2021 Ultimate Premium Motocross Boot Shootout – RM Rider Exchange
Boots may be necessary for every ride, but that doesn’t mean a pair is necessarily easy to decide on. Nearly every manufacturer offers a premium boot, creating a field as vast and complex as it is daunting.
Truthfully, we’ve all faced the new boot conundrum at one point or another. Rocky Mountain ATV/MC is a company run by riders of all style, skill level, and regularity, so we got the idea to take a sampling of those riders, stick them in the top boots of the year, and see how each pair measures up. It’s the real-life riding experience that should clarify and simplify the choice riders have struggled with year after year.
Here’s how we did it. We selected five of the most debated premium boots and five disparate riders to test out each pair at OCA, a private motocross track in Northern Utah. The boots were ranked 1-5, 1 being the most favorite and 5 being the least, by each rider according to five categories:
- Control: braking, bike grip, shifting, peg feel, movement of bike
- Comfort: fit, stiffness, overall comfort, entry and exit of boot, pinch points
- Weight: actual weight vs. riding weight
- Construction: buckles, materials, closure, hinges, special features, new technology
- Support: protection, ankle support, articulation limiters, shin protection
With these rankings and a designated overall winner in each category, along with individual rider notes on each boot, we have compiled the holy grail of premium boot guides. While not a long-term test, this motocross boot review offers a detailed side-by-side comparison of the different boots. Watch the video below to see our panel ride, interact, and discuss each boot, and continue reading the article for a look into each rider, boot, and the specific feedback for each category.
Watch The Shootout:
Having relatable feedback was important to us, so we selected five experienced riders with different riding styles to rate each boot.
Here, we’ll breakdown each boot and its ranking, providing you with feedback from the riders on the separate categories.
The Alpinestars Tech 10 boots ranked the best overall, taking first in comfort and support, second in control and construction, and third in weight. As an established premium boot, the Tech 10s lived up to their reputation and legacy after the riders’ day at the track.
Control: One of the most distinctive features of the Tech 10 boots is the inner ankle brace or bootie. The separate insert works with the outer boot chassis to offer more protection, but this often leads to skepticism about peg feel, bike grip, and other control characteristics. Coming in second place for the day in this category seemed to mostly mitigate those concerns.
- Chase: The peg feel is surprisingly good considering you have the inner ankle brace.
- Kobee: Another thing that I was very impressed by and that I wasn’t expecting was how great the foot peg feel was. With all of the protection these have, including the bootie on the inside, I was expecting the Tech 10 to feel much bulkier and not have so much feel on the bike. However, the ‘relief cutout’ that Alpinestars put in the sole works exactly as intended, and I even ended up ranking these boots second to the Instincts in control.
- Wes: Shifting in these boots is noticeably more difficult than any other boot in the lineup. This should get better as the boots break in and you get more and more used to how they feel and work on the bike.
- Jayce: They have good feeling on the pegs and controls, and surprisingly they don’t feel too bulky because, to be honest, I thought they would be by looking at them.
Comfort: The consensus for the day was that these boots are comfortable – like walking on clouds, being hugged, etc. To get to that point, however, you just need to figure out the inner booties. Our riders recommend putting the bootie in the boot and then putting the whole thing on but reiterated that each rider needs to find a system that works for them.
One more note about the booties is that, if you have a slimmer foot, the Tech 10s may end up feeling too big for you. Our rider with the slimmest feet, Kobee, made this observation after testing out the boots for the first time.
- Kobee: Unfortunately, even with how comfortable, supportive, and well-built the Tech 10s are, I don’t think I would ever end up taking home a pair. Me having longer feet and a larger boot size (12.5) did not mesh well with these boots. With using a bootie, there is some extra length to these boots no matter how big or small your feet are. Wearing the Tech 10s will feel like you’re wearing a boot size bigger than normal and when you already have a large boot size like I do, I’m looking for as slim and small of a boot profile that I can get.
Weight: Weight was the Tech 10s lowest category, but they certainly weren’t the worst performing boots of the day. Here, the riders simply remarked that a little heavier of a boot was to be expected with the superior construction and support. Part of the reason why control was such a surprising category was because the boots looked so bulky, so it makes sense that said bulk would be more noticeable in regards to weight.
Construction: The Tech 10s are a close second in construction, almost as bulletproof as the SG-12s. The boots didn’t have very much flex out of the box, many of the riders citing as a positive since that means the boots will break in and last for several hours of riding to come.
- Chase: I do wish they had a little more flex but I understand why they don’t at the same time.
- Chance: The boot felt good around the foot, ankle and calf. There is a lot of material that worried me there would be a lot of bunching when buckling up the boot, but I never ran into that issue. The buckles are great! Nice size, never clogged with dirt, and the straps had good adjustment.
- Kobee: The build quality is fantastic. Yes, they are very stiff, but they made me feel very confident that I was wearing a very safe boot.
- Wes: Construction on these is top notch. I don’t think that there is another boot out there that is better built and more thought out than the Tech 10. It just feels expensive when you put it on and close it up. The buckles and their placement are exactly what you would expect from a boot of this caliber and price point. The attention to detail and build quality is top notch.
Support: At the end of the day, the support of the Tech 10 boots couldn’t be beat. The stiffness of the boots and high-quality construction inspired confidence in their security. Many of the riders stated that they weren’t afraid to over jump or absorb impacts in the boots because they were so tough. Wes summarized the group’s feelings when he said, “When you’re dumb, you need protection! The Tech 10 has got you covered! This is the stiffest, most protective, most expensive boot in the lineup.”
The Atojo boots from Sidi were the surprise favorites of the day. Coming in first in weight and no worse than third in every other category, every rider was impressed with the boot’s performance.
Control: The Atojos came in third for control, but several riders compared them to the Instincts still, saying they could feel the controls and ride aggressively right from the start.
Comfort: The fitment of the Atojos is a key factor here. Sidi is known for having narrower, skinnier boots, and the Atojo is no exception. If you have a skinnier foot, this makes the Atojos fit perfectly and likely better than any other boot on this list. If your foot is a little wider, however, you may find yourself feeling a pinch point or two during your time in the boots.
- Chase: They are pretty narrow and I had a pinch point on the outside of my foot so they scored a little low on comfort for me, but they are super light (side note: the pinch point wasn’t enough to bug me while riding)!
- Chance: The toe box is a bit narrower than some of the boots but good feeling in the ankle and calf area.
- Kobee: SIDI boots are notorious for being a more narrow/skinny boot. Me having a longer narrow foot, these boots fit me best out of any I’ve tried. Having a larger boot size, I want as slim a boot that I can find. SIDI accomplished that well.
- Wes: The Atojo is super comfy. I have always liked Sidi Crossfire boots, but with my wider feet I could never wear them. I like how these Atojos are a little wider than the standard Crossfire. Enough that I could wear these ALL DAY LONG.
Weight: Despite being heavier on paper than the Fox Instincts, the Sidi Atojos won this category for the riders. Everyone commented on how lightweight the boots feel, especially when considering how supportive and high-quality they feel. It’s a tricky balance to find, but the Sidi seems to have nailed it down.
Construction: The Atojos were very middle-of-the-road in construction. There were some things the riders didn’t like, but there were other things the boots still did very well. The ability to replace the soles on the boots was definitely a positive feature of the Atojos.
- Chance: The buckles are similar to the Instincts but they are a bit longer and have better leverage. The buckles are the one thing they need to improve… The quality of this boot is great and a lot of the parts are replaceable so this boot will last a long time. Rating this boot, it wasn’t my absolute favorite in any category other than weight. But it was competitive in every other category.
- Wes: Construction is top notch as well. This really feels like a premium boot. The materials and components on the boot feel like they will last a long time. It stood out to me wearing and riding in the boot. Sidi buckles and adjusters are definitely not my favorite buckles, but they get the job done. I do like how low-profile the buckles are, but it’s something that I think could be overall slightly improved.
- Jayce: They seem pretty well built, and if you wear out your soles, you can buy replacement soles for them.
Support: For how lightweight the boots were, it was surprising to the riders that they were still supportive and protective. Where the flex of the Instincts seemed to come at the cost of protection, the flex of the Atojos seemed to come in addition to protection.
- Chase: They hug the ankle really well, and I felt they had the perfect amount of articulation.
- Chance: The “lock-outs” on this boot are simple, but very effective and I was never scared of hitting hard.
- Kobee: I was very impressed with the material used across the shin area and feel they could still deflect roost, sticks and other smaller impacts like that just fine. The Atojos also have some fairly simple technology to prevent hyperextension and hyperflexion, but it does the job just fine. These boots feel very supportive and protective while still maintaining a comfortable amount of flex.
- Wes: Another comparison thought for me was being a rider that rides literally everything (moto, desert, single track, endurox, and everything else), the Tech 10 boot feels overkill for pretty much everything but moto as far as support and stiffness goes. For me, this Sidi Atojo strikes that perfect balance of support and mobility that would work in any type of riding. Plenty of support for moto, but I could still ride single track in it.
Gaerne’s SG-12 boots came in last place for weight but first in construction and a close second in both comfort and support.
Control: The SG-12’s second-lowest category was control. They weren’t bad per se, but they just weren’t as good as the other premium boots.
- Chase: The only area where the SG12 comes up a little short is feel on the pegs. Compared to an Instinct or Tech 10, I just didn’t have as much of a connected feel on the bike.
- Chance: The soles of the boot are extremely hard making it not great for peg feel, but the front to back flex is good and allow for semi-easy shifting/braking during break-in.
- Wes: You don’t expect to be able to move, shift and brake like you can in these boots. They have good articulation right out of the box considering how bombproof these boots look and are. It’s definitely not as good as other boots in the lineup, but surprising enough to note. I had heard a lot about the vagueness and difficulty of getting used to these boots, but I felt comfortable fairly quickly in these boots. I do see how people complain about the lack of feeling and control on the shifter, brake pedal and foot pegs. The sole on these boots is SO STIFF. They are the opposite of the Fox Instincts in that regard.
Comfort: When it comes to comfort, the SG-12 narrowly missed out on first place. The riders all agreed that the ankle was plush and supportive, providing zero heel float with the help of the padding. Some did comment on the insole, calling it “hard” and saying that they wished it was a little thicker. Of all the riders, Chance had the most substantial positive feedback.
- Chance: The boot has plenty of room in the toe box, fits comfortably against the ankle and calf. There is a “memory foam” liner around the ankle that is super comfortable and there are no pinch points. The boot opens up a ton so it is easy to slide into and the boot accepts large calved people.
Weight: We’ll keep it brief – these boots are heavy. Every single rider commented on how heavy the boots feel, but followed up that complaint with how the extra weight is arguably worth the construction benefits and supportive feel.
Construction: Chase put it best when he said, “They do feel heavy, but I guess that is the tradeoff for durability.” The consensus around these boots was that their construction was second to none.
- Chance: The quality of construction is AWESOME (when the zombie apocalypse comes, these will outlast all the other boots).
- Kobee: If you’re hard on boots, these are one of your best options. The 12s provide a lot of confidence that you’re being protected. They’re very rigid and have a TON of hard plastic. These are a heavier boot, but that’s a sacrifice you make to feel bulletproof.
- Wes: This is another boot that you pick up and immediately tell the quality construction and premium materials used in these.
Support: Going hand-in-hand with the construction quality of the SG-12s is the support they offer. With great construction comes great durability, and the riders’ sentiments about support echo their comments on construction.
The Fox Instinct Boots came in last in construction and support, but first in control.
Control: There wasn’t enough good things the riders could say about the Instincts’ feel on the controls. In fact, the boot unanimously came in first place overall for this category. Each rider had something positive to say about the control characteristics of the boot.
- Chase: I always feel like my sense of where my feet are on the pegs, control with the rear brake, and shifting is the best in the Instinct. Some riders noted how it promoted better foot position on the pegs because you knew exactly where they were on the pegs. No boot gives as much of a “connected” feel to the bike.
- Chance: When on the bike, they had great peg feel and I never missed a shift or failed to hit my brake. I really enjoyed the flat interface the boot had with my bike and how it gripped my frame.
- Kobee: My first few laps in the Instincts took little to no adjustments as far as my riding technique. In fact, I felt these boots promoted proper technique. The amount of feel these have with the foot pegs and your controls is unbeatable, something I hadn’t experienced before. I felt incredibly precise with my foot placement and when applying the rear brake. I never missed shifts and always felt like my feet were where they needed to be. The flat interface on the inside of the boot grips the bike very well and keeps your feet where you want them.
- Wes: The FEEL EVERYTHING boot! I swear you could feel a pin under your foot with these boots on.
- Jayce: I told the guys when I got back to the pits that this boot made me realize how bad my foot position on the bike is, because of how well you can feel the pegs and controls of the bike.
Comfort: The Instinct tied for third in comfort with the Sidi Atojo, but several of the riders commented on how comfortable the boot felt out of the box due to their flexibility and the fact they take almost no time to break in.
Weight: The Instinct boots were the lightest in terms of actual weight, although the Atojos felt lighter to most of the riders. In any case, the riders still commented that the boots felt almost as light as the Atojos and certainly lighter than the other boots in the lineup.
Construction: How much feel the Instincts offer contributes to its low scores in construction and support. The buckle design was a major concern for several riders as well.
- Chase: Where I think the instinct lacks is the buckle design…
- Chance: The buckles NEED to change, though. They are small and don’t provide much leverage, sharp to the point where you almost need gloves to open or close them. I never had any issues with them not buckling because of dirt/mud, and the strap length had plenty of adjustment.
- Wes: My biggest problem with the Instinct is I always get a slight pinch point right around the bottom buckle. This seems consistent with these boots and it could just be my feet, but it is annoying enough that I will complain about it.
Support: This is the category where the Instinct boot fell the shortest for the riders. They all reasoned that, if the boot had that much flex out of the box, it couldn’t last, nor could it protect from harder impacts. Each rider had something specific to say about this category.
- Chase: I love how much the boot articulates out of the box, but I do wish it had a little more flexion support to help out a little with big impacts. With how much flex these have brand new, it does leave you wondering how they’ll hold up once they’ve got plenty of ride time on them.
- Chance: The boot did not provide much support (forward-to-back or side-to-side).
- Kobee: I was pleasantly surprised with how great these boots felt, but I do feel like you’re making a couple sacrifices with the comfort and flexibility these have right out of the box. If I was looking for the ‘safest’ boot, I don’t think the Instincts are what I’d pick up. With how much flex they have brand new, I don’t think there’s a lot of room left for hold up after you have say 40-60 hours in them.
- Wes: My other complaint is the fact that these are so ride-ready right out of the box. I don’t buy boots every year, but with these, I feel like you would need get on that schedule. With all of the flex and mobility you get right out of the box, I feel like that would only increase as these wear. This is an advantage in a new-boot shootout like this, but it was almost to the point of me noticeably being scared to OJ the bigger jumps. To me, I would rather spend an extra $100 and get something that will provide a little more support long term.
- Jayce: These boots are really soft and flexible which isn’t something I like in a boot and makes me think that they would get even softer as you ride in them more. I think if you don’t mind buying boots all the time these would be an awesome choice.
Leatt’s GPX 5.5 scored the lowest overall in the five categories, coming in last place in both control and comfort.
Control: Jayce articulated that the sole was too hard, making it difficult for him to feel where his foot was and keep it from slipping off the pegs. Most of the other riders shared this complaint, Wes referencing the vagueness of the controls and reiterating how hard they were to find in the boot.
Comfort: Most complaints about the GPX 5.5, however, came in regards to comfort with many riders citing pinch points around the ankle. They said that the boot felt great when they first put it on, but that pinch points came soon after they started riding.
- Chase: This boot does hug the ankle really well, but myself and some other riders all felt the plastic from the outside of the ankle pinching slightly into our ankles.
- Kobee: Something I noticed back when these boots were first released, and noticed again during this shootout, is that when I get these boots buckled down, I feel a pinch right above my ankle that does not go away.
- Wes: This boot felt awesome for the first couple of seconds of my foot being in the boot, but after that I felt pinch points around the ankle.
Weight: The riders were fairly neutral on the weight of the Leatt boot. The weight difference was noticeable compared to the lightest boots (which are several ounces lighter in actual weight), but no rider commented that the weight of the GPX 5.5 detracted from their ride.
Construction: There were pros and cons of the Leatt’s construction. For Wes, the tight fit was great.
- Wes: I LOVE the SlideLock system for the cuff, I would be happy if every boot adopted this technology. It never bunches and gives a good secure closure every time.
This same technology was problematic for Chance, however, suggesting that rider size may factor into the overall function of the boot.
- Chance: When I initially put the boot on, the upper gaiter was tight and didn’t stretch. Even when the top buckle was undone, I still wasn’t able to get my finger in there.
That said, Chance still liked the buckles, saying they were better than the Instincts’.
Support: Here, the GPX 5.5’s stiffness paid off. Several riders commented that the boot’s stiffness out of the box made them more confident in its support and ability to break in.
It’s worth mentioning that the GPX 5.5 is Leatt’s freshman attempt at a premium boot, and it’s not a bad one. There are areas for improvement, but the potential is there and the boot is a solid base for future iterations. The boot is also a great low-cost option, coming in as the most affordable pair of boots on this list while still offering several premium features.
At the end of the day, the overall ranking for the boots was:
- 1st – Alpinestars Tech 10
- 2nd – Sidi Atojo SRS
- 3rd – Gaerne SG-12
- 4th – Fox Instinct
- 5th – Leatt GPX 5.5
To see how each boot scored overall in each category, check out the charts in the individual boot sections. To see how each rider scored each boot overall, from 1st-5th place, check out our master ranking sheet below.
Have You Found Your Next Boot?
So, there you have it – the best boots for 2021 have been laid out, broken down, and ranked by control, comfort, weight, construction, and support. If you’re in the market for a new premium boot, one of these may be the perfect fit for you. Of course, you can still browse our full collection of motocross boots to find your next pair.
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Tell Us What You Think
Do you agree with our rankings? Do you have feedback on any of these boots or any ideas for another gear shootout? Talk about it in the comments below!