Last updated: June 28th, 2022
Featured image: Sparco K-Pole Boots (available in lots of different colors)
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.
- Alpinestars Tech 1T and Tech 1-KZ
- Sparco Skid
- Sparco K-Pole
- Sparco K-Run
- Sparco Hyperdrive
- Asetek Invicta Boots
- Simpson High Top Racing Shoe
- Goodyear Clutch Performance Racing Boot
- Abruzzi Design Your Own Boot
- Sparco Gamma KB-4MP
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.
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?
The answer’s yes and if you scroll to the bottom of this article 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 – now available as an updated model)
- Sparco Hyperdrive
Alpinestars Tech 1T race boots
These are my trusty, 2 seasons old Alpinestars race boots:
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.
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 paddle-shift.
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. The Alpinestars karting boot (2021 version) of the Tech series is really quite a nice looking boot indeed:
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.
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 driver’s 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 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 any way.
If you’re doing any on-track work and you have a sim at home, I think these are a really good deal. You can get the karting version of the boots here.
The K-Pole boots from Sparco lie somewhere between the brand’s Gamma KB-4MP and Hyperdrive models. While not strictly karting boots nor pure sim racing boots, the K-Pole’s feature elements from both worlds, which you may find works to your advantage.
The upper portion of these boots is made of microfibre, which means excellent breathability, and is finished in a stylish matt look. Inside they boast lateral reinforcement inserts, as well as a reinforced heel insert. They’re fastened with thin flat laces that provide a secure fit, and the natural rubber sole features a differentiated grip texture to minimise slippage.
Sparco K-Run kart boots
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!
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.
Sparco Hyperdrive Sim Racing Boots
New to the market are the Hyperdrive sim racing boots – sharing the name with the popular gloves, these lightweight items are super breathable and have a very thin, F1 style sole:
I suspect the tall “sock” that covers the lower ankles would be really useful to alleviate tiredness during endurance racing. They look good, too.
Designed specifically for the sim racing market, the Sparco Hyperdrive gaming Boots are the result of the culmination of the company’s knowledge and experience in designing championship-winning driving footwear. Taking everything it has learnt from its real-life racing involvement, Sparco has fine-tuned the ultimate gaming boot by removing all the unnecessary, not to mention weight-adding, features of traditional racing shoes, creating something genuinely fit-for-purpose.
As a result, the Hyperdrive Gaming Boots are exceptionally lightweight. In addition, they feature a tall, built-in, elasticated internal sock that provides a better fit and feel by eliminating the traditional tongue found on almost any other shoe. The material is also well perforated for improved ventilation and reduced perspiration.
The sole of the boots remains strong but is considerably thinner than what’d you’d find on boots that are safety-rated for real-life racing. Being thinner adds yet more weight savings without compromising on sturdiness.
Asetek Invicta Sim Racing Boots
As a manufacturer of some of the world’s most sophisticated sim racing pedals, Asetek knows a thing or two about what’s required of your feet to succeed in digital motorsport. So, fittingly, the company has launched its own premium sim racing boots under the same product line as its top-shelf hardware: Invicta. In keeping with its high-performance reputation, Asetek’s Invicta sim racing boots combine robust materials and undeniable elegance.
The rubber sole is thin enough to provide great sensation, allowing you to feel the pedals and make minute adjustments, yet it is stable enough to provide tenacious grip and help you maintain consistent lap times.
The front portion of the boots is perforated, ensuring ample breathability, while the tongue offers sufficient padding to guarantee comfort while you stomp the pedals. In addition, the boots feature laces coupled with a self-fastening strap that allows for easy adjustments to ensure a snug fit.
If appearances are important to you, you won’t be let down as these boots are spectacularly refined, with an elegant Asetek colour palate throughout that complements the choice of strong-yet-lightweight materials.
Simpson High Top Racing Shoe
As a popular choice among drag racers, these timelessly-styled boots are kitted out with several real-world racing characteristics that translate very well for sim racers. The difference an authentic racing shoe can make becomes evident by the fact that you will forget you’re even wearing any.
Since these boots are light, soft, and comfortable, it means that when you’re driving fast and pushing your limits, distractions are kept to a minimum, letting you focus more on the car, track, and racing conditions. On top of that, the sleek profile of these boots ensures that transitions between the throttle, brake, and clutch pedals are effortlessly natural, significantly reducing the chances of you making any mistakes.
The rubber sole is stiff and provides a solid foundation, allowing your feet to stay nimble, yet it also has enough feel to remain tactile. Additionally, the high-top shape provides further reinforcement, especially regarding ankle support, which comes in handy for endurance races. The boots are fastened with a combination of grippy laces and Velcro straps, so there’s no chance of them coming loose midway through a race. So, if you’re looking for a classic racing shoe with all the advantages professional drivers look for in footwear, you won’t go wrong with a pair of Simpson’s High Tops.
Goodyear Clutch Performance Racing Trainers
As a world leader in tyre development, Goodyear has decades of experience working with rubber compounds and tyre tread designs. Putting its years of knowledge from the automotive industry to good use, Goodyear has collaborated with SCL Footwear to produce the Clutch Performance racing shoes.
While these shoes technically fall into the Goodyear’s lifestyle footwear category, making them more fashion-oriented with less focus on function, they still work well as sim racing shoes.
Given that these are trainers (sneakers for our readers from across the pond), emphasis is placed on comfort and style, so if you prefer a less rigid fit and something very lightweight, these shoes will be suitable for you. A standout feature of these shoes is that they incorporate actual Goodyear tyre tread patterns on the soles, providing reliable grip and responsive touch. Also, their mid-top profile offers a decent amount of upper foot and ankle support, with a combination of shoelaces and an adjustable Velcro strap for fastening.
Abruzzi Build Your Own Boot
If customisation is your thing, look no further than these Abruzzi racing boots. With these shoes, you can tailor each panel by selecting from a broad palette of colours, creating a unique design that is 100 per cent of your making.
Abruzzi lets you choose the colour of the shoe’s main body, heel, toe, side strip, strap, and lace panel, meaning there are endless combinations to create. One more customisable feature of the boots that allows you to personalise them is that you can add your name, racing number, and even flag of nationality to the bootstrap!
Regarding build quality, the boots are rated for use by professional kart racers, so they provide more than adequate functionality for sim racing needs. Accordingly, the main body of the boots is very durable and made of a mix of suede and leather. On the bottom is a thin but sturdy sole, meaning you’ll have an excellent amount of feel on the pedals, and due to their lightweight construction and sufficient cushioning, these boots are very comfortable to wear, even after hours of racing
Sparco Gamma KB-4MP
Sparco’s Gamma KB-4MP karting boots offer fantastic durability, breathability, and comfort, bringing together all the essential factors needed for a sim racing shoe.
Thanks to the use of 3D synthetic microfibre fabric, these boots are incredibly breathable and wear-resistant. Moreover, they’re equipped with suede inserts, a porous inner lining, as well as anatomical insoles which feature an impact absorption spot at the heel, guaranteeing further comfort while racing.
Even the area circling the shoe collar is reinforced with padding and has perforated mesh to maximise airflow, continuing the themes of breathability and comfort.
Looking at the soles, you’ll find plenty of reinforcement in all the right places, as the rubber extends well past the underside of the boots to ensure all pivot points are well-bolstered.
For the money; it has to be the Sparco K-Pole boots I’d choose them over the race boots because of the 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.