Do you wear sport shoes when you ride your motorcycle? Boots are vital riding gear items as they help prevent lower leg injuries in an accident. CARtoday.com correspondent Neil Harrison looks at the options.

A good set of motorcycling gear can mean the difference between a long enjoyable riding career and an abruptly terminated, painful one.

Motorcycle boots seem to be the most neglected, least-used item of riding gear. How often have you been passed by someone on the latest sport bike wearing running shoes? Just don’t do it.

Boots must protect you against abrasion and impact. The Hurt study conducted in the US found that three quarters of all motorcycle accidents involved impact with another vehicle, usually a passenger vehicle. Half of the injuries to the body were to the ankle-foot, lower leg, knee and upper thigh. Heavy boots were found to be effective in preventing or reducing abrasions and lacerations, which are frequent but rarely severe injuries.

Let's kick off with socks. They should be clean - If the worst happens and you end up in casualty, you don’t want your dashing young Cuban doctor and his coterie of nurses falling to the floor in a series of muffled thuds at first whiff. Your socks should extend above the boot and shouldn’t belong to the genus that creeps ever toe-wards.

There are several different kinds of boots to choose from. Motorcycle shoes are a somewhat controversial step up from takkies. They’re built for riding and boast shifter pads, waterproof material and a strong design, however they seldom protect the ball of your ankle and are more easily ripped off during a collision. A clever alternative to the motorcycle shoe is the ankle boot shown here. This hybrid has been designed with the commuting motorcyclist in mind.

What exactly defines a conventional motorcycle boot is a matter of debate but most will agree that it covers the ankle but doesn’t extend a lot higher. These can double as daily footwear as they’re often comfortable enough for walking around in and are less likely to arouse unwelcome attention from S&M enthusiasts.

So-called tour boots extend high up the shin, and are made from thick leather and often include a basic protection shell.

Racing boots aren’t practical for everyday use but do offer the very highest levels of protection. They have armoured shells and are tightly wrapped around foot and calf. Comfortable on the bike but torture off, they’re available in both on and off-road variants.

There are a number of factors to bear in mind when choosing a motorcycle boot.

The boot should offer ankle support and ideally, some form of shin protection as well as foot plate bracing. A combination of thick leather and armoured reinforcing is first prize. The boot should firmly grip the ankle and heel as this prevents the heel from lifting and provides a more comfortable ride. There must be a shifter pad near the toe as the boot receives a lot of wear in this area.

Boots should be able to breathe; a ventilation fabric like Gore-tex will let the sweat out without letting water in. Water resistant boots are highly recommended but require that you pay special attention to cleaning procedures lest they lose their aversion to wetness.

Velcro and zippers are considered preferable to laces, but laces will do. Fastenings should be secure and the general fit, comfortable; allowing full movement without any constriction. Never have any loose material hanging from your boots that could get caught on the shift lever or in the chain. No fashionable leather tassels please.

And finally, soles should be non-slip, offer good traction and include a heel that you can easily rest on the foot peg. Your boots must be comfortable for walking; if they’re aren’t you’ll end up riding around in Nikes again.

By Neil Harrison [email protected]