Last Updated on November 1, 2021
Most modern men will own a pair of work boots. They are not only stylish with a pair of jeans, but when you are working hard on-site, they will look good and offer sufficient foot protection from falling elements when needed. Whether you are a carpenter, constructor, builder, or welder, you will need yourself a pair of work boots, and this article looks to make your job of choosing a pair easier than you thought it could be.
Not only will I detail 12 of the best work boots on the market, but I will also give you five high-quality tips that you can adhere to before committing to a pair yourself. So should you go steel toe or waterproof? Lace-up or pull on? Read on to find out.
5 Things to Consider before Buying Work Boots
1. Height Matters
When it comes to buying new work boots, you should be aware that three different types of heights are available. The below ankle boot offers the least amount of protection and typically works as casual wear because they are not hugely influential on site.
Then there is the ankle height boot which is the most common because it protects the foot and the ankle without being too restrictive. Most construction workers use the ankle boot.
Finally, there is the mid-calf boot. These boots are primarily waterproof and are ideal if you are going through muddy or wet terrain often. They also offer great protection but beware because they are a little more restrictive than other boot types.
As with the height options, there are three main application options available with work boots too. The most common of any application type is the lace-up. Typically lace-up boots have shoelaces and maybe even added ankle loops for extra support and tightness.
Note that lace-up boots are not the best in wet terrain or with water because they will usually let water in. So keep this in mind when you are choosing what you want. The second type of application type is the pull-on boot.
These boots will usually have no laces or zips, and because of this, they are the best type to choose if you work with water. The final application type is the zipper boot. These are typically the most versatile of the boots but have the least amount of wiggle room. Some zipper-type boots also have laces in case you need to adjust.
Depending on the type of boot that you choose or your intended use for the boot, choosing a fabric type can be crucial. As a general rule, the upper part and sole of a work boot will be made up of different fabrics.
For example, the top part of a boot could be made of leather, which is most common because it is so durable and can withstand the most wear and tear. Or it could be made of fabric, which is more breathable and lighter than leather but is not as sturdy. Or it could be made of rubber or PVC, which is typically the most waterproof of the three but not too comfortable due to its little give. My personal favorite type of fabric on a work shoe is a mix. This is because it makes the show more versatile in different areas.
The sole is typically made up of one of two materials, rubber or TPU. With rubber, it generally is slip-resistant and waterproof and can also be modified for safety. It is the most common of sole materials by far. The second sole material that is a little less common than rubber is TPU, or thermo-polyurethane. TPU is lighter than rubber, so is easier to wear but is still durable to chemicals and slip-resistant.
You get what you pay for; that will always be true. Depending on what you need your work boots for, you will need to be willing to spend some money. If you just want a casual pair of steel toe boots that you can wear with a pair of jeans, then $50 should take you where you need to go. However, if you will be consistently wearing your bots and want to get the most wear possible, some shoes could set you back $200-300.
5. Added Extras
There are a couple of added extras available to those who need them. Many work boots may already have some of these included, but it never hurts to check. For one, the shoes could be slip-resistant. This should honestly be a requirement with all work boots, but some are made without being slip-resistant.
Another added extra is if the boots are waterproof. Waterproof boots are most commonly mid-calf boots with no laces or zips so that they can be more limited than others; in saying that, if you are going to be working around water, then it is a no-brainer that you should be sure that the boots are waterproof.
The final extra that one should be on specific alert for is the toe protection that the boot has. Any reputable work boot should have some toe protection and should be able to protect your feet from falling or heavy objects. Three types of materials will help to protect your toes. The first is the steel toe.
This protection is the most popular because steel-toed boots are sturdy and will ensure protection from falling objects. One thing to note is to make sure that the shoe’s fit is correct because the surface area at the top might be a little smaller, thanks to the steel.
A second material that is used to protect workers from toe damage is alloy. These toe protectors are commonly made of lighter metals like aluminum and can cause the show to be a little more expensive. The final type of toe protection is composite toe protection. This will usually be a combination of makeshift non-metal materials like carbon fiber or plastic. They are lighter than steel-toed boots but do not offer the same level of protection.
1. CAT Men’s Threshold Waterproof Steel Toe Work Boots
At less than $100, I don’t think that you will be able to find a boot with more value than the CAT Thresholds. Their slip-resistant soles, waterproof material, and steel toe composition make them an excellent choice for anyone looking for a versatile work boot. Similarly, the midsole on the shoe is lightweight, and with hazard protection of up to 600 volts, you get full workplace protection, even in the most dangerous of scenarios. Hundreds of 5-star reviews suggest that this is one of the better boots to buy, and once you try on a pair, it is hard to disagree.
2. Iron Age IA5019 Groundbreaker Internal Met Guard Work Boots
Built with an internal metatarsal guard and a robust steel toe, wearing an Iron Age boor guarantees your entire foot will be kept secure. The rubber outsole is heat resistant, too, and with 100% natural leather construction, it may be a little heavier than other boots, but your foot will stay secure. They have electrical hazard protection capabilities, and the Vibram rubber sole also protects from water and oil slippages. Built for durability and costing only $120, it is hard to overlook these shoes, even if Iron Age is not as well known a brand as some of the others on the list.
3. Timberland Pro Hypercharge 6” Composite Toe Work Boots
Designed to put less pressure on your feet and back thanks to their ‘anti-fatigue’ technology, the Timberland Pro Hypercharge boots will give you years of comfort at an affordable price. The top of the boot is made with lightweight leather that is waterproof as well, and the padded tongue and collar add an extra layer of protection. The anti-fatigue footbed absorbs shock and geometrically shapes your foot to have as little an impact as possible. It means that even when you are working hard, your feet won’t be.
4. HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi Boot
One of the few work boots that are designed to look like sneakers but are still durable and offer protection, the olive green Ultra Hi’s by HOKA may just be what you have been looking for. Fitted with hiking laces, a mega grip sole that offers slip and oil resistance, waterproof material and leather overlays, the aim of the boot is not only to protect but to look good too. Delivery in the US is quite cheap, but the shoes are not, costing about $225; they will require a little bit of a splurge.
5. Caterpillar Men’s Second Shift Steel Toe Work Boots
Made with oiled leather and finished with a steel-capped toe and a slip-resistant (if heavy) outsole design. The Second Shift by Caterpillar is a fan favorite. The steel toe is ASTM compliant, which means that it won’t cause space issues at the top of the foot and with its electrical protection and slip resistance, it is a great choice for those working in construction. Its Nubuck leather does give the boot a bit of extra weight, but it is still comfortable to wear.
6. Red Wing Heritage Blacksmith
In my view, the heritage by Red Wing is the cleanest looking shoe on the list. Coming in at a cool $300, it will set you back a little, but known for its long-lasting quality, it is a show that will guarantee hundreds of wears without any issue. The boot is inspired by old work boots, where the local blacksmith would wear his work boots all day and shine them up to wear them at night. It is a direct play on the shoes’ versatility, and with its premium leather design, users can feel comfortable, protected, and stylish.
7. Red Wing 6-inch Mock Toe 405
For over 100 years, Red Wing has been providing signature work boots to all kinds of users. So it should not surprise people that I have included them again on the list. Coming in at $180, the 405 Mock Toes are reasonably priced compared to others on the list and with its waterproof and comfort-focused functionality, it becomes clear why Red Wing has been so popular for so long. These above the ankle boots do not have a steel toe, so beware of this, but its polyurethane sole helps make the boot slip-resistant to oils and water.
8. Hanwag Grunten Boots
Rugged, stylish, and tough, the Grunten boot by Hanwag is one of the more rough and ready options on the list. They are made with full-grain leather and are resoluble, meaning that they will shape accordingly to match your feet, making them a comfortable fit for anyone. Built to be sturdy and built to last, you will have to pay upwards of $200 for these boots, but their quality speaks for itself. If you want boots that will last years and keep your feet comfortable whether you are hiking or working on a construction site, then the Grunten’s are for you.
9. Timberland Pro Men’s 6” Pit Boss Steel Toe Boots
At only $115, buying the Timberland Pit Boss work boot gives you some of the best value of any boot on the market. Insulated for extra comfort and fitted with a polyurethane midsole, the boot looks to protect and prevent accidents. Not only that, but these boots have a favorite feature of mine in that they are made with military-grade moisture-wicking material that is capable of absorbing nearly four times its weight in moisture. The steel toe adds extra protection, and its work brown leather look is a favorite among buyers.
10. Danner Bull Run Work Boots
Both stylish and functional, the Bull Run boots by Danner are a fan favorite. With a comfortable OrthoLite footbed, your feet can be kept comfortable, and with its soft wedge sole and non-slip base, you can feel supported too. The main selling point for these shoes is that they offer protection for workers and are also good-looking boots that can be taken on a night out.
They are made with soft and inoffensive Nubuck leather, and with a hand-stitched American flag on the side, you know that you are getting a handmade product with your purchase. The boots will cost about $200, but you get what you pay for.