Hazards vary from job to job, and the most appropriate work boots vary depending on the risks associated with a specific career. While the best work boots for women protect her feet from injury, they’re also designed to be comfortable, flexible, and provide ankle support. Quality work boots can be worn all day and you can rest assured that your feet can handle any mishaps that might happen on the job.
The best work boots offer secure footing, solid foot and leg support, and all-day comfort. If you’re in the market for a pair of work boots, read on to learn what to consider, and use these recommendations to help find the best work boots for your job and lifestyle.
- BEST OVERALL: Caterpillar Women’s Echo Waterproof Steel Toe Boot
- BEST FOR ELECTRICAL SAFETY: Caterpillar Women’s Mae Steel Toe Waterproof Boot
- BEST FOR FIRE: Haix Airpower XR2 EMS/Station Boots
- BEST FOR SPINNING BLADES: Viking Footwear Firefighter Chainsaw Waterproof Boot
- BEST PUNCTURE-RESISTANCE: FSI Avenger 6” Framer Steel Waterproof Work Boot
- BEST FOR HEAVY OBJECTS: Dr. Martens Women’s Maple Zip Steel Toe Industry Boot
- BEST FOR COLD WEATHER: Muck Boot Arctic Sport LI Extreme Winter Boot
- BEST FOR SLIP-RESISTANCE: Viking Footwear Mariner Kadett Slip-Resistant Boot
Protective Features of Women’s Work Boots
Not all boots are suitable for all types of work—some must protect the toes from dropped objects, while others need to keep the feet warm, to name a few. The best work boots for women feature different protective elements based on the woman’s career choice.
Some work boots feature an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) label, which includes the boot’s model number, production date, the gender the boot is designed for (F) or (M), an impact rating such as (I/75), which means the steel toe will hold up to an impact of 75 pounds.
Unfortunately, not all online sellers list ASTM numbers with their products, and not all boots come with ASTM numbers. If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a specific type of footwear for your occupation, you likely have to purchase work boots that are ASTM certified.
Working in a field where you’re likely to step on live wires requires a measure of protection against voltage traveling through the sole of the shoe. If safety from electrical shock is needed, when shopping for a work boot, look for the term, “Electrical Hazard Properties,” or “EH,” followed by the maximum amount of voltage resistance.
The voltage resistance will look similar to the following; “rated to protect against open circuits up to 600 volts in dry conditions.” Your employer should be able to tell you the amount of electrical resistance necessary for your line of work.
Explosions & Flammable Material
Women who work in careers such as Emergency Management Services (EMS) or women who serve as firefighters will need a boot that’s heat-resistant—one with a sole that won’t melt if she steps on hot coals or other smoldering items.
Women who work around potentially explosive materials, such as drivers delivering gasoline, will need electrically conductive or (CD) or static dissipative (SD) work boots that prevent the buildup of static electricity, which could lead to sparking and the risk of explosion. If this is the case, the exact type should be listed in a worker’s safety manual.
Operating saws near ground level, such as chainsaws or circular saws, increases the risk of cutting through a standard work boot, so if the worker handles this type of cutting equipment on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to have a pair of work boots that are cut-resistant. Chainsaw boots are reinforced with layers of cut-resistant fibers to protect against accidentally touching the foot with a running saw.
Molten Metal Protection
Work boots that are suitable for careers in molten metalworking, such as in a foundry where metals are heated to a liquid state, must protect the feet in the event some of the molten metal accidentally falls onto the boot. This type of boot often features a heat-resistant shield on the top of the boot that prevents the hot metal from burning through. The safety feature often appears on a boot as (MT), which stands for “metatarsal protection.”
Women in carpentry and construction jobs need work boots with reinforced soles that resist punctures in case they step on nails or other sharp items. This type of boot might have a thick, hard sole, or it may come with a puncture-resistant (PR) midsole that lies between a nonslip outer sole and the boot’s inner sole.
The time-honored steel toe is the gold standard for protecting the foot, and especially the toes, from injury when a heavy object drops on the work boot. Most steel-toe boots feature a steel shank that covers just the toes, while others feature an extended shank that also protects the arch of the foot from impact.
As mentioned above, protection from dropped heavy objects is listed on an ASTM label as an “I” followed by a number, such as (75), which denotes the maximum impact weight the steel will protect against. Some boots feature a newer composite toe material that also protects from impact but doesn’t weigh as much as steel, so the boot is lighter in weight.
Cold Weather Protection
For the best in cold protection, work boots should be both insulated and come with a water-resistant exterior. The downside to completely waterproof boots is that the feet tend to sweat and the moisture has no place to go. Some winter work boots feature waterproof material on the sides, back, and lower part of the boot but leave a ventilated panel along the top of the foot, which helps sweat dissipate.
Moisture and Slip Resistance
Rubber boots, reminiscent of rain boots, can either slip directly over the foot like other boots or might fit over a separate set of shoes or boots to keep the foot dry when walking in wet conditions. Rubber or other nonslip materials are helpful for keeping boot soles from becoming slippery on wet or icy pavement. In addition, treads with deeply textured soles offer added slip protection on ice and packed snow.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Work Boots for Women
Buying a good pair of work boots is both an investment money-wise and also in a woman’s safety and comfort. In addition to hazard type, keep the following factors in mind while shopping.
Durability is key for work boots, and the uppers of many pairs come in full grain leather, which offers support and a measure of water-resistance. Note that leather boots can feel quite stiff at first and might require a 2- to 3-week break-in period before they’re comfortable enough to wear for an extended time.
Boots are sometimes constructed with nylon uppers for breathability, neoprene, or rubber, a key material for soles due to its slip-proof quality. Many boots combine a variety of materials to create a durable boot that wicks away sweat and offers slip protection.
Since work boots are designed to wear for as long as 8 to 10 hours at a stretch, they should be comfortable. The heel should not slide up and down in the boot, which is a sign they’re too big and might cause blisters. The toes should not touch the ends of the boot but rather be about 1 inch away. It can be difficult to tell how close toes are to the ends with steel-toe boots because you can’t compress the toe with your fingers. Squatting down while wearing the boots will cause your foot to bend and push forward—if the toes still don’t touch, it’s a good sign.
In addition, the sides of the boots should be snug but not uncomfortable, and the foot should not slide forward when walking, but should remain in one place within the boot. When shopping online for work boots, be sure to check for a size chart.
Expect a new pair of work boots to provide less than optimal comfort at first if the uppers are made from thick leather. In time, leather boots soften and form to the shape of your ankles and feet, and they might actually become the most comfortable boots you’ve ever worn. As long as they meet the criteria listed above in ‘Fit’, don’t worry too much if the leather uppers seem a bit stiff when trying to bend at the ankles.
If your feet tend to become fatigued upon standing, a padded insole might provide the comfort and support you need to wear them for an entire work shift.
The sole of the boot determines whether it offers a degree of flexibility, and if the sole is completely rigid, it’s unlikely to loosen up with wear. Flexibility at the ball of the foot helps the foot take a more natural step and reduces standing and walking fatigue. Try the new boots out by walking around, paying special attention to whether the sole flexes when walking.
Our Top Picks
The following women’s work boots offer protection for a variety of foot hazards, should prove easy to break in, and feel comfortable.
The Caterpillar Women’s Echo Waterproof Steel Toe Work Boot comes from a national manufacturer of heavy construction equipment and the clothing and footwear necessary for keeping workers safe. This Caterpillar boot comes in either Frost Grey or Marlin (blue) and in a variety of women’s widths and sizes ranging from 5 to 11.
Quality leather makes up the upper part of the boot and a rubber sole provides nonslip protection in wet or icy conditions. The boot features traditional laces and a nylon mesh lining that’s designed to help sweat dissipate while cushioning the foot and ankle. The steel toe is rated to take an impact up to 75 pounds, making this a good boot for women who work in the construction or warehouse industries.
Women who work around live wires or other sources of electricity should consider the electrical hazard protection of the Caterpillar Women’s Mae Steel Toe Work Boot. The mid-rise uppers are made from full grain leather and the rubber soles give the wearer traction on slippery surfaces. These waterproof boots also come with a steel toe that will withstand up to 75 pounds of impact and an interior with cushioned, nylon mesh lining for comfort.
This lace-up work boot is a good choice for many industries, but especially for women who work around electrical circuits. The boots will protect the wearer from up to 600 volts in dry conditions, such as those encountered by HVAC repairwomen and electricians.
First responders should consider the Haix Airpower XR2 EMS/Station Boots if they’re looking for extra-durable soles that won’t melt when they come into contact with hot embers or other smoldering material. The boots are certified for use by EMS responders by the National Fire Protection Association and are designed to protect against electrical hazards as well. The nonslip rubber soles should not degrade if they come into contact with fuel or oil, which can be a problem for some boot soles.
The Haix boots come with a front zipper for quick slip-ons and the uppers are made from soft and supple leather. The Airpower XR2 EMS/Station Boots come in a variety of widths and sizes from 9 to 13.
The Viking Footwear Firefighter Chainsaw Boots are designed to protect your feet and lower legs from accidental saw kickback. These sunny yellow rubber boots are reinforced with multiple layers of polyaramide, which is designed to keep a spinning blade from ripping through the boot’s surface so you can trim or fell trees without the added worry of saw kickback.
The uppers of the Viking Footwear boot are 16 inches tall for optimum calf and shin protection and they feature metatarsal (top of foot) impact protection. They pull on easily with two upper handles and the solid rubber outsole offers traction even on slippery surfaces. The Viking boots also feature support in the ankle area for stability and are a good choice for lumberworkers, arborists, or anyone who wants a cut-resistant full-length boot.
The Firefighter Chainsaw Waterproof Boot is available in eight sizes, from 7 to 14. Be sure to pair these boots with other cut-resistant clothing before operating a chainsaw.
Women who work around boards with nails or other sharp objects can benefit from the FSI Avenger Waterproof Leather Safety Work Boots. The boots feature a reinforced midsole designed to reduce the risk of step-on punctures. The slip-resistant boot also includes a composite safety toe that protects against impact, but is one-third lighter in weight than steel-toed boots.
The leather uppers on the FSI Avenger have insulation to help keep feet warm in cold weather and the boots also offer protection from electrical circuits, making these boots a good all-season choice for women who work in the construction, agricultural, or virtually any other industry where there’s a risk of stepping on nails or sharp objects. The boots are available in a variety of widths and sizes from 6 to 11.
From a manufacturer known for comfort footwear, comes the Dr. Martens Women’s Maple Zip Steel Toe Industry Boot, featuring an internal steel toe cap to protect the wearer from impacts up to 75 pounds. The uppers feature industrial tumbled leather for comfort and durability, and the boots have a SoftWair sock liner that offers added heel cushioning and wicks moisture away to help keep feet dry. The lining is infused with antimicrobial properties to help keep feet healthy, and the boot comes with an air-cushioned PVC outsole for slip-resistance.
These Dr. Martens work boots are great for protecting the foot from heavy objects, plus they’re designed with long-wearing comfort in mind. Available in seven sizes, from 5 to 11, you also have the choice between black, olive, and teak shades.
For working outdoors in cold temperatures, it’s hard to beat the Muck Boot Arctic Sport LI Women’s Winter Boot. The sole and lower half of the uppers feature high-grade rubber to keep water and snow out, with a 100 percent waterproof design. The top half of the upper comes in neoprene to provide flexibility and comfort.
The Muck boots feature a comfort insole and fleece lining that is soft and warm, suitable for temperatures as cold as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The 16-inch height of the uppers helps keep snow and cold air out and pant legs can be tucked inside the boots for added warmth. The Muck Boots also feature insole support and a slip-resistant sole, making these boots a good option for women who spend a lot of time outdoors in frigid temps.
Note that these winter work boots do not feature a steel toe, and are not designed to protect from impact. The Arctic Sport Ll Extreme Winter Boot is available in seven sizes, from 5 to 11, with six stylish designs to choose from.
Calling all deckhands: The Mariner Kadett Slip-Resistant Boots are highly effective at keeping workers from slipping and falling on wet surfaces. The boots are made from rubber on both the uppers and the soles and they come with a polyester lining for breathability. The Mariner Kadett includes an orthopedic insole insert to help support the arch of the foot that women can remove if desired.
These slip-resistant work boots are available in 12 sizes, ranging from 3 to 14, so they’ll accommodate many women’s feet. They’re a solid option for women who work on fishing boats or in any other industry that brings them into frequent contact with wet surfaces. The boots are not designed for impact resistance.
FAQs About Your New Work Boots
It’s common for first-time work boot buyers to have some questions about how the boots are supposed to fit and perform. Find answers to common questions below.
Q. How should women’s work boots fit?
Correctly fitted boots should be snug enough to keep the foot from sliding forward, but not so tight that they cut off circulation. The best work boots for women will also flex slightly at the ball of the foot for added walking comfort.
Q. How can you make work boots more comfortable?
Leather boots sometimes require a break-in period, during which they naturally stretch and adapt to the shape of the foot. If possible, wear a new pair of work boots for about an hour each day and in a couple of weeks, they should be more comfortable.
Q. What socks do you wear with women’s work boots?
Socks made from wool and synthetic blends will keep feet comfortable in boots during cold weather and if you’re on your feet for most of the work day, consider wearing socks that have cushioning on the bottom.