In some professions, it's essential to protect your feet from potential hazards and injuries. Those professions include working in construction, carpentry, logging, or any job that requires you to work with heavy objects and dangerous tools. For such jobs, closed-toed shoes aren't only necessary, they must be heavy-duty work boots that can withstand a beating.
No matter the job you're required to do, a solid pair of work boots goes a long way in protecting your feet. We recommend Timberland PRO Men's Pit Boss Boot for its steel-toed protection and 100% leather durability.
Considerations when choosing work boots
Determine what type of work you will be doing. Welders, carpenters, and concrete workers all require different types of foot protection. They need their boots to protect against hot metal shrapnel, deter any potential puncture wounds, and to be waterproof with deep tread, respectively. In some instances, employers dictate what type of work boots to buy according to regulations provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Types of toe protection
There are three types of toe protection you'll most commonly see on work boots:
Steel-toed boots have been used for decades to protect against falling debris, construction materials, and dropped tools. They include a steel plate inside the toe box that protects the toes. But steel is heavy, and after a full day's work, the boots themselves can start to become cumbersome.
Aluminum-toed boots are lighter than steel-toed ones. They also have increased flexibility, which can be beneficial. The material may sound like it's weaker and less effective than steel, but it's not. Aluminum meets industry standards and regulations just like steel does.
Composite materials can be used to protect toes in work boots as well. They are combinations of special polymers and ceramic materials that imitate the strength of a steel-toed boot. Compared to the other two options, using composite materials for protection is a relatively new practice.
Boot construction refers to how the boot's body and sole are constructed and connected. Manufacturers use the following different methods to adhere the boot's two main parts together:
Cement refers to how the upper and lower parts of the shoe are glued together. An industrial-strength adhesive is used to "cement" the two parts together. It's a popular and inexpensive method, but as with most adhesives, the connection may degrade over time — then you must either try and repair them or purchase a new pair.
Molded boots use injection-mold technology. The upper part of the boot is held in a mold while the sole of the boot (in liquid form) is poured into the bottom of the mold. Once the boot has cooled and dried, it is one solid piece. There's no need for adhesive or stitching to hold the two parts together.
Goodyear welt refers to how the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company attaches soles to uppers using a complex stitching process and an additional leather strip called a "welt." This process lends strength and water-resistance to the boot. It's rather expensive, but it produces an exceptional pair of work boots that last a lot longer than those made with other construction processes.
Metatarsal guards are meant to protect the top of the foot. They can be added to a shoe as an extension of the tongue that reaches to the toe box for metatarsal protection.
Laces can increase the durability of work boots and make them last longer. For instance, there are waterproof laces that don't deteriorate as quickly as their counterparts. There are also Kevlar-based laces that resist heat and fire. Consider different laces if you have a job that may destroy the ones the boots come with.
Tread style is another way of protecting yourself. It has to do with the type of surface you do most of your work on. For a soft, earthy surface, purchase a tread style that bites into the dirt for best traction. If you work on a slick surface, choose slip-resistant treads to keep you steady and upright.
Work boot prices
Depending on the construction of the boot and what purposes you need it for, work boot prices range from $50 to $170. The average price lands somewhere near $100, so plan on spending at least that much for a durable pair of work boots.
Q. Are all work boots made of leather?
A. Most of them, yes. Leather is an extremely durable material that won't puncture or tear easily. There may be some that aren't 100% leather; check the construction method before purchasing to be sure.
Q. Will a work boot stretch out after wearing it?
A. No, not necessarily. As with any pair of shoes, they require a breaking-in period. After that period, the boot will not stretch or deform at all. Leather is flexible, but it holds its shape.
Work boots we recommend
Best of the best: Timberland PRO Men's Pit Boss Steel-Toe Boot
Our take: Stay comfortable, safe, and odor-free in this pair of work boots. They're for the everyday construction worker or for when you have a difficult outdoor project that you need protection for.
What we like: The uppers are 100% leather with a heat-resistant rubber sole. The boot has steel toes, protection from electrical hazards, and odor control.
What we dislike: Even after the breaking-in period, customers have reported the boots scrape the ankle in an uncomfortable way.
Best bang for your buck: EVER BOOTS Tank Men's Soft Toe Work Boots
Our take: Durability and stability is key when wearing this pair of boots. The shaft is about seven inches from the arch, which means the boot sits high up over the ankle.
What we like: The construction of the boot uses a Goodyear welt, which ensures it will last.
What we dislike: There's no steel or aluminum in the toe box to offer protection.
Choice 3: Carhartt Men's Composite Toe Boot
Our take: Carhartt enhances work boots with its Rugged Flex technology that moves and stretches with the foot during work hours. A rubber sole aids in absorbing shock, making these work boots essentials for any construction worker.
What we like: They are oil-resistant, slip-resistant, and chemical-resistant to complete the package.
What we dislike: Made with a cement construction, which isn't the best way for boots to be adhered.
Samantha Loomis is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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