Some working men (and women, for that matter) are fortunate to have their employer supply protective work boots, saving them from the expense of having to purchase their own safety shoes. That’s not always a plus, however. An employer often offers just one choice of work footwear after a risk assessment determines that their work environment is hazardous. That can force workers to wear ill-fitting, uncomfortable footwear throughout the entire work day. And some employer-supplied ones really aren’t all that safe.
If you work for a company where you’re allowed to select your own work shoes or if you’re an independent worker – or if you’re someone who simply enjoys wearing a pair of work shoes on a daily basis – you have an enormous range of footwear to choose from. There are standard lace-up boot choices(most with toe cap protection, some with non-slip soles or extra support built in), rigger boots, safety wellingtons and sneakers, those designed to protect against special hazards like high or low temperatures, water or dangerous materials – the list goes on and on.
The best work boots for your situation will largely depend on the environment in which you plan to wear them. Those who only wear theirs at work and are primarily concerned with safety are probably willing to endure the heavier weight of steel toes or the awkward feeling some experience when wearing wellies. Those who prefer to wear their work shoes throughout the day and night will place more of a premium on comfort.
Our work boots reviews will give you a good choice of the most popular ones available particularly in the men’s category; we’ll run them all down once we go a bit more in-depth on the options available.
|Product Name||Shoe Width||Closure||Heel Type||Our Rating||Price|
|CAT Supremacy||D mens_us||Lace-Up||None||
|Dr. Marten’s Industrial 750||Regular||Lace-Up||None||
|Dickies Medway S3||Regular||Lace-Up||None||
|Lee Cooper 022 SB||Regular||Lace-Up||None||
|Blackrock Dealer Chelsea||Regular||Slip on||None||
|Dr. Marten’s Icon Holkham St||Regular||Lace-Up||1.25 cm block||
Your most important decision will between the many styles of safety boots on the market. The most popular are standard lace-up models, commonly worn in the construction industry and the type of footwear that is normally associated with the term “work boot.” It’s best to choose a model that meets EU safety standards, particularly if you work in a factory or other environment where the included features will provide important protection.
Steel toe caps and midsoles, non-slip soles and heels, and additional ankle support are excellent ways to guard against accidental incidents. There are also more modern alternatives like bulkier-but-lighter aluminum toe, or lightweight Kevlar or plastic composite toes and mid-sole supports which are actually better protection than metal in many ways.
The work you do can point you in the right direction when deciding on a work boot. If you’re a carpenter, for example, a foot plate that’s puncture resistant will be invaluable since you won’t have to worry about stepping on nails around the home you’re working on. The size of the heel can matter, especially if you have to climb ladders or steps. Extra support for your feet or ankles is desirable if you regularly lift heavy weights as part of your job. A Static dissipation boot is ideal for working around electrical components, an electrical hazard boot (without any conductive metal inside) is pretty much a necessity if you’re working around high voltages, and a non-slip boot is a great idea no matter what type of environment you’re in. Of course, you also need one that is waterproof.
The latter situations are where safety wellingtons can come in handy, since their rubber or PVC material make them waterproof and can be found with low-temperature thermal insulation, yet still feature solid toe and sole protection. They’re easy to put on, take off and clean, too.
Rigger boots are also somewhat popular, particularly at construction and other industrial sites, because not only are they waterproof but they also prevent material like concrete from slipping through the laces into the boot. Many employers have banned them because of their lack of strong ankle support. Once reserved for use on offshore oil rigs, they’re a shorter-length cross between lace-ups and wellies. Riggers are often chosen for their lighter weight and ease of use, since they can be slipped off quickly in the event they get caught in equipment.
Durability is crucial in determining the best work shoes; UK weather can tax footwear, as can the bulk of industrial and construction environments. Unfortunately, durability often goes hand-in-hand with weight because strong leather is naturally going to carry added heft.
The most durable work boot will feature a leather (or sometimes, synthetic) strip known as a welt, which firmly connects upper and lower soles. Great lighter-weight options include those with molten rubber soles (known as direct attached soles) which can be durable if manufactured well and are definitely more comfortable. The least-expensive manufacturing technique is known as the cement method, in which a lightweight sole is bonded to the rest of the boot with adhesive.
The last choice in that group provide the most comfort but are the least durable option, and probably best suited to everyday casual wear rather than situations where workers’ feet must endure a great deal of stress or strain. Other possibilities are safety trainers, sneakers or shoes, smarter-looking and lighter, but still built with some degree of protection for those who must occasionally visit work areas.
A final consideration in choosing a work boot is the required break-in period. Many of the more durable models on the market, particularly those fashioned from tough animal hide, can require a month or more before they’re fully broken in and feel comfortable.
With that out of the way, let’s look at our top ten choices.
This steel toe lace-up boot have a wonderful extra feature: a side zipper which allows you to remove and put on the boots without having to worry about the laces. The Supremacy has the durability you’d expect from a Caterpillar boot, made from full-grain animal hide that’s water resistant and a lightweight polyurethane sole with an anti-pierce rubber layer. The heel isn’t large but these work boots still provide a good grip due to their non-clog outsole, although they’re not the best choice in very slippery environments. The Supremacy boots have terrific ankle support, there’s extra internal padding and a membrane that wicks away moisture, and offer a good deal of comfort to the wearer. An excellent choice, and relatively lightweight for the waterproof, steel-toe, laced-up structure.
When you think of “Doc Martens” you think of comfort and the company’s Industrial 750 work boots are definitely comfortable, with no break-in period required even though they are steel-toe models. That’s because they’re part of the company’s “airwair” line with bouncing PVC soles that absorb shocks particularly well, a padded collar and tongue. These short-heeled, lace-up animal hide safety boots are chukka style with short tops and small heels. They are well-manufactured even though Dr. Marten’s has moved their operations to China, and should last a very long time even under heavy wear. They’re heat, petrol, oil and chemical resistant as well, and provide excellent grip though they’re a bit heavier than we expected. You get typical Dr. Marten’s quality and comfort with the 750s.
Titanium might not have been the best choice for the model name, since it makes you think these boots are inflexible – but they’re not. They’re quite comfortable with very little break-in time required, and the leather and gum rubber sole are definitely flexible. They are rather heavy due to their steel toe cap and midsole, but that makes them quite durable. The Titaniums are a no-heel model, and the anti-bacterial footbed and removable dual-density polyurethane insoles are nice touches. These DeWALTs are water-resistant and are excellent for everyday wear.
The Medway S3 lace-up boots are ideal for those with large, wide feet – because these are large, wide work boots. They’re also great for outdoor use because they’re virtually waterproof, with a cemented rubber outsole and an internal water-resistant membrane (manually waterproofing them to protect the seams is a great idea, though). The rest of the S3s are animal hide with steel toe caps and midsoles; there’s a small, energy-absorbent heel. Expect a break-in period before these boots are fully comfortable, but the wait is worth it.
We’ve already raved about Caterpillar boots, and the CAT Sheffields are another excellent choice in a price range lower than the Supremacy work boots we reviewed earlier. The leather isn’t quite as high-level, the soles are gum rubber rather than polyurethane and there’s no side zipper – but in most other respects, you’ll get the same CAT quality and durability in a comfortable work boot that’s quite reasonably-priced.
A wonderful choice for everyday wear, the SF02 boots are comfortable and tough, well-made and lightweight. They’re also the least-expensive choice on our list, but even at their low price you still get a steel toe, a protective steel midsole, and a shock-absorbent polyurethane double-density sole. The anti-slip soles do their job well, and while these Blackrocks are low-cut (just above the ankle) and don’t provide terrific ankle support, they have enough padding to prevent chafing. Sturdy, light and inexpensive, these aren’t our first choice for rigorous industrial environments and probably won’t last you for years, but they’re brilliant for regular wear.
The Blackrock’s SF08 safety boot is quite similar to the SF02s we just reviewed. The two major differences are that they’re wider and larger, with the top of the boot extending even a bit higher than would a normal lace-up work boot. That makes the SF08s heavier, but also gives the wearer much better ankle and lower leg support. Once again, these safety boots are sturdy but their cement method assembly means they likely won’t last as long as more expensive models (the SF08s cost more than the SF02s, but not by much).
Another inexpensive choice best suited to less-demanding work environments, these Lee Coopers are a cross between boots and trainers; in fact, at first glance you’d swear they were simply sneakers. But they’re actually comfortable lace-up, steel toe shoes which will give your feet a lot more protection than a set of trainers. There are no heels, and don’t expect it to be a particularly long-lasting pair of boots since the 022s are assembled from synthetic outer material and gum rubber soles. However, they’re strong (albeit not being waterproof), they have steel toe caps, they don’t cost much – and they look good.
Here’s one more set of work boots that won’t bust the budget, and again they’re from Blackrock. What makes the Chelsea boot unusual is that they’re riggers instead of slip-ons, with no laces; some may find that annoying but others will find them extremely convenient, particularly for uses like working around the garden and then popping back into the house on a regular basis. All of the other advantages and disadvantages of Blackrock safety boots that we’ve already discussed apply: steel toe caps and midsoles, leather uppers, sturdy construction for the shorter term – and a low cost.
People either like the look of Dr. Marten’s boots, or dislike it intensely. But even the haters will have to admit this is a great looking pair of Docs. The Holkam St boot has a higher-top than the chukka-style Industrial 750s discussed earlier, and have slightly bigger heels, so they provide more support and traction. They still have the same steel toe caps, bouncy sole comfort along with waterproof animal hide and PVC construction, and are an even better choice than the 750s for industrial work.
You’ve probably noticed that our list of the best work boots is weighted heavily toward waterproof lace-up animal hide models, and that’s because most of the sturdiest and extremely durable boots you can buy are of heavier, lace-up design. We’ve tried, though, to include a few alternatives for those who plan to wear their boots for everyday chores in the garden, for lighter work like making deliveries or serving in the culinary trades – or simply because they like to make a certain type of personal statement with their footwear.
Whatever your reason for choosing to wear work boots, you’ll want to find ones that provide the most comfort possible. And that’s the other key consideration we had in mind in determining our choices for the best safety boots; there’s no sense in purchasing an indestructible set of boots that make you feel like you’ve stepped into a bucket of concrete and let it harden.
With the specifics we’ve given you in our workout boot reviews, you’re ready to go out and find the perfect pair. So the time for thinking is over. It’s time to choose your boots and get to work.