Trials boots need to be flexible enough to allow movement and a good feel for the bike, but still remain stiff enough to provide support. Trials boots also need a sole that can grip slippery obstacles and keep you from falling on your face during a pre-walk, but still allow your feet to move freely on the footpegs. The boots need to provide weather protection while allowing your foot to breathe; and finally - they need to look good and be durable. Fortunately, the trials boot manufacturers have managed to incorporate all these needs into today's crop of trials boots.
Trials boots reviews: We all have opinions - whether it's Ford vs. Chevy, two stroke vs. four stroke, or Godzilla vs. King Kong, and opinions on trials boots are no exception so there is no easy answer to the 'which trials boot is best' question. People come in all shapes, sizes, and pocketbooks, and the only way to know if a trials boot is a good overall fit is to try it on. Online reviews are a great resource, but trials boots also double as excellent dual sport boots, and several stores actually market them as adventure boots. There's a big difference between riding a trials bike in the rain for short periods at a slow-paced meet and riding a dual sport bike on pavement for hours at 60 mph in the rain. If you're reading a trials boot review and it's from a dual sport rider saying the boots aren't waterproof, bear in mind that trials boots weren't designed to withstand all that high speed surface water pouring over the boots for hours on end.
Prices: Trials boots aren't cheap so it pays to spend some time checking overall cost. The prices posted on this page were tallied from the current average price listed on several established motorsport e-tailers, and the prices seemed fairly consistent across the board. The wildcard (as always) is Amazon. The screenshot below shows the various prices for different sizes of the Gaerne Balance ProTech boot. Even within Amazon itself prices aren't always consistent, so it pays to check several of their search results.
Shipping costs: Most stores offer free shipping on the initial purchase, but check to see who pays return shipping if the boots don't fit properly. Most trials boots are much lighter than motocross boots, but they're still somewhere between five and eight pounds so shipping costs can start to mount if you have to pay to ship the boots back to the store, and then pay to ship a replacement pair.
This isn't meant as a 'best trials boots' list, but the following brands are usually available in the US, have been around for many years, and all produce quality boots. And now, . . . on to the boots:
Alpinestars No-Stop Trials Boots
Alpinestars No Stop trials boots: You'd think that with a name like Alpinestars the company would be located in Switzerland or Austria, but they've been making boots in Italy since the early '60s. They got their name from an Alpine flower of all things (Stella Alpina, aka the Edelweiss).
The No-Stop trials boot is comfortable for both riding and walking, with good padded protection for the toe, ankle, shin and rear part of the leg. The boots use the typical three buckle quick-release adjustable ratcheting straps for securing the boot, along with a velcro closure at the top of the boot. The outside of the boot has sealed seams and a leather upper. The rest of the outer boot is PU (Polyurethane) synthetic leather, which is durable and offers good abrasion protection, and the shin plate and rear spine are injected with high-impact polyurethane. There's a replaceable insole and the bottom sole is reinforced with a steel shank. The interior is a polyester mesh lining with padded foam. The gaiter doesn't extend all the way to the top of the boot and although it does a decent job of keeping water out, the boots are not totally waterproof.
Alpinestars has a funny way of touting the qualities of the No-Stop sole, saying it's an 'exclusive double durometer rubber sole with high grip, rough terrain design', which may sound impressive but doesn't really tell us very much. A durometer is used to measure the hardness (or resistance to permanent indentation) of materials like rubber or plastic, so their 'double durometer rubber sole' claim doesn't make much sense without a measurement (such as a Shore number). Maybe it got garbled in the Italian to English translation and perhaps they meant double density instead of double durometer. Anyway, the No-Stop sole has slightly deeper lugs than other trials boots which is great for gripping wet leaves and mossy boulders, but may take a bit of getting used to when moving around on the footpegs.
The Alpinestars No-Stop trials boots are currently priced at around $349, and you can check Amazon to see the current price.
*Note - The new Alpinestars Tech-T trials boots (see below) are slated to replace the No Stop boots, so if you want a backup pair of No Stops, better buy them soon.
Alpinestars Tech-T Trials Boots
Alpinestars Tech-T Trials Boots: The new Tech-T trials boots are slated to replace the long-running and popular Alpinestars No-Stop trials boots, and Alpinestars has taken some of the best features of the No-Stop boots and made them better in the Tech-T trials boots.
Similar to the No-Stop boots, the Tech-T's use a three buckle closure system with memory along with an integrated quick release locking system closure, and all the buckles are replaceable. Another similarity is the steel shank and a replaceable insole. The Tech-T trials boots have a nice look to them with the upper part of the boot being constructed from full grain leather and microfiber which gives the boots good durability and abrasion resistance in addition to a nice appearance.
The Tech-T's interior is made with a 3D mesh textile that uses an open cell foam for improved air circulation and comfort, and the ankle area has soft poly-foam reinforcement for comfort and shock absorption. The outside of the ankle area has thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) protector disks, and the contoured shin plate is also made from TPU for added protection against impacts and abrasions. To compensate for the rigidity of the TPU there are front and rear accordion stretch zones that allow for flexibility and comfort while walking, without sacrificing control or support while riding.
The all-important sole of the Tech-T boots is made of a compound rubber that has an aggressive tread design offering a high grip and good foot support without sacrificing dexterity or footpeg feel. Both the outsole and anatomic footbed of the Tech-T are replaceable.
Although the Tech-T boots have been available since mid to late 2016 and appear to be a well-made and comfortable trails boot, there are still very few user reviews even after almost two years on the market. The boots are listed on the Alpinestars website, but were only found by using the search function; they're not listed under any of the various categories. The No Stop boots aren't listed at all anymore. Clearly, motocross, road, and adventure gear are paying the bills for Alpinestars, not trials boots.
The Tech-T trials boots are available on Amazon but most listings have them miscategorized as motocross or motorcycle boots not trials boots, so they don't always come up in the search results. This Tech-T Amazon listing offers several sizes and three out of four color options. This listing page offers the white/yellow color option, but only in one size.
Sidi Zero Trials Boots
Sidi Zero trials boots: Sidi is an Italian company that started out making mountain sport footwear in the early '60s. In the 1970s they got into making cycling footwear and boots for off-road motorcycling and never looked back.
The Sidi Zero trials boot, like the Alpinestars No-Stop, is constructed with a percentage of faux-leather in addition to the leather uppers, but instead of PU leather, Sidi uses Lorica®. Lorica is synthetic leather that's made from really small polyurethane and polyamide micro-fibers which are injected with some kind of resin. It sounds like the end product would be as hard as a kitchen countertop, but it looks and feels like real leather and is said to be more durable, lighter in weight, and more abrasion resistant than real leather. The shin protector is made from high-impact polyurethane, and there's a leather panel to protect against muffler burns. The boots use a three-buckle adjustable cam-lock system to secure the boot and help to keep water out, but the Zero boots are not waterproof. The boot's sole has a low profile making it easy to move around on the footpegs, and the soft rubber sole offers good comfort and traction.
The Sidi Zero uses a nylon insole instead of a steel shank, but that doesn't seem to have resulted in any loss of foot support. The Zero has a remove able composite insole that molds itself to the rider's foot, and the entire interior of the boot is lined with Cambrelle®, which provides cushioning and allows air to circulate around the foot via numerous microscopic air pockets.
The Sidi Zero trials boots are currently priced at around $359, and you can check Amazon to see the current price.
Forma Boulder Trials Boots
Forma Boulder trials boots: The Forma Boulder trials boot has full-grain leather uppers with nubuck leather for the rest of the boot, giving it a very distinctive look. The safety ankle shield (S.A.S.) provides extra protection for the ankle bones, but it's still very comfortable for pre-walking sections. The shaped shin plate covers most of the vulnerable shin area. The boot is secured with three replaceable and adjustable buckles and an adjustable Velcro closure. The boot is not waterproof but there is an optional waterproof bootie available (currently around $79).
The Forma Boulder boot has a padded inner lining with memory foam, an incorporated mid-sole steel shank, and a replaceable footbed (read: insole) with an A.P.S. (Air Pump System). What is an air pump system? It's not really an air pump. The air pump system is simply a thick piece of material in the instep that Forma claims will 'pump' air underneath the insole when weight is applied. It's basically a thick insole with perforations in it that exhales air when you step on it. The weight of your foot on the insole is the air pump mechanism.
The Boulder has an anti-slip double density compound rubber sole which provides great traction with a low profile. The double density sole basically means it's made up of a combination of two different densities of polyurethane into one sole. The bottom layer is meant for strength and durability while the upper layer provides comfort and shock absorption.
Forma currently offers a 12 month warranty for their boots that protects against manufacturing or material defects. You need to provide proof of purchase and must live in the US to qualify for the warranty.
The Forma Boulder trials boots are currently priced at around $249, which is surprisingly cheap given the quality. You can check Amazon to see the current price.
Gaerne Balance Trials Boots
Gaerne Balance trials boots: Last, but certainly not least, is the Gaerne Balance Series trials boots. Gaerne is yet another Italian boot manufacturer. They've been making top quality footwear since the early 70s, and their boots are known for comfort and quality. When it comes to trials boots Gaerne offers the Balance Oiled, the Balance ProTech, and the Balance Classic. The Balance Classic is still around, but not to the same extent as the Balance Oiled and Balance ProTech.
Gaerne Balance Oiled trials boots: The Balance Oiled trials boot is constructed of full-grain oiled leather (hence the name). It has an injection molded front shin guard and uses three replaceable light alloy buckles to secure the boot. The gum rubber sole has a low profile and is more of a tread design than a lugged design, but it still offers good traction and is very comfortable to walk in. The interior has Gaerne's DryTech membrane which, along with the oiling process on the boot's outer layer, is what makes the boots waterproof. Gaerne's DryTech is a waterproof and breathable membrane that's fitted between the leather outer and the inner lining. The DryTech membrane allows perspiration to pass through, but keeps the rain out. That may sound strange because perspiration is water so how can sweat be allowed out, but rain not be allowed in? It's a bit of semantics maybe, but perspiration is more of a vapor than actual water and the sweat doesn't really escape all at once, but rather gets trapped in an intermediate layer in the membrane that's able to retain a certain amount of moisture.
Gaerne Balance ProTech boots: Most of the differences between the Balance Oiled and the Balance ProTech are slight, but the big difference is that the Balance Oiled boots are waterproof and the ProTechs are not. The ProTechs feature the same replaceable light alloy buckles and gum sole, but it uses a microfiber liner, as opposed to the DryTech waterproof membrane. The ProTech still uses top quality full grain leather, but it's not oiled, which makes it slightly stiffer than the oiled version. Saying the ProTech is stiffer than the Oiled is probably not a good choice of words, so maybe 'less soft' than the Oiled is better. The ProTech boot is very comfortable but may require a slight break in period. It's still a top quality boot at a more affordable price.
The Gaerne Balance Boots were tough to pin down as far as an average price. Most trials boots had the same price for all sizes but the Gaerne boots tend to have different prices for different sizes. For a size 10 Gaerne Pro Tech the average price was around $274, and the size 10 Balance Oiled was around $354. You can check the current Amazon Gaerne Balance Oiled price and the Gaerne Balance Pro Tech price separately.