Choosing The Best Work Boots 2018
Finding the right pair of work boots for your feet can be difficult at times. If you have fallen arches or flat feet, getting a comfortable pair of boots is key although it’s only one area of importance when you’re purchasing something to protect your feet.
Even if you don’t work in an industry that requires specialized footwear, you need to take care of your feet.
There’s a reason you see people that operate heavy machinery wear sturdy work boots and why factory workers and security guards prefer them as well. Work is work, regardless of where you spend your shift or how long it is.
Our guide to the best work boots will walk you through all the areas you should consider whether you’re looking for the best steel toe boots or need a soft-toe with electrical protection. We have also included several choices to choose from with affordable options, comfy pull-on boots, and ones that are built to last a decade.
Considerations before buying
What type of job do you have?
Do you spend most of the day on your feet or sit in a crane high above the ground? Are you walking across warehouse floors or muddy job sites as you inspect slabs and tag electrical work?
What you do for a living dictates the type of work boots you need. The best lightweight work boots may be great if you walk a lot, but not if you operate a jackhammer. You would want a boot with a steel-toe in that case or a composite toe boot at a minimum.
Working in wet concrete? Then you’ll want pull-on boots made or rubber while welders and other professions tend to prefer the classic pull-on work boot as well.
If you have a job that requires you to work outdoors in the dead of winter, look for a boot with plenty of insulation. 400 grams is the sweet spot, but you can go anywhere from 200 grams all the way up to 1000 if you’re dealing with sub-zero temperatures.
Work boots are always made from the same blend of materials. While there are some exotic options on the market, canvas, synthetic materials, and leather are the main three materials you’ll encounter on the upper of a boot.
We won’t delve into synthetics as they vary depending on the material used, while canvas is durable and used in a wide variety of applications today. Tents, backpacks and hiking boots use it, and it can be waterproof while still allowing your feet to breathe better than our top choice which would be leather.
Simply put, there is no substitute for a good leather work boot.
Leather has been covering our feet for thousands of years, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Real leather is thick and available in many different shades. It holds up better and longer than canvas or synthetics as well but may increase the overall weight and price of your boot.
The last area we want to mention in regards to construction has to do with how the sole is attached to the boot.
If you want the best, go for a boot with a Goodyear Welt as it allows you to replace the heel when it becomes worn. They are sturdier than boots that are cemented or glued together and ideal if you want a boot that lasts.
Once you figure out what you want on the outside of your boot, it is time to take a look at what lies inside.
The insole is where your foot rests, and it sits above the outsole and footbed. This is where cushioning comes into play, and there are some wild options available. Gel-infused insoles are popular as are ones with inner cores or insoles made from memory foam.
While some are “fixed” and attached to the footbed, most insoles can be removed these days. This allows you to wash them as needed or replace the sole if necessary.
Footbed and Outsole
The outsoles and footbed provide you with support. The footbed and shank can give you flexibility or be rigid depending on the boot and your preference. There are a lot of options to choose from, including shanks built for people with wider feet.
The outsole comes in direct contact with the ground, so it has to be tougher than any other part of your boot. That includes the “sides” of the insoles along with the tread on the bottom.
Again, you’ll want to consider where you work as you won’t need half inch treads geared towards mud if you work on concrete floors. You may want a boot with slip-resistance however, and some soles can even withstand extreme temperatures or corrosive materials.
Work Boots Buying Guide
Once you have committed our key areas to memory, it’s time to think about the style of boot that’s best for you. You also need to consider the things you’ll need to do before and after you strap them onto your feet. Buying the boot is only part of this equation as you also have to consider care and the dreaded break-in period.
Types of Work Boots
There are dozens of variations on the traditional work boot, but for us, it all starts with two areas – the toe and the style.
With toes, you can have a regular soft toe boot, a steel-toe or a boot with a composite toe. Steel-toe boots are by far the toughest and can keep your feet safe from things like dropped paint cans and bags of cement.
Composite toe boots aren’t far behind in terms of strength as lighter metals are used along with exotic alloys. They are also lighter than steel-toe boots and only slightly heavier than a soft toe in some cases. Either way, if you need impact resistance, you need a boot with a safety toe.
As for the style, there are only three types to consider with pull-on, lace-up and shorter casual boots. If you want to learn more about resistances and those toes, you can find out more in our guide to all of the main types of work boots.
How to Clean Work Boots
It doesn’t matter if you spend a couple of hundred bucks or pick up a pair of cheap work boots, you should still take care of them, or you’re just throwing money away.
That all starts with cleaning your work boots, and we’re not just talking about removing the grime and grit from the soles.
How Should Work Boots Fit?
While this may seem like a simple question, it is not.
How a work boot should fit depends on your feet and the type of boot you’ve purchased. A boot built for people with flat feet won’t “feel” right if you have high arches and other conditions like hammer toe can cause fit issues as well.
If you have regular feet or ones that cause you grief, keep a few simple things in mind. Always try on your boots with a proper pair of socks and be aware that your feet do shrink and expand throughout the day.
You’ll want to do more than a quick walk down an isle when trying on boots as well. Take some time to walk around and see how they feel before pulling the trigger and make sure they don’t slip on the heel, and you have enough room in the toe.
How to Break in Boots
Even the best work boots won’t do you much good if they never conform to your feet.
That means you’ll have to wait for your boots break-in period to be over although there are some things you can do to speed up the process.
In most cases, give your feet a week or two to adjust to your boots, especially if they have a steel or safety toe. They may require some extra time, which is where some of the tricks we talked about in our break-in guide come into play.
Stomping around or simply walking in your new boots is the best thing although you can attempt things like stretching and freezing if time is a concern.
Work Boots Review
Best Work Boots Overall
These boots are overall the best work boots brands which means they can take on a variety of conditions indoors and out and handle anything that comes their way.
Timberland PRO Pit Boss Work Boots
A Pit Boss is someone that supervises the action on the pit of a casino, and they are tough customers. The PRO Pit Boss boots from Timberland are just as tough as they folks they’re named for, and offer up plenty of protection on the job.
These durable boots have a 5.5” shaft and are made from leather with cast metal hooks up top. The collar is thicker than most and comfort won’t be a problem with the company’s 24.7 comfort support system.
While we like the style and construction of this boot, the steel-toe puts it over the top, so it’s ideal for jobs where you need to have boots that meet the ANSI standards. They are rated against electrical hazards as well and slip resistant to oil and other substances.
Most work boots don’t give you much of an option when it comes to color, but you’ll be pleased to know the Timberland PRO Pit Boss boot is available in Brown, Black, and Wheat in the usual array of sizes and widths.
Wolverine W02421 Raider Boot
This boot has all the company’s tech packed in with a comfort welt system for support a Multisox insole. The latter provides plenty of cushion and can be removed although we can’t imagine you’d want to once you slip feel how comfy it is.
That MultiShox system also extends to the outsole. The boot is resistant to oil and other substances that make staying upright difficult and sports abrasion resistant lugs as well. The Raiders will hold up well on construction sites or on any other terrain you’re likely to encounter.
You can pick up these boots in the classic Brown sized from a 7 to a size 14. They come with the company’s 30-day comfort guarantee, so don’t be afraid to give these boots a shot!
EVER BOOTS Tank Insulated Work Boots
EVER BOOTS Tank work boots are an affordable alternative if you need a sturdy set of boots, but do not require fancy features or exotic materials. These simple boots are made from leather and have one feature that’s hard to find on top-tier boots.
While budget-friendly, these boots have Goodyear Welting which puts them in the Pro class in our eyes. The sole is going to withstand more than it would be able to if it were cemented or glued on, and can even be replaced if necessary.
Soles aside, the boot is higher than most with a 7” shaft and four thick grommets at the bottom to go along with a couple of speed hooks at the top. There’s an additional eyelet above that if you like to lace them high and the padded collar on the back provides additional support.
The price is nice on the Tank work boots, but you’ll want to keep the sizing and their warranty in mind. You only get 3-months on these boots, and they run a 1/2 size larger than Timberlands.
Best Steel Toe Boots
They may not be ideal for everyone, but steel-toe boots are your best option when safety and impact protection is a concern. They could also be a requirement on some job sites. It’s safe to say that the best work boots for men usually include a sturdy safety toe.
Top Pick: Caterpillar Second Shift Steel Toe Work Boot
The Caterpillar Second Shift boots live up to their namesake as they can keep your feet fresh all day long. Not just for the first shift, but for the second as well which makes them an option as one of the work boots for men.
It all starts with the construction on this one as it has a thick leather exterior with Goodyear Welting. The latter gives it a leg up in the durability department as well. Need a slip-resistant outsole? It has one, and there are large lugs on the bottom of the sole to provide traction in other elements.
The other feature we need to point out is the toe box as the Second Shift boot has a steel-toe. While roomy, you’ll need to break these bad boys in, but once you do, we think you’ll be amazing by how comfortable they are.
These boots will last for years provided you give them the proper care, and you’ll get two hues to choose from with Dark Brown and Honey. Standard widths and sizes are available up to a 13W and 14D.
Runner-Up: Chippewa Waterproof Insulated Steel-Toe EH Logger Boot
Our second steel-toe boot is a little taller than our first but just as tough. It comes from Chippewa and is dubbed the EH Logger Boot with a 9” leather shaft and more features than other models in this class.
This is what we would refer to as a top-tier boot built for the pros. It has a Chip-A-Tex waterproof bootie, and Dri Lex lining so your feet will stay dry, but they’ll also be warm. That’s because there is 400 grams of Thinsulate lining the boot, which is double the amount found in some of the best winter boots.
As for the safety feature, the EH Logger has a steel-toe and will keep you safe from electrical hazards with an ASTM rating. While heavy, the boots provide plenty of support and comfort with Vibram soles and an orthotic grade removable insole.
From Goodyear Welting to its waterproof nature, it’s hard to go wrong with the Chippewa Logger EH. It’s arguably the best boot on our list although the price holds it back. It’s an expensive work boot, but as our Chippewa boots review proved – these are boots that are well worth considering if your budget can accommodate it.
Best Cheap Work Boots
We’re going from the most expensive work boot on our list to some of the cheapest. Just because they are cheap doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it as budget-friendly boots can still perform just as well as the top models.
Top Pick: Servus 19921-12 Comfort Technology PVC Work Boots
These boots are definitely affordable, but not because they are made from subpar materials or will fall apart after a week. In fact, it’s the opposite as the Servus 18821-12 is a well-made boot with a steel safety toe.
A quick glance will let you know if these boots are the right choice for you, so we won’t spent a lot of time on the design. They are light-duty boots built for working in wet substances; especially the kinds that can cause damage to your pants.
Whether you tuck in or let your pants leg flow freely, these boots won’t let you down. They are made of PVC and 100% waterproof. Your toe won’t get crushed thanks to that steel-toe, and they’re rated ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75. Throw in slip-resistant soles, and you’ve got yourself a fine, affordable work boot.
The Servus 18821 is only available in Black and is 14” high. Sizing options are limited, and some people wear shoes in this style of boot so you may need to go up a size depending on your needs.
Runner-up: Skechers USA Men’s Mariner Utility Boot
The Mariner is an option if you need a good cheap work boot, that’s not quite a boot, but more of a shoe. It’s also an option from our most comfortable work boot list, something that speaks for itself.
This low-cut hybrid is comfortable but still sturdy enough to withstand some abuse on the job. That’s due in part to the thick sole and lug pattern on the bottom and the fact they are made from leather with ample padding around the top.
While you won’t find any safety features or a steel-toe in the Skechers Mariner, the seams are sturdy so it’s a shoe that will hold up well over time. It’s also stylish enough to be worn casually when compared to a true work boot with more height.
The Mariner’s won’t be for everyone, of this we are certain. That said, if you have trouble with boots but still need sturdy footwear for the job, you should seriously consider these. They are available in Brown from a 7 to a 14 in regular and extra wide.
Best Lightweight Work Boots
Our last batch of boots is in a different class from their steel-toe brethren or even boots built for the elements. While they may share some common features, these are the top choices for the best lightweight work boots available.
Top Pick: Irish Setter 83605 Work Boot
The Irish Setter is a noble animal known for its loyalty. It’s a very reliable companion, and you can say the same of boots that carry the same name. We’re big fans of the brand and the Irish Setter 83605 boots.
You won’t find a safety toe in these boots as that keep the weight down, but they do have heat resistant outsole that can handle temperatures up to 475-degrees. That’s impressive, and so is the large opening at the top measuring 13.5” in diameter.
These boots are ideal for folks with larger legs and provide plenty of protection with a 5.5” leather upper and a thick rubber outsole. Other features to note would be this boots waterproof nature, EVA traction tread, and the leather itself which is exclusive to the company.
We love a good dual purpose boot, and the Irish Setter 83605 certainly qualifies as one. It could be worn out on the town with a pair of jeans or chinos or on the job site. The only negative in our eyes is the light colored sole which may not stay clean long depending on your position.
Runner-up: Wolverine W02421 Raider Boot
The Raider is one of Wolverine’s top boots and a great choice for consumers that need a comfortable solution that’s sturdier than most.
While not as light as our top option, this boot won’t weigh you down during the day. Stability comes from the comfort welt across the bottom and their MultiShox system. It has a low, comfortable heel at 1.25” and the shaft is of average height at 5.5-inches.
What’s not average about this boot is the way it performs. If it’s cold, your feet will stay warm, and when it’s wet outside, the boots will keep you dry. In other words, they perform as advertised which is one reason they’ve become such a popular choice.
The Wolverine Raider boots are priced affordable and come in the standard sizes and widths. You’ll get the company’s famous comfort guarantee for additional piece of mind although we can’t imagine too many people take them up on that particular offer considering the quality of these boots.
Best Work Socks
Whether you found your perfect fit on our list or are still mulling things over, you need a solid pair of socks to go with those new boots.
While any old pair of socks will do in a pinch, the best work socks are made specifically for boots, so they tend to be thicker. Cotton is still a popular material, but wool, acrylic, and other blends frequently come into play as well.
If your boots are too loose, a thick pair of socks can tighten things up and also keep your feet toasty.
Another feature to look for is work boot socks with antimicrobial properties or ones that wick water away from your feet to keep odor or athletes foot at bay.
Best Insoles for Work Boots
Socks definitely add cushion, and every work boot on our list will come with a quality insole. If it can be removed, you can replace it with one of your own or even slide one in one top of the fixed insole as long as you keep sizing in mind. Most of us wouldn’t mind an extra 1/2” of height as it is…
If you decide to pick up an insole off the rack, it can be an overwhelming experience. Manufacturers have dozens of options available, and some have a half-dozen product lines as well.
This is where you simply need to think of your feet.
Are your feet tired at the end of the day and could use some energy or do you have a specific area of your foot that needs attention?
That’s makes all the difference as you don’t want a cushiony insole if you need arch support and one built for flat feet may aggravate other conditions. If you’re unsure of what type of insole you need, you can find out more about them in our guide to the best insoles for work boots.
Best Waterproof Work Boots
A solid leather pair of boots can withstand a light drizzle, but when the heavy rains come, some will not hold up.
That’s where a pair of waterproof work boots can save your day, and keep your feet comfortable in the process. There are two options if you want a fully waterproof boot with treated leather or rubber boots. The “duck boot” is also a popular option with a leather upper and rubber around the bottom half of the boot.
The main thing to keep in mind is to shoot for a boot that is waterproof, and not resistant to the elements. The latter won’t be able to cope when the weather gets bad, which could send you running for the work truck. To know more, check out our guide to the best waterproof work boots.
Best Winter Work Boots
While rain can quickly wreck your day, the same can be said for cold weather. When you are walking around a job site at 5 AM in below freezing temperatures, you are going to want a warm pair of boots on your foot. Warm socks will only do so much.
Insulation is what you’ll want to look for if you need a boot for cold weather. Thinsulate is by far the most popular form of filling and found in boots from brands across the board.
The amount of insulation is what you’ll want to focus on in this case. The colder the climate, the more padding you’ll need although you should keep other seasons in mind as well unless you live or work in a region where it’s cold year round. Check out our article about the best winter work boots to make the best decision.
Best Work Boots for Concrete
This tough material is great when you need to pour a slab or build an in-ground pool, but it can be tough on your feet.
We won’t spend much time here as we covered all the key areas in our guide to the best work boots for concrete. We will say you are going to want a comfortable boot with plenty of cushion. Concrete has the uncanny ability to wear your feet out quicker than dirt, gravel or other surfaces.
If you are working with or around the wet stuff, pick up a pair of rubber boots. They are much easier to clean and can simply be hosed off if you’re doing a quick pour or putting 15 yards into a hole. Some rubber boots are made to be worn over your shoes while others have reinforced toes.
Best Work Boots for Plantar Fasciitis
Have plantar fasciitis? It’s a terrible condition that affects millions of people each year whether they are walking through a mall or working an 8-hour shift.
Finding a good boot for plantar fasciitis can be tough, especially if you’re not sure of exactly what you need. Well, you don’t have to understand the condition or what will make your feet feel better, you just need to follow a few tips.
You’ll need cushioning, but want it in the right areas so think about where your feed hurt and focus on those areas when it comes to support and comfort. While plantar fasciitis does hit everyone in the same general area, everyone’s feet are different.
What works for one, may not work for another. If you need more help, check out our tips on finding the best work boots for plantar fasciitis.
Best Pull-on Work Boots
An acquired taste for some and necessity for others, pull-on work boots are a bit different.
If you’re unfamiliar with this style, the name says it all. These boots have no laces, and you can simply “pull” them onto your feet when you’re ready to head out for the day. It saves a considerable amount of time, and while most boots of this nature are tall, there are shorter models as well.
Another advantage of this style of boots is the fact it allows you to go from work boot to tennis shoe in seconds. Depending on the conditions, this is important as you can slip off your muddy boots and put on your clean shoes before climbing in the truck or walking in the house.
Pull-on boots can be just as durable as tie-up work boots, and you can even find models with steel-toes and other safety features built-in to keep you safe on the job site.
Most Comfortable Work Boots
Regardless of any of the conditions we’ve covered or the materials you will work around on a daily basis, you need to have comfortable work boots on your feet.
In the end, it all comes down to comfort, and that depends on your feet and the job you have. Someone who works long days walking on concrete floors would want a boot with plenty of cushion and support, but you may not need a steel-toe and would want something lightweight.
On the flipside, a lightweight boot will also keep your legs fresh when you’re working all day using the good old manual dump truck… aka the wheelbarrow. You may regret that decision once you back up onto your toe, however.
You have to keep your needs in mind when it comes to comfort along with the task at hand.
Do you have sweaty feet? That can be a major issue, especially during summer months so you may want a liner that can wick away moisture. You can still keep your feet comfortable and dry in humid conditions if the boot allows your foot to breathe.
If you do find a boot, you just can’t live without but aren’t sure if it’s going to cut it in the comfort department you will want to proceed with caution.
You can always increase the cushioning with a new insole and all leather boots with stretch to a degree over time. That said, you cannot change the basic features of a boot including footbed, heel or height.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking to pick up an affordable pair of work boots or the Cadillac of footwear, ensure the boots fit your needs.
Whether that’s additional support in the arch or a safety toe, rest assured there is a boot for you. Just take your time, follow our tips, and always check with the company you work beforehand for to see if specialty footwear is required or if certain standards need to be met.