Doc Martens have been around my whole life. As a teen in 1970’s Britain they were always the ‘must have’ boot. They were and still are, a fashionable boot, made to look great and feel extremely comfortable for those who are on their feet for hours at a time. What they are not though is a motorcycle boot.
Can you use Doc Martens as motorcycle boots? Almost any boot is better than a sneaker but no, Doc Martens boots are not suitable for motorcycling. They lack the necessary ankle protection and sole reinforcement and neither the leather or stitching is designed to withstand a slide down the tarmac.
Let’s take a look in more detail as to why Doc Martens boots aren’t suitable for motorcycling and a few motorcycle specific boots that look similar to them but that can potentially save your feet from serious injury should you take a slide down the tarmac.
Why Regular Doc Martens Boots Aren’t Suitable For Motorcycling
- Offers better protection than sneakers, basketball boots and flip-flops
- When you get to your destination they are ideal for walking around in
- No reinforced ankle protection
- No sole reinforcement to prevent flexion or extension
- They will definitely let rain in at anything over 20 mph
- The left toe will quickly wear due to gear changing
- They are designed for comfort first and foremost
Doc Martens Boots Vs Real Motorcycle Boots
Perhaps the best way to show you the difference between a motorcycle riding boot and a traditional Doc Martens boot is via the images below.
Sometime around 2013 Doc Martens realised they were missing a trick by not having any motorcycle specific boots. They knew there was a demand for them because some riders were already using Doc Martens as riding boots.
The result their design team came up with was the riding boot in the first image. It was called the Faris Doc Martens motorcycle riding boot and it was released in September 2014. It cost a whopping £249.99 in the UK and there was also a high leg version called the Garrick which cost £359.99
As you can see, the Faris looked nothing like the traditional 1460 Doc Martens boots shown in the second image. That’s because Doc Martens soon realised they had to design a completely new boot to receive the required CE markings for motorcycle boots and to make them waterproof (you got them on and off via a zip at the back).
The Faris wasn’t on the market long, so sales presumably were slow. The Doc Martens fans wouldn’t be buying them because they looked nothing like the boots they loved. Meanwhile, trying to break into the highly competitive biker protective clothing market and attract the existing motorcycle riding crowd would be extremely difficult, not to mention costly.
Motorcycle Boots That Look Like Doc Martens
Save your Doc Martens and get yourself something that looks similar but was designed for the job of saving your feet from serious injury in a crash.
TCX Hero Boots
Best price is currently from Sports Bike Shop but check Amazon before buying as their prices change all the time.
Sports Bike Shop offer world wide shipping and at the time of writing have $13.50 (£10) off and they're offering free shipping.
- Also available in Black
- Full grain leather construction
- Toe and heel counter
- Leather shift pad
- Waterproof lining
- Anatomic and replaceable footbed
- Lacing fastening system with zip and Velcro band closure
- Sole tread offers a superior grip on any terrain
TCX are a company based in Montebelluna, Italy. The company tag line is ‘Focus on boots’ and that’s exactly what they do. They design and produce boots for military and emergency services but their main focus is in the motorcycle boots market and they’re one of the most respected companies in the sector.
Being Italian, they produce real motorcycle boots that also just happen to look very stylish.
The Hero boot is designed to look a casual boot, something that looks good on and off the bike but offers plenty of protection should the worst happen.
I have a pair of TCX Street Ace boots which were the predecessors to the Hero and can confirm that as well as looking great with a pair of jeans, they are also extremely comfortable. So comfortable that I often wear them for a night out, going for a walk etc.
As you can see, like Doc Martens boots they follow the tried and tested styling of laces up the front. Notice the zip up the sides though? This is because the tongue and waterproof lining is attached to the shaft (or quarter) just under the eyelets.
This creates a gutter behind and just below the eyelets so that any water getting in through them just runs down the gutter and out onto the bridge area.
Having the gutter system though means they might be a tight squeeze to get on and off for some people so they have the zip on the side to make it much easier. You can actually get them on and off via the zip without undoing the laces. Water is prevented from entering at the top of the zip via a velcro fastener.
Stylmartin Rocket Cafe Racer Boots
Check both links for stock availability and a price comparison.
- Full grain leather
- Waterproof and breathable lining
- Anatomic, antibacterial and changeable footbed
- Leather gear shift pad
- Gusseted side entry zips
- Buckled lace keeper
- Adjustable leg strap and laces
- Oil resistant rubber sole
- Anti-static and anti-slip sole
Stylmartin are another Italian company that put all their efforts strictly into motorcycle boots. While the majority of their boots are designed to look casual and aimed at the urban riding crowd, the Rocket boot takes its styling straight from the military.
The original Cafe Racer riders of 50’s and 60’s England would have worn Army surplus boots which were readily available at the time so Stylmartin have definitely tried to come up with an authentic looking design.
The Stylmartin Rocket boot is made from writer leather which intentionally marks very easily so that they quickly gain an aged look. If you want to keep the leather looking like new simply clean and polish regularly.
Like the TCX Hero, the laces are pretty much for show and you can comfortably put them on and off via the side zips.
I like these, they look very similar to a pair of very good Miendl German issue mountain boots I have for hiking and camping.
They have been out a while now and some sellers on Amazon are showing low stocks so I’m thinking Stylmartin may be releasing an updated version which means prices should be dropping on the current stock to clear way for new.
Update: I purchased a pair, read my review of the Stylmartin Rocket boot.
Can You Wear Regular Boots For Motorcycle Riding?
If you ride around town on a scooter or moped then while not ideal, your army or hiking boots with ankle support are a far better option than wearing your regular shoe or sneakers.
So, if you are waiting for your motorcycle boots to arrive or you’re saving up for a pair then regular boots, especially those that come up past your ankle, will do at a push. You should get some proper motorcycle boots as soon as you can though.
A national study by the CDC looked at over 1.2 million none fatal motorcycle accidents across America and recorded all injuries by body location. They found the feet and leg area came top with a whopping 30% of all accidents resulting in injuries to the very lower part of the riders body. Source.
These foot injuries according to Miley Legal are commonly:
- Soft tissue damage
- Fractured bones
- Ankle injuries
Proper motorcycle riding boots are designed to prevent or limit the damage to your feet and ankles during a motorcycle accident. Doc Marten boots, work boots, basketball boots, sneakers and the like are not.
Whenever I’m on vacation in Greece and I see some kids renting scooters wearing nothing but a pair of flip flops and shorts I literally cringe thinking of the damage they could be about to do to themselves.
Are Steel Toe Work Boots Good or Bad for Riding a Motorcycle
Steel toe work boots are designed to protect the foot from an impact coming from directly above and while the steel will offer good abrasion resistance the stitching and leather hasn’t been designed to withstand being dragged along the tarmac with 500lbs of motorcycle machinery laying on top of it.
As a construction worker myself I wear steel toe work boots every day for work. Over the last 40 years I can remember at least 3 occasions when having steel toe protection in my work boots has saved me from losing at least two toes.
Work boots have come on leaps and bounds since my first pair back in the 1980’s. Companies such as Dewalt make steel toe work boots that are comfy and even stylish but would I wear them on a motorcycle?
In certain circumstances I could see me wearing my work boots on the bike. An example might be if I needed to go to work on my motorcycle. Rather than carry my work boots in a back pack I would probably wear them for the short trip to the construction site but I wouldn’t use them as a full time replacement for a genuine pair of motorcycle boots.
Steel toe work boots are not good for motorcycle riding because:
- They often don’t have hard ankle protection which motorcycle boots have
- The sole isn’t designed to protect your feet from flexion or extension
- They’re designed to be waterproof at pedestrian pace, not when travelling at speed
- The steel toe makes them very cold in the winter
- Steel toe work boots just aren’t as comfy as a proper motorcycle boot
- The steel toe can make shifting gear, especially finding neutral, difficult for a novice rider
There has been debate on various biker forums for years now as to whether steel toe boots can amputate your toes. I think the problem here is that when you hear of this happening some people naturally think of the steel being crushed onto the toes thereby resulting in loss of digits.
If this were the case and something so heavy is on your foot that it can actually crush the steel toe then I don’t imagine your foot is not going to survive whether you’re wearing steel toe boots or not.
I don’t think that is the case though. To my mind when someone has lost toes due to wearing steel toe work boots in a motorcycle crash it’s because the boot has bent all the way over lacerating the top of the foot just above the toes.
You can buy motorcycle boots with steel toes nowadays (mainly these are motocross boots) but as with all good motorcycle boots the sole is reinforced to prevent flexion and extension so the toe area can’t bend up and over.
Riding motorcycles can be a dangerous pastime, that’s probably at the root of why so many of us do it.
A staggering 8 out of 10 motorcycle accidents result in injury or death. In a car that reduces to just 2 out of 10 (probably 1 out of 10 if you could remove the false whiplash claims)source
With statistics like that it just makes sense to try your best to improve the odds of avoiding serious injury any way you can and adhering to ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) is one of the easiest ways in achieving that.
Especially today, where you don’t have to sacrifice style for functionality. With the exponential rise of retro bikes we are spoilt for choice in cool looking motorcycle gear to go with them and boots are no exception.
So leave the Doc Martens boots at home when you go out for a ride and get yourself some good quality footwear designed for the job. Besides, with the price of Doc Martens today, why would you want to subject them to damage inflicted by road debris, oil and all the other rigours of riding?