The Falco 305 ESO TT boots are high-quality real leather boots made the old-fashioned way -- by hand in Italy.
What does Falco have in common with Alpinestars, Forma, Gaerne, Sidi, StylMartin and TCX?
Well, the obvious answer is, of course, that they all make motorcycle boots! But they're also all neighbors, located within a short distance of each other in the Vèneto region of Italy, northwest of Venice.
The region has been known for centuries its skilled artisans, so it only seems natural that this would be the cradle of the Italian boot making tradition.
Falco is one of the newer names in motorcycle boots; they've been making them by hand in their factory in Altivole for the past 15 years.
Now 15 years isn't all that long ago, and it's interesting to note that they have committed to Italy during this time, when the temptation is strong to cut costs and manufacture in some anonymous overseas plant instead.
When I pulled the boots out of the box, I could somehow feel the difference. That may sound sentimental...or even foolish, but it's true!
These are very high quality boots, and if you're not familiar with the brand, you may want to take a look, because Falco makes a variety of racing, street, city, motocross and even cruiser-styled boots for men, women and children.
For example, the Falco Novo boots we reviewed in Part II of this two-part series.
Falco Boots have been popular in Europe, and the good news is that you won't have to pay those exorbitant shipping fees to get a pair sent to North America now that they're being distributed in the U.S.A.
Falco markets their boots in 10 different categories and each is self-explanatory: Racing, Water Resistant, City, MX/Supermoto, Enduro, Trail/Quad, Minibike/Stunt, Custom, Kids and Women.
While a couple of the categories have only one or two boot choices, I suggest taking a look in each.
That's because they include some very interesting and unique motorcycle boot designs that you probably won't see anywhere else, like the 109 "Volt" Trail/Quad boot, which looks to me like it would make a cool new type of Adventure-Touring footwear.
In fact, there are so many interesting designs in the Falco lineup that I couldn't decide what to try for a webBikeWorld review, but in the end, I decided that the best approach might be to go with the more familiar types.
This would allow us to develop a sort of Falco baseline for comparison with boot designs that our readers are familiar with.
So I chose Falco's top-of-the-line racing boot, the 305 ESO TT, in the Bela Oxmyx ("A Piece of the Action", original Star Trek) "Spats" white and black pattern shown here to start.
Along with the ESO TT, I decided to try a pair of their short boots, the 775 Novo, which, I have to say, are as comfortable as a pair of bedroom slippers! But that's another review coming up next...
The 305 ESO TT is a mouthful of a name no doubt. Let's see if I can successfully explain it! The "ESO" signifies the "ESO-skeleton" system on the outside of this boot, which is its most unique characteristic.
The ESO system is a sort of exoskeleton, which rotates front to rear and supports and protects the foot, preventing over- or hyper-extension.
In other words, it is designed to keep the rider's foot at the customary 90-degree angle to the leg! Similar systems are found on other high-end race boots by other manufacturers.
But the Falco system is adjustable; a screw at the top rear of the boot holds the exoskeleton on one of three positions: Soft, Normal and Hard.
The adjustments relate to the amount of front/back flex provided by the system.
The upper part of the skeleton pivots on a button that slides up and down in a track attached to the outside of the ankle on the boot.
When the ESO system is shortened by moving it down to the "Hard" position, the plastic heel cup in the rear prevents the upper part of the skeleton from moving backwards.
Moving the skeleton to the highest "Soft" position moves it farther up from the heel cup, which then allows more room for the boot to flex backwards.
The boots came with the ESO system in the "Normal" position, which seems perfect to me.
One of the best things about the system is that it's pretty much invisible once the boot is on my foot.
That is, I don't notice anything different, unlike some of the other very complicated motorcycle race boots of this type, which can feel way too stiff and uncomfortable.
The Falco 305 ESO TT boots have quite a few square centimeters of plastic in different areas, as is customary with true racing boots of recent vintage.
The plastic serves both as a protective layer and offers a smoother sliding surface, but when used in a skillful design, it also helps stiffen the boot in critical areas.
Falco uses this to good advantage in the 305 ESO TT; the heel cup extends on either side of the boot up towards the center, and this acts as the base pivot mounting point for the ESO-skeleton system and also provides a lot of rigidity to the rear of the boot.
The ESO-skeleton system provides a thick abrasion resistant point on each side of the boot.
The heel cup then has flat sliding surfaces on either side, just below that ankle (see photos below).
And the inside part of the heel cup also includes 30 raised dimples or bumps that help the rider maintain grip on the sides of the bike when leaned over.
This is a nice detail that might go unnoticed by looking at the photos, so I thought I might point it out.
The plastic is also used to good effect around the toe. The entire toe area is surrounded by the molding, which offers abrasion resistance and protection.
The "Alu-Titan" material metal replaceable toe slider is attached to the outside with a single screw.
The toes do not have hard caps, which is rather surprising, but apparently this Falco "Tech-Toe" system has been designed to provide a level of protection without the stiff feel of a hard toe cap.
One of the surprising features of the 305 ESO TT boots is how flexible the front of the boot feels, which adds the the overall comfort level of this design.
In fact, I'd have to say that overall these are probably some of the most comfortable tall motorcycle boots I've ever worn, which is doubly surprising because race boots aren't supposed to be comfy, right?
Normally they're stiff and inflexible, and while you might think the plastic and the ESO-skeleton would make the boots feel like they came out of the monster's closet in Frankenstein's castle, just the opposite is true.
The last bit of plastic is used at the top of the boot as a protective shin guard.
This section also holds the "Biofit" aluminum buckle assembly. This is an easy-to-use design, unlike the system on very comparable Gaerne GRS race boots we reviewed.
The Falco Biofit buckle is adjustable for calf width and it's easy to reach because it's at the top outside section of the boot.
The strap slides in and out of the top of the boot with the same type of ratchet used in the European style "quick release" helmet chin strap systems.
I winced when I first saw the buckle, because I haven't been too fond of this type of attachment for motorcycle boots. But here's the best part: the 305 ESO TT boots are very easy to put on!
This is partly due to the design of the entire outside leather entry flap, which is held with a long strip of hook-and-loop fastener.
The section is pulled back by grabbing the nice and handy tab at the bottom that you can see in the photos just to the rear of the "Falco" logo on the outside of the lower part of the boot.
Pull the tab and the entire front of the boot opens, right down to the back of the toes.
Underneath the entry flap, a second thin elastic liner inside extends upwards to just above the foot at the start of the shin.
This liner has a zipper that unzips all the way down to the front of the boot, so it meets the point where the leather flap ends, just above and behind the toes.
This makes it very easy to step into the ESO TT boots, zip up the inner liner, fold over the leather flap, buckle the Biofit closure and go.
Notice that the procedure goes from bottom to top, which is a big help when the boots are fitted over a pair of leather race pants.
I'm not sure if the Falco engineers designed the boots this way on purpose but I'd like to think so.
And if this is true, it shows either pure genius or someone who really knows motorcycle race boots and has been frustrated in the past by other poor designs that make it a simple task like putting on the boots a real chore.
The rest of the boots are made entirely from real, live (no, not live actually) cow leather, bless their little (big) hearts. It's all beautifully double stitched and it feels nearly broken-in right out of the box.
The boots have a thin "Airtech" lining, and although this version isn't vented, the natural leather seems to breath better than synthetics.
There are no out of place seams inside, so the boots feel comfortable with no pressure points.
I'm also usually very sensitive to heat in the feet, but these remain comfortable in the 75-80 degree early Fall weather we've been experiencing.
Finally, the 305 ESO TT soles provide good grip on the asphalt and foot pegs.
Notice in the photos that the soles have three rows of sharply angled wedges just under the arch, in front of the heel.
These work very nicely to help keep traction on the foot pegs, and the soles are adequately sticky when pushing off on asphalt.
The boots shown here are a size 44 Euro, which in my experience equates to a 10.5 U.S. men's boot, which is technically my size.
But I like a little more room in the toes for my street shoes or walking boots, so I usually end up with a size 11 in street boots and even an 11.5 in running/athletic shoes, which always seem to run too small and too tight.
I almost always take a size 44 in motorcycle boots, which usually fits perfectly.
Based on this single pair of Falco ESO TT boots and the Falco 775 Novo short boots (also size 44), I'd say the Falco boots are running about 1/2 size large.
They don't fit quite as snug as other size 44 motorcycle boots I've tried, and this isn't a problem for me, but if you're borderline on a size, you may want to talk to your retailer to see if they think you should order one size smaller.
Falco also makes a boot called the Rival 319, which I think is equivalent to the more street oriented designs like the TCX SS Performance 2 and the Oxtar TCS Sport.
They make a boot that fits between the two; it's called the 314 Sirius, and it's similar to the ESO TT but without the ESO-skeleton system.
The Sirius is also available in a waterproof version, the 315 Sirius WTR. Falco has many other street, Adventure-Touring and off-road designs also.
The distinguishing characteristics of the Falco ESO TT boots are their surprising comfort for a race-oriented boot -- they're about as comfortable as any of the street or sport focused boots I've tried.
I also like their ease of entry.
I'm not 100% sold on the benefits of the ESO-skeleton system, at least for the street riding that I do, but it doesn't get in the way of enjoying these boots and the comfort in knowing that they provide high levels of protection.
I also like the fact that all of the Falco boots are made in Italy and use real leather.
Don't worry -- if you don't like the Bela Oxmyx colors, the boots are available in traditional all black also, but check out the Italian and French flag replica versions just for kicks!
Falco boots are well respected and enjoyed by many motorcycle riders in Europe, and we welcome them to the North American market and wish them success!
|wBW Review: Falco 305 ESO TT Boots|
|Manufacturer: Falco Motorcycle Boots||List Price (2008): $299.95|
|Colors: Black, Black/White, Black/Blue, Black/Red, Italian Replica, French Replica.||Made In: Italy|
|Sizes: 38-47||Review Date: October 2008|
From "Sam #5" (8/10): " Hello, my name is Sam Verderico and I am a top racer in OMRRA, AFM, USBA and currently use Falco boots and gloves.
The boots are second to none! They have great feel while shifting and braking, great armor where you need it most, hold up extremely well in a crash and they are priced very well.
The toe sliders last a very long time and the boots are very comfortable.
I have used every brand of racing boots out there, and I have ended up using the Falco race boots to keep me winning races and keeping me very protected. Sam #5."
From "A.S." (7/10): "I've been racing with my Falco boots for the last year and a half now. I had the previous version before, and now the newest model.
I have no complaints with either version, but I can say that my Falco 305 ESO TT boots are my favourite motorcycle race boot I've ever owned.
Probably the best thing I can say about them is the fact that I've never had to think about them once while riding. They've never done a single thing wrong - even during break-in.
Generally when I switch to a new set of boots they feel a little uncomfortable and I miss shifts for at least the first two or three rides. These boots felt perfect and worked flawlessly from the moment I took them out of the box.
Plus they look rad, and although I've never crashed in them, I feel confident they will have excellent protection."