Adventure boots

Forma

Bryn Davies rounds up a selection of boots suitable for your next adventure

It might sound like common sense but when it comes to buying a motorcycle boot, the first thing you should consider is the fit. The quality of components used, the amount of protection provided, even the amount of grip the sole gives, are all unimportant if you’ve bought a pair of boots that don’t fit the shape of your foot right. Unfortunately, there’s not much consistency with manufacturers boot sizing and so you’ll find that a size 7 made in Germany (where feet are typically wider) will be completely different to a size 7 made in Italy (where they’re usually narrower).

Ill-fitting boots will make your life in the saddle miserable, too tight and you’ll restrict blood flow to your tootsies giving you freezing toes in cold conditions. On the flip side, boots that are too loose will make walking uncomfortable increasing the likelihood of blisters and you won’t have as much control when it comes to braking and using the clutch. For these reasons alone we advise that you take a trip to your local bike shop where you’ll be able to try on the boots you like before you buy them, be it in the store or online.

With that in mind, as you read through the following reviews remember what fits our feet and what we consider to be the best buy might not be the best for you if they don’t fit well. Make a short list of the features you need in a boot and then match that list with boots that cater for those needs – then buy the ones that fit best. Follow that advice and you’ll always end up with the best pair of boots for you.

Anatomy of an adventure boot

Height

The higher the cut of the boot the heavier and, in general, the less comfortable it will be. High cut boots do have a purpose though, offering more protection to the shins from flying debris and, providing the waterproof lining extends up the wall of the boot, you’ll be able to go paddling in deeper bogs, rivers and puddles without getting your feet wet.

Gear Shifter Pads

You’ll find these on most boots; serving the function of protecting the boot from wear and tear from abrasion of the gear lever during up-shifts. They should be placed in the correct position so that they sit beneath the gear lever in use, and equally, don’t dig into the top of your foot when you walk.

Shin Guards and Ankle Inserts

Both should be in place to provide support and protection from flying debris, or if you take a fall and the bike lands on you. The more protection your boot has, generally the less comfortable it will be for all-day use. It is then essential to find a middle ground depending on your intended use.

Clasps/Buckles

Adjustable quick-release clasps can be a godsend when they’re well built and of a good quality, or a frustrating pain when their quality lets them down.

Heel Cup

The heel cup, essentially, is a piece of moulded plastic that has been placed between the inner and outer of the boot. Its job is to keep the foot in place and prevent it from lifting when walking. If it fails to do this then you can expect an increased likelihood of blisters when walking and a decrease in control when on the bike.

Sole

A deeper, more aggressive tread is best if you intend on doing any off-roading, and essential when taking on snow and mud. Equally, a smoother tread is better for riding on road as there is a larger surface area of the sole in contact with the ground. It helps if the treads are self-cleaning (forcing mud off the sole to prevent clumpy build-ups) but even the best will not help a great deal on ice. The sole can be glued or stitched to the upper; a combination of both is the most secure.

Toe Box

The toe box is similar to the heel cup in its function and is placed between the inner and outer. It’s there to provide protection to the toes. The stiffer the toe box the more protection on offer, though comfort can be compromised.

And on the inside:

Waterproof Linings

Leather is water-resistant rather than water-proof, as are most synthetics. What keeps your foot dry is a waterproof lining such as Gore-Tex or any other ‘tex’. Linings are marketed as waterproof and breathable, but in practice there’s usually too many factors compromising the breathability of a boot. Wherever there is armour or wherever there has been plastic moulded onto the boot, breathability will be inhibited. Similarly, if the outer fabric becomes waterlogged or muddy the breathability will be negatively impacted.

The disadvantage with waterproof linings is that any water that does get in has no way of getting out, and once a boot is wet it can take a long while to dry. Boots with linings can become very hot and sweaty in warm conditions, plus they’re open to damage from any grit that gets in the boot. They’re especially useful, however, if you find your adventure takes you through boggy ground, rivers and wet snow.

Footbeds

Also known as the insole, the purpose of a footbed is to aid comfort by providing additional cushioning from hard ground and absorb any vibes from the bike. Footbeds are removable, which is good news, as most supplied by manufacturers aren’t too great. If you have problem feet then you may find a customised footbed by the likes of Superfeet or equivalent will help support your foot and provide better comfort and an improved fit. If you ride in winter it’s also worth checking out heated insoles from the likes of Gerbings. These can make a huge difference when the temperature drops.

Cushioning

Most boots feature a layer of EVA or Polyurethane between the sole and footbed to provide additional shock absorption and help cut out vibrations from the bike.

Midsole

The lateral stiffness and flexibility of a boot is determined by the type of midsole used in the construction. Sandwiched between the footbed and sole-unit, the more flexible the midsole the more comfortable the boot in use. However, in the event of an accident a stiffer boot will provide better protection.

You can test the flexibility of a boot yourself by taking hold of the heel and toe and twisting in opposite directions, a stiffer midsole won’t budge a bit.

How To Make A Motorcycle boot

Bryn Davies heads to Germany to see how a pair of Daytona boots are made

As part of this issue’s boot review, I took a ride over to Germany and to Daytona’s factory in Eggenfelden, just to the east of Munich. The purpose of my visit was to get to grips with the manufacturing processes involved in making a motorcycle boot and also to witness first hand the amount of work that goes into making Daytona products.

I was greeted at the factory by Reinhard Frey, CEO of Daytona Frey, who gave me access to every part of their factory, explaining each process in manufacturing a motorcycle boot. It was surprising to hear that virtually every part of the boots are made in the Daytona factory, save for a few components such as the soles, which are made in Portugal. While some manufacturers might be happy to outsource the manufacturing of all of the components on their boots, when things are made in-house it’s easier to keep tabs on the quality of what’s being produced.

My tour started at the beginning of the assembly line, where the plastic components were being moulded. From there we moved into the room where all the leather is cut into the shapes and sizes to be stitched together by the long line of seamstresses.

Daytona makes boots using two types of leather; cow hide and kangaroo. Kangaroo leather can be made extremely thin, whilst still maintaining the strength and abrasion resistance you’d associate with cow hide. It doesn’t offer much in terms of keeping your foot warm however, so you’ll only find kangaroo leather used on small areas of the boot. Opposite (image 3) you can see the leather store at Daytona, the colourful skins are dyed kangaroo hide.

In the same way that the leather is cut into shape for the boots, huge rolls of Gore-Tex are also cut to form one of the most important parts of a touring boot; the waterproof membrane. Daytona use two types of Gore-Tex in their boots; a standard Gore-Tex membrane and a thinner, less warm Gore-Tex XCR membrane for boots intended for use in warmer climates.

The cuts of leather and Gore-Tex then go their separate ways and the Gore-Tex lining is stitched into the shape of the corresponding boot and the seams are heat sealed to prevent any leakage. While this is happening the leather cuts are also stitched together, with the zips put in place, and the Daytona logo is embroidered on by a machine.

Toe caps are then ironed onto the Gore-Tex membrane to add protection from long, sharp toe-nails. Similarly, ankle padding and shin guards are pressed onto the leather uppers ready to be moulded into shape later on.

The upper leather is then glued to the lining and by this point the boot is beginning to take shape. The heel cup is ‘activated’ by heat to form the supportive and hard cup that we mentioned in the introduction to this boot review. The leather is softened so that it can be stretched around the relevant ‘last’ (a design form that the shoe uppers are secured on during manufacturing) and the midsole (which is also moulded in the factory) is then glued into place. Waterproof models will then be sealed around the Gore-Tex lining.

By now the boot looks almost complete, it’s just missing a sole. The sole edge is sketched into the boot to allow it to be applied in the perfect position and the leather is roughened up to allow it to stick to the sole easier. The sole is coated with an adhesive, and the upper with a chemical that reacts to give a very strong bond.

The sole and upper are then put together and heat activated and compressed. This is where the sole becomes attached to the upper. The boot is then de-lasted and checked over for any defects while all loose threads get tidied up. Any messy gluing is wiped up and the leather and soles are cleaned. One final quality check ensures that the boots meet the high standard before being boxed and sent out.

In total it takes between 6-8 weeks for Daytona to make a pair of boots from start to finish, and depending on which model is being made there are between 90 and 150 different processes. After all of this, if cared for properly, Daytona boots will last for roughly 100,000 miles, though the Gore-Tex membrane is likely to leak at around 80,000. When this happens you can get your boots repaired by sending them back to the factory and they’ll replace the waterproof lining and the sole making your boots almost as good as new (these repairs will cost half the price of the new boots).

Aldi Touring Boots SRP £29.99

www.aldi.co.uk

Aldi

Every now and then Aldi will sell motorcycle clothing and accessories, and while some of their kit is great, other bits clearly show why the stuff is so cheap. These Aldi Touring Boots, however, aren’t too bad and hold their own against other ‘budget’ motorcycle boot options, even those that are £40-£50 more expensive.

Granted, these aren’t the best boots for anyone planning on doing any off-roading, as they’re predominantly designed for
road touring. The grip on the sole, while acceptable on tarmac, isn’t good enough off it, and my feet were slipping off the pegs every time I stood up. The waterproofing in the boot reaches just above the ankle, meaning that if you’re going to be paddling through water that’s a couple of inches deep don’t expect to stay dry.

The outer material also wets out quickly and you’ll find your boots getting heavy and your feet getting cold as the water cools.

In terms of protection, there’s not really much to talk about because, well, the Touring Boots don’t offer much at all. There’s a thin layer of padding around the ankles, but the boots aren’t particularly supportive and lack any proper armour. However, where the boots lack in protection they excel in comfort, both on and off the bike.

In all, it’s hard to argue a case against the Aldi Touring boots at £30. They’re not going to last you as long as a pair of Daytonas and they’re not the most protective boots on the market, but they’re comfortable and if you can’t afford any more you won’t be too disappointed.

In a line: For £30 you can’t go wrong.

Comfort: 8 Protection: 4 On road: 7 Off road: 3 Value for money: 10 Overall: 6

ABR Rating 6/10

Spada Trek WP SRP £89.95

www.spadaclothing.co.uk

Spada

For £89 the Spada Trek WPs may seem like an attractive boot, they’ve got the enduro look and they feature a deep lugged sole which should perform well on those muddy trails, but that’s where the good stuff ends. On closer inspection these boots are let down by poor quality of components and workmanship.

First of all, the sole. While it does have a grippy tread pattern there is no substance to it, particularly under the arch of the foot so you’ll feel everything from pebbles to the foot-pegs of your bike and they will wear away especially quick. On our size 11’s the gear shift pads are positioned in the wrong place so they don’t actually protect the boot from the gear shifter and as they’re on the flex point they dig in to the top of your foot when you walk and the buckle fastners are not robust enough.

The waterproof booty liner will keep the wet stuff out but it’s free to move about the boot and on more than one occasion it has followed my foot out when I’ve taken the Trek WP off. Water is free to enter the space between the booty and the outer material where it will pool up, while the waterproof lining will stop it from wetting your feet, they’ll get cold and breathability will be inhibited.

In all the Trek WPs are a disapointing pair of boots, especially when you consider that the rest of Spada’s range is good value for money. You get little to no protection or support and the overall quality of the boots is lacking.

In a line: Good off-road grip but poor overall quality.

Comfort: 5 Protection: 3 On road: 5 Off road: 5 Value for money: 4 Overall: 4

ABR Rating 4/10

RST Adventure SRP £100

www.rst-store.com

RST

I’ve been wearing the RST Adventure boot for over six months now, in all conditions and I have to say I’m quite impressed
with them. First and foremost they’re immensely comfortable; snug and easy to walk in. The two clasps are also quick and easy enough to fasten and I can’t say as I’ve ever desired a third. Grip on the pegs is perfectly acceptable, and up on the pegs they allow quite a bit of forward and lateral movement, which wouldn’t make them very suitable for more serious off-road adventures, but for easier trails they are perfectly suited. It would be hard to argue that they are completely waterproof, as after a long stint in the rain you can start to feel the moisture seeping in. They do seem to keep out the cold however, and with a thick pair of socks are perfectly adequate for winter use. The boots have stood up reasonably well to wear and tear, though they do now look a little tired and tatty, plus, the top lip of the rubber sole has started to come away from the boot – where the toe meets the sole – which you kind of expect for a boot of this price range. That said, these budget manufacturers have to be careful; £100 is cheap for a boot, but it’s still a lot of money in real terms. And at that price you still expect a boot to last at least a season, preferably two or three. There is then the danger of a false economy with these ‘cheaper’ boots. As they are, the RST Adventure are a decent boot; comfy, snug and supportive, though if there was one complaint it would be that they’re not very stylish. NM

In a line: Decent boot for the money; Comfortable and warm.

Comfort: 8 Protection: 7 On road: 7 Off road: 7 Value for money: 8 Overall: 8

ABR Rating 8/10

Probiker Touring Comfort WP SRP £139.99

www.getgeared.co.uk

ProBiker

As the name suggests, both waterproofing and comfort are the main focuses of the Probiker Touring Comfort WP boots. The SympaTex membrane does a good job of keeping the water out, rising a few inches above the ankle to provide plenty of cover for any water you’re likely to come across on the road.

The sole unit offers a good amount of grip on road and it’ll suit you fine if you’re wanting to dabble in a bit of green laning in dry conditions. We found that the sole showed signs of wear a bit sooner than we would have liked. Comfort wise, these boots are okay, they’re not fantastically comfortable, but they are flexible enough to make walking, shifting gears and using the rear brake easy enough. There’s also a nice amount of padding and protection on the shin and ankles while the heel cup is nicely stiffened.

One of main things you’ll notice about the Touring Comfort WPs is the Velcro straps in place where you’d expect to see buckles. I like this as too often on boots of this price you get sub-standard buckles that break before they should, with Velcro you get all the flexibility of an adjustable buckle with a lessened chance of them breaking.

For on-road touring these are a great budget option. The sole may show signs of wear a bit quicker than we would have liked, but they’re comfortable, waterproof and they have a nice amount of protection and support.

In a line: A good on-road touring boot for the price.

Comfort: 7 Protection: 7 On road: 8 Off road: 4 Value for money: 7 Overall: 7

ABR Rating 7/10

W2 4 Dirt Adventure Boots SRP £159.99

If you’re in the market for a full-height adventure-style boot and your budget is limited then the W2 4 Dirt Adventure boots are as good a place as any to start. In short, these boots are well-constructed, durable, comfortable, look the part and are great value for money.

From the ground up there’s a tried and trusted Vibram sole unit. The tread pattern and compound is not the company’s top mud-plugger, but it is good enough to keep you and your bike upright should you need a dab, paddle or push on wet, slippy ground.
The high degree of forward flex means these boots defy their looks and are comfy for extended use and walks.

The upper is constructed of 3mm thick suede and is secured around the foot and lower leg via three motorcross-style quick-release adjustable buckles and a small Velcro tab at the top. Should they break or wear out the buckles are easily replaceable; a feature we like. The shin is protected by injection moulded plastic protectors and you get a high-wear gear change patch. When measured against the far more expensive Alpinestars Toucan the protection is inferior, but good enough for us to place our trust in.

Protection from the elements is via a waterproof, windproof, breathable membrane, the name of which is new to us, but we’ve found it to be as effective as higher priced ‘tex’ brands on test. At this price the W2s are a recommended buy.

In a line: Excellent value-for-money adventure-style boots.

Comfort: 8 Protection: 8 On road: 7 Off road: 8 Value for money: 9 Overall: 8

ABR Rating 8/10

Falco 411 Mixto SRP £169.99

www.tri-motive.com

Falco

I wore the Falco 411 Mixto when I rode over to Germany in May, covering some 1,200 miles in mostly heavy rain. As touring boots go, the Mixto were excellent. Comfortable both on and off the bike over extensive periods of time (16+ hours) and genuinely waterproof even when being barraged with the wet stuff day after day.

This is down to the use of a High-Tex membrane which comes up to the top of the second buckle on the boots. It’s waterproof and plenty high enough for any puddles you’re likely to encounter outside of river crossings.

The outer of the boot tends to wet out quite quickly, meaning that the leather will saturate and get cold quickly when it’s raining. For winter touring I’d definitely recommend adding some heated insoles and some thick, warm socks as they can get quite cold.

The sole is excellent on-road, providing plenty of grip and performing well enough on easy gravel tracks – even in the wet.

Where the Mixtos come into their own is in the comfort department. The fit is spot on for the size and the inner lining is soft and feels great.

There’s enough flex in the boots to make them comfortable for excursions around the town, with there still enough support under the arch to allow for standing on the pegs. Protection is provided through D3O armour inserts in the ankles, stiffened toe boxes and heel cups and a plastic shin guard. The only negative is that after the deluge in the rain they did look noticeably second-hand and losing a bit of shape.

In a line: Comfort is the name of the game here, I can see myself wearing these for a long time.

Comfort: 9 Protection: 7 On road: 9 Off road: 7 Value for money: 8 Overall: 8

ABR Rating: 8/10

Forma Adventure Boot SRP £184.99

www.factoryagencies.co.uk

Forma

These Forma boots cropped up on a forum thread one day and from the pictures appeared to be one of the best looking adventure boots on the market. They’re made in Italy out of oil-tanned leather and come with a waterproof liner. Two colours are available; brown or black, with us opting for the brown, on appearance alone. In the flesh they look just as good. The buckles are a little plasticky, but the rest of the finish is top-notch. Comfort was compromised by the slighter tighter sizing, so a bigger size than you usually take would be recommended. Otherwise ankle and shin support is good. They’re not an out and out MX/adventure boot in the vain of Alpinestars or even the Sidi Adventure, but they are a nice solid boot, much more support for example than the RST Adventure boots I’ve also been wearing, or even the BMW boots below. There’s a great video online of them being tested for waterproofing by an American firm; www.atomic-moto.com/Forma-Adventure-Boots_p_788.html, and, just as they didfor our testing, seemed to hold up nicely to wetting. The boots are nice and light, and comfy to walk in as well. There’s not much else to say other than that if you want a well made boot, with a more rugged look than the rest – something a bit different as well – then the Forma are an excellent buy. Just don’t forget to remember to order a bigger size than you would normally have. The Italians must have small feet. Or squashed feet. One or the other.

In a line: Good looking boot that won’t break the bank.

Comfort: 7 Protection: 7 On road: 8 Off road: 8 Value for money: 7 Overall: 8

ABR Rating 8/10