The safety work boots debuted on the shoe market back in the 1930s. This shoe trend was born when folks engaging in hard labor and members of the military needed footwear offering protection from hazards that include falling objects, electrical jolts, environmental obstacles, slips and trips.
The engineering of work boots improved with the addition of steel-toe caps but as time progressed, innovative, new safety features were added to work shoes as a direct result of the passage of liability laws, enacted to protect workers who–until around the 1930s–were said to be cheaper to replace than costs associated with retrofitting sites with safety measures.
The U.S. Congress’s passage of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) did more to help workers avoid catastrophic foot injuries than any pair of shoes on the market. Today, footwear designed for high-risk jobs–especially construction and mining–do more than protect worker’s feet; they look good, too.
Best Work Boots For 2020
We’ve perused best-selling work boots to ascertain the top 10 styles on today’s market. They’re listed in no particular order, but each has been evaluated for brand integrity, popularity and engineering.
Look up the word “all-purpose” and you could find a photo of these imported, wheat-colored Nubuck leather work shoes. Part of Timberland’s PRO Direct Attach series, this classic shoe has been kicking around since 2005, so it’s no mystery why the company keeps it in their work boot library.
Easy-to-lace thanks to hexagonal eyelets, these rugged shoes rely on rubber outsoles so tough, traction is never problematic. In fact, seam-sealed leather uppers protect the shoe’s interior; they’re expertly sealed for waterproof protection.
These soft-toe boots are designed to support arches while reducing foot fatigue and enhancing comfort. Muscle your way through any construction site thanks to steel safety toes that protect against electrical hazards, and the nylon shock diffusion plate supplies torsional rigidity.
Worried about foot odor? This boot’s interior mesh lining is treated with a anti-microbial agent that fights odor and whether your day is a mix of standing, walking, climbing or undertaking physical challenges, this shoe’s 24/7 Comfort System—including the thick leather binding on the top collar–won’t let you down.
This dark mocha Timberland Pro Titan is part of the PRO Titan series that’s been providing men with the ultimate in foot protection since 2004. Surprisingly lightweight, they feature an alloy-safe toe and the shaft is located around 6-inches from the arch.
A polyurethane midsole enhances comfort and the interiors of these shoes are lined with mesh to ventilate feet, no matter how hot things get. If you work on surfaces that get slick and slippery, this PRO Titan’s rubber outsole could become your best friend. It prevents sliding thanks rubber soles that grip the ground, floor or work site. They’re abrasion-resistant, too
Despite all of this muscle, Timberland hasn’t skimped on design or comfort. The premium, full-grain leather is so pliable and soft you might be able to avoid a long break-in period since designers added ergonomic elements for ease of movement and all-day support. There’s a 30-day “comfort guarantee” on these Titan’s, so just in case you’re disappointed for any reason, you can return them without getting stressed out.
If a pair of Red Wing Heritage Men’s Iron Ranger Vibram Boots are still hanging around your closet, you’ll be pleased to know that an enhanced version continues this tradition. The word “heritage” perfectly describes this company and footwear. How to describe this shoe’s color? Red Wing calls it “copper rough and tough,” so throw any amount of abuse its way and this shoe will vanquish it.
As a tribute to this brand’s traditional styling, these boots are triple-stitched to increase longevity, but your toes won’t complain while breaking them in because there’s a bump toe feature prized by guys with beefy toes.
Made in the U.S., these boots feature thick rubber soles, a steel shank, 1-inch heel, ½-inch platform and 6-inch shaft. That Vibram 430 mini-lug sole is fabricated of nitrile cork and even the lacing system, consisting of nickel eyelets and hooks, is superior. Try before you buy. You may need ½-size smaller than your normal one.
Are you eager to wear the brand that’s the granddaddy of work boots, but you’re afraid your wallet may not be able to take the hit? It’s time you met the Roughneck, a Red Wing Heritage collection work boot that won’t require you to sell your tools to purchase them.
Crafted of leather and made in the U.S., this sturdy boot delivers comfort and strength. Cover the most daunting construction site atop synthetic soles made to be punished.Measuring 6-inches from the arch and featuring a ¾-inch platform and 1.5-inch heel, you’ll appreciate both the round-toe styling and traditional lacing system.
The Roughneck has been around since 2009. Can you remember what you were doing that year? If you weren’t doing it in this Red Wing boot fitted with this classic Moc Lug sole, welt and cement construction and EVA midsole, maybe it’s time you treated yourself to a work boot that’s got a solid pedigree and reputation.
Do the soles on these Keen Utility work boots look familiar? If you’re a runner, you’ll recognize similarities in design, but don’t confuse these 8-inch work boots with athletic shoes. Yellow embellishments stand out on these cascade brown work boots: sturdy rubber soles and left and right asymmetrical steel toes protect your feet from hazardous conditions.
TPU shank supports plus non-marking rubber outsoles will keep your body stable, even on oily, slippery floors. But it’s what’s going on inside that could convince you to buy these boots. If you worry about odor build-up as much as slipping and sliding, the KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane is breathable and CleanSport NXT natural odor protection keeps offensive smells to a minimum.
Subject these waterproof Nubuck leather utility boots to any weather Mother Nature throws your way, yet you can keep these boots in top shape inside and out thanks to the removable metatomical, dual-density EVA removable insert. Why is this important? When you can clean every inch of the interior, you’ll avoid contracting infections, too.
What comes to mind when you read the word “Pittsburgh”? If you’re a history or sports buff you know that the city was once America’s steel epicenter and if football’s your thing, the Steelers probably pop into your head. Both represent the best of America, which is likely why KEEN gave this steel-toe work boot its name.
Crafted of leather and fabric, these work boots are rugged, handsome and ready to protect your feet from a diverse mix of hazardous situations. Oil- and slip-resistant, a contoured heel lock and a handy, removable metatomical EVA foot bed are just three features and benefits you receive with this medium-duty work boot.
Interiors feature KEEN’s signature Dry-Lex footwear lining, so even if you’ve been troubled by foot odor, the folks you live with may just notice the difference if you replace your old work boots with these. The price? It’s a steel compared to other brands on the market and the styling’s got a beefy, rugged edge to it so you’ll look up-to-date on the job and off.
If you’re a guy on a budget who demands quality construction, no howling required if you opt for a pair of these brown leather Wolverine Moc-Toe work boots. The beefy, crepe-tread sole stands ready to help you traverse any number of challenges awaiting you on a shop floor or at a job site.
If you’re familiar with the brand, you may recognize this moc-toe style: it looks as cool today as it did when it was introduced back in 2005. Collars on these boots are padded so you can flex your feet to maneuver surfaces without chafing your skin, and there’s plenty of tradition incorporated into the lace-up vamp and contrast stitching.
Affordable, masculine and constructed to hold up over the long haul, it may be hard for you to decide which feature you like best, but if your feet take a beating on the job and you’d love to find out how it feels to come home ready to go dancing, the shock-absorbing nylon shank designed to alleviate foot stress may just seal the deal.
If you love the idea of the Wolverine legend and the fact that the company has been making work boots since 1883–but you prefer a shoe that delivers on the latest in design and innovation—-you’ll be happy to know that you get an amalgam of both in the Overpass Composite Toe work boot.
The company is known for its craftsmanship so you can count on this sturdy footwear to keep you comfortable as you perform tasks that require you to lift, bend and tread hazard-strewn surfaces. Fabricated of leather and textile, these summer boots feature a beefy rubber sole. The secret behind this boot’s flexibility is athletic contour welt construction, so no matter which way you move, the boots move with your feet.
No worries about wear and tear; exterior materials are treated with a premium waterproofing agent that also rebuffs abrasions. The carbon toe-cap is light enough to do the job outside and the removable Ortholite cushioned foot bed and interior membrane pair to keep things dry and comfy on the inside.
There’s nothing bare bones about this Caterpillar hi-cut, soft-toe, waterproof work boot. Crafted of leather with a rubber sole, these dark beige boots are called “diagnostic” for a reason: an ERGO comfort system encourages the natural movement of feet, so walking, climbing and maneuvering around challenging terrain won’t stress your feet out.
These Cats outperform a heavier shoe in surprising ways that include 200 grams of thermal insulation, waterproof nylon-mesh lining to thwart moisture and removable, perforated EVA gel supports. This Wellington-style boot has a classic look, but its’ performance is totally contemporary.
The SuperWelt forefoot construction, sporty low profile and company heritage combine to produce a shoe that may remind you of a souped-up athletic shoe, but walk into a work site and find out just how efficiently this waterproof work boot performs, no matter what challenges it encounters throughout the day. Rugged. Stylish. Dependable. Who says high quality always costs a fortune?
Not familiar with the Danner brand? You should be if you have wide feet and struggle to find work boots that don’t torture your feet. Danner has been manufacturing boots for the military for years, so if folks in uniform can survive daunting exercises and real-world experiences on rugged terrain, these work boots won’t let you down either.
The exclusive Vibram Quarry outsole sports a 90-degree heel, but it’s the non-linear lug pattern on the rubber sole that surpasses scrutiny on oily, debris-strewn surfaces that demand superior traction. This Danner Quarry work boot is no style slouch. Oiled Nubuck leather exteriors are triple stitched for tenacity, the distressed brown color won’t show dirt and industrial-grade hardware used in the lacing area is tenacious.
The interior of these boots will stay high and dry thanks to iconic Gore-Tex lining. If you work on electrical systems, Danner offers safety reassurances: The alloy toe and non-conductive shock-resistant soles and heels meet or exceed ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 standards. Try on a pair if the brand is new to you. You might be surprised by the fit.
Check Out What We Think Are The Best Summer Wear Work Boots
Just because seasons change, work tasks don’t, thus working in the sun and heat to undertake work projects can make you feel miserable if you don’t invest in lighter summer work boots. In addition to the Wolverine boots featured above (#8), consider these four summer work boot styles to get you through the heat and humidity.
You’ve got to hand it to Keen in the creativity department: they crafted these summer work shoes in non-traditional colors: gargoyle and forest night leather. These steel-toe shoes are extremely versatile, equally at home on a hiking trail as they are on hazardous work sites that require industrial-style foot protection.
Rubber soles, a 1.25-inch heel and the ½-inch platform support work in unison to short-circuit slips, slides and trips, whether you’re wearing them on a job site or around your property. If you think Keen strikes a humorous tone naming these shoe colors, you’ll love the company philosophy: “The outdoors is anyplace without a ceiling.” Choose your location and left and right asymmetrical steel toes are prepared to carry you safely forward in style.
If you’ve had past issues with toe box crowding or been hounded by arch support issues, this summer shoe has your name written all over it because you’ll get the fit you crave. Further, these work shoes meet ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 EH standards. What’s unique? You get a hiking shoe fit plus the tenacity of a classic work shoe at a price that won’t require you to take a second job to pay for them.
Keen insists that its Destin mid-steel toe work shoe is the next generation of safety footwear and both the styling and the affordable price tag attest to that claim. Says Keen, these shoes “boast younger, faster style,” so if you’re working on a construction site you’ll appreciate forward-thinking features like the left and right asymmetrical steel toe and underfoot sole that grips surfaces, even if you regularly deal with oil or grease spills.
Engineered for interior and exterior jobs, this light duty safety boot is fashioned of water-resistant, full-grain leather and the lining adds to this shoe’s signature 2-Zone comfort technology. Are you picky about keeping the inside of your work shoes clean so you avoid health issues? Done and done– just remove the foot bed to clean interiors.
Happily, you don’t have to expend your entire budget to add these summer shoes to your work wardrobe because they’re surprisingly affordable. The Destin’s steel toe meets ASTM- F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 standards, so whether you spend your time dealing with power issues or just wield power tools, these shoes will do a great job of keeping your feet safe.
If Timberland’s your shoe, get brand power and affordability with this Pro Men’s Powertrain Sport. This black synthetic shoe stands up to extreme challenges because the rip-stop nylon fabric and synthetic sole are fused together for years of solid wear.
Because the shank is crafted of fiberglass, you can look forward to great structural support no matter how rough the surfaces you traverse happen to be. Tough? You bet. That nylon upper resists abrasion and the safety toe is made of a steely alloy that won’t let you down, even if you punt the occasional obstruction while on the job!
Expect great odor control courtesy of the Powertrain’s mesh lining. It’s fashioned of fabric embedded with an anti-microbial agent to tone down odor in the summer heat. But if you’ve suffered in the past from work shoes that deliver on construction but let you down when it comes to comfort, your favorite feature will be anti-fatigue technology built into the outsole that keeps you comfortable, no matter how many hours you spend on your feet.
When did New Balance, one of the athletic shoe industries most popular brands, get into the work shoe business? It’s anybody’s guess, but if you’re like many dudes who love a shoe that does double duty, this suede cross-trainer should appear near the top of your short list.
Can you run on and off the job? That’s the idea. These cross-trainers can boost a regular running program but they’re all business on a job site. Designed to help you cover all types of surfaces, these black shoes feature stress-absorbing heels that mediate calf and ankle pressure. At the other end of the shoe, steel toes rebuff obstacles, dirt and if you’ve had problems with static electricity, you no longer have to worry because these cross-trainers will keep you grounded.
At the heart of this suede cross-trainer is the proprietary New Balance Abzorb system featuring rubber content that hypes cushioning while it adds compression resistance properties. These shoes may look sporty but they meet steel-toe safety regulations so you can push your limits on or off the job throughout the summer.
Work Boot Buying Guide – 10 factors to consider when buying your work boots
After surveying shoppers to find out why they choose brands, styles and safety features, it was hard to find a single guy whose boot selection was based on price alone. As you choose from the vast array of work boots on today’s market, it’s easier to make a decision if criteria guides your purchase, so use these tips when you shop.
1. Is one type of boot better than others?
You may think this niche starts and stops with safety-toe footwear, but perhaps a soft-toe boot meets your requirements or your priority may be insulation, waterproofing and/or grounding. Consider some or all of these when making your selection.
2. How important is sole construction?
Work boot materials run the gamut from leathers to synthetics and everything in-between. Lug height and grid can mean the difference between feeling confident on a site and worrying about slipping and sliding. A feature as simple as a collar can save your ankles from painful chafing and heat-resistant soles can be lifesavers.
3. Not all lacing systems are created equal.
There are three basic lacing system types: Hooks, D-rings and eyelets. Metal grommets are extremely durable but you’ll spend more time lacing them through eyelets than you may prefer. Hanging D-rings can speed up the process while metal hooks offer the speediest method of all if you’re in a rush to get to work.
4. Is boot height important?
If the height of your boot is wrong, you could injure your feet by adjusting the way you walk to compensate. Typical work boots measure between 6- and 8-inches tall, but the range is actually 5- and 12-inches. Need maximum flexibility? Go for a short boot. Is ankle and lower calf protection critical? Choose a taller boot.
5. Must your boot meet OSHA and other safety standards?
The U.S. Department of Labor reports 4,600 fatal on-the-job injuries annually, 666 of which resulted from slips and trips. Always ask work supervisors if the shoes you’re considering comply with site safety guidelines so you’re compliant on day one.
6. Does your work site require special toe features?
Steel toe features often come standard, but your industry may call for aluminum toes to meet specific safety standards. In some cases, carbon fiber, plastic or Kevlar non-metallic composite toe construction works better.
7. Do your feet have special needs?
Don’t laugh. You might not be able to do your job properly if you’re uncomfortable because you require metatarsal guards (to protect from falling objects or when working with embers, welding or other hot materials) or boots designed for folks with high or fallen arches.
8. Got outsole?
High-performance rubber is the most common material used for outsoles though TPU (polyurethane) often outlasts rubber. EVA (a foam-like material) midsoles contribute to a work boot’s light weight, flexibility and comfort. Welt construction is becoming a popular way to stitch inner soles to uppers using leather strips.
9. It’s all about the fit
Nobody wants to end the day hobbling around like an octogenarian. Wear the wrong size boots and expect a world of pain, courtesy of blisters, abrasions, blood flow issues, bruising and other conditions. Try your boots on. Subject them to a standard break-in period and keep your receipt just in case!
10. Do your homework
Approach your work boot search like Sherlock Holmes. Research top brands. Get a glimpse of price ranges. Read consumer reviews. Shop at the end of the day when your feet are at their largest. Bring socks. Once you figure out which pair works for you, put ‘em to work. If you did your job right, they’ll be around for years to come.
A final word…
If when you were young you were told you that it’s important to learn everything there is to know about items that have the power to impact your life, then you’ve been taught well. The ideal pair of work boots can contribute to your success, no matter what sort of job you hold that requires them.
The best compliment you can give a work boot is getting through your day without thinking twice about what’s on your feet. You can’t put a price on that, but you can do what it takes to find a pair that serve you well throughout your day and for years to come.