Best Value Motorcycle Boots

I am writing this in response to several Google searches that continue to end up on this blog, on my post about “best motorcycle boots.” There is a difference between all the “bests”:

  • Best quality motorcycle boots
  • Best motorcycle boots for long-day comfort
  • Best value motorcycle boots

Let me offer some of my opinions for each of these qualifications. Remember, these are my opinions and yours or your Uncle Pete who has been riding since forever may be different. I have been riding a motorcycle for more than 30 years, and have tried and worn probably over 200 pairs of boots while riding during that time. I summarized this experience along with some research in my Guide to Motorcycle Boots that has won rave reviews and upon which this blog post is based.

In my post on “best motorcycle boots,” I commented on the durability, sole, comfort, fit, and value of Chippewa Firefighter Boots. I still believe that Chippewa Firefighter Boots fit all of those criteria exceptionally well.

But in the three categories listed above, here are some more of my opinions.

Best quality motorcycle boots: By far, the best quality motorcycle boots must be Wesco Boots. Currently I have 11 pairs of Wesco Boots and I find that their quality and durability is second-to-none. You can tell that by the construction and attention to detail, as each pair of boots is “built” individually by skilled bootmakers working at their facility in Scappoose, Oregon. Their “Boss” and harness motorcycle boots are of exceptional quality, and will last well beyond the lifetime of the wearer.

Features of quality in a motorcycle boot that I look for include:

  • All leather construction (no plastic anywhere)
  • true Vibram soles (not cheap rubber, “nitrile,” or similar knock-offs).
  • stitched, not glued, soles. Boots with stitched soles can be resoled if necessary.
  • leather lined boot shafts.
  • Materials and craftsmanship that shows in every detail of construction. There are no blemishes in the leather, and all stress points are double-stitched.

By all means, Wesco Boots are the best quality, but they are about the most expensive of the “biker boot” variety (motorcycle police patrol boots can be equally as costly, but that’s for another blog post.) However, Wesco boots are also the heaviest of all biker boots, and boots that are heavy to lug around on the feet can become uncomfortable on a long day’s ride.

Most comfortable motorcycle boots: Face it, a long day in the saddle means that you have to accommodate anything that can cause discomfort on a ride. The feet that begin to hurt if the boots you’re wearing are too tight, too loose, flimsy, or heavy. You can’t count the number of times that you have to bend and flex your knees and put your boot down on pavement while stopped. You put pressure on your feet when operating a motorcycle and when taking breaks, and certainly when you arrive at your destination by walking around. Sometimes destinations involve hiking or walking on rocky terrain, so a comfortable motorcycle boot will do double-duty, serving both to provide protection to a motorcyclist, but also as a hiking boot.

A comfortable motorcycle boot will have built-in high-quality insoles, and the boot will be lined with leather or specialized fabrics (like Cambrelle). The boot can be short or tall, but no taller than the back of the knee while seated. (If the boot is taller than that, it will grind against the back of the knee and cause sores.)

Also, a comfortable motorcycle boot will “break well” at the ankle. What I mean by this is that the bend of the boot in the back where the shaft meets the foot — often right at the height of the soft tissue at the back of the ankle — is straight across and doesn’t bend sideways. A “bad break” is all too easily felt when the inside of the boot rubs against the ankle and causes blisters or bleeding sores. Good “shortie” boots have a padded ankle collar which prevents this problem from happening. Good tall boots perhaps need some “training” at the ankle before wearing them regularly.

Personally, I have found that Chippewa oil-tanned Engineer Boots are about the most comfortable of the traditional “biker boots” I have worn. They are well-constructed, have replaceable soles, and are durable. I have had one pair of these boots for over 20 years and they are holding up fine, even when they have tromped through mud or water.

Best value motorcycle boots: So this brings me to what I think are the best value today in motorcycle boots. Sometimes it is easier to say what is NOT the best value: Boots that cost less than US$100. There is a reason for that — poor quality materials (including blemished leather or leather feet and plastic shafts), workmanship that may include child labor in poorer countries, glued soles, and soles made of soft material that will leave black melt-marks on hot motorcycle pipes. Unfortunately, most “Harley-Davidson” and “X-element” brand boots fall into this category.

What, to me, composes good value for an investment are boots that will be able to withstand the typical uses that a motorcyclist will subject them to: lots of flexing at the ankles and a need for “grip” by the sole on pavement when stopping and starting a bike. The soles should be replaceable, so they should not be glued on. That’s why the cheaper boots referenced above are not a good value, because they have glued soles. Also, often cheap boots are unlined, which actually makes them hotter on the feet, and less comfortable.

Boots with good value will last for years of typical regular use. That’s why I continue to go back to Chippewa Boots for both value as well as comfort. You can get them short or tall, and know they will last a long time. They are not expensive when you consider that you are making a long-term investment. Think of it this way: spend US$89 on a pair of boots and wear them for a couple years, then they fall apart or you need to replace the soles and you can’t because they are glued, not stitched. So in one or two years, you have to buy another pair. Alternatively, spend US$200 on a pair of Chippewa boots, and they will last ten or more years even with heavy use. Annualizing the cost, the Chippewas “cost less than half” as much as the cheaper boots cost. That is how you compute value. Don’t go for cheap — go for “relative expense” compared with “a boot’s lifetime.”

My two cents. What are yours?

Life is short: wear your boots!