Motorcycle Patrol Boot Customizations

Over time, numerous search engine questions have directed visitors to my Guide to Motorcycle Patrol Boots, but with questions that until now have not been addressed. Questions have been about the parts of a patrol boot — shaft circumference and closure, foot design, and sole — and if and how those parts can be customized to fit specific interests.

Parts of a Patrol Boot

There are three major parts of a boot: the shaft, vamp (foot), and sole. Some makers of patrol boots allow the customer to specify customization choices, such as the closure on the shaft (buckle or laces), shaft circumference, instep (bal-laced or dress instep), sole thickness (added midsole or half-sole), and sole choice (smooth Nitrile rubber, mini-lug Vibram®430, or big lug Vibram®100). Learn more about how these parts look and are selected by motor officers for patrol boots:

Boot Shaft

The shaft is the most visible part of a patrol boot when the boot is worn as designed, inside breeches. Patrol boot shafts can be made of leather, synthetic material (such as “Dehcord”), or other man-made materials. Beware, “man-made uppers” means that the boot shafts are made of plastic.

There are pros and cons about synthetic boot shafts. They can easily crack, break, or tear. Real leather is made of dense fibers, which when stretched tends to be self-healing — that is, the leather tries to return to its original position and thus hides deformities. Plastic boot shafts also discolor or deform when exposed to heat such as from a hot motorcycle exhaust pipe. Further, you cannot apply typical wax polish to synthetic boot shafts to shine them. The wax will “cake and flake.” Some cops prefer synthetic boot shafts because they are easier to clean (using a damp cloth) and shining them by spraying a light coating of furniture polish followed by buffing with a lintless cloth.

Fitting the boot shaft to the leg is most important. As not all men are built the same, not all boot shafts will fit all men. Also, as a man ages, he loses muscle tone in his lower calf, which makes the calf become larger. It is common that the circumference of a man’s lower leg may be one inch (2.5cm) or larger in circumference at age 50 than it was at age 35 — no matter how often he works out at a gym.

If you order custom boots, measure the circumference of your leg while wearing the breeches that you usually wear. It’s okay to be forgiving in the measurement by .25 to .50 inches larger.

If you order stock patrol boots, be aware that some manufacturers have different calf circumference sizes and heights that are proportional to different foot sizes.

Boot Shaft Closures

Patrol boot shafts have two different types of upper closures: buckle (shown left) and laces (shown right). Usually you have a choice of either closure when ordering boots. Most officers prefer buckle closures compared with laces which can work lose when exposed to wind or get tangled. Some boot manufacturers, though, only offer laces for the closure (because laces are cheaper to build into a boot than a buckle.) There are lacing techniques for the closure that some motor officers use to minimize the lace working loose or becoming untied.

Lining of Patrol Boot shafts

By all means, if you have a choice between lined and unlined boots, get boots with lining. The lining in patrol boots is made of thin leather, of about 2oz to 3oz thickness. Not only does a lining provide more comfort and makes the boots easier to pull on, it also provides better support and the boot will last longer, and not flop over when you take them off.

Vamp or Boot Foot

There are three styles of the foot on a patrol boot — traditional bal-laced, dress instep, or engineer (buckle strap) style.

The word bal-laced (pronounced like “ball laced”) refers to a style of shoe that was popular in the early 1800s called a Balmoral shoe. This style of construction came to be known as “Balmoral style,” or “bal style”, as opposed to the more standard style, in which the opposing rows of eyelets are attached to the vamp and don’t meet at the bottom. Bal-Laced Boots are quite common for use by Motor Officers. They have lacing at the instep which provides for adjustment to fit the foot. Once tied, they seldom require readjustment.

Dress instep patrol boots became popular in the 1990s. These boots do not have laces. They have a dressy and commanding appearance. They are easier to maintain because dirt and mud won’t get into the crevices around laces on the instep.

Engineer style boots — made with a strap that crosses the instep and closes with a buckle — have become popular among many motor units. These boots have a standard “biker” style, but can be kept well-shined. They are also less expensive than most other U.S.-made boots. They offer a good alternative to the traditional Wellington style boot, provided management can accept change.

There is no standard or predominant foot style for a patrol boot. The trend has been to convert to a dress instep style over the bal-laced style because dress instep boots are easier to care for. There are also more motor officers wearing engineer boot style these days, too.

Boot Sole

There are many kinds of soles used for patrol boots — some good, some not. When choosing a sole for a patrol boot, above all — make sure it is marked “oil resistant.” Some cheaper patrol boots do not have oil-resistant soles. Soles that do not marked “oil-resistant” are usually made of a composite material that can leave black marks on flooring and melt-marks on hot motorcycle pipes.

Here are the common choices of oil-resistant soles for patrol boots:

Traditional nitrile rubber sole (shown left): A nitrile sole has been used on motorboots for decades. The sole is relatively flat, and is easy to stand on. However, it has hardly any tread, so the sole can slip on the slightest amount of oil or water on the road.

Vibram®430 “mini-lug” sole (shown right): Vibram® soles are the best in the business, though they add to the price. A “mini-lug” sole offers the best of both worlds: a relatively flat sole which is comfortable to stand in, as well as small lugs to provide good traction. This is a common sole for a patrol boot chosen by officers on the U.S. East Coast.

Vibram®100 “big lug” sole (shown left): This type of sole provides the most traction of any boot sole on the market. These soles are like snow tires for the feet. They can be a bit tough to stand on for hours. Soles like these are often selected by motor officers who work in wet, cold, or hilly environments. Many motor officers on the U.S. West Coast select these soles.

Sole Thickness

Most patrol boot soles are about .25 inches thick, and most have a midsole which is also about .25 inches thick, so most soles are 1/2 inch thick (.7cm). However, there is a lot of variety here. Some cheaper nitrile rubber soles are thin and have no half-sole, so there is not much between your foot and the road.

Some motor officers prefer a bit more height, so they have a thicker midsole applied by a cobbler. It is possible to build up the sole of a patrol boot to be as much as one inch (or a little more.) Vibram® lug soles are a bit thicker anyway.

Some manufacturers of patrol boots will allow the buyer to select a type of sole he wants, as well as to have a thicker mid-sole. If a manufacturer does not offer that selection, any cobbler can change a sole, add a mid-sole, or other modifications (for a price.) If you want this type of work done, look for a cobbler by specialty — not just a guy in a drycleaning shop who can change leather soles on men’s dress shoes. Modifying the sole on a patrol boot takes greater skill.


I hope this information has been helpful to readers considering options for motorcycle officer patrol boots. Anyone can wear those boots, and many of us, including me — someone who is not a sworn peace officer — enjoy wearing these boots for their looks, durability, and appearance.

More information about motor patrol boots can be found at this link to reach the page on my website that shows various manufacturers of these boots with information about what customizations are available and how and where to get them.

Life is short: know the boots you wear!