Icon Tarmac Boots
Icon Tarmac Ventilated Motorcycle Boots Review
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Summary: Very comfortable
on and off the motorcycle and surprisingly comfortable
for walking, the Icon Tarmac boots also feature good air
flow. No-lace design makes them easy to slide on
Editor's Note: This item was purchased with funds from the webBikeWorld
User Group donation program at
MotorcycleGear.com (formerly known as New
Enough). Choose the webBikeWorld.com User
Group during checkout when you purchase your gear at New Enough and $1.00 will
be donated to the webBikeWorld account. We can then use the funds to buy
more gear from New Enough for webBikeWorld reviews!
The Kochmann Scout boots are our short
motorcycle boots benchmark. With a good combination of
protection and comfort, they're also built to last; they're
relatively good for walking and they're put together
with excellent quality.
But in the spirit of "the grass is always greener on the
other side of the fence", we remain on the lookout for
something just a wee bit better.
What could be
improved on the Kochmann boots?
Well, although they're more comfortable
for walking than most other types of boots, they could be better.
The Kochmann boots have mesh panels, but the ventilation
could be improved and they can feel
too hot in the summer.
And finally, it's difficult to actually buy a pair...unless you live in Germany or
Hungary, that is. At one time, Kochmann boots were more widely distributed
and they were actually sold in North America, but the
Kochmann website currently lists retailers in Germany
and Hungary only. That
in and of itself is an issue; if you can't buy a
product, its benefits are rather a moot point, no?
Motorcycle Boots for Walking?
webBikeWorld visitors have told us many times that
walking comfort is one of the most important criteria
for short motorcycle boots.
Many motorcyclists are interested specifically in the shorter
styles of motorcycle boots so they can wear the boots
off the bike. Protection is important but
ultimate protection isn't quite as important as comfort,
according to our visitors.
Looking at it another way, a completely wild
back-of-the-envelope estimate might put boots made for
motorcycle racing at a 95% protection and 5% walking
comfort ratio. Touring boots or general street
boots might be something like a 75% protection and 25%
comfort split, while short
boots perhaps come in at, say, 70% for comfort
and 30% protection.
Racing boots or motocross boots are just not made for
walking; indeed, it's sometimes a chore just to hobble
out to the garage! Once you're on the bike though,
they're usually fine.
Adventure touring or sport touring boots aren't much
better, although some of them are at least management
for walking short distances.
The only real solution that allows somewhat decent
walking capabilities and which offer a modicum of
protection while riding can be found in many of the
short motorcycle boot styles. These have become
very popular, and we've reviewed several different
brands; you can find the links to the reviews in the
Icon Tarmac boots, inside view.
Icon Tarmac boots, outside view.
Icon Tarmac Boots
Many webBikeWorld visitors just haven't been able to
find the perfect combination of comfort and protection,
and they recently suggested that we
review the new Icon Tarmac boots, and so I ordered up a
pair using some of the funds in our New Enough User
Group donation program to see what all the fuss was
The Icon Tarmac "Ventilated" Boots are new for 2009.
The company now has six different types of men's boots in their
lineup; all are what I'd categorize as short motorcycle
boots. Icon also has three women's boots, but two of
them look, well, they sort of look like they belong in a catalog for "Lucy's House of
Leather 'n' Whips!
The Tarmac boots come in white or black, and the
white version looks...well, let's just say that I'm sure
our sophisticated webBikeWorld readers will prefer
black. If you own a white pair, don't tell me
about it, please!
Icon's marketing material for the Tarmac boots
probably could use one more pass through the Editor.
It says that the boots are "all-'Vcentilated" (yep,
that's the way they spell it; hyphen, apostrophe and
all) and they're built on an "ultra-comfortable athletic
bottom unit" (uh, that's athletic shoe bottom unit,
They go on to say that the inside of the boots are
"built around a wicked outsole for a custioned
[sic] ride". Not exactly sure what they mean by
all that...and who knows what an "Axialmetric" steel
shank and "Rocpro" mesh is either?
The words and spelling above were as published on
the Icon website on the day I am writing this (for their
own sake, let's hope they fix it!). Thanks for the
chuckle, Icon, but I'm glad the boots are better than
what the garbled text promises, because I can say that the Icon
Tarmac boots are definitely the most comfortable
motorcycle boots I've ever experienced for walking.
Tarmac Boots Soles
The thick soles are very cushy, with that athletic
shoe bounce, and the material is also pretty grippy once
the initial mold release is worn off.
The soles on the black version are a pretty wild
black and orange color combination; the white boots have
gray and orange soles. The soles are shaped with a
small "hump" in the middle, just forward of the heel,
which is important on motorcycle boots because it helps
locate the foot on the pegs.
One side effect of the thick soles is that they may
actually add just a touch of height, which could provide
a slight extra boost for inseam-challenged riders.
The downside is that the thickness of the boots can
be noticed when riding motorcycles
that have a short foot peg to shifter distance.
For example, I find that I have to dig my toe down farther than
normal to get it under the GT1000's shifter. Not a
big deal, but worth mentioning.
Inside view of the Icon Tarmac boot showing strap loop
and mesh fabric.
Outside view of the Icon Tarmac boots, showing upper
strap with foam ankle protection underneath.
The bonus is that the mesh actually does seem to
work. While it doesn't feel like there's a fan
attached to the front of the boots, once I get past 20 MPH or
so, my feet definitely feel...aerated is a good
Just adding some mesh on the outside of isn't
necessary a guarantee that air will actually flow
through, as most athletic shoe owners can attest. The problem is usually the thick foam padding and
lining material on the inside of the mesh, that may make
a shoe feel comfortable in the store but turn it into a
hot swampy anchor after a hour or so. I can't tell
you how many times I've been burned (pun intended) this
way with "mesh" athletic shoes.
But the combination of mesh and lining used in the
Tarmac boots does provide a decent amount of
ventilation, at least in the 70-80 degree F (21-27 C)
weather we've been having lately.
The Icon Tarmac boots are comfortable for walking, but
what about protection? Icon says that the boots
have "plastic toe and heel guards", which are relatively
stiff external coverings in those areas. The boots
also feel like they may have internal toe and heel cups
located behind the external guards,
but I can't confirm this.
The rubbery-plastic external guard on each boot extends
all the way around the toe, continuing along each side,
becoming thinner until it ends about mid-foot. The
external heel guard also feels nice and sturdy and it
covers a good portion of the back of the foot, up to
about the Achilles tendon.
The left boot includes a grippy shift wear pad of an
interesting design; it consists of a series of three
rows of little square bumps made from what feels like
the same rubbery-plastic material used on the toe and
The rows are
actually sewn into the top of the toe of the left boot.
It's subtle, and probably will go unnoticed if the boots
are worn for casual street use, yet the square nubs
provide plenty of grip.
The boots include rudimentary ankle
protection, with small sections of
foam attached to the upper strap, located so that the
foam can protect the ankle when the strap is secured.
My preference would be for the boots to have a hard protective
ankle cup sewn
into the lining on either side.
Or perhaps some harder plastic ankle protectors could have been used
in place of the foam underneath the straps. This
may be academic though, because the relatively thick
leather strap with the foam underneath that covers the
ankles on both sides at least does seem like it offers
better protection than some other brands of short boots.
No laces; the boots secure with two hook-and-loop
straps, shown unfastened.
Lacing the Icon Tarmac Boots
I didn't notice an important feature until I went to put
on the boots for the first time.
"Where are the laces?" They look
like they have laces -- that is, until you give them a
closer inspection. There aren't any!
Uh-oh, trouble you say?
After all, don't they use hook-and-loop straps on those
faux running shoes that sell for about $4.99 in Walmart?
You know -- the shoes favored by 9 out of 10 nursing
I was a bit skeptical at first, because I don't
think I've ever seen anyone under, oh, about 75 years old
or so wearing a pair of shoes with hook-and-loop straps.
Now that's not to say they aren't comfortable; I have
never owned a pair, but once and a while I've secretly
wondered what it would feel like to wear them -- I bet
they're comfortable, but the problem is, who'd want to be seen in them?
Icon must have
recognized this also, and to appease their young target
market, they added some molded raised bars across the
tongue which do, in fact, look for all the world like...laces.
This is why I didn't notice at first that the boots were
Those molded bars actually do hold laces -- of a
sort. Thin bungee-type round cords connect the
sides of the opening of the boots through the tongue.
The cords are elastic, so the tongue and indeed the
front of the boot stretches across your foot.
You'll get over the no-lace issue very quickly, I guarantee it, the
first time you slide these babies on. Now I know
why Gramps likes those hook-and-loop strap shoes --
they're so easy to put on, snug up and take off, and
All you have to do to slide on a pair of Icon Tarmac
boots is to open up the top and bottom hook/loop straps,
stretch open the tongue and shove your foot in.
Cinch up the straps and you're done.
It also makes for a smooth front, so there should be
no problems with catching a lace on a shifter or
something. I've never experienced this problem,
but apparently the motorcycle boot manufacturers are
worried about it, because many boots feature various
types of solutions to address this potential problem.
The lace-less design of the Tarmac boots are more successful I
think than the
Rev'it Air Blend and Fighter boots (review), for
example, which still have laces but use a full-length
cover to protect the laces from getting caught.
No laces also mean less hassles. It
can sometimes be a pain to get the laces on a motorcycle
boot tightened up enough; you first have to start at the
bottom and loosen up each row to get the boot loose
enough to put on, then you have to start at the bottom
again and pull each row tight before you can lace them
Since I'm lazy to the core, the no-lace
design is da nutz -- a big plus for me. Now you'd
think with all the other marketing psychobabble that at
least Icon would have come up with a cool-sounding name
for the no-lace system, but they simply call it the
"quick-fit elastic foot retention system".
Lining of the Icon Tarmac boots.
Lining and Comfort
The Tarmac boots are fully lined and the boots include a
foot bed that is
nice and comfortable with generous proportions.
The lining feels smooth throughout the inside of the
boot with one exception -- the seam at the end of the tongue
It would have been better I think to have covered this
with lining, because I can feel it against the back of
my foot, especially when my foot is bent on the foot
pegs when riding.
This may not be noticeable for everyone; it could be dependent on my foot shape, and it's a
complaint, but I'll note it just the same.
Otherwise, the Tarmac boots are very comfortable --
I think I can honestly say that between the thick, soft
cushioned sole, the fit and the lining that these are
right up there with the most comfortable motorcycle or
boots I've ever owned.
Each boot weighs 628 grams, or 1 lb., 6-1/8 oz.,
which is light and feels light.
Sizing and Fit
By the way, regarding fit, the toe is designed as a
fairly generous "square"
box, which should have plenty of room for proportional
foot sizes. I like wide toes on all my shoes and
boots, and these fit the bill.
Icon uses U.S. sizing for the Tarmac boots sold in
the U.S.A. Sizes available are 6 and 7, then 8
through 14 in half sizes. My boots are size 10.5
US, which is exactly the street boot size I normally
take. The label says they're a 45 Euro size.
The boots fit me, and I like my motorcycle boots to fit
slightly tighter than street boots. But I do think
these run just a tiny bit small; maybe about 1/4 of a
size short. So I'd say the size 10.5 is really
like a 10.25 or a 44.5 Euro, not a 10.5 and not like any
other size 45 Euro boots I've tried.
Again, this is somewhat dependent on foot shape, so
not all owners may agree. But I'd suggest that if
you're on the borderline, you may want to go with the
next size up. As always, try before you buy is a
Icon Tarmac toes, illustrating the toe protectors, shift
pad and lower strap.
The Icon Tarmac boots are very comfortable and offer
what I think is probably slightly above average
protection for this type of boot. The combination
of comfort, ventilation and ease of use make these a
real winner, especially at the list price of $125.00.
Review: Icon Tarmac Motorcycle Boots
||List Price: $125.00
|Colors: White or Black.
||Made In: China
Sizes Available: 6,7; 8-14 in half sizes. Review Date:
Note: For informational use only. All material and
photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011. All
rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld®
page. NOTE: Product specifications, features and details may
change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read
Terms and Conditions!
►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "S.B." (November 2011): "Well I'm
late on this as you reviewed these in 2009, I normally
research stuff before I buy, and wBW is where I look
most of the time.
Just happened to find these while looking for a
different boot...glad I did!! Great boot, I'm an MSF
Instructor (Rider Coach) in Denver and use these while
riding, and on the range while teaching. Very
comfortable on the bike and also while running around on
the asphalt teaching newbies how to ride.
I like the sole as it gives insulation against the hot
asphalt and the ventilation is great!! When I get done
teaching for the day and get on my bike to go home, I
can just feel the air going through to my feet.
They do run a hair small, I normally wear a 9-1/2 but
the 10's in these fit perfect! I bought these mostly for
work but I find I wear them all the time now at least in
the warmer months!!"
From "T.B." (6/10): "I read your
review of the Icon Tarmac boots from June of 2009 and
based on your review, I bought a pair. I have a few
comments on the boots based on about 4 weeks of use.
Number one, the sizing was an issue. It's not
off a quarter size per your review, it's off a full
size. I normally wear a 9 1/2 E men's shoe and
based on past Icon purchases, I knew they ran small so I
bought a size 10 1/2 in the new Tarmac boot. It
fit perfect and I would recommend that anyone interested
in these boots try them on first or order a full size up
if it's mail ordered.
Per your review, they are very comfortable but the
ventilation, while OK, isn't great. The
ventilation is better than my old Icon boots (with the
ski boot buckles) and they are far lighter than my old
Icons as well.
These boots seem to be like new tires - they have
some sort of mold release compound on the soles and they
are kind of slippery on wet surfaces when new. The
traction got better as I wore them but be careful
straight out of the box. I'd wear them on concrete for a
while to break them in to make sure you don't
accidentally dump your bike.
They can be tough to slide on when new and the Velcro
straps work good and aren't super visible on the black
model I have. Up close they do have that "nursing
home" look but nothing is perfect.
Finally, I'm sort of surprised that these boots are
still $125. I had expected after a year of so
they'd come down in price."
Editor's Note: From the review
above: "Again, this is somewhat dependent on foot
shape, so not all owners may agree. But I'd suggest that if
you're on the borderline, you may want to go with the
next size up. As always, try before you buy is a