Choosing Work Boots
SO you need a pair of boots for work. And, basically, you don’t want to crush your toes, break your metatarsals, puncture your heels, burn your soles, slip or fall, electrocute yourself or blow something up from too much static electricity. You also want to stay dry, stay warm, and stay standing comfortably most of the day.
We sell over 1000 different styles of work boots and choosing the right boot can be daunting. Not to mention, choosing the wrong boot can cause you misery, if not bodily injury. It’s serious business if you’re a serious worker.
It seems most workers are attached to a particular brand they have become loyal to. If a boot meets your needs, you begin to trust that style of boot and the manufacturer of that boot.
Then, sometimes there is a need to change, either with different requirements at work, or some type of failure or disappointment with your existing footwear.
Gearing up to purchase a new pair of boots you may not be familiar with can be a confusing and frustrating process – first, determining what features you need and then trying to find the darn things.
First, you need to assess your footwear needs. These are either dictated by requirements of the job or by personal preferences. Most often, both.
Safety – Steel toe, Composite toe, met guards, metallic, non-metallic, resistance to slipping, heat, corrosion, static electricity, and electrical hazard.
Safety Toe – The most common, and the most important safety feature of your work boot. Most safety-toe boots are made with a steel toe cap that meets ANSI standards and protects the toes from getting crushed by heavy objects. There is now a movement toward lighter weight, non-metallic composite toe boots. The toes in these boots are made from a synthetic, composite material strong enough to meet government standards but much lighter and not as cold in the winter as steel. A composite toe also doesn’t conduct electricity – essential for those needing a non-conductive boot.
Met Guards – A met guard extends protection over the top of the foot – the metatarsals – up to the ankle. It is either built over the top of the boot or is integrated into the boot upper. This can be made from steel or composite material and provides extra protection in jobs where falling or rolling objects could damage the foot.
Non Metallic – In situations where metal in the boot could be a problem – going through metal detectors, danger of electrical shock, etc. – some boots are made entirely with non-metallic materials.
Slip Resistance – Pretty self explanatory here. Soles are made of special materials that resist slipping in certain conditions – wet or oily – any slippery surface.
Corrosion, Heat Resistance – Again, self explanatory. These boots give you protection from dangerous temperatures and corrosive materials you may come in contact with.
Electrical protection – There are two types of electrical protection.
- Protection against electric shock (EH – electrical hazard). Wherever there is a risk of contacting an electrical circuit these are the boots to have. They meet government standards and are rated by resistance to electrical conduction.
- Protection against static discharge (ESD – electrical static dissipative). This is particularly important if working around sensitive equipment or explosive materials.
Comfort – waterproofing, insulation, insoles
Waterproof – The king of waterproofing is Gore-TexTM, a waterproof membrane that’s breathable. Other boots protect your feet with a similar type membrane – basically copies of Gore-Tex. Seams are sealed to keep water out. While the membranes do not let water in, they do allow moisture to escape from your feet thus creating a nice system to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Insulated – depending on the weather conditions you work in, you can choose various levels of insulation for your boots. These days, a boot will most often be insulated with ThinsulateTM — a lightweight, non-bulky, non-packing synthetic insulation that’s nearly twice as warm by weight as common, older insulators. It’s available in different weights measured in grams; most often 600 grams, 400 grams and 200 grams. Some customers swear that insulation actually keeps heat out during the summer but this is up for debate.
Insoles/Midsoles – all companies have their own names for these: AirSolesTM, DuraShocksTM, etc. They’re all about shock absorption and comfort. Some are better than others and comfort really depends on your foot shape, personal preference and the way the boots are used.
Function – sole material and tread, heel shape, lacing, boot height
The most common sole type is the lug sole or aggressive tread sole. Designed for grip and traction in muddy or snowy situations. One downfall of the aggressive lug sole is that it picks up dirt and mud that can be tracked into houses. If your work requires you to be outside as well as inside you may want to look at a less aggressive or smoother sole boot.
Many boots have a Vibram outsole which is a very hard and long wearing composite material. Vibram is the longest wearing outsole you can buy. Many other outsoles are made that come very close to the long wear of Vibram. The softer the outsole, the more comfortable but the faster wear will occur.
Logger heals are also a popular choice surprisingly because they take stress off the lower back and back of the legs because of the way they set up your posture. They are also preferred by trades that require pole climbing.
Boot height is really a personal preference. Obviously the higher the boot the more ankle support you will get.
Speed laces are becoming a preferred option on boots simply because they are easier to lace and unlace.
Purpose – postal, military/service, loggers, linesman, engineer, motorcycle, hikers
Boots are typically purposed for specific occupations. These may include, but aren’t limited to logger boots, linesman’s’ boots, hiking boots, military/uniform boots, law enforcement footwear, postal workers’ boots, motorcycle boots and more.
Use our advanced boot search to find the perfect pair of work boots for you.
Browse around the choices that come up. Check out features. Read reviews.
If you’re totally confused – and it can happen, especially if you’re buying for someone else – give us a call. If the person who takes your call can’t answer your questions, they’ll find someone who can.
Your work boots are like tools of the trade. We’re here to help you make that important buying decision.