Like any tool, there’s a right boot for the job. While most of us will sacrifice comfort for safety and function, bulky and stiff work boots can lead to chronic pain. Overall, the best work boots should balance the competing priorities of comfort and utility.
Even if you’re careful, heavy materials can unexpectedly fall and crush a foot. When that happens, the only thing that sits between you and workmen’s comp is a work boot. Finding the proper footwear is a step toward a long and healthy career.
We sent a crop of the latest work boots out into the field this year to see which rose to the task. We’ve categorized boots into steel-toe, safety-toe, and soft-toe varieties. To better evaluate each boot’s utility, we rated each on a “utility scale,” measuring a boot’s casual wearability against its utility.
From weekend chore masters to heavy-duty diesel drivers, here are the best work boots of 2022.
Feel free to scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Steel-Toe
- Best Budget
- Best Safety-Toe
- Runner-Up Best Safety-Toe
- Most Comfortable
- Best Soft-Toe
- Best Insulated
- Best Pull-On
- Best of the Rest
The Best Work Boots of 2022
Best Steel-Toe Work Boot: Caterpillar Alaska 2.0
Caterpillar (CAT) has been known as a leader in construction and earth-moving equipment since 1925. With its prowess as one of the best in the business, it has also pushed to offer builders-quality footwear and clothing that’s as durable as its machinery.
After testing, the Caterpillar Alaska 2.0 steel-toe boot ($140) came out on top for steel-toe work boots. The Alaska 2.0 is a 6-inch steel toe boot that was newly designed for increased comfort, while still offering the same safety features and durability that CAT has always been known for.
The boot features a full-grain leather upper that’s waterproof and durable. Compared to most new work boots we tried, these provided immediate comfort straight out of the box with a broken-in feel that only gets more comfortable with use. They’re comfortable and flexible enough for long, hard days on the job site, and we didn’t feel the urge to get out of them as quickly as possible when we got home.
The uppers feature mesh sides as well as a mesh liner for breathability. They have a large leather pull loop to make slipping them on a breeze and heavy-duty riveted metal loops and hooks for the laces.
A steel shank in the sole provides stability and support but does not overwhelm the flexibility of this boot. Many work boots boast protection but are bulky and can negatively affect your gait. The Alaska 2.0 felt nimble and still allowed for foot awareness. The abrasion and slip-resistant outsoles shed mud and dirt easily while offering good traction. These boots are also built with a Goodyear welt, which means they can be resoled repeatedly.
The CAT Alaska 2.0 boots come in 6-inch steel toe (tested), 6-inch standard toe ($135), and 8-inch steel toe insulated ($155) varieties. For comfort and durability, these are some of the best work boots for a wide range of environments and projects.
- Utility-scale: 85% utility, 15% casual; best for outdoor-heavy use, but nimble enough for indoor work as well
- Waterproof in up to 3″ of water
- Electrical Hazard Protection, ASTM F2892-18 rated to protect against open circuits up to 600 V in dry conditions
- Steel toe, ASTM F2413-18 protects against impact and compression
- Goodyear welt construction provides maximum durability while offering forefoot flexibility and ability for retreading
- Full-grain leather upper delivers long-term durability and protection
- Nylon mesh lining and sock liner for added breathability and comfort
- Cushioned footbed for added comfort
- Steel shank provides stability and support
- T1330 outsole performs against oil and water and is abrasion resistant
- Slip-resistant sole reduces the risk of slips and falls on low traction surfaces
- Weight per boot (size 12): 2 lbs, 3.1 oz. (996 g)
- Fit: Sizing is accurate; the steel toe is wide and caused no rub or discomfort
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Best Budget Work Boot: Caterpillar Second Shift
We understand that not everyone can afford the best on the market, especially when you’re just starting out. I recall my first construction job and the boss saying, “Don’t show up if you don’t have steel-toe workbooks on.”
I spent over an hour at the local fleet store looking at boots, not sure what to buy, and worried I wouldn’t be able to afford the high prices for a good pair of boots. The pair I ended up with hurt my feet terribly after a long day’s work and were so heavy that I felt like I had weights strapped to my feet.
The Caterpillar (CAT) Second Shift steel-toe work boot ($110), fits the needs of someone looking for a great boot at a lower price. The Second Shift is comfortable enough right out of the box to wear for a full day’s work with no blistering or hot spots. As you wear them, the thick, oiled leather uppers break into a really comfortable fit that forms to your foot. It has a padded cuff to prevent chafing and a mesh liner that allows your feet to breathe.
These boots can handle water exposure quite well; they’re water resistant but not waterproof. I found that on a long day in the slush of a Minnesota spring, the leather was soaked and my feet were starting to get damp. Because of this, I would say these are best suited for dry location work with occasional water exposure.
Keeping the leather oiled helps keep the water out in the occasional deep puddle or on really wet days when I’m outside. The slip-resistant tread is shaped in a way that sheds dirt and rocks very well while still providing great traction. Sole and mid-foot flexibility is great as well, allowing for all-day comfort.
If you’re shopping for work boots on a budget, these are a great buy.
- Climasphere breathable insole keeps your foot comfortable
- Goodyear welt construction provides maximum durability and allows for flexibility as well as ability for retread
- Quality oiled, full-grain leather or nubuck delivers long-term durability and protection
- Electrical Hazard (EH) protects the wearer against open circuits up to 600 V in dry conditions (ASTM F2413-18)
- Steel toe protects against impact and compression (ASTM F2413-18)
- Engineered nylon mesh lining optimizes breathability and comfort
- Steel shank for added support and stability
- T3 rubber outsole delivers slip resistance for optimal traction
- Made at Gold Rated Tanneries (LWG)
- Weight per boot (size 12): 2 lbs., 2.5 oz. (980 g)
- Fit: Sizing is accurate, and the steel toe was wide enough to not cause discomfort
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Best Safety-Toe Work Boot: KEEN Utility Chicago 6-Inch Waterproof With Carbon Toe — Men’s & Women’s
KEEN Utility’s Chicago work boots ($200) are as comfortable as you can get for a real work boot. The construction quality is evident to the touch, the eye, and the try-on feel. Crisp stitching, clean, straight lines, and generous use of full-grain leather dotted with quality hook and hole hardware set the product apart.
The break-in time is much shorter than an all-leather “heritage” work boot. KEEN incorporates fabric in the upper flex zones as well as decent forefoot flex in the sole, making these feel wonderful on the feet right out of the box.
With that said, our reviewer “went full-blown lumberjack” with his KEENs, going on a 6-hour hike in the woods. Hot spots ensued on both heels, which could probably be chalked up to the stiffness of the soles and stout heel cup. Both lend to the supportive structure of the boot. The carbon safety toe was unnoticeable, however, making them possibly the best protective-toe boot we’ve ever worn.
The arch feels low as well, but it’s not grossly unsupportive. And we didn’t notice too much arch fatigue related to the low arch. Traction is excellent in mud as well as on ice. The soles have ample, thin sipes that provide great traction in winter conditions.
The boots aren’t insulated but are lined with KEEN Utility’s proprietary bootie liner. It helps trap heat, providing enough “R-value” to work into the low 30s. KEEN’s Chicago boots are at home doing real work. They’re relatively heavy and stiff, but not more than they need to be. They deliver the protection and support you need in a utility boot without being overly uncomfortable.
The Chicagos aren’t aimed at the lumbersexual (if that’s you, take a look at the heritage boots in this review). But they look good enough to pass this threshold when they need to.
They’re available in a 6-inch boot with a carbon fiber toe (reviewed), a met-guard ($180), and a low-cut Oxford ($165). If you don’t need the protection and just want a comfortable boot for tasks around the house, we’d recommend considering the soft toe ($185).
- Utility-scale: 75% utility, 25% casual; best for all-around, mid-duty work
- ASTM: F2412-17 and F2413-17 M I/75 C/75 SD 100 standards
- Toe: Carbon
- Height: 6″
- Midsole: Lightweight, compression-resisting midsole providing 50% more energy return than standard EVA foam
- Outsole: ASTM standard slip and chemical resistance
- Waterproof: Yes
- Welt: Cemented
- Weight: 50 oz. (per pair)
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Runner-Up Best Safety-Toe Work Boot: Brunt’s The Perkins
Looking for a safety toe boot that’s rugged, good-looking, and solidly built? The Perkins boot ($159) by Brunt Workwear gives us all of this and more. The Perkins, our choice for runner-up safety-toe work boot, is a leather work boot with a composite safety toe.
These boots sport a thick full-grain leather upper with a rubber toe cover that reduces toe wear and adds shock absorption for when you really need to kick something. The glued-on tread is heavy duty but easily sheds soil and rocks, and is made from a slip-resistant rubber.
The Perkins is extremely comfortable straight out of the box. I was impressed with the fit and how well the leather already felt broken in. The insole has a memory foam midlayer for all-day comfort, but is still firm and offers the needed support. Beneath the insole, there’s a removable insert that allows for a more relaxed fit when removed, so if they seem a bit too tight for your foot, there’s an easy solution.
Triple-layer waterproofing kept my feet warm and dry during the super-wet Minnesota melt. I did my best to drench these boots while stomping through a muddy, puddle-ridden job site, and I didn’t have to worry about throwing them on a warmer to dry them out at the end of the day. They have a padded upper for added comfort, and a large pull loop makes pulling the boots on easy.
I am usually a function-over-form type of person and don’t care as much about how something looks as long as it does its job. That being said, I thought these boots looked great. The quality leather and black rubber are mixed together in a design that really catches the eye. On top of that, they perform great.
- Utility-scale: 75% utility, 25% casual; great for a wide range of work environments, but stylish
- ASTM: F2413-18 standards for electrical protection up to 600 V
- Toe: Nano toe made of composite materials that are lightweight and protective
- Height: 6″
- Midsole: Industry-leading rubber sole with heavy-duty traction tread for oil and slip resistance
- Outsole: ASTM standard slip and chemical resistance
- Waterproof: Yes (up to 5″ of standing water)
- Weight: Single boot weight (size 9): 891 g/1.96 lbs.
Most Comfortable Work Boot: BOGS Bedrock Shell CT 8-Inch
Although BOGS is best known for its neoprene pull-on “farm” boots, the brand’s work boots are worth a look. Available in a variety of protection types, BOGS’ Bedrock series is a lightweight boot that wears like a hiker. We particularly like the 8-inch Shell CT ($165).
At the core of the boot is the bouncy midsole. The soft boot truly feels like a hiker and can be worn straight out of the box. This is what we’d expect from a boot with a cemented outsole, which generally provides a wonderfully comfortable fit.
The pebbled insole is a nice touch too. Slide your feet into the boots, and the insole massages your feet. It’s super comfortable and wakes up the feet in the early morning.
A composite toe is made for each boot size. It slides under the toebox and is wrapped with lightweight but protective “action” leather. This “shell” leather is reputed to be 10 times more durable than traditional leather and (true to all BOGS) is 100% waterproof.
With an 8-inch shaft, the Shell CT boot has the potential to be very supportive. We just wished it offered a little more, as we found more ankle support in some of the 6-inch boots we tested.
The boot runs slightly wide, and it looks like it. With a large profile, we’d recommend sizing down a half size for a more precise fit.
Overall, the combination of supple materials and a wonderfully comfortable midsole made this boot the most comfortable work boot we stepped into this year.
- Utility-scale: 75% utility / 25% casual; outdoor work, all-around work
- ASTM: F2413-11 / M I/75 C/75
- Toe: Composite
- Height: 8″
- Midsole: Rebound cushion
- Outsole: ASTM standard slip and chemical resistance
- Waterproof: Yes
- Welt: Cemented
- Weight: 65 oz. (per pair)
- Fit: Runs big (consider a half size down)
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Best Soft-Toe Work Boot: Thorogood American Heritage 6-Inch Moc Toe
If you gave a child a crayon and asked them to draw a work boot, chances are they would push back a sketch similar to the Thorogood American Heritage Moc Toe ($250). A simple 6-inch shaft; bold, reinforced stitching; and a moccasin-style cap sewn over a wedge sole — it’s an American classic that defines the early work boot.
Many companies sell a wedge-style moc toe, but nobody owns the market like Thorogood. The American Heritage 6-inch remains the brand’s bellwether boot.
The American Heritage style has worked its way into the closets of the fashion-forward. But make no mistake — this is a hardworking boot that’s entirely capable of an honest day’s work. The 2.2mm, oil-tanned leather upper is unlined, triple-stitched for durability, and anchored to the MAXwear wedge sole with a Goodyear storm welt.
People who stand on hard surfaces all day swear by them for comfort. Why? Instead of putting pressure on a heel and the ball of the foot, the flat outsole disperses your weight across the entire sole. The tread is too shallow for reliable traction outside, but this boot excels on the hard, smooth, slick surfaces you find in warehouses.
One of the best parts of owning a pair of American Heritage boots is Thorogood’s restoration program. After you’ve put some abusive miles on them, you can box them up and send them back to Thorogood, where the brand will rebuild your boots by hand to a “like new” condition for $90-125.
Not every job requires the protective heft of the safety toe, and that’s why we love the flexibility and comfort of this classic soft-toe moc. It has the durability most weekend workers will ever need, and provides the unassuming confidence to walk through life’s lighter tasks. If you need more protection, the American Heritage 6-inch moc toe is available in a steel-toe model ($255).
- Utility-scale: 50% utility, 50% casual; best for indoor warehouse work or carpentry
- ASTM: Electric shock-resisting soles and heels capable of withstanding an application of 18,000 V
- Toe: Soft toe
- Height: 6″
- Waterproof: No
- Welt: Goodyear welt
- Made in: U.S.
- Weight: 56 oz. (per pair)
- Fit: True to size
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Best Insulated Work Boot: Muck Arctic Pro Steel Toe Boot
For really cold, snowy, wet conditions, we reach for a simple pull-on neoprene boot. They’re super easy to work with and provide bombproof weather protection. Muck’s Arctic Pro ST ($215) is the go-to boot for contractors in Idaho’s ever-expanding mountain towns, and for good reason. They are easy to use, warm the legs, and allow you to work in deep drifts without ingressing snow, which hampers progress.
The 17.5-inch shafts are made from a thick, 8mm neoprene and lined with a soft fleece. The lower boot is protected by a rubber layup, adding complete waterproofing. A 2mm thermal foam footbed rides over the EVA midsole. It’s comfortable and prevents valuable heat from seeping out of the sole.
The boots are anchored to a Bob Tracker outsole. It’s not an aggressive hiker grip and doesn’t sport the ice-gripping rubber found on the Arctic Ice. Overall, it’s more suitable for snow and “muck.”
A comprehensive package brings these boots’ comfort range all the way down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. We haven’t tested these ratings, and we hope you don’t have to either. But know that you’ll be comfortable working through any wet, wintry task.
Muck’s Arctic boot line is available in mid and tall models. But for serious work, we recommend the Pro version, which is the warmest in the fleet and sports a steel toe and shank for protection.
They fit true to size with a minimal sock. Keep in mind, Muck Boots are only available in whole sizes. If you prefer a thicker sock, we’d recommend sizing up.
- Utility-scale: 80% utility, 20% casual; best for heavy-duty winter work; if you don’t need the protection, go with the Arctic Pro Tall model
- ASTM: F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 EH
- Toe: Steel
- Height: 17.5″
- Waterproof: Yes
- Welt: Cemented
- Weight: 5.4 lbs. (per pair)
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Best Pull-On Work Boot: Kodiak McKinney
The pull-on ankle boot is one of our favorite boot styles. They fit over the foot with ease and quickly kick off after a long day of work. Our Blundstone 566 is one of our favorite winter boots and is great for more desk-bound, office work. But they aren’t suitable for hard labor.
Kodiak’s McKinney Chelsea ($150) is an interpretation of the pull-on through the lens of the work boot. All seams on the 6-inch boot are double-stitched, which locks all the high-stress points. The composite safety toe rides unobtrusively inside the boot. And the silhouette is slightly stouter than a non-safety-toe boot, but the Chelsea styling hides it well.
The McKinney Chelsea runs about a size too large. We’d recommend buying a full size down from your normal size. But once the fit is dialed, you get a boot that provides all-day comfort with wearable protection. The composite toe is very light and provides full coverage for the first four toes. The pinky toe rides just outside the toebox.
Kodiak’s McKinney has a fat chevron tread. The traction is blocky, but the spacing is tight and prone to collecting debris. A 1.5cm heel gives the boot a middle-of-the-line lift that, in our minds, splits the difference between what we look for in an indoor and outdoor boot, making this boot a good all-rounder.
The leather is waterproof. Unfortunately, the elastic stretch panels are not. Step into anything deeper than 4 inches, and your feet will get wet.
We also wished the boots had a front pull-on strap to pair with the back. Of course, that sort of detailing starts to tread into the look and feel of a stylish pull-on style boot, so we’ll let it slide.
- Utility-scale: 70% utility, 30% casual; indoor/outdoor work, all-around work
- ASTM: F2413 I/75 C/75 EH PR
- Toe: Composite
- Height: 6″
- Midsole: Dual-density urethane
- Outsole: Oil- and slip-resistant rubber
- Fit: Runs large, so buy one size smaller
- Shank: Steel
- Welt: Goodyear
- Weight: 64 oz. (per pair)
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Best of the Rest
Timberland PRO Boondock 6-Inch Comp Toe
Timberland’s PRO line offers boots for serious work, but keeps comfort in mind. The Boondocks ($200) are protected with soft, waterproof leather and a robust rubber-toe bumper, all sewn together with double, triple, and quadruple stitching. These boots exude quality in look and feel.
Despite tipping the scales at 35 ounces (per boot), these hardwearing boots are deceptively light on the feet. Under the hood, the toes are protected by a composite safety toe. A fiberglass shank lightens the load while providing structural support. The midsole is made from dual-density foams, simultaneously subtracting weight and adding flexibility and comfort.
The Boondocks have a hybrid outsole. The front three-quarters of the boot is fastened to the upper with a Goodyear welt, but the heel is cemented. Underfoot, the traction has a distinct hiker-style tread that sheds muck and is resistant to slipping, oil, and abrasions.
The combination of a welted and cemented sole allows for durability, stability, and a very comfortable boot that breaks in quickly. These are the most comfortable Goodyear welt* boots on the list. We use an asterisk because, unfortunately, the three-quarter welt is not resoleable.
A fully waterproof bootie sits under the waterproof leather, extending into the gusseted tongue. We typically find this level of weather protection in winter hiking boots but rarely in work boots. Bonus: This also protects against bloodborne critters.
Though the Boondock is not insulated, we found the waterproof membrane adds to the warmth. Our boots tested to be comfortable down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two speed hooks allow you to lace up to the top of the boot, and the hooks have integrated eyelets so, should you prefer, you can lace the boot entirely through eyelets.
If your 9-to-5 runs closer to 7-to-7, the Boondock shouldn’t be overlooked — these are supremely comfortable boots. Keep in mind, these shoes run about a half-size big and also wide, especially in the toebox.
If your dogs sit squarely in E, these will feel great. Otherwise, we’d recommend sizing down a half size. And if you still have questions, Timberland allows returns within 30 days — with a full refund.
- Utility-scale: 80% utility, 20% casual; best for heavy-duty work, though light enough for moderate work
- ASTM: F2413-11 I/75, C/75; electrical hazard protection meets F2412-11, F2413-11, and F2892-11
- Toe: Lightweight, non-metallic, asymmetrical-shaped composite toe
- Height: 6″
- Midsole: Dual-density foam
- Outsole: Oil and slip resistance
- Waterproof: Yes
- Welt: 3/4 Goodyear welt; 1/4 cemented (under heel)
- Weight: 70 oz. (per pair)
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Heritage Work Boot: Red Wing Iron Ranger — Men’s & Women’s
Heritage boots are defined as classic leather boots, often made in America. The style exudes a vintage aesthetic, traditional materials, and heirloom quality. Perhaps no boot brand better exemplifies heritage footwear better than Red Wing. At the tip of the feather of Red Wing’s Heritage line is its iconic Iron Ranger ($329-349)
The Iron Rangers are named after Minnesota’s Iron Range mountains, where miners still trolly taconite ore out of the hills to produce iron. The boot’s 2mm full-grain leather is triple-stitched and patched with an extra protective leather cap over the toes. Polished nickel eyes and hooks ride up the 6-inch shaft to close the boot around the ankle.
A Vibram 430 Mini Lug outsole sits under a cork midsole and is sewn to the boot by way of a Goodyear welt. It’s a negligible lug, providing just enough bite on sloppy sidewalks or in the back end of the restaurant.
The Iron Rangers are at the other end of our utility scale, wearing far more casual than utilitarian — which shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, this is the boot Bradley Cooper pairs with a two-piece suit. But that doesn’t mean they can’t pull a swing shift.
Our friend Tim Reeve, who sits at the helm of our favorite knife company — Chris Reeve Knives — has two everyday carries: his Sebenza 31 knife and his Iron Rangers.
The Iron Ranger lists for $330, but our reviewer bought his on eBay for $125. In addition to the price break, the boots were already broken in and perfectly faded.
If you’re upping your game from sneakers or desert boots, we highly recommend stepping into a pair of Iron Rangers. With comfort, looks, and the “handmade in America” stamp, you really can’t go wrong with the Rangers.
- Utility-scale: 25% utility, 75% casual; capable of light-duty shop work, but lack of safety toe makes this better off the shop floor
- Fit: Size down a half size or one full size
- Weight: 58 oz. (per pair)
- Made in: U.S.
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Why You Should Trust Us
Taylor has been working in the trades since 2006, and is on-site 5 days a week putting the gear he’s wearing to the real test. He is also a licensed chiropractor trained in biomechanics, gait, and orthotics, giving him a unique perspective on how work boots should support, fit, and flex.
Buyers Guide: How to Choose a Work Boot
Of course, a work boot should protect your feet, but the unsung task of the work boot is to enable you to work hour after hour, day after day.
If the boot isn’t working, your legs, hips, back, and neck will compensate and eventually take the brunt (and do so with less grace). Above all else, a work boot’s task is to address stress at the ground level. A comfortable boot is arguably a safer boot. You’ll be more sure-footed and focused on the task at hand in a comfortable boot.
The outsole is where the rubber meets the road. Riding over the cushiony midsole and in direct contact with the ground, the outsole is about grip and protection.
Many boots use special formulas of urethane compounds that strike a balance of flexibility, durability, and increased traction on slick surfaces. If you work in shops where oils occasionally spill on the floor, look for shoes that specifically indicate oil and slip resistance. The best of the best are certified to meet SRC slip-resistance standards.
For standing all day on concrete, we prefer the simple wedge-shaped sole. Unlike a heeled boot, the sole has full contact with the ground. This helps absorb the shock with every step and disperses forces equally across the sole. A full-contact outsole also adds a little extra traction and, hence, is often a preferred sole for those working on slick surfaces.
When you think of the wedge sole, you immediately think of the classic moc-toe boot. We listed Thorogood’s American Heritage 6-inch moc toe MAXwear Wedge as our preferred soft-toe boot. But if your shoes are resoleable, a wedge sole can be added to any work boot regardless of toe type.
If you’re standing all day on cement, like working the floor at Costco, a wedge-shaped sole should be on your list. Or, if your work brings you outside, look for a hiker-like tread that provides more traction in dirt and mud.
Sitting opposite the wedge sole is the heeled boot. The raised cowboy-style heel shifts your center of gravity slightly forward. These boots can be extremely durable and stable. But that gap between the heel and under the ball of the foot doesn’t give the foot full contact with the ground.
Because of this, they can feel a little squirrelly on slick ground. But they seat well with climbing spurs and have added ankle stability while climbing. Hence, you’ll often find taller heels on logger-style boots.
Soles can be cemented or welted to the boot. Cemented boots are lighter, more flexible, and arguably more comfortable out of the box. But once the sole wears out, shoes with cemented outsoles are irreparable.
A Goodyear welt can be resoled several times, increasing the life of your purchase. The outsole welt is sewn to the bottom of the shoe, enabling boots to be sewn and re-sewn multiple times. The shoe won’t be as comfortable underfoot as a boot cemented to an EVA midsole, but the durability and support are reasonable trade-offs. Over time, slipping into a Goodyear-welted boot will feel wonderfully comfortable.
Need more support? Consider an aftermarket insole. Available in a variety of thicknesses and cushion levels, Superfeet orthotics add a touch of personalized support to your boot. We particularly recommend an aftermarket insole for boots that lack a midsole.
Dry feet are warm feet. If you’re working in truly wet conditions — like pulling crab pots off the Aleutian Islands — look for 100% waterproof boots. If it’s both wet and cold, upgrade to a thicker neoprene shell-like Muck Boot’s fleece-lined Arctic Pro. It’s both 100% waterproof and rated down to -60 degrees F.
Other boots, like the BOGS Bedrock, use waterproof leather. In addition to waterproof leather, Timberland adds a waterproof-breathable membrane to its Boondock (which also resists bloodborne pathogens). These membranes allow boots to be both waterproof and breathable.
Cold-weather boots include a thermal footbed and insulation in the shaft. The insulation is listed in the fabric’s weight per yard in grams. The higher the gram count, the warmer the boot is.
For cold job sites, we recommend boots with no less than 200 g of insulation in the liner (with 400 g the preferred winter standard). Muck Boot’s Arctic Pro has a fat neoprene outer lined with fleece.
If winter work boots have a safety toe, look for boots with insulation around the cap (or composite cap). This reduces the conductive effects of heat transfer from the toes to the safety toe.
High-vis accents are also great, especially if your work starts and ends in the dark or if you’re working roadside.
When he was younger, my dad worked on a farm that still plowed the fields with steel-wheeled tractors. Long story short, he has nine toes. The importance of protective boots can’t be overlooked.
“Safety boots” are boots that have a protective cap that covers the phalanges (your actual toes). The cap resists compression, puncture, and impact forces.
Steel toe versus safety toe: What’s the difference? All steel-toe boots are considered safety-toe boots. Safety-toe boots are available in composites, alloys, Kevlar, and hard plastics. Steel is more durable and is considered the gold standard on many job sites. But they can conduct cold, heat, and electricity.
Composites still meet the compression and impact safety standards, but they may only be able to sustain one of these impacts. On the flip side, composite-toe boots are lighter and won’t conduct currents. If you need toe protection on cold-weather job sites or work with high-voltage equipment, consider buying a non-metallic safety-toe boot.
Nineteen of the foot’s 26 bones sit under the tongue and vamp of a shoe. The five bones that connect the toes to the ankle and form the arch of the foot are your metatarsals. Some boots come with an additional protective “met-guard” that lies over the laces, protecting the metatarsals.
ASTM Safety Standards
Protection is what elevates a boot from a supportive hiker to an industry heavy-hitter. Standards provide confidence in the boot’s ability to perform under specific stressors.
If you poke around work boots enough, you’ll likely come across safety ratings set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). These are international standards that identify the minimal requirements for protective footwear on the job site. They rate everything from viral penetration to puncture resistance to compression ratings.
ASTM-F2413 standards rate boots specifically for compression, impact, metatarsal, conductive properties, electrical hazards, static dissipation, and puncture. Here are some typical ASTM abbreviations:
- I for Impact
- C for Compression
- Mt for Metatarsal
- Cd for Conductive
- EH for Electrical Hazard
- SD for Static Dissipating
- PR for Puncture Resistant
- CS Chain Saw cut resistance
- DI for Dielectric insulation — insulation from circuits or conductors
Each is followed by a number. To find how your prospective boot rates, the ASTM standards are outlined in four lines:
- Line 1: Compliance and year
- Line 2: Gender/impact/compression/metatarsal resistance
- Line 3-4: Specific hazards the boot protects against
So if we interpret the Timberland Boondock, we get the following:
- ASTM F2413-11: Complies with the performance requirement of F2413, issued in 2011
- M/I/75C/75: A men’s boot that complies with the impact and compression requirements of a 50-pound weight dropped from 18 inches, delivering 75 foot-pounds of force on the toe, and can endure 2,500 pounds of rolling force over the toe.
- EH: Outsole is made from non-conductive materials that are shock-resistant
Buying Your Boots
Which boot is best for you? If you’re puttering around the house on weekends, choose a comfortable boot with appropriate protection for your daily task.
Unless you’re Clark Griswold, you probably don’t need a heavy-duty, steel-toe boot to hang Christmas lights. You’d be better served with a comfortable, supportive boot with traction. If you’re splitting wood or mowing the lawn, it’s not a bad idea to consider a safety toe for protection.
Many jobs will explicitly share which footwear meets required ASTM standards before you can step foot on the site. Neglecting to follow them can incur large fines from OSHA. Getting injured while deciding not to wear protective boots on the job can affect your workmen’s comp and insurance. If you’re unsure, ask your boss what standards your boots need to comply with.
You can buy any of these boots online. And some manufacturers, like White’s, will only build a boot off of your mailed measurements. But for most boots, it’s best to try them on at a local shop. A boot’s last can be different than your street shoe. A shop can measure your feet and ensure you’re stepping into a proper-fitting boot.
Try boots on at the end of the day, preferably after work. Your feet swell over a day’s work, and trying on shoes after your shift will provide a better gauge of a proper fit.
When you try on ski boots, you bring ski socks. The same goes for work boots. Bring a pair of socks you intend to wear with the boots. Better yet, buy yourself a new pair of socks; they wear out quicker than you think. Plus, nobody wants to try on shoes with socks pulled from the shop’s community bin.
Take care of your boots. Invest in a good horsehair brush to regularly dust off dirt and grime. Clean your boots with warm water. Leather is like your skin and needs moisturizing. Condition your leather boots after every wash.
Your boots are tools, so periodically check them for wear and tear. Treat the safety toe like a helmet. If a composite toe has taken a hit, it’s probably best to retire the boots. If the boot has a Goodyear welt, uneven wear on the sole’s heel, or any splitting from the boot, it’s a good indication it’s time to resole.
Work boots can be expensive, but they’re part and parcel of your health and wage. Buy wisely, and they should serve you well for years to come.
What is the most comfortable work boot?
We found that the BOGS Bedrock Shell CT 8-inch is the most comfortable work boot on the market for most foot shapes.
What is the best work boot you can buy?
The KEEN Utility Chicago 6-inch waterproof with carbon toe — Men’s & Women’s — was one of the best overall boots we tried.
What is a MOC toe?
A MOC toe is a style of boot that has a seam running around the top edge of the toe. The Thorogood American Heritage 6-inch moc toe is a prime example of this.
Why do my work boots hurt my feet?
Work boots that hurt your feet generally do not provide the correct support, or they do not fit correctly. Finding the correct boots for your feet is important, and generally, the more money you spend on a work boot, the more comfort and support you will get. Follow our buyers guide above to help make a comfortable choice.
How do I choose the right work boots?
Everyone’s feet are different, so finding the correct boot for your feet is important. Here are some tips to lead you to the right boot when you go out boot shopping.
- Decide what features you are looking for to help guide you to a specific style of boot. Some examples of boot features are as follows: waterproof, steel or safety toe, electrical shock-resistant, slip-on versus lace-up, boot height, etc.
- Test the boots for length and width. Not every company sizes its boots the same. Some are longer or shorter, and boot width can vary significantly, especially when it comes to safety/steel-toe boots. We have found discrepancies of up to a full boot size between different brands we tried, so you can’t always rely on the size that’s on the tag. Make sure to try them on before buying them, or if ordering online, make sure you can return them if the fit is incorrect.
- Make sure that the boots flex well and in the right location. Boots should flex at the ball of your foot, not at your arch. If the boot flexes too far back it will lead to foot fatigue due to lack of support. Looking for boots that say they have a “shank“ can help, as this adds support and only allows the boot to flex where it should flex.
- Make sure that the laces hold your foot in place. If you cannot get the boot to the correct tightness, it will allow your foot to move too much, causing blistering or irritation.
- Wear the same socks you wear on the job while trying on boots. Wool/synthetic blends will keep your feet more comfortable than cotton during a long workday.
- Try on boots at the end of the workday. Your feet change shape throughout the day so trying on boots at the end of the day when your feet have swollen, widened, and flattened will allow for a much better fit that won’t have your feet hurting at the end of a long day.
Have a favorite work boot? Let us know, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.