I know we’re supposed to remain neutral as motojournalists, but we’re people too, and when it comes to protective gear that could potentially save life or limb, when you find something you really like it’s hard to let it go. Such is my case with roadracing boots. I’ve tried a lot, and there are many good ones, but the boot I always come back to is the Supertech R from Alpinestars. When I’m wearing them it feels like I’m wearing my favorite pair of sneakers – that also happens to be able to protect my feet and ankles if I were to get separated from a motorcycle at ridiculous speeds.
This was the point with the Supertech boots all along. In case you didn’t know, Alpinestars made its name in footwear. Sante Mazzarolo, the founder of Alpinestars, created the first dedicated motocross boot with the legendary Roger DeCoster as his main test rider and developer. On the roadracing side, the one and only Kenny Roberts helped develop boots for that task.
Fast forward to the modern-day and we have the current Supertech R boot. Originally introduced in 2002 as just the Supertech (no R), 250cc Grand Prix World Champion Marco Melandri helped bring that boot to life. One of the goals all along was to have a highly protective boot that required zero break-in time. It needed to be comfortable immediately. We take it for granted now, but break-in periods for boots were, and still are, a real thing. Motocross riders can certainly relate.
Over the years the Supertech story has been one of continual refinement. In fact, if you’re familiar with the Supertech R boot you may look at the boot in these photos and not completely understand what’s different other than the graphics. The truth is several little details have been tweaked, amounting to one big change.
Instead of simply writing about the differences, this story is best told via photos of old and new together. So, let’s begin:
First off, a side-by-side shot of the old and new Supertech R together. Can you tell which is which? If you take a really close look, you’ll probably notice the one on the right is the old boot. The differences aren’t dramatic, but they’re no less important.
A big difference between old and new can be found on the inner portion of the boot. The old Supertech used a suede-like material to help prevent any marring on the foot controls. It works just fine, but over time the material will start to roll, fold, and crease over. The new Supertech R uses a redesigned microfiber material in its place. It still provides the flexibility of the previous suede material and *should* wear better over time. You can see the built-in accordion paneling at the midsection – presumably to account for the rolling seen on the suede material.
A closer view of the old (right) and new boots shows the creasing and rolling effect on the suede material. Time will tell as far as how the new microfiber material in the new Supertech R holds up.
This one is a little harder to spot. See the webbing in the middle of the boot, approximately where the ankles and lower shin would be? With the new Supertech R (left), this flex panel is now slightly larger than before, extending slightly farther down towards the toes at the bottom, but also slightly higher and to the inside corner (towards the microfiber) at its tip. With today’s extreme riding styles, the extra flex panel gives everyone from MotoGP riders to us schmucks slightly more range of movement to twist and turn our legs and feet.
This is another big improvement, at least for those with thick calves (read: not me). Many people have complained about the zipper being hard to pull up on the old Supertech, despite the fact the built-in accordion paneling running alongside the zipper is meant to stretch enough to allow just that. As it turns out, it doesn’t stretch enough. The new Supertech R (left) addresses this issue and expands the amount of accordion paneling used, which should make it easier for those with thick calves to close the zip.
Move upstream from the accordion paneling and you’ll find subtle differences in the shin plate. Continuing the theme of extreme riding styles, MotoGP riders are also reaching more extreme lean angles, too. So extreme that some riders are scraping their shin sliders on the ground. With the updated Supertech R, the shin slider (the kidney bean-looking thing) is now bigger than before and is replaceable.
A major contributing factor to the Supertech being instantly comfortable the moment you put it on is the inner boot system which houses the bracing to help prevent your foot and ankle from moving in directions it shouldn’t. The new Supertech R inner boot (left) is constructed from a finer mesh, with more rubberized protective material around the toe box and underneath the shifter pad.
One of the more underappreciated changes to the new Supertech’s inner boot is the relocation of the loop to help pull your foot into the boot. The old boot’s strap would dangle and bunch up if you’re the type who puts your (Alpinestars) leathers over the inner boot (like me). Over time this creates an annoying pressure point in your lower calf. Moving the strap higher and giving it a little more rigidity not only makes the loop easier to locate with your finger as you shove your foot inside the boot but also does away with the pressure point.
A minor detail, but considering how much it’s used it’s also worth mentioning. The new buckle to secure the inner boot laces (right) is now a little slimmer than before. You now pinch the side plates to release the tension on the laces and pull up, whereas before you depressed the slider in the middle. Again, a tiny detail, but it goes to show the level of attention Alpinestars gave the Supertech over the past four years of development.
Riding In It
Alpinestars invited select folks – Yours Truly included – to Sonoma Raceway to take part in the Yamaha-only R-World trackday, where I could put the boot to the test in its natural environment – the racetrack. As stated before, one of the main goals for the Supertech R boot was to be instantly comfortable so the rider could go burn up some hot laps right out of the gate. This is a good mission statement to be sure, but it also makes it a little difficult to “review” said boot. However, being that this is my job and all, I had to give it a try.
My solution would be to wear the new Supertech R on one foot and its predecessor on the other to see what, if any, difference I could feel. Donning the boot, it was surprising how much easier the boot was to put on. The relocation of the pull loop definitely helped, but it also felt as though the material of the inner boot itself was softer and thus allowed my foot to slide in easier. It certainly didn’t feel any different to my fingers, though. With the lower portion of my leathers zipped over the top of the inner boot, taking advantage of the larger accordion panel along the outer boot’s zip closure made the Supertech really easy to close. Then again, I never really had a problem closing the previous boot. Others I spoke to did say they noticed a difference in the ease of closure with the expanded accordion panel. So there’s that.
When it comes to actually riding with the boot… well… I can’t say there’s a discernible difference between the two. Comfort remains at an all-time high, and I can feel the pegs and controls despite any different materials used in certain spots. In short, I felt instantly comfortable getting up to speed on the motorcycle as I would in my well-worn Supertech R boots from before. If push came to shove and I was forced to pick a nit, it appeared that maybe the toe box in my left boot was a little narrow. Then again, I wore the boot all day, on and off the bike, without much issue.
The best part? The new Supertech R has not increased in price compared to the old model. Not one dime. Its $499.95 price tag has remained the same as before.
The new Supertech R has just strengthened its case as my go-to boot when it comes to racetrack shenanigans. It’s as comfortable as ever (maybe even more so) while still providing the safety the top riders in the world rely on. Is it a big enough jump to encourage owners of old Supertechs (or any other race boot) to ditch what they have and snatch these off the shelves? No. At least not if your current boots are in good condition. But if you’re in the market for race boots, the Supertech R deserves your consideration.
|Alpinestars Supertech R Boot Specifications|
|Colors||Black, Black/White, Black/White/Red Fluo, Black/Red Fluo/White/Gray|
|Sizes||39-48 Euro, 6-12.5 US|
|Weight (MS measured)||5 lbs. 10 oz.|
|Safety Standards||CE EN13634:2017|
Where are the Alpinestars Supertech boots made?
According to the tag inside the boot, the Supertech R boots are designed and developed in Italy, but actual manufacturing is done in Vietnam. If you’re a contracted Alpinestars MotoGP or World Superbike star, then yours might come straight from Asolo, Italy.
How do you clean Alpinestars Supertech boots?
There’s no magic when it comes to cleaning race boots. Get a rag, dip it in warm water, and give it some elbow grease. A mild detergent can come in handy for tough spots, but otherwise, you just need to put in the time. As obvious as it might sound, it’s best to avoid leather cleaner as, over time, it might cause discoloration of the synthetic leather.
What should you look for when you buy racing boots?
Like any other piece of protective gear, it has to be comfortable. When it comes to racing boots, be mindful of sizing. Protective racing gear is meant to fit tight (but not uncomfortably tight). If you tend to wear your sneakers a little loose, consider dropping down a size for race boots (we’ve seen people drop down two sizes from their sneakers!) Otherwise, try on the boot and see how stiff it is or how many plastic pieces of the exoskeleton (if you’re trying a race boot without an inner boot) rub each other and squeak. If you’re free to move your foot up and down but have limited movement from side to side, this is good. Other things to consider: how easy it is to don/doff the boot, the amount (and strength) of closure mechanisms, and whether you can still operate the controls with it on.
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