Safety Features of Motorcycle Boots
In Canada, there are no regulations on motorcycle footwear. But in Europe, any protective motorcycle gear needs to have a European Certification (CE). That is, a motorcycle boot that calls itself “protective equipment” needs to meet certain standards prior to sale. These boots are normally advertised as CE-rated or EN13634-rated, which is the same thing.
A CE rating is a pleasant bonus, as it guarantees a certain level of crash protection. However, footwear without a CE rating can be just as safe, or safer. Remember, boots sold within Canada and the USA aren't required to pass the CE tests. So, they often remain uncertified even though they’re extremely protective.
For my money, it’s better to know which safety features to look for, rather than blindly following European ratings. Of course, that requires a wee bit of technical understanding. Here are the basics:
Most motorcycle boots have excellent abrasion resistance. In fact, some premium models have more sliding ability than you’ll realistically need. That’s because footwear is supposed to be rigid, so manufacturers can get away with stiffer, thicker materials.
If you go with leather, make sure it’s full- or top-grain. Split leather should be avoided – it’s essentially useless in a crash.
Generally, leather is more abrasion resistant while textiles are more breathable. Many boots offer a combination of materials to get the best of both worlds.
Double or triple stitching is also great, because abrasion resistant materials won't be much use if the panels tear apart! Likewise, soles that are stitched on (rather than glued on) will be more durable in a slide. And finally, make sure to get a really good fit. If the boot gets pulled off your foot, it won’t be very protective, will it?
A good motorcycle boot should have armour plating over the toe, heel and ankle bone. If you choose full-length boots, they might offer shin protection as well.
There’s a myth going around that steel-toe boots are actually dangerous, because there’s a risk that the armour plate will sever your toes! But according to several safety organizations – and Discovery channel’s Mythbusters – this is total bull$#!t.
Rigidity and Range of Movement
In a crash, it’s common for your feet to get caught between a motorcycle and a hard place. There are three ouchy things that can happen next.
One – your ankle gets overextended, and things start to tear in places that you didn't even know existed.
Two – your ankle gets twisted, and torsional pressure builds up in places that you really don’t want to break.
Three – your lower leg is simply crushed, and a few nice, round places start to go a bit… flat.
The good news is, a motorcycle boot can prevent all these outcomes! In particular, look for footwear with plastic plating and a limited range of movement. In a crash, this will keep your leg in a leg-ish shape. Which is good.
Grip and Anti-Tangling
Look for soles that are slip-resistant. Some motorcycle boots are designed to grip against oily surfaces – such as every public road known to mankind.
Snagging a shoelace can also be a big problem, especially when trying to put your foot down. There’s nothing lamer than toppling over at a stop light and, unfortunately, we don’t sell body armour for your pride. We do, however, carry motorcycle boots with hidden or strapped-down laces. Get some.
Depending on the motorcycle, your lower legs might be near the engine block, exhaust, or some other hot thing. At some point in time, you've probably discovered this the hard way.
Choosing a tall motorcycle boot will protect against the burns. Most motorcycle footwear uses heat-resistant materials, which can take the abuse. Kevlar and Aramidic fibres are best, while leather and rubbers are normally very good. Common textiles like Nylon conduct heat a little more quickly, but they’re still not bad.
Take note: heat resistance is useful for riding and crashing. In a slide, friction heat can be a real pain in the … well … wherever.