Everyone knows that bikers wear leather. Far fewer know why. Sure, the punk rock material pairs mightily with a thundering motorcycle from an aesthetic perspective, but it’s also a matter of practicality—leather is impenetrable, even self-healing, lest a biker goes down on the road. That’s why most worth their salt wear specialized leather jackets, pants, and boots.
Leather alone does not make a mean pair of motorcycle shoes, though. Venting does. Ideally you’ll be reaching high speeds, so aerodynamics and comfort are paramount. But what else even differentiates a pair of motorcycle shoes from your regular daily wear?
As roadsters gear up for the warmer months ahead, take a look at our guide and roundup of the best motorcycle shoes to keep you safe and speeding along every winding road life brings. Ride on.
Understanding the full range of motorcycle shoes out there
Motorcycle shoes are footwear made specifically for motorcycle riders. Sure, that’s a matter of ultra durable material on the exterior, but it’s also got a lot to do with construction, from ventilation to ankle protection. Motorcycle shoes range from souped-up boots to pared down sneakers. It’s about the intention. More intensive rides require more intensive boots. Lower shoes are better for leisure cruising.
Must-have features for motorcycle shoes
Although a wide range of footwear could fit this classification, this specialized gear should possess several baseline characteristics to do its job right. Most experts agree on three major criteria. First, motorcycle shoes need oil-resistant, ultra gripping soles since you’ll have feet directly on the road. Second, they need molded ankle protection to protect this critical, sensitive series of bones in case of a fall. Third, torsional stiffness, to also protect your ankles and feet.
Correctly sizing your motorcycle shoes can be a bit trickier than any other regular pair of shoes. First of all, the materials that motorcycle shoes are made from—especially leather—generally tend to be stiffer than other footwear categories on the market. Furthermore, unlike hiking boots, for instance, you won’t need or want as much mobility in your motorcycle shoes. In fact, you’ll mostly be sitting in them—unless you go for something versatile suited to street wear.
All around, that means you can comfortably aim to have your motorcycle shoes fit a bit looser.
As with gear for any popular hobby, options and customization abound across the motorcycle shoe market. You can definitely afford to get picky, especially if you’ve got more money to play with. Even the cheapest motorcycle shoes aren’t that cheap, but you can get really luxe with it too. Keep an eye out for your preferred closure style, whether that’s laces, velcro, or something else, and any additional features like the sometimes contentious steel toe, for example. And last but not least, make sure your shoes make your eyes happy. Then you can get even a little more mileage off them, switching seamlessly from your bike to the bar and dinner—and back.
Now, let’s get into your options.
Men’s Tremont Waterproof Riding Shoes by Harley Davidson
It’s pretty much impossible to talk about motorcycles or gear without at least name dropping Harley Davidson. The brand’s entire site hosts scores of incredible options for motorcycle shoes and more. These sleek and stylish high tops, for example are constructed from “waterproof reflective leather with a natural raised grain made from optical grade glass,” per the product description. Though they’re only the second-most top rated motorcycle shoes Harley Davidson has on offer, we choose the Tremont Riding Shoes because they’re waterproof—which isn’t a mandatory feature on all motorcycle shoes, so keep your eyes peeled if that’s important to you.
SHIMA Blake Motorcycle Shoes
SHIMA is so hardcore they don’t even have stores or brick and mortar dealers in America yet. The brand’s racing specialists have envisioned a range of rugged motorcycle shoes with aesthetic street cred in spades—we love their zipper-close Blake Motorcycle Shoes first and foremost for their silhouette. Seriously, you could wear a suit on your bike thanks to these, just as easily as jeans and a tee. More importantly though, they’ve got all the necessary specs, including that anti slip sole, extra reflective panels, and reinforcements on the ankle, toes, and heels. Furthermore, they even come in black or brown cowhide leather. You have options.
REV’IT! Shoes Descent H2O Black
At just over $189, these motorcycle shoes are the priciest option on our humble roundup–and perhaps for good reason. They’ve got two closure mechanisms, velcro and laces, for extra security, along with a higher top to help support your ankles. Crafted from cowhide leather with a waterproof membrane, their sneaker-like silhouette is a little looser and more comfortable for those with no taste for traditional motorcycle shoes’ stiffness. They’re just as easy on the eyes too, and could easily pass for fashionable streetwear or even hiking boots.
SMX-1 R V2 Vented Boots by Alpinestars
Alpinestars is undoubtedly among the biggest name in biker gear, with a wide range of tall and eye catching biking boots. These lower cut models, by comparison, retain much of that original coveted utility. These shoes are best for biker’s especially concerned with comfort related to ventilation, since they feature “Extensive perforations throughout for maximum airflow,” the product description explains, with textile bellows at both the front and rear of each shoe. They’ve even constructed accordion flex zones at natural foot pivot points throughout the shoe from lightweight microfiber for more mobility and breathability. And, they come in three colorways! We like the debonair flourish of the white pair.
Sedici Antonio Waterproof Boots
Now these Italian shoes are so sharp they almost evoke cowboy boots at first glance. Don’t get it twisted, though, these mid-cut motorcycle boots command all the specs for a person on a motorbike with horsepower rather than a horse itself. One reviewer noted the zipper closure offers an extra safety measure, citing that laces could get caught in a crash. “Just got done doing a 1200 mile trip and these boots performed superbly,” another reviewer wrote. “The last 81 miles of my trip was in the rain with the last 30 being in a significant downpour. While the rest of my body was soaked, my feet were dry and warm.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Ride on, indeed!