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Kart boots, race boots or socks – what’s best for sim racing?

sparco k run kart boots

Featured image: 2020 Sparco K-Run kart boots

Kart boots, race boots or socks in the sim? As a racer, I’m naturally going to want a similar pedal feel close to what I’d expect in the car. I’ve found that the edges of the Heuskinveld pedals have quite a sharp edge.

Not sharp enough to cut you (obviously!!) but certainly enough to start to hurt after a while, especially if like me, you drive with a shifter and spend a lot of time using heel / toe for downshifts. I don’t know if this is how everyone feels but certainly the people I’ve spoken with all say they wear some sort of footwear for pedal work.

max verstappen
Max Verstappen wears socks in his simulator – hardcore stuff! (image source)

Unless you’re Max Verstappen, it’s nice to use race boots of some type on the pedals. Ordinary footwear tends to be too thick in the sole area which can rob pedal feel. But is there such a thing as “best” when it comes to karting or racing boot?

socks in the sim on heusinkveld pedals
Ouch! This just hurts after a while. Socks are a no from me.

The answer’s yes and if you scroll to the bottom of this artcile I’m somewhat certain you’re in for a surprise. If you don’t want the spoiler then, read on.

I’ve compared 3 items of footwear:

  • Alpinestars Tech 1T race boots (2018 model)
  • Sparco Skid race boots (2020 model)
  • Sparco K-Run kart boots (2020 model)

Alpinestars Tech 1T race boots

These are my trusty, 2 season old Alpinestars race boots:

Alpinstars Tech 1T race boots – tried and tested, bruised and battered.

Don’t be fooled by the worn-in look of these boots, they’re in their prime! Racing boots tend to be very soft with thin rubber soles. So, I get loads of pedal feel from them and of course they’re pretty lightweight. Cooling is great, although they’re a real problem in the rain as they let water in via the perforations on the sides of the boots. I get lots of grip from both the heel and the soles.

That used look is so hot right now

On the Heusinkvelds, it’s very easy to be accurate with your pedal inputs. They’d be absolutely perfect for formula cars or anything that uses paddleshift.

My only issue with them for sim use is that the outer is too thin for the edges of the aluminium pedals. When you rotate your foot on the brake, while it’s easy to orient myself to blip the throttle properly, I feel like the pedal edges are gradually damaging the thin side outer of the boot.

As race boots, these are great. For the sim, I think there’s better.

Sparco Skid race boots

This season’s choice for the Mazda are these lovely Sparco Skid race boots, with an offset lace and velcro strap. Like the Alpinestars they’re FIA approved for racing use.

Sparco Skid in “night black” – it’s dark blue and white really

Because they’re newer, these Sparcos have a stiffer outer. But I think they’ll never loosen up as much as the Alpinestars. They’re a cheaper boot (priced at around £149.00) with a thicker, stiffer outer. They also feel taller around the ankle which is no bad thing for saving a little energy while you’re in the drivers seat. I chose them because the perforations that let so much water in with my previous boots are positioned higher on the Sparcos. Hopefully then, they won’t let any water in!

On the pedals

On the sim pedals, the Sparco Skids are better suited to the aluminium Heusinkvelds. There’s plenty of grip as you’d hope but critically, a hard suede section tapers around the outer edge of the boot. That additional stiffness gives a really nice amount of throttle control without affecting feel in anyway.

If you’re doing any on track work and you have a sim at home, I think these are a really good deal.

Sparco K-Run kart boots

Sparco K-Run kart boots after about a month of regular use

At £120 these are the cheapest boots in the list and, being for kart racing are not FIA approved for racing. You can wear them on a track day, though.

What’s also great about karting boots is they’re available in so many more colours. As the manufacturer doesn’t have to pay out to get FIA approval it’s still economically viable to have a large range of colours. FIA approval requires each boot be approved, even colour variations!

Using kart boots on sim pedals

On the sim, these boots really stand out. They happen to be the stiffest boots by some way, which in my view is exactly what’s needed with these pedals. After a month of use there’s almost no visible wear and tear on the upper right side of my throttle foot. I think (with all due respect to the manufacturer) the cheaper upper is simply harder wearing than real leather. And that hard wearing feature works well with pedals. Particularly if you have grip tape on yours.

All of this is with no loss in pedal feel. The sole is as thin and grippy as the other two boots. It’s stiffer, though – which I don’t think is a bad thing for sim racing.

Conclusion

For the money; it has to be the Sparco K-Run kart boots. I’d choose them over the race boots because of price, but also that stiffness is precisely right for years of aggressive sim racing. They’ll last an age. I’m not sure why you’d want FIA approved racing boots for sim use, either – you’re paying for approval for real life Motorsport which just doesn’t apply here. My recommendation – go sim racing in karting boots.