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How to Pick the Best Work Boots for Your Job

Regularly
exposed to hazardous conditions?
Your work boots can make or break you. Since occupation hazards vary in different fields, know this when choosing work boots: one size does not fit all. In this article. we'll show you how to pick the best work boots for your job.

There are a couple of keep in mind when shopping for working boots:

  • Safety. Whether you need composite toe construction boots for building houses or electrical resistant boots for repairing telephone poles, every job comes with its own set of dangers. Make sure you grab a pair of work boots that will keep you safe.
  • Durability. Will your boots hold up? Do some research and find out what boots offer the longest lifespan. You don't want work boots falling apart on you after just a couple of weeks.
  • Weatherproof. If you work outside in the elements, it's worth having work boots that form a barrier between inclement weather and your feet. Opt for waterproof work boots to keep your feet dry, or insulated boots to keep your feet warm.
  • A Great Fit. If the boot fits, wear it. If your boots don't fit well, they're going to be a nuisance that prevents you from giving work 110%.

A solid pair of work boots that keep you comfortable and safe is always worth the initial investment. But, depending on your occupation, you might not need all the bells and whistles required for some industries. If unsure of what work boot specifications are required for your line of work, check out OSHA.gov and consult your company’s employee manual. It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with what kind of work boots meet ASTM 2413 standards.

Work Boot Safety Features

Pile of Rusty Nails

First and foremost, safety is indubitably the most important aspect of a work boot. But if you are—let’s say a construction worker—your needs in a work boot are going to greatly differ from that of an electrician. It pays to know what type of conditions you are up against before heading out on the field. Why?

Choosing the right gear is one of the best preventative measures you can take against workplace accidents.

Safety first. Always. The right work boots can save you a toe, or even your life. You never know what can happen out in the field, but it pays to prepare with the best gear for the job.

But with so many work boot safety features available, it can be tough deciding what’s necessary and what’s excessive for your needs. Typically, it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared. Use your best judgment when determining what work boot safety features make sense for your line of work. If you're looking for work boots, you can compare Magnum work boots to see which work boots are built with which safety features.

Here is a brief rundown of some of the most commonly seen work boot safety features:

Safety Toes

The safety toe is probably the most talked about work boot safety feature, and a steel-toe boot is for more than just kicking ass. If you work in the lumber, carpentry, or construction industries, work boots with safety toes are a must.

Any time you find yourself working in a situation where heavy objects could potentially fall in your vicinity, safety toes are a good idea, as they can prevent serious foot injuries. However, not all safety toes are created equal—they can typically be found in three varieties:

  • Steel Toe
  • Composite Toe
  • Aluminum Toe

Steel toe work boots used to be the norm, but advancements in new technologies have made composite toe work boots a very popular alternative. Why replace good old-fashioned metal with composite materials?

Although steel and aluminum safety toes are better suited for heavy-duty occupations, metal does have a major drawback. If your line of work requires you to spend large chunks of time out in the elements, the metal safety toe will act as a conductor. Working in extreme climates means the hot or cold temperatures will be transferred straight to the inside your boots, making for a very uncomfortable situation. That being said, steel and aluminum toes can stand up to greater crushing forces than composites.

Composite safety toes are usually made from carbon fiber, plastic, or Kevlar, and are ideal for those who spend the majority of their working day outdoors. Another perk of composite safety toes is that they will not trigger metal detectors.

Puncture Plate

If you work in construction or in any field requiring you to trudge through ruble, debris, or demolition zones, puncture plates are a must. Without a puncture plate, you risk serious injury by way of stepping on a potentially tetanus-laden nail or jagged glass chip.

Work Boot Puncture Plate

A nail in the foot has to be among the worst reasons to leave work early. Luckily, a puncture plate is a common work boot feature that keeps the bottoms of your feet safe. The puncture plate lies between the insole and midsole, providing additional support along with guarding against punctures and pierces.

Although certainly not required for every profession, work boots with puncture plates tend to be a good idea just as a safety precaution -- you never know what potentially hazardous objects might lie underfoot.

Outsole Grip

Grip is vital to staying on your feet. A pair of boots with a solid grip is going to do a significantly better job of keeping you right side up than boots without. As mentioned before, over one-third of all fatal construction accidents are a result of a slip or fall.

Worker climbing a ladder

Traction is key. There are limitless workplace scenarios where slipping and falling can pose a major hazard. Many workers need to balance on metal roofs or uneven surfaces. Worse still, oil slicks and/or precipitation greatly increase the odds of slippage.

So, how can you avoid falls? Being mindful and aware is probably the greatest accident prevention method, but sometimes the only way to conquer hazardous conditions is with the right gear.

There are many outsole varieties on the market offering different levels of traction. For example, Vibram® is widely recognized as a high performance rubber outsole for rugged worksite terrains, and is featured in many top quality work boots like Magnum’s Halifax 6.0. The best outsoles feature notches that make it easier to grip ladders and stop on the fly.

If working on an oil rig or any industry in which exposure to chemicals is commonplace, Thermo Poly Urethane (TPU) outsoles are recommended for their abrasion, oil, and chemical-resistance. TPU is lightweight and designed to withstand more wear and tear than the average rubber outsole.

Electrical Resistance

Do you work around live wires and other electrical hazards? It’s best to be protected against electrical injury from the bottom up.

First off, do not wear steel toe or aluminum toe boots if electrical hazards are abound in your line of work. A composite toe is a great alternative to metal toed boots because there is no threat of electrical conduction, and the odds of static shock is significantly decreased with the plastics found in composite materials.

Many work boots are also designed with materials that naturally resist electricity, like rubber components. Be sure to check the specifications of a work boot to ensure electrical resistance if necessary to your field.

Boot Construction

Foreman's gear

If you want the best bang for your buck, it’s worth looking into the boot construction before finalizing a work boot purchase. A rubber outsole can be attached to the boot in a variety of ways, and each variation has it’s own pros and cons in terms of durability and price point.

The longest lasting work boots will have outsoles that can be re-soled. If the boot cannot be re-soled, a small hole or tear means the boots will have to be thrown away – unless you don’t mind sediment and liquid collecting under your feet.

Cement Attachment

Cement construction means the work boot outsole is attached directly to the upper with an adhesive. Although the price point of boots with cement attachment is typically lower than boots with other forms of outsole attachment, cement-attached boots tend to fall apart much faster.

On top of degrading quicker, the soles of cement-attached boots cannot simply be replaced by a cobbler. However, if buying work boots solely for hobbies like gardening, the price point alone may make a boot with cement-attached outsoles a worthwhile investment.

Blake Stitch

When outsoles are secured with a Blake stitch, the boot is designed so that the upper fits perfectly between the insole and outsole. Then, the insole, outsole, and upper are connected by a single stitch that holds the boot together. This method of attachment tends to be quite secure, forming a strong bond between all the layers of the boot.

Boots held by a Blake stitch can be re-soled, but a specific machine is required and re-soling can be quite costly with this form of attachment. The Black stitch requires a simpler construction than a Goodyear welt, so boots with a Black stitch tend to fall between the price range of boots held together by cement attachment and the Goodyear welt.

Goodyear Welt Outsole

You can’t beat the classics. Goodyear welting is the oldest form of boot construction, and tends to hold boots together the best among the three types of boot constructions mentioned. A Goodyear welt is created by use of a welt. Thread made to hold shoes together is sewn through the welt, upper, and insole. A separate stitch is then used to attach the welt, anchoring all four layers together.

When the outsole wears down, replacing the outsole of a boot with Goodyear welting construction is very simple. The outsole can be easily removed from the boot, and a new outsole can be connected to the welt.

Weatherproof Boots

muddy work site

Sloshing around waterlogged boots is not fun for anyone. Neither are frozen toes. That is exactly why weatherproofing your boots is key to staying comfortable. When working in a specific region, it’s easy to guess what weatherproofing features you will need. If you live in sunny California, it’s highly unlikely that you require insulated boots like someone who lives in a winter wonderland like Vermont.

Waterproofing

Almost all boots should be waterproofed, as almost all regions in the U.S. receive at least some annual precipitation. Having water in your boots is not only uncomfortable, but also places you in a potentially vulnerable situation.

Moisture breeds bacteria, and if you are up on your feet for an entire workday in damp shoes, bacterial infection is a very serious threat. The moisture breaks down skin tissue, and can very well lead to ringworm fungus and waterproof boots like those featuring Magnum’s i-shield technology, and apply waterproof treatments as necessary.

Insulation

cold warehouse

Cold feet are a nuisance for most, but a major distraction for professionals who spend a great deal of time outdoors. Insulated boots ensure your feet stay warm, so you can focus on what’s really important: the task at hand.

Insulated boots make working on outdoor projects more comfortable if it’s cold out. However, if you work outdoors in cold climate regions where the weather is consistently harsh, insulated work boots make working in such conditions bearable, and are a downright necessity.

Maximizing Comfort

happy construction worker

If you’re spending full workdays, or better yet—12-hour days—laboring away on your feet, you need comfort work boots. Although work boot safety features and weatherproofing is of paramount importance, maximizing comfort will maximize your job performance by keeping your spirits up and your mind distraction-free.

Fit

When shopping for any type of footwear, most people pay close attention to fit. The fit of a work boot is even more important than casual shoes because if you need work boots, it’s very possible that you will be on your feet for an entire shift before sitting down.

Check for any pinching or hot spots when trying on work boots, as these uncomfortable areas are not likely to diminish over time. Do you like to just get shopping done? It pays to spend enough time to ensure a good fit. As they say, “if the boot fits…” Want your boot to fit like a dream? Check out the do's and don'ts of breaking in work boots.

Flexibility

Most work boots are made of leather, and one of the properties that makes leather so suitable for boots is flexibility. Leather boots conform to your feet through repeated use, especially during the initial break-in process – the areas of the boot that move the most will become more flexible over time.

To maximize flexibility of your work boots so they become even more comfortable, regularly moisturize leather boots with a conditioner. You can learn learn how to care and how to clean your boots with our guide.

Support

The support of a work boot is determined by many factors coming together to comfortably house your feet. A boot’s insole, midsole, shank, puncture plate, and outsole all contribute to the work boot’s support.

If you experience discomfort and blistering, upgrading your boot’s insole can provide you with the support you need. Midsoles are an understated aspect of any boot, and can make a huge difference in a boot’s overall support. Materials like EVA foam guarantee cushion support to keep you comfortable on your feet.

Weight

Simply put, the lighter the boot, the less work required to lift your feet. Some occupations require heavy-duty boots to protect against various work hazards, but it’s very possible to find a pair of solid, protective work boots that weigh less than 2 pounds.

Buy the Best Work Boots for Your Needs

Contractor on rooftop

Here’s a recap of some important work boot features to look for when shopping for a new pair of work boots:

  • Different industries have different work boot safety guidelines. Check OSHA.gov for occupational specifications.
  • Steel and aluminum toe boots conduct electricity and thermal energy – composite safety toe boots are recommended for outdoor workers.
  • Look for work boots with a highly rated outsole grip, as over 1/3 of all construction workplace accidents are the result of slips and falls.
  • Boot construction affects the durability of work boots – work boots with a Goodyear welt construction tend to last the longest and can be easily re-soled.
  • Keep liquids out with regular waterproofing, and keep warmth in with insulated boots for colder climates.
  • Fit and support are crucial to staying comfortable on the job – pay close attention to any pinches or hot spots as these problems rarely go away.