In this Guide
When it comes to finding a perfect pair of work boots, there are all manner of criteria to consider. You have to find something rugged enough to wear all day, every day without falling apart. You have to choose something with great traction to keep you from falling over or getting into danger. Oh, and you need your work boots to stay comfortable all through your shift!
That’s a lot to ask of a single pair of boots, and we haven’t even looked at things like steel toes or waterproofing yet! We know there are a lot of shockingly bad work boots out there, but with hundreds of options, it gets hard to tell which ones have the grit and support you need to get you
That’s why we’ve come up with this guide! Our shoe experts have put their heads together to compile a list of the best work boots for men and women, for any job! On this page, you’ll find our in-depth reviews of the best men’s, women’s, and unisex pairs on the market today.
We also have some more specific guides for things like winter boots and boots to wear on concrete. You can find links to those at the bottom of the page.
Let’s have a look at our all-time favorites to get you started!
Best For Men
- Rating: 4.4
- Reviews: 277
- Rating: 4.4
- Reviews: 218
Best for Women
- Rating: 4.7
- Reviews: 32
Best Men’s And Women’s Work Boot Reviews
- Carhartt Men’s 6” Composite Boot
- Timberland PRO Men’s Pitboss 6” Steel-Toe Boot
- Keen Utility Men’s Milwaukee Wide Steel-Toe Work Boot
- Keen Utility Women’s Detroit Mid Steel-Toe Work Boot
- Keen Utility Women’s Atlanta Cool ESD Steel-Toe Work Shoe
- Keen Utility Women’s Salem Mid Steel-Toe Work Boot
- The Original Muck Boots Adult Chore Steel-Toe Work Boot
1. Carhartt Men’s CMF6366 6 Inch Composite Toe Boot
These 6” work boots from Carhartt are something of a revelation from a company that hasn’t traditionally made footwear. They’re a fantastic, affordable pair of shoes that we think are ideal for any workers who can’t spend a fortune, but still need to stay comfortable and protected.
Safety rating: ASTM 2413-11 EH
The uppers are 100% leather. Unlike a lot of other $100 and under work boots, none of the leather feels cheap or less than excellent. Buyers were extremely impressed with the construction quality out of the box, and said that while there’s a break-in period like you have with any other leather boots, these are very soft and comfortable after a few days!
One benefit of having the upper and the internal liner made entirely from leather is that these are actually quite breathable. They stay much cooler in the summer than boots made with synthetic materials!
We especially like the “rugged flex” seams on this model. They allow a lot of movement, whether you’re on a ladder or bending over, without the boots feeling constrictive or breaking a stitch! The stitch work is one of the highlights for us, since many other models at this price have poor, easy-to-tear stitches.
There’s an all-rubber sole for traction and impact absorption. It’s naturally non-conducive, so it’s safe for electricians and anyone else who needs protection against electrical hazards.
They have a lightweight composite toe instead of a steel toe. It offers comparable protection, and is certified to the most recent safety grading, but we really like how much lighter these feel in general!
They’re very durable. After months and even after a year of wear, most buyers said their boots were holding up just fine! Many found that they could get 1.5-2 years out of each pair, which is very impressive!
There’s lots of cushioning, thanks to an EVA midsole and an Ortholite insole on top. Electricians and other maintenance workers standing on their feet for long shifts said these were fantastic, even after months of wear. They’re even comfortable on concrete floors, where other boots can’t absorb enough of the impact to protect your feet!
The soles are much hardier than a lot of the competition. We couldn’t find any complaints about them wearing out or coming apart from the upper, which is definitely not the case with other boots at this price!
Even though they’re not technically waterproof, reviewers found that they were actually very water-resistant, so they didn’t have many complaints about water.
They’re affordable–you can usually find them for around $100, which is a steal for professional-grade work boots. Given how long they last, it’s an even better deal.
You might want a bit more cushioning. Most reviewers were entirely satisfied by the Ortholite foam and the EVA midsole, but a few did recommend throwing in some extra gel cushioning or another insole. We’ve got recommendations for insoles to add in our special guide–see the links at the bottom of this page!
They’re water-resistant, but not waterproof. If you’re going to be around lots of water, you should add a waterproof coating or look at one of our other recommendations.
2. Timberland PRO Men’s Pitboss 6″ Steel-Toe Boot
These Timberland PRO’s are the best-selling work boots on the market! They’re incredibly popular among all kinds of tradespeople and industrial workers. We like them because they’re inexpensive, effective, and versatile enough for pretty much any industrial job. If your job requires steel toes, these are a very affordable option.
Safety rating: Meets I/75 and C/75 impact and compression ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 safety standards, meets ASTM F2412-11, ASTM F2413-11 and ASTM F2892-11 electrical hazard standards
They’re standard lace-up leather boots like the Carhartt’s. These Timberland’s are about the same dimensions, with a slightly thicker heel, at 1.5”. They also have a smoothed finish, where the Carhartt’s leather is more natural. They have a padded collar like the Carhartt’s, a standard lacing structure, and a padded tongue for comfort.
One important difference is the size of the toe box. It’s wider than the Carhartt’s, and there are wide sizes available. So, you shouldn’t have any problems at all finding room for even very wide feet!
There’s a polyurethane insole and midsole for cushioning and support. They wick moisture, and have anti-microbial material built in. Reviewers generally liked the support on these boots, especially through the arch. Many said they appreciated the extra arch padding on ladders, especially in plants.
They’re hardy. The outsoles are slip and oil resistant, and the leather uppers stand up well over time. All sorts of industrial workers swear by these boots, and they have an incredibly loyal following among workers in trash burning plants, power plants, and other harsh, demanding environments.
These are definitely grippier than the Carhartt’s on slippery areas. These are a better choice if you deal with a lot of oil spills or other floor hazards.
They have a steel toe instead of a composite toe. That makes them heavier, but for some work, steel toes are a must-have.
They’re about the same price as the Carhartt’s.
They don’t have very good quality control. While only a couple of Carhartt buyers ended up with problem pairs, a decent percentage of Timberland buyers ended up with malformed or dysfunctional boots.
As a result, there are some durability issues. Some people said that their boots’ stitching broke after just a few uses. A number of buyers also had trouble with the loops popping off. However, Timberland do provide pretty good warranty coverage. Most buyers who ran into trouble said they got replacement boots from the company which were much better made.
While the leather does last a long time, it scuffs relatively easily. It’s definitely not as high-quality as the leather in the Carhartt’s.
Like the Carhartt’s, they’re not waterproof. They’re water resistant up to the tongue, but plan to add your own waterproof coating if that’s important for your work.
They’re stiffer than the Carhartt’s. Even though they do wear in, some buyers found that the plastic ankle supports can be uncomfortable if you’re not wearing thick socks. They’re certainly a more rigid boot overall. That may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your job, but you’ll definitely want thicker socks.
They can get fairly sweaty, even though they’re anti-microbial in the lining.
3. KEEN Utility Men’s Milwaukee Wide Work Boot
Our favorite men’s work boots at the moment are these Keen Milwaukee’s. Keen is a relatively new brand in industrial footwear, but they bring a lot of ergonomic expertise from their hiking shoes and casual footwear to an impressive industrial lineup! We think these Milwaukee’s are the best you can do on the market right now! They’re waterproof, steel-toed, and extremely comfortable.
Safety rating: Meets or exceeds ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH standards
They’re made from high-grade leather, with reinforcements on the outside instead of the inside. So, they give you the extra protection of the Timberland’s in as flexible and comfortable a boot as the Carhartt’s. We especially like the way Keen have added the heel stability features on the outside of the boots, which gives you stability without having plastic rubbing directly on your ankles (as it can with the Timberland’s).
As with the Carhartt’s, we’re very impressed with the build quality on these Keen’s. The leather is thick and supple, the soles barely wear down at all, and the glue work is close to perfect. Reviewers agreed, and said these definitely justified the cost in how well they’re made! The leather is especially good, since it doesn’t scuff easily at all!
They’re completely waterproof. That’s a huge upgrade over our other recommendations. You won’t have to add any coatings to these, since their waterproof out of the box. It never hurts to re-condition the leather, though! That’s made them quite popular among landscapers, plumbers and other workers who require truly waterproof footwear!
Even though they’re impervious to water, they’re still breathable. Previous buyers said they were comfortable up into the ’90’s F for outdoor work, even in hot and sticky environments like Florida! The linings are moisture-wicking, and the natural leather breathes easily.
They’re steel-toe boots, with asymmetrical caps formed independently for each foot. That gives them a better fit than the Timberland’s, especially around the edges.
They also have Keen’s patented wrap-around outsole, which stretches up and over the toes to give you lots of protection. It’s one of our favorite features on their hiking shoes, and it’s absolutely perfect for a work boot! Buyers said they never felt like their toes were in any danger, whether from stubbing or from impact.
They have Keen’s metanomical footbed, which is one of the best in the business in our opinion. These footbeds have durable, comfy cushioning from EVA material. They’re shaped to have lots of arch support, metatarsal relief, and heel cushion. Even workers with high arches and plantar fasciitis symptoms said these were comfortable right out of the box, We don’t think anyone should need to add insoles to these!
They have much better heel support than our other recommendations. That’s no doubt due to Keen’s roots in hiking footwear! These are extremely stable, so they’re ideal for anyone who has to clamber around all shift long.
Overall, they’re vastly more comfortable than any other work boots we’ve reviewed. They’re more supportive, they’re more cushioned, and they fit better. Previous buyers who had used both these and the Timberland’s said that the Keen’s left them feeling much more energized at the end of the day.
They’re easy to get on and off, too, which is always nice!
They’re very slip-resistant. The soles are hard enough to protect you from sharp objects, but they still grip extremely well on greasy spots and wet patches.
Most buyers said they lasted at least a year, some as long as two full years of everyday use. Even workers in industrial chemical plants said they had no complaints about longevity, even working 12 hour shifts!
While they’re a bit heavy, an overwhelming majority of reviewers said these were the most comfortable boots they’d ever owned.
They’re not perfect. Some buyers found that they only got 6 months of wear or so out of these. Others said their boots didn’t stay waterproof. We’re going to put that down to quality control rather than a design flaw, since so many more buyers said they got long working lives out of their pairs. There’s also a one-year warranty, in case you should have issues.
They’re expensive. Expect to pay between $100 and $150 for a pair of these.
1. Keen Utility Women’s Detroit Mid Steel Toe Work Boot
These Keen Detroit’s are our most affordable pick for women’s work boots. Even though they’re not the cheapest option on the market, we think this is the least you can spend for truly professional-grade work boots for women. They’re supportive, comfortable, and rugged.
Safety rating: Meets or exceeds ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH standards
They’re completely waterproof. These have Keen’s special waterproof lining material all the way up through the tongue, so you don’t even have to worry about water as deep as your ankle! Previous buyers had no complaints about the waterproofing whatsoever! They said these were more than capable of handling puddles, mud, snow and slush.
The linings are also breathable and moisture-wicking. A lot of other waterproof work boots get super sweaty and promote bacterial growth. These dissipate heat relatively well, and they keep foot microbes and fungus at bay.
They have a dual-density EVA footbed for padding and support. It’s long-lasting, and it breaks in relatively quickly. The sole has strong arch support, it distributes weight evenly, and it provides lots of heel relief.
The leather uppers are easy to break in as well! They’re very high-quality, and feel much more supple and durable than the cheap, cardboard-y leather on a lot of the competition. We couldn’t find any complaints about the leather breaking down on these, even after years of steady use!
They’re made specifically for women. Both the last used to make the upper and the mold used for the sole material have been shaped specifically to the female foot. By contrast, a lot of other work boots marketed to women are just men’s boots in smaller sizes and different colorings.
They have a stability shank to keep you walking evenly. Overall, these definitely resemble Keen hiking boots in their heel and stride stability. That’s great news for you!
Even at the end of 12-hour shifts, reviewers said they felt energized and happy from their feet up. Even those with problems like plantar fasciitis and heel spurs said they felt great!
They have steel toes for protection. We couldn’t find any complaints about the steel rubbing against toes, which is an issue with a lot of work boots.
They also have Keen’s signature wraparound outsole for added toe protection. It continues the rubber from the sole all the way around the front of the toes, so you get a complete bumper.
There’s an all-rubber outsole underneath it all. It provides some additional cushion, and lots of traction. These Detroit’s have aggressive treads that are made perfectly for outdoor jobs. They’re also slip-resistant, so you can walk securely indoors where spills and wet spots abound.
They have some reflective flashes for safety.
They last a long time! Lots of buyers said they had gotten through 2 years of daily wear with just one pair! Some even got as many as 5 years out of a single pair of boots.
They’re expensive, usually costing at least $125 to $150.
Some buyers thought the insoles wore down faster than the outer shoe components. Thankfully, most reviewers didn’t report that problem, and in any case, the insoles are easy to replace. You can also alternate between two pairs to give your insoles time to reshape and recover!
They don’t have a perfect record for durability. Like the men’s Keen’s we’ve looked at, though, they’re covered by a warranty for 1 year.
The insoles aren’t for everybody. A few reviewers simply didn’t find them comfortable.
They run a bit hot, according to a few reviewers. They’re not as well-ventilated as the Atlanta’s below.
Some buyers didn’t think they had enough room in the toe box. They’re not as wide as other Keen styles. Other reviewers recommended simply ordering the wide size options.
2. Keen Utility Women’s Atlanta Cool ESD Steel Toe Work Shoe
These Keen’s are our favorite minimalist option for women. They’re great for working ladies who want something a bit less bulky and a lot more airy than your average work boot. They’re still up to safety grade, though, and they’re as rugged as any other Keen’s! If you find larger boots restrictive, check these out!
Safety rating: Rated ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75Electro Static Dissipative (ESD) Footwear Is Constructed to Reduce Excess Static Electricity
We like to think of these as work boots disguised as shoes! By that, we mean they’re equipped with all the features we look for in a full-length work boot, but in a sneaker or hiking shoe package! They stop around your ankle, which gives you lots of flexibility and a cooler fit. They make an excellent summer shoe for outdoor workers, or simply a lower-profile choice for an all-year shoe.
They have a lot of the same features as the full-length Keen’s:
- an anatomical footbed and special leather upper made just for women
- lots of arch support
- durable EVA cushioning materials
- reflective safety webbing for visibility
- a mid foot shank for stability
Even though they’re a bit less industrial than the larger Keen’s we’ve just looked at, they have slip-resistant, non-marking outsoles, and plenty of tread. Oh, and they’re oil and slip-resistant, just like their larger siblings.
Between the grippy outsoles and the stable mid and insoles, reviewers who used these for outdoor construction jobs especially loved how adeptly they handled rougher terrain. They said they were ideal for uneven surfaces where other boots would slip or put ankles at risk.
They’re also loaded with a safety-grade steel toe! That’s a rarity in footwear this size, making them some of the safest shoe-sized footwear on the market! Buyers loved having steel toes packaged in such lightweight, stylish, and airy shoes.
They stay very cool. These have lots of breathable mesh through the upper, and buyers said they both stayed cool and kept odors at bay! We think they’re ideal for women who work outside in the summer months, or inside hot workshops.
While they’re not waterproof like the full boots we’ve recommended, they’re still water-resistant through the mesh lining.
They have a modified drawstring-style lacing system. It eliminates the safety hazard of having your laces come undone, and makes for easy adjustments.
They’re not as deeply cushioned as the boot versions. A number of reviewers recommended adding more cushioned insoles. However, the vast majority of buyers said they found the shoes to be perfectly comfortable without any additional cushioning.
Some buyers reported durability issues with the laces. It seems rare, though, since many buyers had gone several years in the same pair without any problem.
They fit a bit large, according to most reviewers. We recommend checking for free returns when you order, so that you can be sure you’ll get the right size as easily as possible.
3. Keen Utility Women’s Salem Mid Steel Toe Work Boot
Our premium recommendation for women at work is Keen’s Salem boot. It’s a mid-length (6”) option with a cuff ending just above the ankle. The Salem is the most rugged model we’ve seen from Keen’s women’s range, and it’s idea for anyone who needs a boot to handle the most extreme work conditions. It looks great, feels great, and meets every safety rating you could ask for!
Safety rating: exceeds ASTM F1677-96 Mark II non-slip testing standards, meets ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 standards for protection against electrical hazards
These boots are all leather. No mesh here! If you’re in the kind of job where you require impervious protection and tear-proof construction, you’re looking at the perfect footwear! The Salem’s are leather from the upper to the sides to the tongue and cuff. They’re extremely hardy, and they stand up very well against scuffs, rips, and other hazards.
They’re completely waterproof, as well. They have Keen’s “KEEN.DRY” tech lining built in. It wicks moisture and heat outward, allowing you to use the naturally ventilating qualities of leather without letting any water in.
They have a super padded cuff for extra comfort. It has two tiers of padding, and reviewers noted that it’s extremely comfortable for jobs where you have to kneel down or bend regularly.
The outsoles on these are absolute beasts! They’re lugged, rugged, and ready for any terrain. At the same time, they’re non-marking, so you can wear them into your office or headquarters without messing up the floors. They’re extremely popular among female railroad workers. They say the Salem’s are the absolute best boots for walking on miles of ballast, maneuvering uneven terrain, and keeping ankles protected against rolling.
Like our other Keen’s women’s recommendations, these Salem’s have:
- asymmetrical steel toes for safety
- stability shanks for torsion control
- anatomical insoles and midsole cushioning shaped for women
- excellent heel stability and protection
- wraparound outsoles for extra toe coverage
Overall, they’re great for long shifts on hard surfaces–no matter what kind of work you do! Reviewers said they stayed comfortable for up to 12-hours shifts, in welding shops, in machine shops, on road construction projects, and more. They’re cushioned, and they’re pretty much indestructible for at least a year of hard wear.
They look a lot better than other industrial-grade boots. The Salem’s have nicely curved edges where the wraparound rubber outsole meets the upper. Reviewers said it was nice to have a women’s boot that had some feminine design touches without being tacky or less than rugged.
They’re heavy. A lot of reviewers mentioned the weight, but they said it was a sacrifice they were more than willing to make for the safety and comfort factors with these boots. Plan to have some quad soreness the first few days, though, as your legs adjust.
They’re pricey. These will usually run you at least $150, like our other Keen recommendations, unless you can find a good sale.
See also: Best Unisex Waterproof Work Boots
Muck Boots Steel Toe Chore Boot
Our top unisex recommendation is the Muck Boots Chore model with steel toes. These are primarily marketed as waterproof/all seasons boots, and their imperviousness is certainly a major selling point. We think they’re just plain great boots, though, no matter what you’re walking around in!
They’re completely waterproof, right up to the top collar! Muck Boot’s are our favorite footwear for the wet and muck, since they’ve come up with a waterproof membrane material that’s flexible, breathable, and still impervious. The sole and upper are all made from one piece of rubber, so you don’t have to worry about leaks there. Then, you have the membrane all the way up to your knees.
They’re steel-toed. Most waterproof, rain-ready boots are pretty flimsy rubber. Not only do these have thick rugged soles and uppers, but they’re loaded with an industrial-grade steel toe! They’re perfect for anyone working in hazardous and wet areas with heavy equipment.
They have a removable liner/sock cushion which is easy to take out and wash or dry as needed.
They’re great to walk in. They have a wide, flat sole with a steel shank for stability, and a firm heel for keeping your stride even. The soles are thick, too, and the natural rubber absorbs shock particularly well. Even walking on concrete floors doesn’t feel uncomfortable! That’s one reason these are so popular with dairy farmers.
They stay relatively cool. Of course, any knee-length boots are going to make you sweat in the middle of summer, but the Muck Boots membrane material up the shafts of the boots breathes remarkably well for something that’s completely waterproof!
Even though they’re not as heavily-lugged as some of our other recommendations, they have very respectable traction. They’re made for getting wet after all, and they do very well in muck, puddles, and wet floors.
They’re easy to keep clean. You can simply hose them off when you’re done working, as you would with typical rainboots.
On the whole, they’re simply a fantastic all-purpose boot for anyone who frequently encounters mud, water, and other messes. They’re ideal for farmers, fishermen, homesteaders, and railroad workers.
They have a good reputation for durability. Most buyers got at least a full year of service out of their boots, if not more.
They’re pretty high. These ones reach up to your knees, so they’re a bit more restrictive than shorter Muck Boots. However, the shaft is pretty flexible, and that extra height comes in handy in wet jobs.
They’re expensive. You won’t find these boots for under $100.
While they’re stable and cushioned out of the box, they don’t have a lot of anatomical support. If you like to have strong arch support, you’ll want to throw an insert in your boots.
They run a bit large. Order true to size if you’re going to add a more supportive insole, or size down by a half-size if you’re planning to use the factory insole.
They’re not great on oil-slick surfaces. While they have no troubles with water, oil does tend to make them slide around a bit.
They’re very durable for most people, but they do occasionally spring leaks due to factory defects. Those are covered by the warranty, though. The only other durability issue we’ve come across is that the shaft material can tear on sharp equipment. Then again, that’s true of most boot materials! We think these are excellent investments in any case.
Best Work Boots For Men And Women: Comparison Table
|Carhartt Men’s Composite Toe Boot|
|Timberland PRO Men’s Pitboss|
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|KEEN Utility Men’s Milwaukee Wide Work Boot|
|Keen Utility Women’s Detroit Mid Steel Toe Work Boot|
|Keen Utility Women’s Atlanta Cool ESD Steel Toe Work Shoe|
|Keen Utility Women’s Salem Mid Steel Toe Work Boot|
|Muck Boots Steel Toe Chore Boot|
Now that we’ve looked closely at all our picks, let’s find you your perfect pair!
The Carhartt’s are our top choice for people who are looking for a bargain, even if they’re not as cheap as the Timberland’s. They stand up better to wear and tear, and we think they’re generally better-made. They cost more up front, but they’re a better investment. Carhartt also has better quality control than Timberland. They don’t have as much of an established track record among industry workers, though.
If you’re looking for what the most industrial workers swear by, the Timberlands should be right up your alley. They’re the single best-selling work boots on the market, and that definitely speaks for itself. We’re not as enamored with them as we are with the Carhartt’s, though. They have spotty quality control, and buyers have pretty inconsistent experiences with them. In any case, they’re a reasonably good steel toe option with a very loyal following.
The Keen’s aren’t the most popular boots on the market by any stretch, but the workers who have discovered them absolutely love them. For us, they combine the best elements of the Carhartt’s (high-grain leather, comfort, and durability) with the best of the Timberland’s (stability, steel toes, and heel protection). They’re completely waterproof, and they’re as close as we’ve found to perfection!
***You’ll probably have noticed by now that we’ve exclusively recommended Keen boots for women. That’s for two reasons. First, we really do love Keen’s work boots, especially their women’s lineup. We think they’re the best of the market by far. Second, they’re really the only brand we’ve seen make a serious commitment to women’s work boots. There are a few other models available, but none of them are up to snuff. That’s why we haven’t recommended even a budget model from another brand. We think any women in the market for real, professional-grade boots should invest in some of these Keen’s.
If you’re on a budget, the Detroit’s are the cheapest of the three, and they’re remarkably good for the price. They’ve got a steel toe, full waterproofing, and a comfortable, anatomical insole. We think they’re a great choice for women who need a bargain, even if they’re not as rugged or sophisticated as the other two.
If you like to wear low-profile shoes, but can’t skimp on safety features, the Atlanta’s are a great compromise. They’re steel-toed, rugged, and supportive, but they’re as cool and light as a lot of non-steel-toe work shoes. Just don’t take them anywhere very wet or cold.
Our top quality pick for women is the Salem. The Salem’s have steel toes, full waterproofing, and a super rugged leather construction that’s the best of the bunch. We love the stable sole, the lugged traction, and deep cushioning. They’re ready for anything, and we have no complaints about them except for the high price!
Here are a few things to think about as you’re shopping for your new work boots:
Make An Investment
Work boots aren’t a casual purchase! Think of them as your most important set of tools, no matter which trade you’re in. So, you should make an investment. If you skimp on your work boots, you’re jeopardizing your foot health and putting yourself in danger on the job. That’s not even getting into the cumulative effect of being uncomfortable 40+ hours a week!
You want your boots to meet a certain grade of quality: they should be made from real leather uppers, real rubber soles, and durable mesh liners. They should have cushioning, anatomical support, and stability as you walk. They should also have safety toes, meet safety regulations, and protect you against workplace hazards like slippery floors and electric shock.
To meet all those criteria, you’ll have to spend at least $75-$100 minimum on a new pair of boots. Unless you come across a fantastic sale, you won’t find anything cheaper that can actually stand up to industrial work.
Do yourself and your feet a favor, and spend as much as you can afford on your new work boots!
Look For Stability And Support
One of the reasons we wear boots at work instead of shoes is that boots are more stable. They protect your ankles from rolling, and they give you a wider base of support when you’re standing and working.
Look for rigid stability features like a shank in the sole, and a cage around the ankle area to keep you safe on the job. Shanks prevent torsion (lateral wobble) in your stride, and rigid ankle/heel supports keep your ankles from rolling or flexing too far on uneven surfaces.
You’ll also want the same support features you look for in any footwear: an arch mound, heel cushioning, and a low heel drop to keep pressure off your metatarsal area.
Know Your Comfort Preferences
As you’re looking at boots, try to keep all your personal preferences in mind. For instance, do you like lots of arch support, or a relatively low arch mound? Lots of cushioning, or firm structure? Do you like lots of room in the toebox, or do your feet shift around in wider shoes? Keeping all these things in mind will help you narrow down your options!
Remember that you can always add insoles and inserts! While we’ve recommended a few work boots with strong anatomical support, the vast majority of industrial footwear options don’t have lots of anatomical support. They have relatively flat footbeds with a decent amount of cushion. You can easily swap a full-length insole for the factory one, or add a 3/4 length insert right on top, if you need more support. We’ve got a full guide to inserts for work boots, which you can find at the links below!
Think About Temperature
Depending on your workplace and job, you may need footwear that keeps your feet warm, or footwear that keeps your feet cool. For cold environments, we recommend insulated leather boots or synthetic waterproof boots with warm linings. For warmer spots, you’ll be better off with either a light all-leather boot or something with mesh panels.
Know What You Need
Depending on your work surfaces and whether you work indoors or outdoors, you’ll place different traction demands on your footwear. For outdoor work, you want lots of tread, with lugs and stability features to get you across mixed, uneven terrain. Indoors, it’s more important to have slip resistance than lots of lugs. Look for certified slip-resistant soles for any indoor settings, especially when you’re dealing with wet or greasy floors.
If you work outside, or in an indoor facility like a brewery where liquids are often a factor, you’ll want waterproof boots. Even if you don’t work around a lot of liquids, it’s often convenient to have waterproofing anyway. It’ll keep you dry on a rainy walk in to work, and be an extra layer of protection for the leather and the linings in your boots.
Perhaps most importantly of all, you should never buy a work boot that’s not specifically rated for safety in the workplace! Look for ASTM ratings on slip-resistance and electrical shock protection, and always buy boots with either a steel or composite safety toe inside.
Of course, we all want to buy a pair of long-lasting work boots. If you’re in a particularly extreme environment, though, that’ll be even more of a concern. In that case, we suggest that you avoid mesh panel boots and buy only all-leather options. Any worker should expect a natural rubber outsole, EVA material inside for cushioning and support, and sturdy ankle bracing that won’t break down or loosen over extended wear. Look for at least a basic warranty on any new pair of boots, to cover you in the case of a factory defect, like leaky waterproofing or a faulty seam. All our recommendations should last you for at least one year of full-time work.
If you’re working full-time in your boots, one easy way to get more life out of them is to alternate pairs. Boots (like any shoes) last a lot longer if you give them time to recover. The soles expand back to their original shape, and the cushioning regains some of its bounce. Switching between boots will usually give you at least 6 months of extra wear out of each pair!
We know that every worker has different requirements for their work boots. So, we’ve come up with a few more specific guides to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. If you haven’t seen something that’s up your alley already, or are still making up your mind, check out some of our niche guides!
Best Winter Work Boots
If you need work boots that can keep you warm in freezing temps, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered as well! There’s a whole guide on this site dedicated just to winter work boots. Our recommendations have great traction in the snow. They’re also insulated and have plenty of room for your thick winter socks. Oh, and we’ve made sure to find styles that are either waterproof or easy to waterproof when you get them!
Our go-to pair for outdoor, snowy work is the Muck Boots Arctic Sport:
These unisex boots are based on the popular Muck Boot platform, but they’ve been tweaked to excel in cold environments. They’ve got a lot more oomph built into the treads, so they grip very well in snow and slush. They’re also super insulated, so they’re comfortable down to 40 below zero! You’ll be plenty warm even if you only wear medium weight socks. They’re popular among fishermen, farmers, and all other manner of outdoor workers. We suggest them to anybody who needs to be able to work comfortably in the cold and wet!
Check out our full review of the Arctic Sport’s, as well as in-depth reviews of the rest of our favorite winter work boots here!
Best Work Boots For Concrete
As anyone who’s ever worked on concrete knows how much of a nightmare it can be. Concrete causes sore feet, stiff joints, back aches and many other discomforts. We’ve put together a guide specifically to help you find a great pair of work boots that you can use on concrete!
One of our favorites, and a perfect choice for people who need something waterproof, is the Muck Boots Hoser Classic:
These are great boots for any wet, messy jobs on concrete, like mucking out stalls on a farm, working in a marine environment, or anywhere else you need a completely waterproof boot that’s easy to clean. They fit both men and women, and they’re comfortable in all seasons. These original Muck Boots are extremely popular on ranches, farms, and other all-around messy workplaces, and they have a reputation for being long-lasting and comfortable. They’re easy to modify with a custom insert if you need one. Even without one, the rubber sole and the included foam footbed feel comfortable enough to stand for hours on concrete without feeling any pain.
See the rest of our review, and lots more recommendations in the full guide to boots for concrete!
Most Comfortable Work Boots
If you’re looking first and foremost for a comfortable pair of boots to use for your job, sometimes it’s good to look outside the “work” boot niche! There are a lot of comfortable styles of boot that aren’t marketed for the worker, but which are still great options if you don’t need things like steel toes and waterproofing.
For instance, check out these Hancock boots from Birkenstock!
They’re marketed as hiking boots, and there are a few key differences between these and our main recommendations for work boots. These aren’t steel-toed, and they don’t have any certified safety features. However, they’re extraordinarily comfortable, and they’re definitely up to less extreme jobs.
You wouldn’t want to wear these to mix concrete, but they’re ideal for someone like a finish carpenter, who needs a hardy boot but not so many extreme safety features. They’re loaded with Birkenstock’s signature cork footbed, which gives you lots of arch support and metatarsal relief. These also have a lower heel than most work boots, which is better for keeping your gait even and your posture straight. We also think they’re some of the best-made, high-quality boots we’ve come across.
You can read our full review of the Hancock’s, and find more comfortable choices for men and women in our special guide, here!
Best Insoles For Work Boots
The #1 qualification for any set of work boots is ruggedness. So, we think it’s always better to go for something slightly less comfortable but completely hardy than for something that’s comfy but will fall apart. You can always supplement a great sole and steel-toed upper with an insole later on! If you’ve picked out an indestructible pair of boots that need a bit more comfort, of if you’re someone with chronic foot pain like plantar fasciitis, we suggest one of the insoles we’ve recommended in our special guide!
Our favorites are Birkenstock’s BirkoSport inserts.
They can either replace or supplement the factory insole in your boots, and they’re comfortable either way. These provide the great arch support, balanced gait, and metatarsal relief that we love from Birkenstock sandals and clogs, but inside your boots! They’re actually designed for sports shoes, but that just means you’ll get the odor protection and durable shock-absorption that you need on the job. We think they’re a better buy than other full-length inserts because they’re made from both cork and EVA, which are extremely durable cushioning materials. They’re much firmer than the soft foam insoles that are sold in drug stores, so they’re much better at supporting your posture over the course of the shift. They’re also the absolute best thing you can do for chronic foot issues!
Check out our full review of the BirkoSport insoles, and find more of our recommendations for upgrading your work boots here!
Or, head to our home page! On the Best Shoes Reviews homepage, you’ll find lots more expert reviews and recommendations for all sorts of footwear, including work shoes, dress shoes, and more!