I like a simple riding boot when I’m testing a cruiser. I look for footwear that protects my ankles, but not so tall that I can’t get it under jeans and overpants. I like slip-resistant soles because sometimes I have to park where Buzz’s old, leaky Indians and Harleys have sat. I need a real-world heel. I can’t even walk in high-heels, let alone ride with them. All my boots need to be comfortable for walking and riding, but, most importantly, they have to look cool.
The Karen, sold only in stores, sports all these features and then some. The sturdy, black leather boots carry off the classic biker-boot look, without any laces to get caught up on pegs. The 6.25″ shaft is the perfect height to tuck under pants without difficulty, and dual YKK zippers on the supple, full-grain leather upper make getting into the Karens a cinch. The durable, welt-constructed Goodyear outsole is abrasion-, oil-, and slip-resistant. And two strips of black 3M reflective piping help add some nighttime visibility to an otherwise unseen area. In addition, the Karens are tricked-out with a heel rest and peg bar on each boot, both designed to help the rider relax while playing the part of cool biker chick.
I’ve often thought that Harley should pay its customers for being the walking billboards they sometimes are. Luckily, the logos adorning the Karens are subtle. Some H-Ds you can barely even see, like the logo on the sole and the badge on all four zipper pulls. There’s a small, embroidered emblem with an embossed skull on each upper, but they’re high enough so that my pants cover them.
But even if I did have to walk around advertising the H-D brand in big orange block letters, I’d be doing so in comfort. Initially, the Karens were stiff, and the lack of arch support made me think these might even be going back to where they came from. But after a day of break-in, they have become my footwear of choice — whether riding or not. —Tricia Szulewski
Hard Data: Harley-Davidson Footwear, Women’s Karen Boots, $144, 866/699-7379, www.Harley-DavidsonFootwear.com