The top three of basic rider gear are helmet, jacket and boots. While we all agree that boots are a crucial protective agent, the market has offered a really limited selection in this area. My main complaint with most riding boots is that they are clunky and more akin to ski boots than shoes. While the hard cases of racing boots are perfect (and necessary) for track applications they are not really suitable for around town riding. So where is the middle ground? The Joe Rocket Orbit Boot, the perfect combination of comfort, flexibility and protection.
For the past couple of years I have been searching for riding boots that would be suitable to my around town riding applications. I want boots that look like shoes, that I can wear with jeans to work and not have to change, that I can take out for a quick 30 minute ride on an afternoon and still wear into a store without being uncomfortable. This doesn't seem an unreasonable request, yet the product has proven to be very elusive.
Here was my buying criterion: 1) A boot that offers adequate ankle protection. 2) A boot that looks like a shoe and not a ski boot. 3) Preferably has some sort of heel to give me a little more flexibility on my too-tall bike. 4) I don't want to spend $300 on boots…something economical. 4) I want them sized for a woman. Now is that really so much to ask? Only one boot fit the bill, the Joe Rocket Orbit Boot.
The focus of riding gear has historically been on the track market, but over the past 2 -3 years many companies began recognizing the profit potential in street oriented apparel. The introduction of the riding shoe a couple of years ago was a step in the right direction as companies responded to this demand. While the riding shoes from various companies fulfill a few of the criterion in my search they didn't quite make the grade. For one, many of them lack adequate ankle protection and without that what is the point? The materials often appear flimsy and look more to be badged skateboard shoes then actual protective riding gear. They are also all designed for men and have the appearance of a man's tennis shoe which is not really suitable for most women.
The rest of the market consists of heavy plastic, hard-sided riding boots that were designed for track riding. They are perfect for their intended use, offering maximum protection in the event of high speed crashes and removable pucks to protect the shoe in high speed turns. While this protection is admirable and desirable on the track or even a day long ride, for the short trips and casual riding these aren't so great. They are hard to walk in, often uncomfortable when you are not in a bent knee riding position and they are really ugly and clunky.
Sidi makes a couple of great looking boots that one would expect to fit the bill perfectly. Their Violet and Rose Ladies models are shoe-like, elevated soles and come from a very reputable company. Yet closer inspection reveals that these shoes don't offer any real protection and are more for looks than for riders who care about safety. They offer no ankle reinforcement at all and the Rose model actually has a stretchy fabric panel over the ankle! The IXS Laura model has a reinforced heel but no ankle support. Teknic offers two boots sized for women, both are the hard sided track boot. Alpinestars makes a nice looking leather riding shoe in small men's sizes, the MK-Three, but it actually loops under the ankle leaving it exposed. The only other Alpinestars ladies boot is a track style boot that you find with almost all of the gear manufacturers.
Then I found the Joe Rocket Orbit Boots and all of my hopes were answered.
Lets talk about how much I love these boots. I got them through an online order from www.tonkers.com for a VERY good price. The shipping was so fast that I didn't know what the package was until I opened it since I was expecting it several days later. I promptly put the shoes on (even though I wasn't riding that day) and wore them for the rest of the day.
The boots look very much like my Doc Martins and no one even noticed that I had the boots on…including me. The shoes are so comfortable that I think I like wearing them even more than my Docs. The interior is fully lined and padded with a cushioned sole that cradles your foot and ankle. The instep was the perfect size for me and provided additional comfort. The boots lace up above the ankle and they have loops at the top for additionally tightening (one of the complaints with the shoes I was riding with was that I could never get the boots tightened down to feel really secure). The Orbit Boot is fairly light and you really don't even notice that you are wearing them. The sole is a sturdy rubber similar to that found on a pair of Doc Martins. Although the manufacturer photos sort of make it look like a hard black plastic, it is actually flexible. I was pleasantly surprised that there was no break-in period for comfort in these shoes…they are ready to go out of the box.
The leather is fairly thick and water resistant and the toe has a reinforced leather clutch pad so you don't have to worry about wearing through the top of your boots. There is a slightly elevated heel which gives an additional ˝" or so and is enough to help me backing out my bike.
The ankle reinforcement is actually a plastic inlay with a slightly slick, nubbly finish which I expect would help the shoe slide on impact. The ankle reinforcement is not uncomfortable and you cannot feel it from inside of the shoe. The heel is firmly reinforced and the entire boot is well constructed and sturdy.
I was not willing to crash test these boots to enrich my review so we will have to live with the unknown in that area. I will update from time to time to let you know how they hold up to wear and occasional abuse.
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