Next to helmets and goggles, riding boots are probably the next most important and most specialized piece of personal protective equipment for riding ATVs and dirt bikes. Because they are specialized, they tend to be a little pricey and some people shy away from them because of the cost. Some people will substitute various kinds of work boots, but none of them will actually perform as well as riding boots. Riding boots are designed to provide the kind of protection and support your feet and ankles need as well as the flexibility you need for proper control when operating an OHV. No doubt you will see foolish riders wearing just about anything on their feet: loafers, tennis shoes, running shoes, even flipflops! But to be sure, it is only a matter of time before they pay the price. Bruised or even fractured arches are possible just from kick starting a dirt bike without the right kind of boots. And if your foot encounters a rock or log in casual footwear, something is going to get broken and it won't be the rock or log! I have even seen riders get injured wearing riding boots but their injuries would have been a lot worse if they hadn't been wearing proper boots. They came close to losing a few toes; without the boots they would have lost their foot!
Riding boots usually have a metal guard around the tip of the sole. Work boots usually do not have this guard. It is needed because the tips of your boots are often subjected to rocks and other debris when riding an ATV or dirt bike. Without the metal tip the toes of your boots would quickly wear out and leave YOUR toes unprotected! If the tip protector gets loose, tap the nails back in. If they are too loose, stick a little piece of a wooden match or toothpick into the hole or replace the nails with short screws. If you loose a tip entirely, replace it as quickly as you can. I have to admit I wore work boots the first few times I rode my dirt bike. I think they had steel toes for extra protection but the rather bulbous rounded toes of work boots definitely do not fit well under motorcycle shift levers. Riding boots are designed with flat, square toes that make engaging and working the shift lever easier and safer. The higher shaft, extending almost to the knee also provides a lot more ankle support and protection for your shins.
The tall shaft of riding boots protects your shins and calves from injury. Typical work boots have only 6"or 8"tops. Riding boot tops are more like a foot tall, covering most of your shin and calf. The added length also gives extra stabilization to your ankles.
Most all boots, including work boots as well as riding boots, have steel shanks. The steel shank protects the arch of your foot when stomping on the kick starter and when standing on the foot pegs.
My family and I have experimented with several different brands of riding boots, and there are certainly many brands to choose from, manufactured in many different countries. The brand we have come to favor over the years is Alpine Stars. I think we started with Tech 3s and worked our way up to Tech 10s. Each generation introduced new features and benefits with the Tech 10 boots having removable booties that could be washed to freshen the boots between rides. You can use the boots without the booties. One of my grown sons, who is bigger than I am, borrowed my boots and since they were a smaller size than he usually wore he had to wear them without the booties. Not generally a recommended practice, but it works in a pinch.
The center of the sole of riding boots is usually the first to wear out, especially if you don't have an electric starter and rely on kick starting your ride. I have seen the soles of riding boots worn almost to the steel shank from stomping the kick starter. Fortunately, new soles can be purchased and installed by a qualified shoe repair shop and they are a lot less expensive than new boots!
Of course your boots will look better and last longer if you take proper care of them. I use spring clamps to hang my boots by the back of the shaft to prevent them slumping over while sitting around on the soles. When they get bent over they can develop folds that may rub on your ankles and cause bruises and blisters. Avoid getting your boots wet if you can. Most boots have significant parts made of leather which will get stiff after it gets soaked a few times. If you do get your boots wet, dry them as soon as possible, but don't subject them to high heat which can damage the materials. Clean your boots after every outing. You can use ordinary shoe polish of a matching color on most boots to cover scuffs and help restore the finish. I like to occasionally use some Leather Balm to condition the leather and help keep it soft. I use SC-1 on both the plastic and leather parts of my boots for a final shine and as extra UV and moisture protection.
Riding boots use specialized straps and latches which sometimes break. You can usually buy replacement straps at your favorite OHV shop or from the manufacturer's web site. If the part of the latch that is permanently attached to the boot is damaged you will probably have to take it to a shoe repair shop to be fixed or replaced.
The metal tips on the soles are held on my little nails and those nails can work loose over time. Inspect the tips regularly and tap the nails back into place if any are coming loose. Over time the holes may get worn so the nails don't seem to want to stay stuck. You might try tightening them by removing each nail and inserting a little piece of a wooden toothpick into the hole before reinstalling the nail. Another trick might be to fill the holes with some kind of plastic filler. You want something sturdier than silicone sealer but more flexible than Bondo. You also might try replacing the nails with short screws. Be sure not to over tighten them or you will strip out the holes in the soles!
If you need new straps, buckles, or metal tips, do an Internet search for "motocross boot parts" and you will get plenty of options. Replacement parts are relatively inexpensive and usually pretty easy to install.
Make sure your boots fit right! Boots that are too large will be clumsy and may cause blisters on your feet. Boots that are too tight can restrict circulation and cause pain. You should wear fairly heavy motocross socks with riding boots to cushion your feet so keep that in mind when sizing your boots. I like to wear a pair of light weight dress socks under my motocross socks to help prevent blisters as they are slicker than the fuzzy motocross socks. The dual sock systems allows slippage between the light weight socks and the motocross socks instead of between my skin and the socks.
The legs of your riding pants should fit inside your riding boots. There should also be room for the shin guards attached to your knee pads. If you have trouble fastening the straps you may be able buy longer straps or have a shoe repair shop make some that will work for you. You don't want the legs of your riding pants over your boots where they can get caught on things along the trail.
Riding boots tend to be rather expensive, but, fortunately, with proper care, they usually last a long time. And their cost is small compared to the cost of injuries from not having them -- direct medical costs plus possible loss of work plus pain and suffering.