Regular footwear lacks the necessary abrasion and impact protection needed to be considered adequate for motorcycle riding. While traditionally this has meant having separate pairs for your time in and out of the saddle, the advent of more fashion-forward pieces of protective riding footwear is changing this by affording riders a single product that offers the best of both worlds; modern, design-conscious aesthetics backed by robust levels of equally modern protection. And it’s this group of stylish moto-specific footwear that we’ll be exploring today in this guide to the best motorcycle riding shoes and sneakers you can buy.
Moto Kick Qualities
The Nine Most Important Factors To Consider When Buying Moto Shoes
There are a lot of similarities between the vast majority of today’s riding shoes, though there are still a handful of crucial areas that set these pairs apart and separate the truly worthwhile models from their inferior counterparts. Below, we’ll briefly explore nine of the most pivotal factors to consider before pulling the trigger on your purchase.
Style: Typically speaking, robust riding boots will almost always offer greater levels of protection than riding sneakers, however riding shoes do have the ability to afford solid protection while boasting a markedly more fashion-forward appearance that doesn’t readily announce itself as a piece of moto-specific footwear, could easily pass for a regular pair of high or low-top kicks, and can comfortably and confidently be worn off the bike. And, while most riding shoes will sport a generally more casual and style-conscious aesthetic, these pieces of footwear do come in a wide variety of styles, ranging from modern streetwear-inspired sneakers to running shoe-derived moto shoes to moto hiking boot hybrids. Considering that style is one of the main reasons one would consider buying a pair of riding sneakers, this category is extremely important.
Construction: No matter what type of footwear you’re purchasing, the materials used to construct it will play a pivotal role in the pair’s overall quality, performance, and durability. As such, when purchasing moto sneakers, it’s always well worth your while to explore the different materials used to craft the shoe. Real and synthetic leathers and textiles are all commonly-used constructions in this space, as are some more technical materials such as GORE-TEX. And, while the primary construction will almost always be the most important, it’s still worth reviewing the other materials used to supplement the main construction for items like liners and trim pieces.
Armor: When it comes to the ability to survive a slide (i.e. abrasion resistance), moto sneakers owe their protection to their main construction(s). However, the footwear’s ability to protect its wearer from impacts is owed to the use of integrated armor. Most commonly installed to protect the wearer’s ankles and heels — though supplementary metatarsal protection is also fairly commonplace — the armor on moto riding shoes is at times made from TPU or dual-density foams, though D30 continues to be the gold standard in the moto riding gear space, with footwear being no exception.
Weatherproofing: On top of shielding its wearer from impacts and abrasions, a great many of today’s best motorcycle riding shoes are also partially or completely impervious to the elements. This is made possible through the use of breathable yet waterproof membranes, weatherproof finishes and treatments, and sealed or taped seams. Waterproofing on a pair of riding shoes is an especially important factor to consider if you plan on commuting daily on two wheels, rain or shine.
Footbed & Liner: Just like with any other type of footwear, the overall comfort afforded by a pair of moto riding shoes will largely boil down to the type of footbed and midsole that’s being used. Plush memory foam and other types of breathable padding are frequently used, though it’s also not uncommon to see insoles from third-party brands like Dr. Scholl’s and Ortholite. A great many of today’s best riding sneakers also feature equally premium liners, many of which are quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and/or antimicrobial.
Internal Frames: Though they may resemble your average pair of sneakers from the outside, underneath the surface, riding sneakers are often equipped with underlying integrated chassis systems that enable them to afford markedly higher levels of protection and greater structural integrity. This includes the use of metal forefoot transversal bars, PU-reinforced elements, transversal protection frames, and axisymmetric shanks, just to name a few of these hidden structural elements.
Additional Moto Amenities: Alongside internal frames, breathable and waterproof membranes, and integrated armor, there are additional amenities that make a piece of footwear even better for riding applications and daily commuting. The most common of these elements are reinforced, supplementary toe shifter pads, though there are also riding sneakers with components like bike-linked integrated LED lighting, reflective details, vibration-absorbing outsoles, and Kevlar overlays, just to name a few.
Fit: Whether it’s gloves, riding jackets, or motorcycle helmets, in order for motorcycle gear to properly do its job and be as effective as possible, it needs to precisely fit its wearer — and moto-specific riding sneakers are far from an exception. While you’re obviously going to want to get a pair in your size, some models offer fitment systems that allow for a more snug and accurate fit — areas made possible through the use of traditional lacing systems being supplemented via items like BOA or MOZ fitment systems, side zippers, or other adjustable elements that allow the pair’s fit to be more precisely dialed-in.
Off-Bike Use: One of the biggest factors that separates riding sneakers from regular moto boots is the former’s ability to lend themselves to use when off the bike — both in terms of blending in visually and actually feeling like a pair of regular sneakers when not in the saddle. So, while most modern riding sneakers do offer genuine all-day comfort — on or off the bike — some are engineered for more specific uses such as hiking or running.
Moto Sneaker Shopping 101
The 10 Best Riding Shoes On The Market
Now that you’re privy to what to look for when shopping for a pair, let’s dive into our picks for the best moto-specific riding shoes and sneakers currently on the market.
ICON Hooligan Riding Shoes
Engineered from the ground up to be the ultimate urban commuter moto shoe, ICON Motorsports’ Hooligan model is constructed around an abrasion-resistant textile and mesh chassis that’s structurally reinforced via transverse beam rigidity plates, Aramid toe overlays, axialmetric shanks, and D30 ankle guard inserts. Alongside a mesh bootie base stacked atop a custom, low-profile ICON outsole, the Hooligan shoes also sport a clever footpeg interface arch designed for freely and comfortably moving around on the bike’s pegs or rear sets.
Primary Construction: Abrasion-Resistant Textile & Mesh
Armor: D30 Ankle Guards
REV’IT! Jefferson Shoes
CE and EN-certified, the REV’IT! Jefferson Shoes were designed to provide ample protection while on the bike and to look great whether in or out of the saddle. The shoes feature a partially-perforated Nubuck and artificial leather primary construction supplemented via washed canvas patches before being equipped with thermoformed reinforcements at the ankle and heel cup. The Jefferson shoes have also been outfitted with a padded and gusseted tongue, reinforced side panels, leather toe shifter pads, and ultra-plush OrthoLite X40 foam insoles. Available in a trio of attractive color options including a fully blacked-out pair, this model is also sold with a second pair of color-contrasting laces.
Primary Construction: Synthetic Leather, Nubuck Leather, & Washed Canvas
Armor: Thermoformed Toecap & Heel-Cup
Alpinestars J-6 WP Shoes
Clean and classic, Alpinestar’s J-6 WP (Waterproof) Shoes are a modern yet minimalistic take on riding sneakers, with a stylish and casual appearance that conceals a host of impressive safety features. This includes a shell that’s crafted from a lightweight yet sturdy amalgamation of suede and full-grain leather, and fitted with a dual-density, MX-derived ankle and heel protector sandwiched between the shoe’s chassis and lining along with a fully waterproof membrane. Other highlights include a padded tongue and heel, an advanced non-slip rubber compound sole molded to the uppers, a layered internal toe box and heel counter design, a reinforced midsole, and a fully removable and replaceable anatomically profiled EVA and Lycra footbed.
Primary Construction: Suede & Full-Grain Leather
Armor: Dual-Density Ankle & Heel Protectors
Stylmartin Matt WP Riding Shoes
Made in Europe in small batches, Stylmartin’s Matt WP (Waterproof) Riding Shoes are a design-conscious piece of moto-specific footwear that combines visual elements from classic sneaker designs with some retro basketball shoe influence. Starting with the shell, this fashion-forward pair sports Hydro-grain leather construction uppers that have been treated to a waterproof inner membrane, a breathable air mesh liner, and a pair of removable, micro-perforated antibacterial innersoles. Making them all the more conducive to time in the saddle are reinforced toe shifter pads, interior and exterior polyurethane malleolus protection, a myriad of reflective details and laces, and an oil-resistant outsole.
Primary Construction: Hydro-Grain Leather
Armor: Polyurethane Ankle Guards
John Doe Shifter Boots
Despite their unmistakably retro-inspired appearance, the John Doe Shifter Boots hide an impressive suite of modern materials and technologies. Handmade in Portugal, this CE-approved pair is built atop a set of oil-resistant, vibration-mitigating outsoles and equipped with premium 1.1mm cowhide leather uppers, a “Waterstop” tongue design, toe shifter pads, and a waterproof XTM membrane — John Doe’s own proprietary material that’s comprised of layers of Aramid fibers, Coolmax, and Lycra. Additionally, this model also features a side-entry YKK zipper closure, and John Doe’s “Threepoint Protection” setup which further fortifies the shoe’s ankle, heel, and toe.
Primary Construction: 1.1mm Premium Cowhide Leather
Armor: Reinforced Ankle, Heel & Toe
Fitment/Closure: Laces & Side Zipper
Alpinestars Speedforce Shoes
One of the most unique pairs of casual, on-the-bike, off-the-bike pieces of moto footwear, Alpinestars’ appropriately named Speedforce Shoes combine modern riding sneakers with the DNA of cutting-edge running shoes. Featuring a primary construction crafted from proprietary Matryx, these shoes boast Softprene sock fit-style uppers, ultra-high-grip lugs, dual-density medial and lateral TPU disks, reinforced toe and heel counters, a hidden internal toe shifter pad, and Astars’ Transversal Protection Frame technology with a front transversal metal bar, TPU shanks and PU midsoles. The use of an 8mm drop and a running shoe silhouette and contour also afford the Speedforce the performance of your average premium running shoe.
Primary Construction: Matryx
Armor: Dual-Density Medial & Lateral TPU Disks
Fitment/Closure: Sock-Fit & Laces
Dainese Street Darker Gore-Tex Shoes
Thoroughly blacked-out, Italian-designed and made, and premium through and through, Dainese’s Street Darker GORE-TEX Shoes are simply a fantastic pair of moto-specific riding sneakers, offering a stellar blend of modern protection and stylish looks. With ankle inserts, external TPU ankle reinforcements, a reinforced TPU heel structure, a soft rear ankle insert, reinforced toe shifter pads, a rubber sole, and a full GORE-TEX membrane, these shoes can handle just about anything that your daily commute or Sunday ride can throw at them. CE-rated and fully waterproof, these Dainese sneakers also sport reflective inserts, a high-tenacity polyamide fabric and microfiber liner, a full-length high-top lace closure, and a nylon insole.
Primary Construction: Leather, GORE-TEX, & Textile
Armor: TPU Ankle & Heel Reinforcements
Roland Sands Design F@#K Luck Riding Shoe
An ultra-premium and thoroughly modern riding sneaker, RSD’s F@#K Luck Riding Shoe mimics the silhouette of Converse’s iconic Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops, while bestowing the shoe with a slew of contemporary features and safety elements. Constructed from 1.1mm to 1.3mm premium full-grain cowhide leather, the F@#K Luck Riding Shoe has been bestowed with a cup style sole, reinforced flex ribbing across the upper ankle, a thoroughly reinforced shank, toe, heel, and ankle, and a waxed faux lacing system that conceals a MOZ fit setup (a dialable closure that’s similar to the popular BOA fit system).
Primary Construction: 1.3mm Premium Cowhide Leather
Armor: Reinforced Ankle, Heel, & Toe
Fitment/Closure: MOZ Fit System
ROAME Zero Shoes
Made in San Diego, the ROAME Zero Motorcycle Shoe was designed to blend in with the crowd and look like your standard sneaker when on foot, while standing out, catching the attention of drivers, and providing as much protection as possible when in the saddle and out on the road. This is accomplished through the use of a high-denier, abrasion-resistant nylon and leather upper construction that packs D30 Ghost armor ankle guards and a lace closure that’s supplemented via a pair of Velcro metatarsal and foot arch closures. Best of all, these riding shoes feature integrated LED lighting that pairs with the wearer’s motorcycle in order to act as additional indicators and brake lights, helping to ensure the rider is seen by drivers even in subpar weather conditions or lighting.
Primary Construction: Nylon & Leather
Armor: D30 Ankle Guards
Fitment/Closure: Laces & Velcro Closures
Klim Outlander GTX Boots
Released in early 2021, Klim’s Outlander GTX model is part moto-specific riding shoe and part rugged hiking boot. Capable of surviving just about anything whether on or off the bike, the Outlander GTX Boots feature a full GORE-TEX membrane, a hardwearing leather primary construction, 3M Scotchlite C790 carbon black reflective patches, a polycarbonate lasting board, a moisture-wicking breathable liner, and a removable moisture-wicking breathable insole benefitting from proprietary Nestfit anatomically-optimized technology. Unparalleled levels of protection are afforded through the use of TPU-reinforced toe and heel caps, 5mm XRD impact protection perforated foam ankle pucks, and 3mm XRD foam tongue and met padding. The model’s BOA fit system — which uses sequence lacing — ensures a perfect fit every time, while an ultra-aggressive outsole guarantees traction on just about any surface, whether that be slick trails or wet foot-pegs.
Primary Construction: Leather & GORE-TEX
Armor: XRD Foam Ankle & Met Guards, & TPU-Reinforced Toe & Heel
Fitment/Closure: BOA Fit System
The 12 Best Motorcycle Boots for Riding
Less concerned about aesthetics and simply want the most protection possible? Then be sure to cruise over to our piece on the best motorcycle boots for a dozen of the finest ADV, cafe, and track-focused stompers currently on the market.
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