Thor Radial Boots
As with most protective gear, top-level riders wear the top level motocross gear, helmets, boots, etc., which makes sense. But the moto world isn’t just for top level riders. Every age group, experience level, and, maybe most importantly, budget needs products available to them. With that in mind, Thor has released the Radial Boot that comes in at $249.95 placing it pretty much in the middle of the motocross boot market.
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The Radial boot is a non-bootie boot, which might even be an outdated thing to point out since the only two boots that still have booties are the Alpinestars Tech 8 and Tech 10. It also has a hinge in the ankle with pivot points on both the inside and outside of the boot. The overall structure looks a little similar to Gaerne SG-12s with the main structure of the pivot wrapping around the back of the boot. There is a steel shank in the sole for support and safety, and there are only three straps. In the shin area of the boot, the plastic is separated from the liner much like Sidis or TCXs. The sole is bonded rather than stitched on eliminating a lip of material like that on Thor’s Blitz boots, and other stitched sole boots. The buckles are super beefy and have well-thought-out ergonomics.
Following the industry norm for motocross boots, the Radial boot is only available in full sizes. Since I have a size 10.5 foot in most casual shoes, and I would prefer a snugger boot over a looser boot, I run size 10 in all brands of moto boots I’ve tried (except an older pair of TCX boots that run really big). I was initially concerned with the Radial boots being too big, just because of past experience with budget boots - they’ve often been too big for the stated size.
But that isn’t the case with the Radials. I would say that the fit is spot on compared to other boot brand size 10s, and is surprisingly similar to Tech 7s. I have an average to slightly-wide shaped foot and there is room in the toe box to be comfortable without being too sloppy. I would say that it is definitely not a narrow boot and for those with narrow feet, there might be too much room.
There is a good amount of padding around the toe area and ankles. The only issue I have with the fit is that the heel cup isn’t very deep and doesn’t allow your heel to feel super secure like other boots. There is also a bit of heel-lift when pointing your toe to downshift or brake, which isn’t a huge deal but it is a slight reminder that these are not top-tier boots.
I have a hunch that the Thor spent a good amount of time developing the buckles on this boot. They are pretty big, which gives them a lot of leverage and their shape is ergonomic making them easy to snap close. Buckles are normally a weak point or afterthought on budget boots, but the Radial buckles are quick to use and have a strong, positive latch. And, since there are only three buckles and no bootie, getting in and out of the boots is fast and smooth. Even though there is a fair amount of padding in the boot, there isn’t much arch support, so if you have mid- or high-arched feet, you’ll probably want insoles for more support. Lastly, the toe box is a little tall compared to Fox, Sidi, Astars, and Gaerne.
I’ll start with what I liked about Radial boot out on the track. For one, the sole is very tacky. The stock pegs on our ‘19 RM-Z250 are getting pretty rounded and I had no issues sticking to the bike. There might be a concern with longevity down the road, but as of now, I’m good with the sole’s extra grip. Also, the sole of the boot, from a support standpoint, is very stiff. From toe to heel, there is very little flex and they don’t even come close to other cheaper boots that can give you the dreaded bird-feet feeling (like the soles are so soft that your feet are bending onto the pegs).
There is also really good support side to side in the ankle area. I had no concerns about my ankle rolling or twisting and the hinge virtually eliminated ankle-bulge when bending my ankle. Going from standing to sitting on the bike, the boot allowed my foot to bend naturally, with my foot easily pointing upward. There is also good bike grip with the rubber material on the bike-facing parts of the boot, which didn’t hang up or have any weird edges.
But here is where some of the downsides come in. While lifting my foot was easy, pointing my foot downward is pretty hard. There are pros and cons to Thors design of the rear of the Radial boot. It is nearly completely covered by plastic pieces that are able to move when pointing or flexing your foot. The plus side is that the protection level is very high. In a pair of Tech 7s, which have a large exposed area above the heel, I’ve caught a footpeg in the back of the boot and while it didn’t do permanent damage, I was off the bike for like two weeks because it was sore and probably sprained.
Yet with all that rigid material, pointing your toes past 90 is a struggle. This leads to some serious difficulty upshifting. After my day of riding, I could see on the top of the left boot, I wasn’t even getting the boot squarely under the shifter; I was shifting with the very inner edge of the boot. When I did get the boot under the shifter, I sometimes had a hard time getting it out, like it was wedged between the shifter and the peg, which also highlights how grippy the soles are. Braking wasn’t so much an issue and there is a moderate amount of brake pedal feel.
My first reaction is to hope that the boots will break-in, since this is the first time riding in them. But looking at the back of the boot you can see that there is a plastic “stop” on the heel where the middle plastic plate runs into it, limiting the amount of extension. These two pieces of plastic aren’t parts that can “break in” but I’ll keep wearing them to see if I’m wrong.
Another downside is that, even though there’s extra padding on the inside of the ankle area, I can feel the hinges when I squeeze the bike with my ankles. There is a ridge or edge that pressed unpleasantly against my ankle and left red marks. I even had a moment where I got a little sideways off a jump and landed with my right leg pressing hard against the bike to keep it in line and the inner ankle ridge really jabbed into me and left a red, sore mark at the end of the day.
For a mid-priced boot, the Radial delivers on protection, overall structure, grip, and support. It is lighter than most of the top-level boots and rivals their sole stiffness. The hinges do what they are supposed to do - keep the integrity of the ankle area as the boot is bent. But, some ankle comfort issues and lack of extension means that the Radial boot hasn’t knocked it out of the park. That being said, everyone has different ankle shapes and sizes and my discomfort might not be universal. Also, it isn’t enough for me not to continue to wear them. I think there are a good mix of features and a durability/protection-leaning focus that makes them worth a look if you are in the market for a new pair of boots at half the price of the top-tier offerings.