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Why Riding a Motorcycle with Cowboy Boots is Not Ideal: Safety Concerns and Alternatives

There are different types of footwear one can use on a motorcycle. But not all footwear will offer the same protection and comfort.

Some riders may wonder if they can wear their cowboy boots while riding their motorcycle. After all, cowboy boots are designed to be used in different and very demanding conditions. Mostly to allow people to easily transition from working, walking and riding.

Why is riding a motorcycle with cowboy boots not ideal?

 You can wear cowboy boots on a motorcycle. However, you should not wear cowboy boots on a motorcycle because they do not offer good levels of safety and protection to your feet, ankles, and legs. Wearing cowboy boots on a motorcycle can also make operating the gear and brake pegs more difficult.

Below I go more in-depth on this topic. And you will find more information about the subtle and not so subtle differences between cowboy boots and footwear that has been designed for motorcycle use.

A motorcyclist with cowboy boots

Factors to Consider and the Limitations of Cowboy Boots

Not every type of footwear is good for motorcycle riding.

When we are trying to determine if a particular type of footwear is good for motorcycle riding, we need to consider a few things.

  • The protection they are offering to the feet and legs of the rider.
  • How comfortable or restrictive they are.
  • How easy it is to control and operate the motorcycle.

Not all cowboy boots are good or safe for motorcycle riding. Cowboy boots will not offer good levels of protection to the foot and ankle in the case of an accident. High-heeled cowboy boots with leather soles can be particularly bad on a motorcycle as they can make operating the motorcycle more difficult.

That being said, some cowboy boots can be used for motorcycle riding fairly successfully, but not all will, so it is important to know what to look for.

Cowboy boots that are made from a quality, durable, and water-resistant leather (like bull hide or shark skin), have a smaller heel, a rubber sole, and a more rounded toe will perform best on a motorcycle.

Cowboy boots should be adequately cared for as water and salt exposure can wear them and cause them to dry out and start cracking.

The Risks of Wearing Cowboy Boots for Motorcycling: Lower Limb Injuries and Loss of Control

The data suggests that lower limb injuries are the most prevalent type of injury (55.5%) among motorcyclists who have crashed. This is why wearing proper motorcycle gear that will keep you safe is a must.

Cowboy boots are designed to meet the high demands of people that spend significant parts of their days on foot, walking, working, and riding horses.

As a result, it is no surprise that cowboy boots are tough and made from durable leather that protects the feet and ankles from different types of injuries—like the legs rubbing on the stirrup, being pinched by the saddle’s leathers, or the wildlife like bushes, rocks, thorns, and different types of debris. 

In certain cases, cowboy boots can even offer decent protection against snake bites.

Cowboy boots are often made with slanted and smooth heeled soles between 1 to 2 inches in height. This makes cowboy boots unsafe for motorcycle riding as they can slip rider can lose control of their motorcycle.

Cowboy boots with leather soles can be especially bad for riding a motorcycle as they are very slippery in general. (Leather soles can slip off the pegs and even on the road.)

One of the problems with wearing cowboy boots on a motorcycle is that the heel can make shifting more difficult and tricky.

The heel can get hung up on the peg or slip in certain positions as well. So cowboy boots with high heels will usually be a no-go.

Cowboy boots vs motorcycle shoes and motorcycle boots

Cowboy boots

Cowboy boots, depending on their type, will vary in height. For example, classic or western cowboy boots go as high as mid-calf, while roper cowboy boots are shorter, stopping a little above the ankle. On average, cowboy boots are 12 inches in height.

Cowboy boots also have a distinctive angled or squared off heel, which can be between 1 to 2 inches in height. Riding boots will usually be 2 inches while working boots will be less, typically between 1 to 1¾ inches in height.

Of course, not all cowboy boots are the same. There are also dress boots that can be very expensive and certainly not the best option to ride a motorcycle with.

Another thing worth considering is that the shifter can ruin and wear out some of the finer cowboy boots that are made of thinner and more fragile leather or skin (like lizard skin). However, you can try to strap something on your boots that will protect them at the point where the peg gets in contact with the boot.

Cowboy boots will provide some very basic levels of protection to your feet and ankles. However, how much protection they will offer will vary. Some unpadded cowboy boots will do very little in terms of protection, while others that may have more reinforced padding will do a better job at protecting your legs.

Motorcycle shoes

Motorcycle shoes try to offer the best of both worlds. While providing more comfort and less movement restriction when walking, they also try to offer adequate protection levels to the feet and ankles.

Motorcycle shoes are a decent alternative to regular shoes as they are a lot tougher and will protect the feet better.

They are made from heavy-duty materials like thermoplastic polyurethane and heavy-duty hard plastics, heavy-duty textiles and microfiber, and vulcanized rubber. Some motorcycle shoes can also be made from breathable materials that can make them more appealing during the summer.

Motorcycle shoes usually come with reinforced toe boxes, extra ankle protection, and stronger heel counters. They are designed to withstand heavy impacts and protect against abrasions and splitting.

However, they certainly do not offer the same level of protection motorcycle boots do.

Motorcycle boots

In the case of an accident, the resulting injuries (even in low-speed accidents) can be very serious. This is why proper motorcycle footwear is designed to be extra, tough, and durable. If you want to learn more on motorcycle boots you must read All you need to know about motorcycle boots or Discover the Best Adventure Motorcycle Boots for Your Rides.

Motorcycle boots are the best thing you can wear while riding a motorcycle. They are designed in such a way as to provide the best levels of protection to your feet, ankles, and legs.

Motorcycle boots are form-fitting and can be less comfortable to walk in as they can restrict your movement when not on the motorcycle.

Usually, motorcycle boots are made from heavyweight and heavy-duty leather combined with various composite materials like hard plastic and metal and specifically designed padding capable of absorbing the energy from impact and dissipating it over a larger surface area.

Motorcycle boots are usually between 10 to 38 inches in height, making them significantly higher than motorcycle shoes.

Generally speaking, we can classify motorcycle boots into three different categories:

  • Racing boots: Racing boots are designed to be extra tough and protecting as they are supposed to be used on sport bikes that are moving at high speeds on hard pavement race tracks. They will often feel restrictive, and walking in them can be somewhat challenging.
  • Touring boots: Touring boots are among the most comfortable motorcycle boots, and even daily tasks can be done while wearing those. They offer plenty of security, although not as much as racing boots.
  • Motocross boots: Motocross boots are about knee-high as they need to provide as much protection to the rider’s legs as possible. The reason for that is simple—falling from a dirt bike while multiple other dir bikes pass by at high speeds calls for as much protection as possible.
Why Riding a Motorcycle with Cowboy Boots is Not Ideal: Safety Concerns and Alternatives

Cowboy boots vs other types of shoes

People ride motorcycles while wearing all kinds of different footwear. You can see motorcyclists using sneakers, trainers, and even flip-flops on their motorcycles.

These are some of the worst shoes one can wear on a motorcycle simply because they cannot offer adequate levels of protection in an accident.

Cowboy boots thus will fall somewhere in the middle.

Cowboy boots will not offer as much protection as motorcycle boots will; however, they will certainly offer some basic protection to your feet and ankles. Some cowboy boots will also have a reinforced padding and a sturdy or even steel-tip toe for extra protection of the foot.

All that means that cowboy boots will definitely offer better levels of protection than many other types of non-motorcycle specific shoes and boots.

Should you wear cowboy boots on a motorcycle?

Depending on where you live, the laws and requirements in terms of minimum gear will differ. However, in most cases, when it comes to footwear either, nothing will be mentioned, or the law will require you to use footwear that will at least cover your ankles.

This makes cowboy boots suitable for motorcycle riding in certain areas as they normally stop above the ankle and often reach up to at least the mid-calf.

So as far as the law is concerned you may be allowed to ride with your cowboy boots. However this does not mean you should.

Points to take into consideration:

  • Insufficient ankle support: Cowboy boots may not provide the necessary ankle support needed during motorcycle riding, increasing the risk of ankle injuries.
  • Lack of impact and abrasion resistance: Compared to purpose-built motorcycle boots, cowboy boots often lack features like reinforced toe boxes, heel cups, and shin guards, which protect the rider from impacts and abrasions.
  • Inadequate weather protection: Cowboy boots may not offer the same level of water resistance or insulation as motorcycle-specific boots, making them less suitable for riding in wet or cold conditions.
  • Limited gear compatibility: Some cowboy boots may not fit well under certain motorcycle gear, such as tight-fitting riding pants or rain gear, which could cause discomfort or restrict movement.
  • Reduced visibility: Unlike motorcycle boots, which often include reflective materials for increased visibility, cowboy boots typically lack such features, making riders less visible to other motorists, particularly at night or in low-light conditions.

The biggest concern with cowboy boots that have leather soles is that they are too slick and don’t offer good control and friction over the pegs and pavement. This is just a safety hazard and a recipe for trouble.

See article: If you ride a motorcycle, will you eventually crash

Wearing cowboy boots with rubber soles can fix the issues stemming from the slippery leather soles; however, you are still wearing boots that do not offer adequate protection.

Generally speaking, you should not wear cowboy boots on a motorcycle. Regardless of what type of cowboy boots you wear, they will never provide the same level of protection, comfort, and control as motorcycle-specific footwear. Investing in a pair of motorcycle boots or shoes is a wise decision for ensuring your safety while riding.

If you absolutely must wear cowboy boots while riding a motorcycle, choose a pair with rubber soles, a smaller heel, and a rounded toe. Make sure they are made from high-quality, durable leather that is water-resistant. Additionally, consider adding some protective gear to your boots, such as ankle guards, to enhance your overall safety.


In conclusion, wearing cowboy boots on a motorcycle is not the ideal choice for safety, protection, and control. While they may offer a certain level of protection compared to regular shoes, they still fall short when compared to motorcycle-specific footwear. If you value your safety and want the best possible protection while riding, investing in a pair of motorcycle boots or shoes is a must.

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