If I were looking for ultimate foot and ankle protection while riding, a full racing boot would be the way to go. When it comes to racing, engineers and designers are constantly looking for ways to prevent injury to the all-important foot and ankle during high-speed get-offs like you’d see in racing. Fortunately, that kind of protection translates well to the street, too.
Sometimes, though, we just don’t want to strap on racing boots to go for a ride. Boots can be cumbersome and hot, and unless I’m at a track, it’s the footwear I prefer to leave at home. If you’ve seen any bike review I’ve been in over the past several months, there’s a good chance you’ve seen me wearing these, the Alpinestars SP-1 riding shoe. While, by definition, the SP-1 shoe provides less protection than, say, a Supertech R race boot, the SP-1 provides a decent level of protection for a shoe, plus it wins big on the convenience front.
The SP-1 is constructed from lightweight and abrasion-resistant microfiber, and uses a speed-lacing system similar to the one seen on the Supertech R. Personally, I wish my Chuck Taylor high-tops incorporated the speed laces, but my guess is the fashion police over at Converse nixed that idea. Once your foot is in the shoe, simply pull up on the laces to tighten, then push down a slide lock to maintain the tension. After that, a Velcro tab at the end of the laces sticks onto a Velcro strap that comes across the top of the shoe. The shoes are on and strapped down securely in a fraction of the time it’d take to slip on my regular shoes and tie the laces. Meaning I get to ride sooner.
With the shoes on, the SP-1 feels, well, shoe-like with its comfort padding in the sole, tongue, and around the entire ankle area. A breathable textile interior liner includes an anti-slide reinforcement area around the heel to help keep my foot in place while riding. When off the bike I wouldn’t quite call the SP-1 sneaker-like, as the upper portion and heel area of the shoe is stiffer than your average pair of sneakers. This is partly because of the dual-density ankle protector layered under the upper. I thought the stiffness would disappear as I broke the shoe in over time, but the SP-1 is only slightly less stiff around the ankle and heel than when new. This isn’t so much a complaint than an observation – I want that extra bit of sturdiness in case I fall off the bike.
On the bike, the shoes feel comfortable. The rubber compound sole provides good feel through the footpegs and maintains grip on wet or dry pavement at a stop. The TPU shift pad lets me feel the shifter without a problem, and, for the 26 of you who have bikes with right-side shifters, the shift pads are on both shoes.
On the protection front, the SP-1, which is certified to CE standards (CE 89/686/EEC, to be exact), offers TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber) toe sliders and external ankle guards to help protect against abrasion and rocks kicked up from vehicles ahead. The external heel counter helps provide shock protection in a fall, while the internal toe box is layered under the upper for durability and improved feel, making for a slightly stiffer toe box than a non-moto shoe, but is still much more compliant than a race boot. A polyamide midsole features integrated shank reinforcement for structure and support in the arch area. Lastly, a hi-viz reflective insert in the achilles area helps attract attention to your feet from other road-goers at night.
All in all, I’m happy with the SP-1. As the numerous tests I’ve worn them in prove, it’s the shoe I go to for a lot of my street testing. It provides all the feel and control I want while on the bike, and is plenty comfortable to walk around in when I’m off the bike (though if I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking at my destination, I’d still bring sneakers for ultimate comfort). The simple lacing system is a dream for a lazy bum like me, and because the shoe doesn’t ride up nearly half my calf like a boot would, I also get some airflow to my lower legs. That’s a plus on warmer days, and really not so bad on cooler rides. The SP-1 is not vented – Alpinestars sells a separate shoe called the (wait for it) SP-1 Vented if you want airflow directly to your feet – but I haven’t found the reduced airflow to be a problem.
The SP-1 (and SP-1 Vented) is available for $199.95, and comes in three colorways: Black, Black/White, and Black/White/Yellow. Depending on the color, sizes range from Euro size 38 (roughly a US men’s size 5) up to size 50 (US size 14). Visit Alpinestars.com for more information, including a size chart and ordering instructions.