — that is, measure around your calf. Pull the tape firmly around your calf–not too tight, not too loose. Common adult men’s calf circumferences are between 15 (38cm) inches to 18 (46cm) inches, but can vary. Measure both legs, because it is quite common that one leg may have a larger calf circumference than the other. Choose the largest measurement and write it down. (Being a purist of math, let me point out that “calf width” is not the same as “calf circumference” but is often used interchangeably by people who have forgotten their math lessons after leaving school.)
5. Again with your heel planted firmly on the floor, measure the distance from the floor to the back of your knee right where it bends. This is something to keep in mind when choosing boot height. More on that in a moment.
6. Place the tape measure on the floor and measure the length of your foot from the back of your heel to the tip of your big toe.
7. Look at your legs and feet and note any unusual factors such as bunions, lumps, areas that have not healed well after an injury, or anything else. If you have malformations on a foot or a leg, go see a physician before ordering boots to make sure that any boot you select will not harm you, cause unnecessary squeezing or potentially restrict blood flow in your leg. That could be deadly.
Okay, with all the measurements taken, start your hunt for patrol boots by looking for the correct calf circumference FIRST — before the foot size. I know that is counterintuitive (goes against regular thinking), but it is more difficult to fit a patrol boot to the leg than it is to the foot.
Select the calf circumference measurement that is close to, or slightly larger than, the largest calf measurement you noted for yourself. Remember again, as you age, your leg muscles will lose tone so they will become wider. (Of course, keeping in shape, avoiding fats and sugars, etc., will slow the leg-widening process that naturally occurs in men.)
Some patrol boots, like Dehner boots, are made with two different standard dimensions of calf circumference. You can get stock Dehner patrol boots made one inch wider than standard stock boots for no additional cost. The same is not true with most other patrol boots made by other names such as Chippewa, Wesco, Intapol, or the like.
Look on tables provided by the boot manufacturer to see if calf circumference changes with foot size. Again, for Dehner boots, the larger the foot size the bigger the calf circumference that comes standard.
Other patrol boots, like those made by Chippewa, come “one size fits widest” — that is, Chippewa patrol boots (style 27950) come with a generous calf circumference. Chippewa “Hi-Shine” engineer boots, often worn by motor officers, also have differences in calf circumferences, too. The standard “D” width foot has a standard 16.5 inch (42cm) calf circumference. The standard “EE” width boot has a wider calf circumference of 17.25 inches (44cm).
Now that you have your calf circumference situation identified, then look at the foot size that comes with your required calf circumference. With any luck, the two will match up. If not, then err on the side of choosing an accommodating calf circumference. It is far better to have more room around your calf than have your calf feel squeezed. When your calf is squeezed, your feet and legs feel hot and uncomfortable.
Here is an example: Officer Able has a muscular calf with a width of 16.5 (42cm) inches and a foot measurement of a 10D. He could select a pair of Dehner boots with a one-inch wider calf in size 10D and the boots would fit.
Another example: Officer Baker, age 50, has a wide calf circumference of 17 (43cm) inches. His foot is also a 10D. I would suggest getting Dehners with the stock 1-inch wider calf width in size 11D. That is because these boots will have a 17.25 calf circumference so his legs will fit. He can always insert an insole or wear thick socks to take up the difference in the foot (which is not much.)
Once you determine which boot size you think will fit, there is one more dimension that you must consider — the boot height. Look at a chart or find information from the manufacturer about how tall the boots are. Remember, boot height is determined from where the leather meets the heel up to the top of the shaft — not from the floor up to the top of the shaft.
When a patrol boot is broken in, it will naturally sag about one inch (2.5cm). Add one inch from the measurement you took of the length of your leg from the foot to the back of your knee. If that number is equal to or larger than the height of the boot as stated by the manufacturer, then the boots will fit correctly — that is, the boots will not be higher than the back of your knee or cause undue chafing or rubbing.
If these measurements do not work out for you — that is, if your measurements for calf or foot do not match up with how the boots you want come as standard, then if you really want patrol boots, you will need to order them custom to fit. Companies like Dehner Boots and Wesco make custom patrol boots to order — at a princely sum, but very well-made.
I hope this helps!
For more information, see the Complete Guide to Police Motorcycle Boots (this is a link).
Life is short: wear patrol boots!