Whether you’re working around your home doing some kind of manual labour, working a physical job on an actual job site, or working in some capacity out in the wilderness, it’s important that you have a good pair of work boots. Now, “work boots” are not necessarily always the kind of invincible steel toe construction boots that you often see builders working in industrial construction sites wearing. While there clearly are some jobs that require boots that will provide you with that level of protection, many jobs (whether they’re related to your actual career or just jobs around the house) require only a sturdy, comfortable pair of hardy boots that will provide you with protection, but also better support and movement than things like clunky steel toe construction boots will give you.
We’ve recently found need of a new pair of work boots ourselves, so we’ve been on the lookout. In an age where online shopping is so convenient, we find that browsing the Internet for options and information before we even start is a helpful process no matter how you intend to purchase. Whether you eventually put an order in one of the pairs you’ve read up on, or whether you just use that information for context but then still make your purchase in a store so you can try the boots on first, it never hurts to do some research. Almost immediately upon beginning our information gathering session, we began to feel impressed with what’s actually available out there at the mere click of a mouse. That’s part of what motivated us to outline some of the best options we saw.
What are work boots?
Of course, different types of “work” require different types of footwear. Of the kinds of work that do require a good pair of boots, different people might have various needs. A “good work boot” can be any durable, quality material boot that helps you do the work at hand with the most support, comfort, ease, and protection. Sure, you might be able to do a certain job with running shoes or another type of footwear on, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have the easiest or most comfortable time in contrast to how you’d be able to do things like walk long distances, climb or lift things with solid ankle support, or grip the ground despite it being uneven, for example. Work boots are, quite simply, boots that are designed to help you get the job done!
Who needs work boots?
The people who most often find themselves in need of some type of “work boot” are usually people who:
- Have a job based in construction or some other type of manual or physical labour
- Do a lot of hiking, long distance walking, or climbing
- Need a more sturdy footwear design for their foot health than other types of shoes might provide
- Are on their feet for many hours at a time, usually many days in a row
- Might be walking or working in messy, damp, or natural conditions like mud, gravel, swampy ground, etc
What do work boots offer?
Naturally, the perks and features that your work boots will provide you with does depend on their materiality and the kind you choose to purchase. Most often, however, work boots are valued for their:
- Solidity and comfort (i.e. arch and ankle support, ability to tighten all over the foot to avoid blisters, etc)
- Structured, non-slip tread built for gripping all kinds of ground and also for climbing
- Long-lasting durability and often water-resistance
- Hardy construction in order to protect your feet from tools, equipment, heavy objects, etc
Just in case you’re still feeling like you could use a little more help, or at least a few suggestions, here are the top 10 work boots that we came across in our search. Decision making and analyzing what actually suits your specific needs the best can be difficult, so we’ve created a pros and cons outline to help you out a little.
If you’re in the market with something that has a base level of ankle support but that doesn’t actually reach up your shin, here’s a great height and quality work boot from Timberland, a brand notorious for its impressive materiality. These boots are made from 100% leather with a thick and well gripped rubber sold and an arch built specifically for added support. The leather is waterproof up to the canvas topping, including along its seams, and the lace eyes and hooks are rust-proof. These boots are designed to sit somewhere in the middle of the scale between their casual wear boots that are good for cold weather and their heavy duty hiking boots; these will suit either and work in a variety of environments and physical working conditions.
These boots are very well reviewed, but some people with a certain gait to their step did bring a rather specific critique to light, and it’s particularly salient for you if you’re a person who occasionally drags your feet. Although the rubber sole does cover part of the boot’s front, the top of the toe where scuffing is most likely to take place is left exposed. This left some people whose gaits are prone to scuffing with worn out boot toes faster than they would have pleased.
- 100% leather
- Thick rubber sole with good hiking grip
- Waterproof boot with rust proof eyes and hooks
- Added arch support
- Design of toe leaves it exposed for scuffing and faster wear for those who are prone to dragging their feet
If you’re looking for a slightly more heavy duty boot that has a higher ankle and increased joint support in that area, then you might prefer this design from Carhartt. Despite its durable, 100% leather exterior and thick rubber sole (with plenty of grip), this boot is actually not as stiff as you might expect. This is thanks to the brand’s “Rugged Flex” system of materials that have been treated for flexibility, increasing their ability to move and stretch with you throughout the day. The boot is also built with arch support, comfort, and long wear in mind; the insole is orthopaedic and the tongue is softly padded to reduce irritation in tightening the boot in order to take advantage of that higher ankle support. The boot is resistant to water, slipping, oil, and chemicals, making it a surprisingly protect option despite its flexibility.
Although previous buyers generally rave about these boots (one person even claims they saved him from a mild electric shock thanks to their heavy duty materiality), there have been notes about their capabilities when it comes to water. It’s important to know how to distinguish between boots like these that are quite correctly advertised as water resistant, meaning they’ll hold up in the rain or in slightly marshy conditions, and actually being water proof, which these boots are not.
- “Rugged Flex” system of stretch and movement reduces breaking-in time
- Resistant to water, oil, chemicals, and slipping
- Orthopaedic insole, padded tongue, arch support, and ankle support
- 100% leather exterior and good gripping rubber sole
- Water resistant, not water proof
Despite the fact that you do need boots for work and that you’d like something of a decent quality, are you less in need of such heavy duty things and slightly more conscious of style? Well, particularly if you’re working with a slightly tighter budget, then you might get along better with these work boots sold by Skechers. These boots have a thick rubber base sole and are made from 100% leather. Although they look quite flat, they’re actually built with arch support in mind, and their rubber sole is designed with decent grip and the intention of getting your foot slightly off rough ground. On the inside, the boots are made with a cushioned tongue for comfortable tightening, a padded ankle collar (which is water proof and leather like the rest of the boot), and a cushioned insole that works hand in hand with the arch support.
These boots are generally reported as being a great, durable work boot-meets-daily footwear option, but there have been two notable points of critique in some cases. The first is that the boots and the brand’s sizing tend to run a little small; some people who are usually true to listed size found them to be a little shorter than usual, cause bumping against their toes at the front. You might consider ordering half a size up. Additionally, some people who wanted to keep their boots nice for style despite their functionality noted that because the rubber soles don’t wrap at all around the edge of the boot, the leather is easily scuffed there.
- Arch support, padded tongue, and cushioned insole for maximum comfort
- 100% leather exterior and gripping rubber sole, both with high durability
- Slightly more affordable and casual without sacrificing much quality
- Prone to scuffing because of lack of sole wrapping up the edges of the leather at the bottom
- Brand sizes tend to run small (or short in foot length, more specifically)
Diving back into the category or decent ankle support without leaving casual style behind fully, here’s an option from Ever Boots that gives you a little bit of both camps. These leather boots, with their solid but streamlined rubber soles and solid grips, are known for being solid in terms of step, providing you a non-slip and firm foundation on which to stand. Despite their notorious durability, they’re also specifically designed to be flexible enough to wear on the job immediately, with very little break-in time required. The boots is also designed to adapt well to your foot. The cushioned insole is friendly to many hours of standing in a row and the “speed hooks” up the ankle, above the regular lace eyes, put you in total control of tightness. These boots are also on the more affordable end of the scale despite being reviewed as comparable in quality to even better known brands.
While the actual function of these boots hasn’t received any complaints from previous buyers so far, there are two things worth knowing before you make your decision. The first is that the sizes actually run slightly large despite the brand maintaining that their designs are true to size. The second is that if you’re the kind of person who prefers to weather treat your leather boots before wear because your location has inclement weather, be aware that these have been noted to undergo quite a noticeable colour change; previous buyers have found that essentially any brand of proofing treatment darkens the boots in all available colours.
- Durable materiality with 100% leather exteriors and durable non-slip rubber sole grip
- Specifically designed with flexibility to eliminate the need for breaking in
- Cushioned insole and easily adjustable lace capabilities at ankle make for an adaptable, comfortable wearing experience
- Brand’s sizes tend to run slightly large
- Leather is known to darken noticeably in colour if any kind of weather proofing treatment is used
While it’s true that you can purchase any kind of boot you please so long as it fits your foot and has the features you require, some women find it hard to shop outside their section if they want to find sizes that are actually small enough for their feet. That’s why we’ve made sure to include this women’s work boot offered by Timberland PRO, which has a better range of smaller sizes. This booth as an oiled 100% leather body with a thick but easily movable sole and great non-slip grip. The high ankle provides awesome ankle support without feeling restricting and the boot is quite lightweight despite its heavy duty nature. These boots are ergonomically designed to promote foot health and comfort, and built with breathable and antimicrobial inner linings to keep things hygienic and free of odour.
While most people who have purchased these boots report comfort and durability, more than one review came with a simple warning. Although the ankle support provided by the high top and the lace and hook combination is great, it’s recommended that you avoid tying the boots too tight in this spot. The tighter you pull, the more the backs of the hook grommets will cause you discomfort because they are anchored all the way through the leather. People who wore them only marginally tightened did not report this issue.
- 100% leather body and durable but flexible rubber sole with non-slip grip
- Ankle support and hooks for control and speed in lace tying
- Heavy duty but also lightweight
- Breathable and antimicrobial inner linings for hygiene and odour elimination
- Back of hook grommets in boot ankle can dig if top is tied too tightly
Did we actually really catch your attention when we started talking about steel toe designs earlier because that’s the kind of boot you do need for work? Then you might prefer this design from Caterpillar over the others we’ve shown so far. Besides the steel toe, this boot also provides a reinforced ankle stability that’s flexible rather than restricting despite its strength. It’s also comfortable thanks to a padded inner layer. The thick, synthetic rubber sole is non-slip, amazingly gripping, and raises the boot slightly off the ground for protection and solidity. In addition to being water proof, the exterior leather and outsoles are also oil resistant and more than equipped to standing up to all kinds of weather and conditions.
In terms of durability, you’d be hard pressed to find a complaint about these boots. All of that strength and strong materiality, however, does give the boots one quality that many people view as a drawback; they are quite heavy. The boots are by no means uncomfortable, but they’re certainly not designed to be lightweight.View price on Amazon
Have you actually been scrolling through all of the options you’ve seen so far and wondering whether you might find one that’s actually water proof, rather than just slightly water resistant? In that case, Skechers might have just the design you’re looking for. These boots work well as work boots in damp environments because they were actually built with hiking in mind, and specifically designed to keep you warm, dry, supported, and comfortable in all weather. They are made of 100% leather suede with a non0slip synthetic rubber sole that provides great grip and a solid base. The boots have a “relaxed fit”, designed to cushion your foot and adjust snugly around it rather than brace it tightly in place like some other types. The insole is made of memory foam, allowing even more custom moulded comfort inside all that durability. Above all, the boots are water proof!
While most previous buyers have been very impressed indeed with the actual function, strength, and purpose of these boots, many had the same complaint. This was that they found the boots fit very wide. You might select your size and find that the length is quite right for your foot, but the width is larger than you’re used to in the fit of your standard shoe size. Additionally, the laces that the boots come wth are not necessarily the strongest and might warrant replacing.
- Waterproof leather exterior and non-slip, well gripped rubber soles
- Memory foam insole for added comfort
- Relaxed fit that allows tightening without pinching
- Wider fit than is usual in conventional shoe sizing despite accurate fit lengthwise
- Laces have been reported as weak and might need replacing despite rest of boot being durable
Have you been holding out on making a choice in hopes of finding something that has even higher durability but also somehow even more flexibility at the same time? Then you might find these military and tactical grade boots from Under Armour intriguing. The benefit of these boots being entirely synthetic textile rather than leather is that they are incredibly flexible and also breathable, which helps keep your feet temperature regulated and also discourages odours. This boot is the highest design so far, providing perhaps he most flexible ankle support yet, certainly to a larger point of coverage up the shin. Because of their primarily textile nature, the boots are extremely light. Those parts that do provide weather proofing around the toe and heel, however, are made from a durable synthetic leather. The boot has a toe cap for subtle added protection and great non-slip grip.
One of the biggest critiques that these boots have received from previous buyers is that the layers of textile, despite being comfortable and lightweight, can actually become quite warm. No one has spoken about trapped odours, which is a testament to the quality of the fabric, but the layers certainly can insulate your foot enough to generate a lot of heat in warm conditions and make them sweat.
- Durable but flexible and light textiles
- Reinforcing height and admirable ankle support
- breathable materials that provide comfort without trapping odours
- Non-slip sole with great grip
- Layers of lightweight textile are well insulated and therefore cause sweating in warm conditions
If you’re still in the market for a much more heavy duty boot that you could safely and effectively wear while working on a construction site, here’s a fantastic option from Timberland. The leather of these boots has undergone an Ever-Guard treatment for waterproofing, while the moulded rubber sole provides non-slip grip and a solid working foundation. The toes are reinforced again, bearing the strength and safety of a steel toe boot but with a lighter materiality, in order to be crush, water, oil, chemical, and abrasion resistant. The shoes are lightly but ergonomically padded on the inside around the ankle for good arch and joint support, but they’re also built with a shock-absorbing technology that provides comfort even if you’re on concrete all day long.
Although these boots are extremely safe and built to professional construction industry standards, it’s worth being aware that they are actually not specifically certified and do not bear the proper markings for some contracted building companies that staunchly require certain degrees of certified safety equipment. This makes them suitable for more jobs based in physical labour, but unsuitable for certain jobs governed by unions (like many construction contracts in Canada, for example).
- Shock absorption in non-slip moulded rubber soles, also providing great grip and making concrete easier long term
- Reinforced toes for protection against heavy objects and tools
- Ergonomically built and padded for comfort while remaining flexible and providing ankle and arch support
- Water, crush, oil, chemical, and abrasion resistant
- Not actually officially certified (and not marked as such) to meet certain union contract standards for construction
Just in case you’re still in the market for a bonafide steel toe boot but you’d also like one that has waterproofing, here’s a great combination design offered by Caterpillar. These boots are extremely well reinforced on the bottom where your foot is encased and slightly more flexible and breathable up towards the ankle, providing support without making you feel constricted. They are 100% leather with a non-slip moulded rubber sole. The leather closer to the rubber edging and ground has been treated for waterproofing while the leather around the ankle is slightly lighter and more breathable. Of course, the rubberized covering over the toe is a classic steel toe as is standard of this trusted brand.
Although the boots and also the company are notoriously well regarded and these boots in particular are well-reviewed, there has been a few occurrences involving a factory flaw neat the toe. In a small number of units distributed, buyers found that the bottom of the boot underneath where the steel toe is has split or cracked faster than they’d like to see any wear-based damage in a construction boot happen. This is likely due to a lack of flexibility in units where the steel toe isn’t placed just right, causing an awkward point of tension across the boot that splits the bottom despite the durable rubber there.
- Combination of hardy waterproof leather around the foot a flexible, supportive leather around the ankle
- Steel toe and non-slip moulded rubber sole
- Breathable materials inside and ergonomic design for comfort
- Some flawed units where steel toe piece is slightly misplaced have experienced cracking at opposing tension point on bottom of rubber sole
“Breaking in” work boots
Although work boots are generally designed to be supportive and very comfortable indeed, they are also most often made from very strong, durable materials. This usually makes them quite stiff when they are first purchased, occasionally causing light chafing or blisters if they’re not “broken in” or “worn in” before you try to wear them full steam ahead and on the job. Even if the boots fit you just right, some types really take some walking around in to loosen them up, start creasing the materials in the right spots for your foot, and really let everything settle into place with your step and manner of movement.
In order to make sure that your new work boots are comfortable enough to last you all day on the job without hurting or causing blisters, we’d suggest breaking them in first. All this really means is that wearing the boots for smaller periods of time here and there while you’re walking around and doing other things can help soften them up and mould them to your foot in intervals, rather than all at once. This way, they’ll already be a little easier to bend at the toe and so on by the time you put them on for their first actual day on the job, lowering the impact on your feet and avoiding tenderness, rubbing, and blisters.
The cost of work boots
To be fully honest with you, work boots run at a very large range of prices. In reality, quality and comfort are the most important elements when it comes to choosing the kind you’ll get. We understand that budget is always a consideration, as it should be, but we really just mean that you should be aware of precisely what your needs are before you purchase anything, just to make sure you don’t spend an unnecessary amount on an industrial quality boot that you might not actually make full use of.
It is also important, however, to understand that work boots are the kind of thing you invest in. Part of the reason that good work boots are often a little bit pricey is that they’re designed to last a long time and really give you your money’s worth. At the same time as you don’t want to buy something exorbitantly priced, you also don’t want to just automatically go with whatever the cheapest option you can find is, especially if it’s an unknown brand with a very big price undercut. In that case, chances are good that the quality reflects the price on the cheaper end of the scale as well and your boots won’t actually be very good at all. It’s really a case of balance and evaluation.