Motorcycle Blog

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.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine June 2017

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focussed on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.

  • PeteM

    June 15, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    I am surprised you say boots are what you consider the number 1 priority, apart from the legally required helmet surely the number 1 priority is a reasonable pair of gloves? It is instinctive whenever heading for the ground to put your hands out to break your fall, so in pretty much any type of accident your hands will take a bashing whereas not every type of accident will involve foot trauma.

  • Andrew

    June 19, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Hi Pete,

    I have had a few of my own crashes but been the solicitor for now thousands of motorcycle crashes. The reason I would place boots over gloves (and I always ride with gloves) is that boots offer a rigid structure which is essential if your bike lands on top of you. Secondly, even the really advanced gloves can offer minimal structural protection. An armoured boot is a semi rigid box for your foot with the strong structure of the sole providing rigidity. Thirdly, feet always go down first in a low speed collision. Fourth, the bumper height of most cars is at approximately ankle height. You are right, people will instinctively put out their hands to protect themselves but if flung from a bike people have almost no directional control and will be flung about – so there is not consistent travel on their hands but a bike sliding on the road with your foot under it is going to be one hell of a mess in anything other than motorcycle boots.


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