Shopping for a new pair of work boots can be a challenge. A boot may look good, but if it doesn’t wear comfortably throughout a full workday, it’s no good at all. However, it is possible to recognize quality boots just by looking at them—you just need to know what to look for.
The best work boots for men incorporate durable materials, a simple design, and sturdy construction. Full-grain leather uppers are the standard for quality boots. Top-grain leather, genuine leather, and nylon are found in less-durable boots.
This guide highlights several outstanding work boots that wear well and are safety-proven. Read on to find the best work boots for your needs with the help of this list of top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Wolverine Men’s Raider 6″ Work Boot
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Caterpillar Men’s Outline ST Work Boot
- UPGRADE PICK: Timberland PRO Men’s Direct Attach Work Boot
- BEST STEEL TOE: Thorogood American Heritage Safety Toe Boot
- BEST WATERPROOF: KEEN Men’s Utility Lansing Waterproof Boot
- BEST PULL-ON: Ariat Men’s Groundbreaker Wide Square Toe Workboot
- BEST COLD WEATHER: Carhartt Men’s Waterproof Insulated PAC Boot
- BEST ELECTRICAL: Irish Setter Men’s Wingshooter ST-83632 Work Boot
Types of Work Boots
Work boots are designed to provide support and comfort and to protect the wearer from a variety of hazards within the work environment. Different work environments offer different challenges. If you aren’t sure which type of work boot you need, read on to learn more about safety toes, electrical protection, slip resistance, and more.
One of the most common safety features of work boots is steel or composite safety toes. A steel-toe boot incorporates a protective steel-toe cup into the boot’s construction. Steel-toe work boots are designed to protect the foot from falling objects, compression, cuts, burns, and punctures. They can be rated for electrical hazard protection but are not recommended for workplaces where metal detectors are used. A steel toe cannot completely eliminate these injuries but make it far less likely for them to happen. Steel toes provide better protection than composite toes because they withstand higher impact. They also cost less.
Composite-toe boots are built to give protection similar to steel-toe boots but use nonmetal material for the rigid safety toe cup. Various materials such as fiberglass, Kevlar, plastic, and carbon fiber are commonly used. These boots are a good choice for worksites that use metal detectors. Because they offer better electrical resistance, they also are popular for engineers and electricians.
Soft-toe work boots provide no additional protection in the toe area. The lack of the boxy safety toe gives the boot more flexibility and comfort, plus they can weigh less. Soft-toe boots are a good choice for those who work in low-hazard environments but still need good foot support, balance, ankle support, and other features that are provided by a work boot.
Those who spend a significant amount of time in wet environments appreciate the ability to keep their feet dry. While they cannot keep every drop of water out, waterproof boots are built with advanced materials and designs that help keep feet dry in soggy environments.
Waterproof work boots incorporate a waterproof, breathable fabric liner inside the upper. The liner allows excess moisture to evaporate out of the confines of the boot but does not allow liquid water to penetrate from the outside in. The tongue of a waterproof boot should be gusseted, meaning that it is connected to the upper along the sides to keep the water out.
The outer surface of the boot may be fully leather, a combination of leather and synthetic material, or fully synthetic. Synthetics are not susceptible to water damage. Leather components are treated with a chemical that makes water bead up and roll off, protecting the leather from damage.
Work boots may incorporate any number of comfort and safety features. The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) is a third-party organization that certifies work boots for safety, based on testing standards. Test categories include impact and compression resistance, electrical hazard resistance, slip resistance, puncture resistance, and metatarsal resistance against punctures, impacts, and pressure points on the bottom of the foot.
ASTM ratings give shoppers peace of mind that products actually do what they claim. Many employers require employees to wear protective boots with specific ratings.
Slip-resistant work boots are made with rubberized soles and a tread pattern that maximizes grip. Shoes that pass ASTM International F1677 slip-resistance standards have been proved to perform well on a variety of dry, wet, and oily surfaces. These boots are an important safety feature for anyone who works where water, oil, grease, or other liquids could be on the floor.
Electrical-hazard (EH) work boots are made with nonconductive, electrical-shock-resistant soles and heels. They provide the wearer protection up to 600 volts in a dry setting. Boots that have earned an ASTM EH designation have been proved successful in testing for protection against electrocution.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Work Boots for Men
When shopping for work boots, first consider the hazards of your work environment to determine the type of boot you’ll need. Then it comes down to a matter of materials, style, and fit. Continue reading to learn more about the qualities of a comfortable, long-lasting work boot.
Work-boot uppers were traditionally made of leather but now often incorporate synthetic materials. Leather is an excellent material for most work environments, and many consider the comfort of leather to be the best. Leather has a near-indefinite life span, if cleaned and oiled regularly. It is easy to clean and easy to waterproof. However, the breathability of leather, especially when waterproof, can be less than ideal.
Synthetic materials, including polyester, nylon, Kevlar, and others offer qualities that leather does not. Their greatest benefits are that they are more lightweight and more breathable than leather. But synthetic materials have a more limited life span, up to two or three years at most, after which the fabric wears out.
Along with the upper, the construction of footwear includes the insole, midsole, shank, outsole, and liner. The materials used in each of these components has an effect on the overall performance of the boot.
The insole of the boot, sometimes called the footbed, lies directly beneath your feet. It is responsible for added cushioning and moisture management. Insoles can be removable and are available separately. This helps with a variety of issues from therapeutic needs to odor control, so you are not committed to the insole that comes with the boot.
The midsole is the top surface of the boot sole that lies directly beneath the removable insole. Its job is to provide a balance of cushion and support. The two most common materials used for midsoles are polyurethane (PU) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). PU offers high resiliency. It does not flatten or compress with wear, making it highly durable, but it is heavier and more expensive than EVA. EVA provides good shock absorption and cushioning. It is very lightweight, but it does compress with use, so it eventually loses its cushioning and support.
Work boots often incorporate a shank within the sole. It is a long, thin piece of material that supports and protects the foot and can help to provide structure. Shanks may be made of steel, Kevlar, nylon, fiberglass, and other rigid materials. Shanks also can provide protection against punctures from beneath (like stepping on a nail) and support the foot while standing and walking on uneven surfaces or standing on ladders for an extended time.
Most work boots are made with rubber, PU, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) outsoles. The outsole is the part that touches the ground when you walk. PU is considered the best all-around material for boot soles. It is lightweight, slip-resistant, durable, and widely used throughout the footwear industry. Rubber and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) outsoles provide resistance to chemicals, oil, electricity, and high temperatures.
Boot lining can be used to provide waterproof protection, insulation, or abrasion resistance. Lined boots may help to prevent smells and rashes associated with the growth of bacteria and fungi in the warm, moist environment of the boot interior. Leather boots may or may not be lined, but synthetic and combination leather/synthetic boots generally are. Look for boots with Microban, Agion, and Microban AEGIS technology to help fight microbial growth.
Insoles are responsible for cushioning. Really good work boot manufacturers pay close attention to this important detail and provide durable cushioned insoles. But this is where many mid-price-range boots are lacking, as the factory insole is often little more than a thin foam liner. The good news is that insoles are removable and replaceable. The boot may come with a decent insole, but if it wears out, you can replace it. Or, if you just cannot find a boot with good insoles that otherwise works, you can buy a set of insoles separately.
Another common work boot feature is ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), a synthetic polymer similar to rubber, which gives insoles shock resistance. Both cemented (direct-attached) and stitched (welted) soles offer comfort and durability.
Support is the inherent requirement of a good work boot. It is the boot’s ability to reduce the natural inward twisting motion of the foot and ankle, called pronation. To provide good support, the boot should have a stiff midsole and a strong heel counter that locks the foot in place and keeps it from twisting. The height of the boot helps to protect the ankle from rolling on uneven terrain.
Working in a cold climate means insulated boots are a necessity. Insulated boots are built with a layer of synthetic fiber between the outer surface and the liner that traps air molecules inside. While it can be breathable, it is able to block out the entrance of cold air from the outside and prevent heat from escaping the inside of the boot.
The amount of insulation in an insulated boot is described in grams. The best insulated boots for cool fall temperatures are made with about 800 grams of insulation, which keeps the feet comfortable to between 30 and 40 degrees. Boots with 1,200 grams of insulation are suitable for temperatures below 30 degrees. The heaviest insulation, 2,000 grams, is good for extreme cold, below 0 degrees, but is more bulky and restrictive.
Size and Fit
A good fit ensures the best cushioning and support without causing blisters or bruises. Test the boots with the socks you will wear with the work boots. There should be about a half-inch of free space between the toe and the front of the boot before lacing up. The heel should not slip or rub against the back of the boot. The sides should not feel tight pressure. Toes should not slide forward while walking.
Weight and Balance
If you’re on your feet all day, a lightweight boot will sap less of your energy. But the lightest boots may not be durable under rough conditions, so it is important to consider the weight factor in light of your other needs. If the boot cushions and protects the footwell and provides excellent support, you may not notice a few extra ounces. But a lightweight boot that allows your foot to twist and turn or feel every rock on the job site, simply won’t help you get the job done. A sturdy midsole that contours to the foot is the key to strength and support.
Our Top Picks
This list features some of the best work boots for men while taking into account quality, comfort, durability, and safety features. Each product is a top performer in its category.
The Wolverine Men’s Raider Work Boot is a great all-around boot for those who work in environments where steel-toe protection is not required. The upper is made of premium full-grain leather. The lining is made with a moisture-managing mesh layer. A full cushion insole plus PU midsole provides all-day comfort. Comfort welt construction bonds the upper to the sole for superior durability and flexibility. The rubber lug outsole is slip-, oil-, and abrasion-resistant.
Overall, this boot boasts great brand reputation, high-quality materials, durability, comfort, and basic safety. It does not have a steel or composite safety toe, and it is not a waterproof boot. After the initial break-in period, users can extend the life of the leather by treating it periodically with leather conditioner or boot oil.
The Caterpillar Men’s Outline ST Work Boot is made with premium full-grain leather. It comes with several safety features, including a steel toe, electrical hazard protection, and slip resistance for all-day protection. The speed lacing system is fast, snug, and convenient. This boot is available in five colors: Black, Dark Gull Gray, Seal Brown, Honey Reset, and Honey.
The ASTM rating (F2413-11 I/75 C/75) for the steel toe means it will protect against impact and compression. The built-in electrical hazard protection is rated ASTM F2413-05 1/75 EH to protect against open circuits up to 600 volts in dry conditions. The T1260 rubber provides slip-resistance on low-friction surfaces. The Caterpillar Men’s Outline ST Work Boot includes a nylon-mesh lining with microfiber and a removable EVA footbed for greater comfort.
The Timberland PRO Work Boot is built for standing and working long days in a variety of weather. These boots are made with waterproof leather and seam-sealed during manufacturing. They incorporate a layer of 400-gram Thermolite insulation for added warmth, and they are lined with antimicrobial mesh for breathability and odor control. Direct-attach soles mold to the shape of the foot. The open-cell polyurethane footbed, lightweight thermal plastic midsole, nylon shock diffusion plate, and thick nonmarking rubber outsole provide outstanding cushioning, flexibility, and stability. The steel safety toe resists compression and impact. An 8-inch upper gives proper ankle support.
This is an excellent outdoor work boot for cold weather. It offers safety protections in a steel toe plus an antislip sole while providing loads of comfort.
The Thorogood American Heritage Safety Toe Boot is a rugged and attractive boot with a moc-toe style that is as suitable for the office as the shop floor. Full-grain tobacco oil-tanned leather allows the feet to breathe. A removable ultimate shock absorption footbed on a PORON comfort-cushion insole provides incredible comfort for long days standing and walking on hard floors. The steel toe and slip-resistant MAXWear wedge outsole increases the safety of the workplace. Durable Goodyear storm welt construction creates a strong and long-lasting boot that will hold up for years of dependable wear.
This boot is nonwaterproof and unlined. It is comfortable, highly functional, and ultra-durable for indoor work and occasional outdoor work in fair weather. It’s an excellent choice for warehouse and shop workers. Sizes tend to run narrow. The tough full-grain leather may have a longer break-in period than some other boots.
Keen Men’s Utility Lansing work boots are lightweight, waterproof, and breathable for long days outdoors in all kinds of weather. A proprietary membrane built into the lining of the leather upper keeps feet dry while allowing excess heat and moisture to escape. A removable dual-density EVA footbed, compression-molded EVA midsole, and TPU shank provide the right combination of cushion and support for lasting comfort. The asymmetrical left and right steel safety toes fit better than standard steel toes, allowing for a greater range of motion.
These boots also are loaded with safety features. The safety toe is ASTM-rated for protection against impacts and compression. The outsole is rated for nonslip standards, plus puncture resistance, metatarsal resistance, and electrical hazard protection. The boot is covered from heel to toe with highly reflective webbing for greater visibility.
The Ariat Men’s Groundbreaker pull-on work boot is made of full-grain leather around the foot, with a suede upper. These boots feature a four-layer footbed for cushioning, a lightweight shank for support, and a Duratread outsole for grip and maximum wear resistance. The extra-comfortable insole provides excellent cushioning with high rebound. The heavy-duty rubber sole is oil- and slip-resistant.
Ariat boots were founded to provide superior boots for equestrian athletes. This is a basic, dependable soft-toe boot that is not waterproof. It is a great choice for those working indoors or outdoors in fair weather. The benefit of pull-on boots is that they are fast and easy to change, which makes them popular for a wide range of activities. The Groundbreaker is also available with a steel toe and waterproofing, which would expand its function for other occupations.
The Carhartt Men’s Waterproof Insulated PAC Boot is made of oil-tanned, polyurethane-coated leather with a waterproof, breathable liner for superior protection against snowmelt and standing water. Superior insulation provides added warmth. A nonmetallic composite safety toe protects against impacts and compression without making the boot feel cold. The TPU heel guard with Achilles flex joint provides ankle stability as well as side-impact and heel protection.
These boots are designed to be completely waterproof and are insulated to keep feet warm and dry in most cold, wet conditions. They are ASTM-rated for safety toe and electrical hazard standards.
The Irish Setter Wingshooter Work Boot is made with waterproof full-grain leather uppers and welted rubber soles for daily comfort and long-term durability. Built-in safety features include a nonmetallic composite safety toe and electrical hazard protection that meet ASTM safety standards. The heat- and slip-resistant wedge-shaped sole is made with rubber EVA traction tread for a steady grip.
These boots are built for superior comfort and support on the job. They are made with pliable leather for a quick break-in period. The thick wedge-shaped sole, lightweight insole, and polyurethane footbed provide a comfortable amount of cushion and a high level of stability. The waterproof leather upper combined with a moisture-managing liner keeps water out and wicks excess moisture away from the feet. This is an excellent general-purpose outdoor work boot for all but the coldest days.
FAQs About Your New Work Boots
A pair of quality work boots is an investment in your health, safety, and comfort that can help you be more productive at work and less fatigued at the end of the day. Get the most from your investment by taking care of your boots. Read on for a few helpful tips.
Q. How long does it take to break in your boots?
It takes two to three weeks, or up to 100 hours of wear, to break in a new pair of boots. During the break-in period, apply boot oil to the areas of the boot that need a little stretch, like the vamp/toe area, but not to the areas that provide support, such as the ankle.
Q. How do you maintain your work boots?
When boots get dirty, clean them with a nylon brush and water-based cleaner. Apply leather conditioner periodically to keep leather parts supple. Loosen the laces, spread the opening, and allow them to dry thoroughly after wear. Eliminate any odors by sprinkling the insides with baking soda and letting them sit overnight.
Q. How long does a pair of work boots last?
Depending on the work environment, the life span of a pair of work boots averages between six and 12 months. Long hours in wet, muddy, rocky, and other harsh environments may wear them down faster.