For many jobs, the importance of work boots cannot be understated. The right pair can do more than just protect your toes. Choose wisely and they can also protect you from slippery surfaces, exposed nails, cold temperatures, and even electrical charges.
There’s also the small matter of comfort to consider. The only thing worse than standing around all day is standing around all day in a poorly fitted boot. The right work boots can give your feet the support that they need.
While the importance of work boots is obvious, choosing the best pair, that can be a little more complicated. Should you go by brand or by price? Should you go one size up or one size down? I started this website to answer just these questions.
On this page, and throughout this site, you will find both work boot reviews and specific recommendations for individual occupations. I’ll start with my pick for the top ten boots currently on the market.
Timberland PRO Men’s 26078 Titan 6″ Waterproof Work Boot
First released almost 30 years ago, the Titan 26078 is a classic work boot. It’s also one of Timberland’s all time best sellers.
One of the most comfortable work boots available, each pair comes complete with the Power Fit Comfort System, designed to offer maximum support at key areas of your feet.
They have absolutely no break in period and can literally be worn to work the day that you get them.
The safety toe is made from an aluminium alloy which offers all the protection of steel but half the weight. The soles are also oil, abrasion and slip resistant.
The 26078’s have a reputation for being incredibly durable often lasting up to two years even under sustained daily use. This is in contrast to the Endurance Pro line which tends to fall apart after a few months.
Like most Timberland boots, the 26078’s come complete with a thirty day money back guarantee. They can be worn as much as you want during the thirty day period.
If I have one complaint about these boots however, it’s that they are a little generic looking. If you’re looking for a pair of boots that will stand out, this isn’t them.
Red Wing Heritage Men’s Classic Work 6-Inch Moc Toe Boot
Red Wing made their start producing boots for use in World War One and Two. Since then, they have developed a solid reputation for producing some of the best work boots on the market.
The thick sole of the Heritage Line is perfectly contoured and offers ample support from the heel to the toe. This makes them particularly suited to working on concrete floors and other hard surfaces.
I was particularly impressed by the triple stitched seams and welted out soles, both of which are quite unusual in boots below the 300 dollar price point.
They are also surprisingly lightweight and very stylish in a casual sort of way. Because of this they remain a popular choice in the corporate world as well as in the warehouse.
One problem with these boots however is that they do take a while to break in. If you buy them, you can expect the first few weeks to be a little uncomfortable. After that however, you’ll be the proud owner of boots that are truly molded to your feet’s unique shape.
Wolverine Men’s Raider 6″ Contour Welt Boot
Another very popular work boot manufacturer, Wolverine is famous for making boots that are both comfortable and long lasting.
Each boot benefits from the Multishox Comfort System. Exclusive to Wolverine boots, this consists of individual pressure pads on the outside and a comfort insole gel on the inside.
Each boot also has contour welt designed to combine the cushioning of an athletic shoe with the durability of a work boot. The result is a highly flexible boot that requires absolutely no break in period.
The Men’s Raider line are oil, slip and abrasion resistant. They are also surprisingly breathable considering their waterproof nature. The other side of the coin however is that they don’t have the greatest insulation and this could render them unsuitable for colder climates.
Keen Utility Men’s Tacoma Steel Toe
One of the biggest complaints that I read about safety toe boots is their weight. After all, work boots are heavy enough without adding steel to them. This is a problem that Keen has tried to solve with their Tacoma boot.
Instead of covering a full fifth of the boot in steel, they only cover your actual toes i.e. it’s bigger over your big tow than it is over your small ones. The result is full toe protection with a lot less weight.
The bright yellow colors that Keen are famous for are both present and a very nice touch. I’ve also read quite a few reviews praising their durability.
Thorogood American Heritage Safety Toe
Arguably the most stylish boot on the list, the Thorogood American Heritage is covered in tobacco tanned leather with a white cotton lining. They might go up a bit high for some but I personally think they look great.
Surprisingly for such a high boot, they are also nice and breathable, making them a good boot for working in the sun. Thanks to both a shock absorbent sole and an additional insert, they are also ridiculously comfortable, with literally no break in period.
The Heritage line also happen to be one of the best reviewed steel toe work boots on Amazon.com.
Caterpillar Men’s Second Shift ST Work Boot
The first thing that you’ll notice about these boots is the quality of the leather. The professional craftsmanship is immediately apparent and you get the impression that they’re built to last.
Once the break in period is over, I also found them to be incredibly comfortable. This can often be a problem with steel toe boots but the toe in this pair is actually barely noticeable. The sole also appears to have been designed with ergonomics in mind.
In terms of style, they also score highly. If you’re looking for something that you can wear after work, they’re spot on. I especially liked the fact that they come in a wide range of different colors.
Two things that I don’t like about these boot however are their break in period and their propensity for getting wet.
The first two weeks of wear are uncomfortable to say the least and this is something that has been echoed in multiple customer reviews. These boots are also not waterproof and seem to get wet with just the slightest bit of rain.
Caterpillar Men’s Diagnostic Steel Toe Waterproof Boot
If waterproofing is important to you, these are a much better pair of cat boots. They’re designed for all weather use and can be expected to stay dry for anything short of swimming.
Unlike many waterproof boots, these Cat boots are also surprisingly breathable. This means that your feet aren’t going to overheat every time you come in out of the rain.
Another thing that I liked about the Diagnostics is that unlike the 2nd shift, they require literally no break in period. For me, they were comfortable from day one. The only thing that I don’t like about the fit is that they do feel a little bit wide at the ends.
Of course, no boot is perfect and I’d argue that the biggest fault of these boots is their weight. I’m not sure whether it’s the steel tip or their waterproof coating but they do feel surprisingly heavy, especially after a long days work.
Danner Men’s Quarry GTX 8” AT Boot
Danner’s probably the least well known name on the list but they actually make some very high quality work boots. Case in point, their Men’s Quarry line. Made from triple stitched full grain leather, the Quarry GTX is a handcrafted boot that’s built to last.
Unlike most of the boots on the list, the GTX is a 8 inch boot so it may go up too high for some. If you’re happy with that however, the additional length offers both extra ankle protection and more insulation. If you’re looking for a Winter boot, the GTX is ideal.
In terms of style, the black leather, white stitched seems and orange laces combine to surprisingly well. The boots have an elegant look to them that suggest their admittedly high price.
Another quite unusual feature of these boots is their memory foam insert. I’ve never worn memory foam boots before and I have to say it’s a feature that definitely has potential. When combined with the Vibram sole, the result is incredibly comfortable.
Safety features on the other hand, include an alloy safety toe, electro hazard protection and a sole that’s slip, oil and abrasion resistant.
Keen Utility Men’s Pittsburgh Steel Toe
The first thing that you’ll notice about the Keen Pittsburgh work boots is that they don’t actually look like boots at all. At first glance, they seem a lot more like hiking shoes. Despite this fact however, they tick all the right boxes in terms of safety.
Like their Tacoma boot, each boot has an asymmetrical safety toe. The soles are resistant to oil, slips and abrasion. They are waterproof and they even have electrical hazard protection.
The benefit of a work boot that’s made partly from textile is that textile is both more flexible and more breathable than leather. This not only leads to a more comfortable boot, it should also help to minimise foot fatigue over the course of a day.
Another thing that I like about the Pittsburgh boots is that they don’t just look like great hiking boots, they are great hiking boots. So if you’re looking for something a little multipurpose, they could be the perfect purchase.
Timberland Pro Men’s Pitboss 6” Steel Toe Work Boot
Our second Timberland Pro boot is a regular best seller on Amazon, offering both excellent value and a famously comfortable fit. Available in four different colours, they have a low key style that’s perfect for the warehouse.
Made using a Goodyear welt construction, the Timberland Pitboss boots are built to last. Claims of up to three years of wear are not uncommon and it’s not difficult to see why, the leather is as tough as nails.
One downside of these boots is that they can take a little while to break in but once you’ve done so, they’ll be permanently moulded to your feet’s shape. Comfort levels are further increased by a removable sock insert offering maximum support.
On the safety side, we have an optional steel toe that’s barely noticeable thanks to a larger than average toe box. Slip and oil resistance is provided by traction grip soles and each boots is both waterproof and equipped with electrical hazard protection.
Like the Timberland’s Titan line, Pitboss boots come with Timberlands 30 day, no questions asked return policy.
Update Summer 2014: Three Boots to Wear in the Summer Sun
Most people wear sandals in the Summer. Unfortunately, when it comes to working on a construction site, this is likely to lead to ridicule/reprimands from the health and safety department.
If you need to work outdoors this Summer, you’ll be glad to know that not all work boots are suffocating. Here are three ultra airy choices for protective footwear.
Keen Utility Atlanta Cool
The Atlanta Cool have been designed with one goal in mind, to offer the protection of a work boot with the airiness of a sneaker. Having owned a pair for three months now, I can happily confirm that they meet both requirements. The asymmetrical safety toe keeps your toes safe, the slip resistant sole protects against slips and the wealth of wicking material keep your feet cool regardless of the temperature.
Read my full review here.
Red Wing Men’s Heritage
The Red Wing Men’s Heritage is easily the most expensive boot on the list. If you can get past the price however, it’s probably the most stylish too. The seams are triple stitched for increased durability and the contour welt soles provide added comfort and support. A word of warning however, these boots can take up to two weeks to break in.
Read my full review here.
Thorogood American Heritage
Made from striking tobacco tanned leather, the American Heritage boot is light enough for all day wear and airy enough for working in just about any temperature. Unlike the Red Wing boots, there’s no break in period. The combination of a shock absorbent sole and additional inserts lead to boots that are comfortable from day one. These boots are very popular on Amazon with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.
Read my full review here.
Work Boot Buying Guide: Ten Key Features Explained
If you’re new to the world of work boots, the sheer volume of different styles can be a little intimidating. Here are the ten key factors to consider when looking for the best work boots for you.
Safety toes, as their name suggests, are responsible for keeping your toes safe. They have prevented countless injuries in the last few decades and are a strict requirement for many occupations. These days, you can choose between steel, composite and aluminium.
• Steel toes: The traditional choice but also the heaviest. They conduct temperature making them unsuitable for cold environments.
• Aluminium toes: Lighter than steel but just as strong. The downside is that they’re bulkier than steel toes. They also conduct temperature.
• Composite toes: Usually made from plastic, carbon fiber or Kevlar. Because they’re not metallic, they don’t conduct heat and can be worn through metal detectors.
Resistant Sole and Heel
Regardless of what kind of surface you typically work on, you should aim for a pair of work boots that are both slip and oil resistant. Slippery surfaces can be found just about anywhere.
A good work boot will also have a puncture resistant plate to protect from nails. Depending on your occupation, you may also want to look for soles that are acid resistant.
If you do a lot of climbing as part of your job, special care should be taken when looking at the heel. To get a good grip on a ladder, you need a boot with a heel that’s at least 3/4 inch high and with a bevel of at least 45 degrees.
If carrying heavy objects is a particularly common part of your job, you may also want to consider purchasing boots with metatarsal guards. They are similar to safety toes but protect a much larger portion of your feet.
Railroad workers and loggers, on the other hand, are likely to want to purchase boots with ankle and calf support. This can be found in boots that are over 9 inches long.
Electrical Surge Protection
Many work boots are designed for use around electricity and your choice here will depend upon your specific needs. Work boots can be rated for both electrical hazard use and for static dissipation.
Electrical hazard boots are simply boots in which all components are non conductive. They are free of any kind of metallic material and are designed to minimize the risk of electrocution.
Static dissipation boots, on the other hand, have a special conductive insole which is designed to prevent the build up of static electricity. They are used primarily in the manufacturing of sensitive electrical components.
The most common construction method involves the use of a leather or synthetic welt. A welt is a strip of material that is placed between the upper and lower sole, to which, both are attached. Boots constructed in this manner are typically the most rugged that you can buy. And it follows that they also the most durable.
Another construction technique is called the direct attached method. Here, a mold is attached to the upper part of the boot and is filled with molten rubber which eventually hardens to form the boots sole. Boots constructed using the direct attach method are lightweight, comfortable and absorb shocks very well.
The third construction technique is called the cement method. This involves the use of a flexible, high strength adhesive to bond the out sole to the rest of the boot. The cementing method is both the cheapest and lightest option out of all three. Boots made using the cement method are also known for their excellent comfort levels.
Waterproofing and Insulation
Waterproof boots aren’t available in as many different materials and colors but they’re obviously a necessity for some work environments. They’re also a great thing to have if you live somewhere with particularly snowy winters.
Speaking of cold Winters, the best insulated work boots are designed to be worn in temperatures as low as – 30 degrees. Keep in mind however that the more insulation a boot has, the more uncomfortable it’s going to be to wear during the Summer months.
An often overlooked feature of work boots is their weight. Overly heavy boots are not only unsuited to walking long distances, they’re a nightmare to carry on long trips. Because of this, unless you need steel tip boots for your job, they’re generally best avoided.
There are a number of different factors that can affect the durability of a given boot, including but not limited to, construction type, construction material and general quality. Surprisingly brand name isn’t always a good indicator.
The best way to judge a boots durability is to read a few Amazon reviews. There’s nothing customers like to complain about more than a boot that fell apart within a matter of months.
Break In Period
If you’re looking for work boots that you can start wearing immediately, keep an eye out for the break in period.
In order for work boots to meet their purpose, they need to be tough and durable. And unfortunately, this can result in some boots taking up to a month to really feel comfortable.
Speaking of comfort, you can find a list of the most comfortable work boots here.
When shopping for a good work boot, don’t underestimate the importance of brand names. For some products, brand names are largely irrelevant but this simply isn’t the case with work boots.
The best, longest lasting boots are typically made by well known manufacturers such as Red Wing, Wolverine and Timberland. Be wary of cheap imitations.
Top Five Brands You Can Trust
Want a boot from a name you can trust? Here are the top five work boot brands of 2014.
Arguably the most well known name on the list, when you buy a Timberland product, you know you’re getting quality. Some of their boots have literally been on the market for decades now, case in point, the Men’s 27068.
The primary attraction of Timberland boots for me, is that they have practically no break in period. Unfortunately, this is something that you pay for in terms of durability. If you’re looking for a boot that will last more than a year, you might want to look elsewhere.
Caterpillar is another big name in the boot industry, and again they’re well known for the quality of their products. A word of warning about Caterpillar boots however: they do take a long time to break in.
The good news is that once you get past the break in period, most of their boots are ultra comfortable. And unlike Timberland, getting a years wear pretty much comes as standard.
First established almost eighty years ago, Red Wing now produce some of the most stylish work boots currently on the market. Unfortunately, if Red Wing are known for anything however, it’s for being expensive.
I absolutely love the look of their Heritage line but at over 300 dollars a pair, you could easily get two pairs of Wolverines for the same price. If you’ve got the cash however, there’s denying that they’re a good brand to go with.
Keen mightn’t as well known as the other manufacturers on this list but they deserve their place in the top five. I’ve only worn three of their products but all three scored full marks in terms of comfort, durability and style.
Their safety toes are some the lightest on the market and quite a few of their boots have these distinctive yellow lines that I think really add to the overall aesthetic. Another benefit of Keen boots is that they’re surprisingly cheap.
Finally, we have Wolverine. I’m not exactly sure how their Multishox Comfort System works, I just know that its effective. Wolverine produce some of the most comfortable boots currently on the market.
They have practically no break in period and yet, unlike Timberland boots, they stand the test of time. My only complaint about the company is that I think most of their products are a little dated in the style department.