The new Shift Kicker Street Shoes are very comfortable and stylish.
The shoes (boots) are easy to use and easy to wear, due to the speed-lacing system and quick-click locking buckle.
Perforated leather on each side flows a lot of air, so these should be perfect for summer, if and when the Ice Age Winter of 2011 ever ends.
It feels a bit surrealistic to be reviewing what are probably the ideal pair of summer boots in the middle of winter.
And what a winter it's been here in the northeast U.S.!
It sure makes me dream of summer -- particularly the days when I foolishly thought it was too hot to ride. Those are now remembered with a healthy dose of fondness and regret.
Hopefully, summer will soon be here once more and perhaps this review will be looked upon as being prescient.
Reviewing summer boots in mid-winter isn't quite as strange as it seems though; first of all, the Kicker Street Shoes are a pretty new release, so we wanted to get them into the queue as soon as possible. Also, don't forget that many webBikeWorld readers live in climates where the Shift Kicker Street Shoes are comfortable all year long.
Note that Shift doesn't actually claim that the Kicker Street Shoes (let's call them boots, no?) are for summer only, but the perforated leather, that indeed does flow a lot of air -- is a clue.
I know that the perforations really work because in the interests of science, I wore the Kickers in 30-degree Fahrenheit weather and I could definitely feel the icy wind blowing right through. This is very good news for hot weather riding, because it's rare to find a pair of motorcycle boots that work well in summer.
But the Kickers are also very comfortable -- somewhat of a tradition with Shift boots (read our Shift Fuel Street Shoe review to compare) and although I can't say that I have as much on-road bike time as I should for a full evaluation, I've been wearing the Kicker Street Shoes as my regular daily footwear and discovered that this is a role for which they are admirably designed.
Let's get one thing out of the way right up front: in terms of protection, the Kicker Street Shoes are obviously not meant as a replacement for full race boots or anything close. The clue is the words "Street" and "Shoes" in the name. But that's not a problem at all, because not everyone wants to clonk around in, say, a pair of Sidi Vortice Boots (review).
The Shift Kicker Street Shoes are ideal for commuters, casual riders, scooterists and tourers. They're one of the very few motorcycle apparel items that are perfectly suited for both sportbike and cruiser riders. And -- dare I say it -- even non-bikers would like them, although that's somewhat theoretical because motorcyclists are probably the only people who know about them.
There really aren't many clues that specifically define them as motorcycle boots. Many riders like it that way, because you can wear the Kickers with a pair of jeans and you'll look perfectly "normal". The beauty of it is that you'll look just as normal on the bike too.
That's certainly the case with the black Kicker Street Shoes, but if you want to let your hair down, you can always go for the black-and-white version shown in this photo. They have a sort of 1960's Route 66 motif going on; click on the photo to bring up a side view.
Personally, I like the all-black version best, as do my colleagues. Call us conservative, but we think the stealth look is better suited for work wear.
The other major factor that contributes to the dual personality of the Kicker Street Shoes is their comfort. Honestly, I can say that these are among the most comfortable boots I've owned, certainly for motorcycle use and probably for street use also.
I'm comparing the comfort to work boots, because the styling and the overall construction and even the fit is much closer to a work boot than a street shoe. I've worn plenty of work boots and, in fact, they are pretty much my daily type of footwear, so I can easily compare the two.
Both the shape and the footbed design of the Kicker Street Shoes have something to do with this; the wide box toes have plenty of wiggle room, which also helps when walking. And the soles are molded in a single piece from what feels like the same type of material used in a good pair of running shoes or sneakers.
The material used in the soles has plenty of grip, for good traction when pushing the bike around and the material also has some "give"; i.e., spring and cushioning. The boots give a little bounce when I walk, much like a comfy pair of sneakers. Combined with the soft and lightly padded lining, this makes for a very comfortable shoe...er, boot.
The perforated leather comes into play again when the boots are being used for street use, because it allows enough air inside to keep the boots from feeling hot and sticky when they are worn indoors.
I tried the size 10 and 11 Kicker Street Shoes and I think both fit exactly to size, so you should be able to order what you need without having to go up or down a notch (although they don't come in half sizes).
I usually take a size 10.5 US or 44 Euro and although the size 11 Kickers fit, they did feel a little loose and exactly like the size 11 or size 45 Euro that they are. So I opted for the size 10 instead. The size 10 is just a touch snug, but with enough room in the toes. I'm sure these will loosen up a bit more with break-in, because the uppers are all leather (with a few synthetic bits).
Again, the large and wide box toes help make the Kickers feel comfortable for that extra half size I need. Some motorcycle boots have a pointed or narrow toe, which can cause a correctly sized pair of boots to feel too small, but not here. On the other hand (or foot), I did not experience any difficulty fitting my toe under the shifter, on at least 3 different bikes.
The laces are set underneath the opening above the tongue and they are of the "speed lace" type, guided through fabric loops rather than holes in the leather. This is similar to the method used for running shoes and it allows the lace to be quickly pulled tight with less friction or binding.
The system works very nicely on the Kicker boots and the reverse is also true; that is, when the boots are removed, the laces can be easily and quickly loosened and the boots can be pulled off with ease.
The highest part of the Kicker boots is 6.5" from the top of the sole, and this gives good support to the ankle. Once the boots are laced (I use a double knot), the knot can be tucked under the support strap that runs across.
It doesn't cover all of the lace, but it does cover enough to keep the knot from unraveling. The laces are also protected at the bottom of the tongue by a leather cover with the "S" Shift logo.
Normally I'm not too keen on boots with a strap, but this one works very nicely and it's actually quite an ingenious design. The strap runs across the top of the boot and it holds half of the buckle, which fits into the other half; a large plastic buckle attached the outside of the boot at the height of the ankle.
The strap half of the buckle is very well made with some parts made of metal. The strap is also adjustable for length, with 3 extra inches if needed; that's quite a bit of adjustment.
The buckle on the strap is at the end of a serrated vinyl tab that is cleverly hidden inside a leather receiver built into the opposite end of the strap. To secure the strap, pull it all the way over across the front of the boot and a metal hook fits into a metal rod on the other half of the buckle that is attached to the outside of the boot.
The metal hook acts as a lever; pull it past center and another metal rod in the strap buckle then snaps tightly into a receiver on the boot half of the buckle. Push hard and it snaps home.
All told, this is a very clever design that also has a relatively low profile. It feels very sturdy and the metal parts give it some heft. The tab at the end of the strap buckle that is used to hold it has a soft grippy rubber coating, which is also nice.
Besides the perforations, this buckle system is one of the coolest features of the Shift Kicker Street Shoes. The strap gives a very secure feel; it makes sure the boots are going to stay on your feet and it helps the boots to provide excellent ankle support.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the Kicker Street Shoes don't have the same all-out protection as a pair of race boots.
But they're no slackers either. The soles are said to be reinforced, and it does feel like there's some type of hardened reinforcement in the center of the sole, which helps when standing on the foot pegs.
The inside ankle on each boot features a protective cup between the liner and the outside leather, and the buckle is also designed to protect the outside ankle.
The toes are not reinforced and I don't think the heel of the boots is either, although the leather cup surrounding the heel is pretty stiff.
I'm not sure if this can be considered a safety feature, but the tops of the boots at the toe are completely covered with a pebble-grain rubber. This provides plenty of traction on the shift lever and it looks good too.
The black leather used on the Shift Kickers Street Shoes has a shiny finish rather than a matte or semi-matte surface finish. I'd probably have preferred a less shiny look and I was a bit taken aback when I first opened the box and found the glossy finish.
I guess I'm used to seeing low-shine motorcycle boots, but after a while, I got used to the look and now it doesn't bother me. I guess that it could be buffed out with some type of brush also if the owner wanted to low-key the shine.
Walking in the Kicker boots feels no different to me than walking in a solid pair of work boots and certainly a lot easier and more realistic than walking in those Sidi Vortice boots. Since the strap across the top of the Kickers can be adjusted, it doesn't bind and once the thick leather starts to get broken in, the boots feel more comfortable than any of the true work boots I've owned, some of which never felt truly comfortable anyway.
The absence of a toe reinforcement and the rubber across the top of the toe helps also because it allows the toes to bend when walking. Also, the running shoe style sole with its cushioned feel helps also. All of these reasons are why I've been wearing the Kicker boots as my regular footwear off the bike.
The new Shift Kicker Street Shoes are an excellent compromise between a motorcycle boot and a street or work boot (or shoe). They're definitely comfortable for daily use and walking, making them a good choice for commuters. The boots also have enough protective features to make them better suited for riding than most street-oriented work boots and certainly better than any sneaker or other street shoe.
The styling works with sport bikes or cruisers and the price is reasonable also. The sizing seems right on the money and the large rubber covered box toes really help also. Summer may seem far off to us Northern Hemisphereans, but it will (hopefully) be here before you know it and my prediction is you'll be wanting a pair of Kickers for your very own.
wBW Product Review: Shift Kicker Street Shoes
|Manufacturer: Shift Racing||List Price: $129.95|
|Colors: Black, Black/White.||Made In: China|
|Sizes: 7 - 14 US.||Review Date: January 2011|
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