So you fancy hitting the trails (not literally, although you undoubtedly will!) and you need some kit. You trundle to your local off road bike shop and pick up a pair of admittedly not very comfortable motocross boots, preferably in white. Because everyone knows the best and coolest dirtbike riders wear white boots!
Now this might not be a good idea. Why? No, not because they're white. But because motocross and trail riding are very different! The biggest difference is the sole. Motocross boots have flat soles, not designed for traction. So here are some things you might want to consider when boot shopping. I’ve put them in my order of importance but having done a bit of research it seems not every one has the same view.
You want a good all round level of protection and support. Typically trail riding boots won’t be as stiff and rigid as motocross boots so hence may not give quite the same level of protection but should still have a tough toe cap, hard shin protection and enough cushioning and fit adjustment to provide decent support whilst still allowing some flexion at the ankle.
I’ve put comfort 3rd in my list but I know many trail riders will put comfort above protection. I understand why as spending 8 hours on the trails in a pair of uncomfortable boots can make a good day seem very long! But I rank protection more highly than comfort as I would like to make sure there is another day to ride and a leg injury can quickly put paid to that idea for a considerable amount of time. Motocross boots are typically not very comfortable - their prime purpose is protection against impact and abrasion with limited ankle flexibility.
A note for the shorter people here, some boots can be very tall! So beware when you try boots on to make sure you sit in them as well as walk around. Also bear in mind if you wear knee braces, the boots and braces need to work well together. You don’t want to compromise the fit of your knee braces for the sake of boot comfort.
Now let’s talk waterproofing – generally you will pay more for a waterproof boot, so should you? In my opinion, not specifically. Any boot is going to let in water if the water is deep enough, owing to the big hole at the top of the boot where your leg goes in. Instead of worrying about whether your boots are waterproof enough to get you through that deep river crossing, invest in some waterproof knee length socks! Yes I know they still have a big hole at the top but they fit snugger than any boot. You can pick up ex Army surplus waterproof socks on eBay for a reasonable price or if you have a birthday coming up ask for some Sealskinz (not really made from seal skins!) .
As always you can’t ignore the money part of the equation but try to see it as an investment in your ongoing enjoyment of the sport. There are some budget boots out there that are still decent quality and its always worth shopping around. I never understand those guys who spend mega bucks on their bike, adding every possible accessory, and then skimp on their own kit, buying cheap boots.
Also be on the look out for quality – it can be frustrating if you have to replace buckle straps every time you put your boots on!
So that’s my thoughts on boots for trail riding.
I can’t tell you which is the best boot, mainly because I haven’t tried them all but also because what is a good boot for me, may not be a good boot for you.
We both currently use TCX Track Evo boots which are definitely mid-budget boots (around €250) but I fear we are going to have to change as they seem to no longer make that particular model so we would probably look at the TCX Baja which looks very similar. Arnie did manage to rip the sole out of his first pair of Track Evos but that was because he spends a lot of time pivoting on his pegs to look behind to check how many guests are still on their bikes….we took a slightly different approach to solve that problem by smoothing off the pegs a bit but it’s not a problem most people have.