(Full disclosure: I purchased these boots at my own expense and paid the same price as advertised online. I was not provided any consideration from TCX for the writing of this review)
Summer is in full swing here in Tennessee and it’s hot and humid. It may not be the most pleasant weather for motorcycle riding in full protective gear but as the saying goes, I’d rather sweat a bit than risk injury from a crash (or something like that).
Of course, something has been missing from my summer gear kit for a few years now and that’s vented riding boots. Somehow I’ve neglected to replace my Alpinestars Recon boots from years ago (I miss those) so I was overdue for some hot weather friendly kicks.
I spent some time back at the start of the Summer pouring over various summer riding boot options and finally landed on a pair that ticked all the right boxes. Among the many boxes were;
Airflow (mesh or vents)
Under $250.00 (USD)
So as one would guess at this point, the TCX Vibe Air boots were where I landed. Let’s have a look.
The TCX Vibe Air and their waterproof sibling “WP” version have a rather unassuming look. Viewing the photos they appear more riding “shoe” than “boot” with their contoured shape and what seems to be a low rise for a mid-height boot.
I admit I was a bit skeptical about how protective these might be when I placed my order but I didn’t have anything to worry about.
Out of the box, the Vibe boots had a bit more weight to them than I expected. They aren’t “heavy” but at 1lb 6oz (624g) they feel sturdy, more so than their appearance would suggest and I like it.
Once on the foot, the term “sturdy” applies again. The feeling is one of security and overall I would characterize the Vibe boots as “robust” for a mid-height street riding boot.
As far as color, the Vibe boots are offered only in black with red accents. I would like to have seen a lighter color available since these “Air” variants are designed for hot weather riding. Still, they are sharp-looking enough without being “shouty” in their aesthetic.
The TCX logo is visible on the upper front closure strap and also appears embossed in red on the otherwise black sole of the boot. A small red stripe and TCX logo are also in place over the area of the little toe side of the boot.
Keen-eyed observers will also note the green, white, red stripes of the Italian flag (il Tricolore) below the ankle protectors on each boot. It’s a subtle nod to the fact that TCX is based in Montebelluna, Italy.
So without further delay, let’s vidi the details.
The upper of the Vibe Air boots are made from a combination of suede leather, a leather-like synthetic, and TCX’s breathable AIR TECH fabric. There is also a “bycast” leather shifter pad over the toe box on both boots.
One can see each area in the photos with the suede being the dark black areas. Inset above and on each side of the long portion of the boot is the AIR TECH mesh while the flat gray areas that reach up from behind the arch of the foot are the synthetic material.
Laces are used to fasten the boots and they use a “speed lace” system that makes it easy for the laces to tighten evenly from top to bottom. These types of laces also make it easier to loosen the lace run which is important as we’ll see later.
There’s more going on here than one might guess
Up top, there is a large strap of suede leather that covers the knot of the laces and helps to capture any extra lace from flapping in the breeze. The strap is closed using a large swath of hook and loop fastener. More AIR TECH surrounds the very top of the boot opening with a .75 X 1.25 inch (19X32mm) patch of red perforated nylon material for some extra visibility at the rear.
The lower two-thirds of the tongue is the same AIR TECH material used in portions of the upper with the uppermost part of the tongue being a thickly padded nylon (or neoprene?) material. A tiny, red TCX logo is also visible here.
The tongue is topped with red perforated nylon that continues down into the interior portion of the tongue for a couple of inches (~50mm).
The interior is lined with a padded mesh material TCX refers to as AIR TECH “breathable”. It sounds like it would be the same material as the other mesh but it is definitely a different fabric.
Regardless, this material covers the inside of the upper as well as the lower portion of the tongue. It is a little on the rough side but still smooth enough to allow easy entrance to the boot. I wouldn’t want to wear them without socks, but then who would do that anyway?
A thin, perforated insole is in place inside and is easily removed for a replacement if needed. Under that insole, I suspect there is a shank in the main sole itself. I cannot make it bend much by hand (if at all) and the otherwise rubber sole doesn’t seem thick enough to resist the way this one does and that’s a good thing.
On the bottom, we have a rubber sole that appears relatively thin and is part of what gives these boots their “riding shoe” look. The sole gets pretty thin at the toes and gives the boots a low profile which is handy for getting one’s toes under the shift lever.
The bottom of the soles has some shallow texturing and a few thin sipes running throughout. It looks nice and traction seems fine for dry surfaces. However, wet surfaces do confront the grip of these boots a bit. While they don’t turn “slippery” there is a noticeable reduction in traction on wet roads.
Being designed for hot weather riding and not being a waterproof design, wet weather traction might not be expected. However, I recently did have occasion to ride home from work after some heavy rain and I found the boots tended to slip a bit when standing at a stoplight on the wet road surface. It wasn’t too bad but I did need to be mindful of this on the rest of my ride home.
Overall Construction Impression
Overall the construction is very solid. The Vibe boots are well finished with all the visible stitching being very straight and neat. Likewise, where the sole meets the upper is neat with just a little evidence of adhesive runoff. The only area that could be neater is the cut edges of the synthetic material but these don’t seem like they would affect the performance of the boot.
For something that looks more designed for style and comfort than protection, there is actually quite a bit going on under the surface with the Vibe Air boots.
The ankles are protected on both sides with a PVC material backed by some nice thick padding on the inside. There is also a very smooth piece of PVC on the outside that should provide abrasion protection and should allow it to slide rather than catch on rough pavement.
Toes & Heels
The toe box and heel area have some additional reinforcement to resist deformation though exactly how and what are in place aren’t called out. I am just going by feeling around the interior and exterior spaces here and I can definitely feel something in those spaces.
As mentioned earlier, there definitely seems to be a shank or some sort of robust reinforcement in the sole. The space under the arch seems particularly strong and would be appropriate for a motorcycle boot. It not only provides protection but reduces fatigue from putting weight on the footpegs of the bike.
TCX does add some reflective material in two small spots on the back of the heel that are quite bright for their size and should add a nice bit of visibility at the rear. A much smaller reflective bit is present on the lowest shoelace holder on the front of the boot. This tiny reflector is bright but is really too small to be effective at a distance of more than maybe 50 feet (15.25m).
Overall Protection Impression
The protection offered overall is better than expected from just appearance alone. The protection in place is good for a touring or sport touring boot and the fact it meets CE certification is comforting for sure.
The only place that I feel could use some more protection is the front where it covers the lower portion of the shin. I’d like to see some additional protection on the front closure strap to provide a little extra protection in this area.
There’s always concern about sizing for riding boots as my own experience has shown that boot sizing can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Fortunately, I have experience with TCX boots in the form of the X-Blend boots I reviewed a couple of years ago.
Sure enough, the size 43/9 boots (the same size as the X-Blend boots) fit my feet perfectly even though in Dainese I comfortably wear a size 11 so go figure. For the record my “measured” shoe size is 10.5 so please choose your size accordingly when purchasing.
One element that I think TCX missed on the TCX Air boots is the lack of a boot pull at the rear of the top opening. While the speed lace design does make it easier to loosen the laces all the way down than traditional eyelets would, the fact is one still needs a good place to grab the boot to pull it onto the foot.
Not having the typical pull in place means one has to grab at the upper area at the rear which offers relatively poor purchase for a good grip. This may sound minor but I’m reminded every time I put them on how much easier this would be with a loop of material at the back on which to get a solid grip.
Sizing differences aside, the fit is very good once having the right size. There is some “medium” arch support and the shape is well suited for the medium width foot. The interior is well padded behind the mesh liner and the foot feels nicely enveloped by the boot when the laces are tightened.
The first several rides in the Vibe Air boots found them feeling rather stiff. This seems related more to the reinforced sole than the material of the upper. The toe and heel are also stiff thanks to their reinforcement which is to be expected.
After those first few rides, one can feel the boots start to relax a little. It is a slow process but the well-padded interior keeps the boots from being uncomfortable to walk in. I wouldn’t expect to use them in lieu of hiking boots for walking but they are a comfortable place to keep your feet for an extended ride.
Ventilation is excellent but it can be difficult at times to tell it’s happening. One doesn’t really feel a breeze on their feet so it can feel like no air is actually getting through the material.
The first time I rode with the Vibe Air boots it was warm morning at about 85 °F (29°C). I rode with a friend to his garage/shop about 15 miles away. I noted at the time that I didn’t feel airflow on my feet. However, after standing around for a couple of hours in the garage and then getting on the bike to leave in the heat of the afternoon, the story changed.
I was already getting pretty warm as I got ready to leave with my full gear on in the heat. Once I started down the road I instantly could feel the cool air on the tops of my feet. So yes, they do flow air and even at lower speeds, the effect is there.
I believe leaving my nice cool garage in the morning meant my feet were already cool when I headed out into the warmer morning air so the incoming air didn’t have any cooling effect.
A key element to airflow are the rear sections of mesh material just above and behind the ankles as well as the small panel behind the Achilles tendon. I’m betting having these locations made from mesh allow air to flow through the boot rather than simply into it with nowhere to go.
Note: There are small metal screens inset in the ankle protectors visible from the outside of the boots. They would appear to be additional vents but in reality, I think they might be more show than go. I couldn’t feel any air flowing through them in testing but maybe they help in the airflow exiting.
The potential downside here is if one’s bike dumps a lot of heat in front of your feet. One is liable to feel that heat through the boots.
On my Ninja 1000 there I can feel some warmth once the bike is up to temp but it isn’t bad. If I was riding my previous Sprint 1050 my feet would have been cooked so be aware of where your bike channels excess heat before considering a boot that breathes like this.
Rear reflectors are very effective but the small one on the laces is too small
The TCX Vibe Air boots are a pleasant surprise.
Instead of being a soft-sided and comfy riding shoe the Vibe Air feels robust and protective. The height is 8.5 inches (22cm) which is low-ish for a boot but still provides good coverage over the ankles. Ventilation proved to be a standout feature and should serve most hot-weather riders well.
Being CE Certified means the protection not only feels robust but has been tested to ensure it is, in fact, can help mitigate injuries in the event of a crash. It adds some stiffness to the overall feel of the boot so it does seem to put protective capability a bit in front of pure comfort and lightness – and I’m completely OK with that idea.
Overall I found very little that I felt could use improvement. The first being the poor wet traction of the sole in the wet. It’s not terrible but I hope that they use a different sole in the WP version as it is designed with wet weather in mind.
The other improvement may seem trivial but I seriously think that TCX should consider updating the boot with a pull at the rear. It’s such a minor thing but it would improve the experience of putting them on so much better.
When it gets down to it I think TCX has a real winner with the Vibe Air and likely the WP version as well. The $169.99 price is right where I think these boots should be in the price range and one is getting what they pay for.