The most common injuries I see in my job are injuries below the knee. I have to admit I am not one of those people who pops down to the shop wearing full body armour.
I will ride in ordinary denim jeans, with a leather jacket but always, always, boots. Foot protection should be the motorcyclist’s no.1 protection priority, but a pair of boots you don’t wear because they are too uncomfortable or you cannot walk in them are useless.
The Highway Code simply says, ‘strong boots… may help protect you if you are involved in an accident’. Failure to wear boots may leave you vulnerable to having damages reduced, but only in quite limited circumstances.
If you suffer an injury to your feet or ankles that might have been avoided if you’d been wearing boots then this does open the door for contributory negligence. However, it is for the Defendant to prove this.
Also, the test is not what would have happened had you been wearing a pair of state of the art motorcycle boots, but strong boots. Therefore a pair of hiking boots, Timberland fashion boots or work boots would meet the Highway Code strictures, and kill off any Defendant argument.
Motorcycle boots have to do a number of things, such as protect the ankle from a bike landing on it, resist crushing and stay on in a high energy impact.
The Highway Code says boots for a reason, and I have seen too many cases involving riders wearing shoes which simply fly off in an impact. A bare foot in a motorcycle collision at any speed is likely to result in the foot being so destroyed that amputation becomes the most viable option. While cold comfort, any defendant would still need to prove that had you been wearing work boots, for example, that your injuries would have been much less serious.
That is a difficult burden to discharge but I could see a strong argument raised that there should be a reduction of 10% across the board for injuries flowing from a foot injury where a soft shoe flew off or was pulled off by abrasion.
The 10% reduction is what the Courts tend to apply in cases involving an unbuckled helmet. The network of bones, ligaments, thin skin and blood vessels in the foot renders it extraordinarily vulnerable and crushing or abrasion to the foot is disastrous.
Even in low speed collisions shoes or a trainer is never going to be good enough, so apart from the legal requirement to wear a type approved crash helmet the next most important thing you should prioritise is your foot protection. I would rather ride in just shorts with boots than an armoured leather jacket and flip flops. It genuinely is as clear cut as that.
Bike Magazine June 2017