When I first started riding on the street 35 years ago, I hardly gave a thought to my footwear. Whatever running shoes I happened to be wearing were the choice of the day.
As I grew older and, not coincidentally, smarter, I started taking protection of my feet as seriously as I did my head-I had always worn top-notch helmets.These days, I have a pretty well developed sense of risk management. While the most safety-conscious among us can insist that nothing short of full-race apparel is required for any ride of any length, some of us are a bit more reasonable than that. I admit that I have been skeptical about riding shoes as an alternative to full boots. However, count me as one of the converted when convenience and comfort factors are as important as safety. Riding shoes may not be as safe as boots, but you are more likely to slip them on for short trips and they are considerably more protective than running shoes.Here are four distinct takes on the riding shoe concept, giving you the opportunity to select just the right balance of protection, style, comfort, and walkability in your riding footwear:Joe Rocket Velocity Shoe
Low-cut for light weight and walk-around comfort, the Joe Rocket Velocity shoe also incorporates features straight from the racetrack. With styling patterned after a running shoe, this is footwear that you can wear indoors without attracting attention, especially in the all-black version. Once your foot is in the shoe, it is easy to adjust for comfort. The speed lace system makes the perfect feel only a tug away; the race-style sure-locking buckle across your instep connects two plastic ankle guards, ensuring that the shoe feels like part of your foot. A replaceable toe slider means you can crank the bike over in turns without destroying your shoe, and a smooth sole means no hang-ups on the pegs. The left Velocity shoe has no toe guard for the shifter, but, surprisingly, I haven’t missed it. Piloti Moto 800
Known for its automobile driving shoes, Piloti has just now entered the motorcycle shoe market. The Moto 800 has a plush interior for comfort. It is tall, for additional ankle protection, which is attained through padding rather than plastic. The majority of the shoe’s exterior is leather.Traditional manually tied laces can be troublesome on a motorcycle, as they can get hooked on shifters and brake pedals. Realizing this, Piloti has a flap that safely covers the laces, and is held secure by hook-and-loop. Tec-Tuff leather at the shifter point-of-contact shields your toes from discomfort, but the padding reduces shifter sensitivity slightly. There is a distinct arch cut into the Moto 800’s very grippy sole; those who ride with their arches on the footpegs may find that desirable.Shift Kicker Street
At the taller end of the motorcycle riding shoe spectrum, the Shift Kicker Street offers excellent support, thanks to a tall ankle buckle. The locking buckle is adjustable for personalized fit, and it snaps down with authority. Shift chose to go with long manual-tie shoelaces, which are only partly restrained by the ankle buckle. I never had the Kicker’s lace loops hang up on a foot control, but I didn’t stop worrying about it, either.Hard heel and ankle protection is reassuring, and only slightly compromises walking comfort. Almost completely black, they are stealth footwear off the bike. There is no toe-shift protection on the Kicker Street, so you will have a fairly direct feel for the lever. The sole is grippy, with just the slightest heel.Sidi Streetburner
With its road racing pedigree, it is no surprise that the Sidi Streetburner shoes are the most aggressive of this quartet. They look like Vertigo Corsa motorcyle race boots, but the shoes stop above the ankle. Below that, you have a toe shift pad, replaceable toe sliders, a huge translucent heel guard, plastic braces that run from the arch to the ankle for world-class protection, plus closeable vents for all-season riding. The heel is fairly pronounced.Eschewing laces, the Streetburner has a highly adjustable top-of-the-line Tecno-II instep buckle, plus a hook-and-loop strap for above the ankle fit personalization. Inside, the feel is a bit Spartan, and not the most comfortable for strolling, but these are shoes that give your feet the feel and protection you expect from racing motorcycle boots.