Construction work can be hard on the body, including the feet. To minimize aches and pains and avoid accidents, invest in the best construction boots for your feet and discover it is money well spent. Choosing a pair of the best construction boots can be a headache, and many tradespeople bounce from brand to brand based on the price tag; but that might not be the best approach.
Instead of shopping based on cost alone, this guide will point out the important considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best construction boots. The following selections are some of the top options in a variety of categories to suit most work environments.
- BEST OVERALL FOR WOMEN: Carhartt Women’s Rugged Flex 6 Inch Comp Toe CWF5355
- BEST OVERALL FOR MEN: Thorogood Men’s American Heritage 6″ Moc Toe
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Golden Fox Work Boots 6″ Men’s Moc Toe Wedge Boot
- BEST WOMEN’S INSULATED: Timberland PRO Women’s Hightower 6″ Composite Toe
- BEST MEN’S INSULATED: KEEN Utility Men’s Davenport 6″ Composite Toe
- BEST WOMEN’S STEEL TOE: Caterpillar Women’s Mae Steel Toe Waterproof Boot
- BEST MEN’S STEEL TOE: Timberland PRO Men’s 6″ Pit Boss Steel-Toe
What to Look for When Buying the Best Construction Boots
Many factors go into choosing the best construction boots. From style and materials to insulation and protection, there’s a lot to know. This section will outline some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best construction boots for your particular job or trade.
One of the most important features of a pair of construction boots is the protection they provide the wearer. Toe protection comes in a couple of different forms, each with its pros and cons.
- No protection: Construction boots without toe protection are lightweight and very comfortable. These boots don’t provide any protection against falls or drops.
- Steel toe: Construction boots with steel toe protection have heavy-duty steel caps housing the toes. The steel is very heavy, but it does an excellent job of protecting the wearer’s toes. Steel conducts heat and electricity, so they won’t keep feet warm.
- Aluminum toe: For a lighter approach to toe protection, check out construction boots with aluminum toe caps. Aluminum does have a greater tendency to bend under force, but it still provides enough toe protection for construction work. Similar to steel, aluminum can chill toes.
- Composite or safety toe: Composite toe caps, or safety toes, can consist of several materials, including Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, and fiberglass. These materials are much lighter than steel or even aluminum, and they can offer a similar level of protection. Composite toes are less likely to pull heat from toes, and they don’t conduct electricity.
While choosing a boot style might seem like a preference, there are reasons why certain styles might work better than others.
Boot height certainly makes a difference when choosing the best construction boots. Higher boots can provide better ankle support, while lower boots can provide better mobility. Also, for specialized tradespeople like timber framers, linesmen, and tree cutters, higher boots provide the ability to wear climbing spikes—also known as gaffs—without unnecessary discomfort. Some taller boots even slide over work pants, keeping them out of the mud and muck when necessary.
Hiking-style construction boots have become more popular in recent years because they provide an excellent blend of comfort, mobility, and protection. Construction workers who have to cover a lot of ground in one day might prefer hiking-style construction boots.
The materials used to construct the upper part of the boot are worth considering, and they have a lot to do with functionality. Oil-treated, full-grain leather boots offer a lot of protection against abrasions, punctures, and even water, but they aren’t always suitable in hotter temperatures as they can trap heat. Highly breathable materials like mesh and nylon are excellent for hotter months, but they might do a poor job of protecting feet against wet situations. However, they do dry out quickly when placed on a boot dryer.
Looking for construction boots with a solid blend of these materials is the way to go. Combining leather, moisture-wicking liners, waterproofing treatments, and more can make a particular pair the best construction boots for a given situation.
The soles of construction boots consist of several layers, each with its own purpose and common materials.
- Outsole: The outsole is the part of the boot that contacts the ground. Generally speaking, construction outsoles are rubber or polyurethane, both of which allow flexibility, insulate against shocks, and provide plenty of grip.
- Midsole: Most midsoles are synthetic foams made from ethylene-vinyl acetate or polyurethane. The midsole’s function is to provide comfort and shock absorption, and foam is durable enough for everyday wear.
- Shank: A shank is a thin piece of material sandwiched between the layers of the midsole and outsole or the midsole and insole. Most high-quality boots and shoes feature shanks, as their purpose is to provide support. While shanks are most commonly metal in construction boots, this can cause an electrical hazard, so composite shanks are also common.
- Insole: The insole is the thin material inside the boots on which the feet rest. Insoles are almost always foam, and there are plenty of aftermarket options with which you can replace them for better comfort.
You also might want to consider how the sole attaches to the upper. In general, work boots use either a glued or cemented process to attach the soles to the upper—or another process called welt construction. Glued soles, as the name suggests, attach with glue and possibly some stitching. Goodyear welts, on the other hand, stitch the soles to the upper using a welt material—sometimes leather or synthetic—that surrounds the sole and the upper. When the soles of Goodyear welted boots wear out, they can be replaced by a cobbler, whereas glued soles are a lost cause (though they are lightweight while they last).
The projects don’t stop just because the temperature drops, but few situations can sap motivation or productivity like frozen feet. Well-insulated construction boots help retain body heat while keeping cold winds and air from sneaking in.
The amount of insulation in a boot is quantified in grams. In general, 200 to 400 grams of insulation paired with a warm pair of wool socks is enough to keep feet warm. When the temperatures really drop, there are boots with 1,000 grams of insulation that are sure to keep those toes cozy.
Keep in mind that metal toes can pull the heat from the wearer’s toes, so truly cold temperatures will either require extra insulation or a composite toe.
When it comes to choosing the best construction boots, weight is almost always a factor at some point. While protection and comfort should be the chief concerns, the lighter a pair of boots, the less likely they are to cause fatigue. Hiking-style work boots made with synthetic materials are generally the lightest options, with heavy-duty combinations of leather, rubber, insulation, and steel shanks and toes being the heaviest.
Size and Fit
While comfort can be subjective, finding the proper boot size and fit is an important factor in choosing the best construction boots. The wearer’s toes need to be under the toe cap to achieve any type of protection, but the boots shouldn’t be so snug that a pair of thick socks make them uncomfortable.
Generally speaking, boot manufacturers know this and construct the boots to standard sizing. However, construction boots do tend to have a little extra room in the toe cap to allow wearers to wiggle their toes and avoid both pain from accidents and blisters from rubbing on a rigid surface.
Safety Ratings and Requirements
Steel, aluminum, and composite toe boots must meet certain standards to be suitable for U.S.-based construction environments. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets these standards and requires that construction boots meet the common ASTM F2412 or F2413 safety standards. While these standards are extremely involved, the test certifies that boots meet (not an exhaustive list):
- Impact-resistance standards
- Compression-resistance standards
- Metatarsal protection standards
- Conduct standards to prevent static buildup
- Electric shock-resistance standards
- Chainsaw cut resistance
Individual workplaces might not require employees to wear particular boots, but these standards provide shoppers with a point of reference while picking out the best construction boots.
Our Top Picks
Choosing the best construction boots requires knowledge and attention to detail. To help eliminate some of the guesswork, these top picks feature some of the best construction boots on the market. There are boots for men and boots for women, as well as options for most scenarios, so it’s important to compare all the selections before making a decision.
When it comes to blending comfort, protection, and durability in construction boots for women, these Rugged Flex 6-Inch Comp Toe boots from Carhartt are worth checking out. These construction boots are constructed with Carhartt’s proprietary Rugged Flex glued rubber soles. They’re also oil- and slip-resistant, and they feature self-cleaning lugs for maintaining a grip when the conditions get rough.
The boots offer an oil-tanned leather upper with a reinforced heel for durability as well as an ASTM F2413-11 approved composite toe to help reduce weight. The composite toe also meets ASTM EH standards, providing protection against accidental contact with up to 18,000 volts of electricity. The moisture-wicking lining and polyurethane foam insole help keep these boots comfortable, while the speed-hook lacing system makes quick work of taking them on and off.
Men who are looking for traditional-styled construction boots that offer plenty of modern protection and features may want to consider Thorogood’s American Heritage 6-Inch Moc Toe boots. These full-grain leather boots feature a steel toe cap for protection against falling objects and compression. They also provide electrical hazard protection for up to 18,000 volts, meeting ASTM-2413-11 standards.
Thorogood uses its own MaxWear sole—made from a polyurethane compound—for added comfort, slip resistance, and durability. These boots feature Goodyear welt construction, further increasing the durability. They also boast a fiberglass shank for extra support, and the full-height laces feature three sets of speed hooks, making it easy to slip these boots on and off, even when wearing thick work socks.
Some construction boots can be downright expensive, and it’s not always due to high-end materials or construction techniques. The Golden Fox 6-Inch Men’s Moc Toe Work Boots prove it, offering many of the same features at a far lower price.
These moc toe boots feature water-repellent full-grain leather uppers for comfort and durability in addition to a moisture-wicking lining inside. The polyurethane wedge sole is tough and durable, while the steel shank provides a bit of extra stability. These boots use Goodyear construction for attaching the soles to the upper, meaning replacing the soles is an option, though it might cost just as much as buying another pair.
Keep in mind that these boots don’t provide any toe protection, which helps keep them lightweight and comfortable. Golden Fox does offer the same pair with a steel toe, available here.
When it comes to maintaining body heat in a pair of construction boots, moisture is the enemy. The Timberland PRO Women’s Hightower 6-Inch Composite Toe boots boast a waterproof full-grain leather upper with a waterproof, insulating membrane underneath, keeping feet warm inside and cold temperatures outside. If these boots end up being too warm, they also provide antimicrobial odor control.
These ankle-height construction boots feature all-weather thermoplastic urethane outsoles for added flexibility and comfort. The soles also offer an anti-fatigue technology to transfer energy back to the feet for all-day support. The boots meet ASTM-2413-11 standards, providing lightweight carbon-reinforced composite toe protection against drops and compression as well as protection against up to 18,000 volts of electricity.
KEEN Utility’s Men’s Davenport 6-Inch Composite Toe boots answer the call for construction boots made explicitly for colder weather. These hiking-style construction boots feature 400 grams of insulation, waterproof membranes, and the manufacturer’s Polar Traction rubber sole. Microscopic shards of glass that pierce icy surfaces are embedded throughout the soles to improve traction.
These construction boots provide both ASTM-F2412 and F-2413 certifications, so they’re rated for both static dissipation and electrical shocks up to 18,000 volts. They also offer removable insoles for customizing comfort and breathable membranes to help reduce sweat and moisture from building up inside the boots and stealing body heat.
The Caterpillar’s Women’s Mae Steel Toe Waterproof boots could be the option for women who are looking for hiking-style work boots with plenty of protection. These boots feature a waterproof full-grain leather upper and a cemented rubber sole that’s oil- and slip-resistant. They also offer a molded polyurethane midsole for added durability and comfort.
The boots meet ASTM F2413 standards, protecting wearers against electrical shocks up to 600 volts and falling objects or compression. They also boast a nylon mesh interior lining for breathability, and the removable footbed makes customizing the fit and comfort a straightforward process. These are available in three colors.
The Timberland’s PRO Men’s 6-Inch Pit Boss Steel Toe boots are all about comfort and protection. These boots offer steel toe protection and meet ASTM F2412 and F2413 standards, offering protection from falling objects, compression, and electrical shocks. They also feature TImberland’s 24/7 Comfort Suspension technology, which helps absorb shock and transfer energy back into the wearer’s feet.
The boots are constructed with 100 percent leather uppers as well as Timberland PRO’s own brand of rubber outsoles attached with Goodyear welts. They also boast nylon shock-diffusion plates within the soles, providing a bit of support and energy transfer. The insoles are removable as well, making these boots customizable for a better fit.
FAQs About Construction Boots
Even though you now know a bit more about the factors that go into choosing the best construction boots, you might still have some questions. This section is a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about construction boots, so be sure to check for an answer to your question here.
Q. Do you need steel toe boots for construction?
Some employers, particularly large contractors, might require their employees to wear boots that meet specific ASTM requirements for insurance purposes. That said, steel toe boots are not a requirement, and many contractors and tradespeople prefer not to wear them because they’re heavier than standards boots, and they provide less flexibility in the toe area.
Q. What is the difference between steel toe and composite toe boots?
Steel toe boots use metal caps to protect toes against falling objects and compression, while composite toe boots use materials such as Kevlar, fiberglass, plastic, or other man-made materials free from metal. Composite toe boots are lighter, but they’re not quite as strong as steel toe options.
Q. What is welt construction in boots?
The welt is an area of material on the outside of the sole where the upper meets the sole. Goodyear welt uses a specific technique that allows the soles to be replaced on boots when they wear down.
Q. How long do construction boots last?
While this question is too general to answer specifically, high-quality boots that are capable of being resoled can last years, while basic boots might only last six months. It depends on the surface you walk on, the types of environments they’re exposed to, and other factors.