If you’re planning a tough day working in the garage pit, workshop or on site, then the gear you wear needs to be up to the job. And when it comes to protecting your toes and feet then nothing but the best work boots will do.
Not only can you be on your feet all day, but they can also be vulnerable to the hazards present in any manual work environment – from a dropped wrench to a rolling car – as well as rough terrain. For your ideal safety boots, you need to look for fit, durability, comfort and protection as well as design and materials that are best suited to your particular job at hand.
With most construction and industrial sites making safety boots a non-negotiable, there’s a huge range of men’s work boots available. We step into the breach and look at what we think are 15 of the best working boots currently on the market. So, if you’re looking for a new pair of safety boots, put your work-weary feet up and read on….
The Best Work Boot
Rugged enough for most jobs, these outdoor ankle boots from Timberland will look just as at home on the trail as they will in the workshop. We really liked the versatility of the White Ledge, as well as their solid good looks, and for the mid-price you get a lot quality work boot. Made from waterproof leather with a rubber grip outsole and decent ankle coverage, they are also seam-sealed to keep out the wet and the lace eyelets are waterproof. There is no steel toe cap, but the forefront is stiff and solid, meaning these are great waterproof work boots for outdoor sites where you are also up against the elements
100% full-grain leather
Dual-density EVA footbed
Waterproof outer with rust-proof eyelets
Solid rubber outsole with traction lugs
The Second Shift is a classic work boot that’s a familiar sight on the feet of many construction workers, contractors, and mechanics. And it’s not hard to see why. First up, they look good, and the solid shape says they mean the business. Made from either full-grain or nubuck leather, you get decent waterproof protection and the padded collar/high ankle design keeps your feet secure. Inside you get a steel shank, nylon mesh lining and a Climasphere sockliner for cool, fresh and protected feet, all day long.
These are stiff work boots out of the box, so take a bit of time to wear them in – the effort will be repaid with a pair of hardworking boots that can take pretty much anything you can throw at them.
Leather soft toe shoe
Padded collar and mesh lining
Nylon sockliner wicks away moisture
Oil-resistant traction sole
- Model2nd Shift
- Weight1.75 pounds
As full-on steel toe cap boots, the Floorhand from Wolverine gives you a quality shoe for the price. The style is pretty standard but then this is a safety boot that simply but effectively does what it says on the tin.
Quality leather, full ankle support with padding, non-slip outsole and a cushioned footbed – all the essentials for waterproof work boots are there plus you get the Wolverine craftsmanship that make these steel-toe work boots tough and reliable dudes. They are missing a bit of the insulation you’d need on a freezing winter site and a change of insole could boost the cushioned comfort factor, but overall, these are safety boots that can stay the distance.
Full-grain waterproof leather
Removable cushion foot-bed
Rubber traction outsole
Padded ankle collar
- Weight1.9 pounds
The hardcore looks of the Boondock make you think they can deal with anything – and to be honest, when you go through the spec list, they pretty much can! These are ‘don’t mess with me’ men’s work boots with foot protection at the heart of its game. They have been reinforced with impressive-looking rubber toe protectors and the TPU lugged outsole is oil/slip/abrasion resistant to keep you on your feet. The ankle shaft is tall – 6.5 inches – giving your ankles plenty of support and the whole upper of the work boot is made from waterproof ‘Ever-Guard’ leather. Be warned, these safety boots are big and quite heavy, but they do the job. And what we really like about the Boondock is Timberland’s use of anti-fatigue technology to provide long-lasting comfort and support.
Waterproof ‘Ever-Guard’ leather
Molded rubber toe protectors
Lugged TPU outsole
- ModelBoondock 6
- Weight2.8 pounds
We like the stealth look of Under Armour’s Valsetz, who have taken inspiration from military and tactical footwear to create agile and nicely lightweight work boots. The design is slimline, but still rocks a tough TPU toe cap for where you need the main protection. Made from a textile upper, with a high ankle and TPU shank for mid-foot support they feel light on but have the rigidity to keep your feet also feeling secure. You also get a decent amount of grip from the rubber lug outsole and an anti-bacterial sockliner for keeping foot dampness at bay. A good work boot for patrolling and general out and about work where heavy construction is not an issue.
TPU toe cap
Textile upper/rubber outsole
TPU Mid-foot shank
Ultralight EVA midsole
- BrandUnder Armour
- Weight15 ounces
For such a safety boot heavyweight, the Timberland Pro is surprisingly light but still packs a decent foot protection punch. Made from waterproof leather and with 200g Thinsulate insulation, these are all-year-round site work boots, that once broken in, don’t skimp on comfort. The high padded ankle collar supports while the contoured sockliner cradles the foot. At the business end, you get an internal steel toe cap and the whole shoe is electrical hazard rated. Underfoot you also get a chunky outsole and heel, made from rubber and sufficiently lugged to keep you gripped to the ground, whether that’s workshop concrete or construction site rough. They do run a little on the large side, so check your fitting but we think the Pro is one of the best steel toe boots for everyday use.
Waterproof leather/synthetic sole
200g Thinsulate upper
Electrical hazard ANSI rated
ANSI 75 steel toe
- Weight4.1 pounds
For a reliable safety boot that can take you from construction site to workshop and everything in-between, check out the ruggedly stylish Second Shift from work boot aficionados, Caterpillar. The strong internal steel toe cap on the Second Shift will keep those toes protected while the high shaft with padded collar gives superior ankle support. Underfoot you get an effective oil-resistant traction outsole, to keep your feet securely on the ground. And despite its work-horse credentials, there’s something plush about these steel toe work boots, thanks to the quality nubuck leather in a choice of three colors, making them a cool boot for non-work use too.
100% nubuck or full-grain leather
Inner steel toe cap
Padded collar and tongue
Oil-resistant traction sole
- ModelSecond Shift ST-M
- Weight12 ounces
Comfort is the buzzword for the Overpass, combining hardcore performance with the cocooned feel of a favorite old sofa. For the size – these are a chunky pair of work boots – they’re also surprisingly light on the feet and can take all the highs and lows of the construction life.
As one of the most comfortable work boots in our review, your feet will be impressed by the ride. The boot is flexible, thanks to the waterproof leather and textile upper mix and the construction moves with your feet as they bend and twist. But you don’t lose any of the much-needed support and protection. The tough toe cap is a composite and abrasion-resistant while the outsole grips against slip, oil and water. While inside there’s a removable Ortholite cushioned footbed for all day comfort and protection. Oh, and they look good too.
Leather and textile upper
Composite toe cap
Lugged rubber sole
Flexible contour construction
- ModelOverpass 6
- Weight1.7 pounds
Stepping up their hiking boot vibe with a steel toe cap and ANSI-safety rating, the Timberland Pit Boss is just that. Totally boss.
You get the quality 100% leather you’d expect from Timberland, as well as a host of hardcore work features. First up, they offer effective electric hazard protection and an awesome surface grip under foot. The internal steel toe cap is also industry-standard when it comes to protection. But all this tough spec doesn’t mean the Pit Boss work boot compromises on comfort or support. Padding where you need it plus comfort suspension technology work to reduce foot fatigue meaning you can keep on the go until it’s time to clock off.
100% leather upper
Asymmetrical steel toe cap
Electric hazard protection
Comfort suspension technology
- Weight1.9 pounds
Now here’s a cool curveball in our best work boots review – a soft-toe safety boot that has all the quality hallmarks of a Western classic. Made by equestrian footwear experts, Ariat, the Groundbreaker knows its job and offers tough protection for the outdoor worker, whether that’s out in the pen or on less-horsey work matters. The Groundbreaker is near the top end of our review budget, but these are a classic act – 100% full-grain stitched leather, the tall boot shaft also makes these work boots a good bet for working in areas with high water levels. And don’t let the cowboy looks fool you, the Duratread rubber sole is oil and slip resistant and the high under foot arch makes walking over rough ground a breeze.
Square soft toe
Oil and slip resistant outsole
- ModelGroundbreaker Wide Square Toe-M
- Weight12 ounces
Functional and durable, Carhartt’s composite toe work boot is a great go-to for everyday work and play. Made from 100% leather and with a contoured rubber sole, this solid-looking safety boot flexes with your foot, giving you superior comfort and support whatever pace you work at. Step it up and the Carhartt steps it up with you, with shock-absorbing traction to keep you on your feet. Inside you get and EVA midsole and OrthoLite insole for all foot cushioning and long-lasting comfort. While underfoot the cement-constructed outsole keeps a grip, with its oil, slip and chemical-resistant protection. An impressive and comfortable work boot at a good price.
100% leather upper
Composite toe protection
Rugged Flex Technology
- Weight1.8 pounds
When is a hiking boot not a hiking boot? When it’s a steel toe work boot from Keen! The Pittsburgh has all the rugged good looks of a quality trail boot, but has some serious foot protection credentials under the hood. Made from 100% nubuck leather, it has left and right foot asymmetrical steel toe caps to ensure the full spread of your little pinkies are protected. Add in a waterproof but breathable membrane, a TPU stability plate and a flexible inner foot support system and you have space for your feet to breathe while remaining comfortable and supported. The result is protected feet with reduced fatigue, taking a full-on workday in their stride.
100% Nubuck Leather
Asymmetrical steel toe caps
Oil and slip-resistant outsole
Waterproof and breathable
- BrandKeen Utility
- Weight1.93 pounds
If your work demands you are light on your feet, but the workload means you need to keep them protected, then check out the Maelstrom Tac Force.
With their dessert boot looks, these safety shoes channel military or tactical footwear and are a good option for patrol work, industry or outdoor workers needing a balance of comfort, performance and flexibility. Water and weather-resistant, these boots are made from full-grain leather and nylon, with a membrane liner to wick away moisture and keep your feet fresh and comfortable. There is an outer reinforcement over the toe to protect and support. The durable, molded rubber outsole has also been designed to cope with a range of changing terrain and a heavy-duty side YKK side zip keeps your foot contained.
Nubuck leather and nylon upper
Semi-rigid heel and reinforced toe
Heavy-duty YKK side zip
- Model1.5 pounds
- WeightTAC FORCE 8” ZIPPER-M
With the Ever Boots Tank you know exactly what you’re going to get, which is why as a soft-toe work boot, they have proved so popular. And its reliable quality at less than $60 looks set to keep it that way.
The design is a familiar style that looks as good with jeans in the bar for an afterwork beer as it does with your work gear. Made from nubuck leather with a rubber, slip-resistant sole, these are shoes that run large, so check your sizing to ensure you get the right comfort fit. The outer is nicely stiff and robust, offering a decent level of protection in low to midweight working environments. You also get a cushioned insole to comfort your hardworking feet. The rubber outsole could be a little more robust, but it can always be re-soled when it starts to wear thin. But for a reliable pair of soft-toe work shoes at a not so soft bargain price, we’re happy to make the Tank our Best Value buy.
Nubuck leather outer
Anti-fatigue inner arch
Insulated mesh lining
Slip-resistant rubber sole
- BrandEVER Boots
- Weight2 pounds
And so, to finish our best work boots review on our premium pick, and while they’re certainly not cheap, you get a quality build with the Red Wing Roughneck that defies its name. There’s a classic heritage styling to the Roughneck that catches the eye, and the whole boot is reassuringly constructed. The 100% leather upper has been ‘slicked in briar oil’ for a well-nourished, lux leather look, offset by distinct stitching and contrasting laces that bring the shoe frame together.
But that’s enough about the Roughneck’s old-school good looks, how do they perform in the world of hard graft? There’s no steel toe, but the construction of this tough shoe and its steel shank gives a decent level of everyday protection. Inside there’s an EVA midsole while a Vibram lugout sole supports and grips underfoot. All the ingredients for a day-long comfort work boot are there, it’s down to the individual as to whether they’re worth the $250-ish price tag.
Full-grain leather upper
Welt and cement construction
EVA midsole comfort
Vibram lugout outsole
- BrandRed Wing
- Weight1.1 pounds
Best Work Boots Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look for in Work Boots
Whether you’re at work or auto play, you need to ensure you get the protection you need from your footwear. When buying your next pair of work boots, make sure you check out the following:
Toe protection - an essential for most work sites and a feature that should be standard in any boots you buy, how your new safety boots protect your toes from workplace hazards makes all the difference. There are three types of toe protection – steel, composite and aluminum. Steel is heavier but are the traditional toe protector; composite is lighter and made from plastic, carbon fiber and Kevlar so great for work environments that need to be metal-free while aluminum is lightweight and doesn’t conduct the cold like steel.
Construction – the best work boots are durable and how they are constructed really counts. Welted and stitch-down boots are built to last and can be re-soled meaning you can keep breathing new life into your old boots. Alternatively, you can opt for cement or direct construction, where the outsole is ‘cemented’ to the boot’s upper. While cemented boots are more lightweight and flexible, the downside is that when the sole is worn down, it can’t usually be replaced.
Comfort – comfort is king when it comes to your work boots, especially if you’re wearing them on a long, hard shift. Check the fit to ensure there’s no pinching or potential ‘hot spots’. Your boots will wear in, but they do need to be of a good, basic fit to start with. And opt for leather if you can. Leather gives flexibility and will mold to your feet as you break them in, so are amongst the most comfortable work boots.
Support – comfort and support go hand-in-hand so when choosing your new work boots, consider the insole, midsole and upper, and how they work together to cradle and support your feet through a range of movements over a prolonged period.
Waterproofing and insulation – construction and auto work are dirty jobs and you’ll need to protect your feet in a range of environments and weather conditions. Look for waterproof work boots that are also breathable to keep your feet cool and dry. When it comes to temperatures, lightweight work boots made from fabric or mesh uppers will help to combat uncomfortable, sweaty feet, while for the winter or colder conditions, leather with insulation will keep your feet toasty and safe. Added insulation also helps with foot protection and support.
Traction – slip-proof work boots are essential for your safety, especially in potentially hazardous environments. Choose a pair of safety boots with a solid grip on the ground. There are two main outsoles for excellent traction - Thermo Polyurethane or TPU and rubber. TPU performs well on rough terrain while rubber is good all-round outsole. Also check the tread and match it to your job, such as climbing ladders or walking over harsh or slippy ground.
Why You Should Buy Comfortable Work Boots
When doing a physical job, you’ll be on your feet moving for long periods of a time, and without work boots that fit correctly, you don’t just risk a bad temper. Uncomfortable safety boots can add pressure on vulnerable parts of your body – especially your toes, ankles, knees – and put you at risk of wear and tear and potential injury. As your weight bearers, your feet need to be kept comfortable and happy, so as well as a good fit, look for padded insoles, ankle support and breathable fabrics to keep them sweet.
Different Types of Safety Boots
When it comes to the best work boots, it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’ and there are several different types of safety footwear to choose from. Your final choice should be based on where you will be wearing your new safety boots and the type of work you will be doing.
- Safety toe
The mainstay of most workshops and construction sites, these shoes provide superior protection for your toes, which are vulnerable to heavy equipment and dropped tools. Built-in protective toe caps can come in steel, aluminum or non-metallic composite.
- Steel insole
These tough work boots are designed to keep your feet stabilized and protect you from joint damage, which can be a problem if your job involves driving heavy trucks or pushing pedals.
- Metal instep
Designed to protect your foot from sharp objects such as nails or glass and are ideal for more industrial or factory workplaces.
- Metatarsal shoe
With a protective inner and outer shield on your forefoot, these type of safety boots protect your upper foot and bones, so are a good bet for a busy construction site.
- Electric hazard shoes
If you work with high voltage machines or with wiring on electrical jobs, then these will keep you and your feet safe from any potential shocks. Look for proof that they have been passed by the American Society of Testing and Materials.
Best Work Boots FAQ:
Q: What are soft toe boots?
Soft toe boots are a safety footwear alternative to the traditional steel or protective toe cap boot. Some soft toe boots can offer a decent level of forefront protection for everyday use, with the addition of reinforced composite materials such as rubber or thick fabric. But many are made from tough outer fabric with no extra reinforcement. Soft toe shoes are more lightweight and flexible than hard-toe boots and are a good alternative for the summer months but are not meant for hazardous or full-on construction environments.
Q: How do I maintain my steel toe work boots?
A: Your steel toe work boots are tough dudes and will work hard when you need them to, and with a little TLC you can keep them on the payroll for much longer. A simple maintenance routine will go a long way:
- Take the time to break a new pair of work boots in, your feet will thank you for it! Wear them around the house for a few days before you take them out on the job. You can also speed up the breaking in process by applying a little shoe conditioner.
- If your boots are not waterproof or need a little top up, then apply a boot waterproofing solution or waterproofing spray. Leave to thoroughly dry then add a few more coats two or three weeks later for boosted protection. Top up frequently to keep that foot damp at bay.
- Always wipe off wet mud, dirt and debris clumps each time you take off your boots and let them dry overnight. Regularly wipe your work boots clean with a dry cloth and do a full clean when needed, using a water-based cleaner and a nylon brush. Change your insoles when needed to prevent stinky feet and use a low PH-shampoo if you need to swill the insides out. Don’t forget to rinse and allow to dry.
- Keep an eye on your laces. All that pulling and tugging will eventually weaken them, leading you to over tighten the laces and potential mis-shape your work boot. Replace the laces when they start to look and feel past their best.
Q: How can I tell if my boots fit properly?
A: For your new safety boots to give you the comfort and protection you’re expecting, you need to ensure you have the correct fit. Badly fitting work boots are only going to cause you problems, whether that’s from a troublesome blister, poor traction or eventual knee and back pain. Put your best work foot forward by getting the right fit:
- Start with the right socks – mid-thickness, lightweight, breathable and moisture wicking are the best.
- Try both boots on and walk around the house in a natural stride. If you find the boots restrictive in your normal walk, check them out. Loosen the laces a little, smooth out the socks and try your free stride again. Then test them out in a range of feet movements – they should remain in place but not rub or feel too snug and you shouldn’t feel any uncomfortable pressure.
- Once you have had a good old stomp around in your new safety boots, take them off and check your feet – if they’re a good fit, there should be no ‘hot spots’ starting to show on your skin, so look for red marks or pinched skin. If all looks sweet, then you and your safety boots are good to go!
Q: Can I waterproof my boots?
A: If you’ve already opted for waterproof work boots, then you can keep them in top condition with an occasional waterproof spray booster. Other safety boots can have their water resistance improved with a little DIY. The most obvious way is to invest in a waterproofing treatment or spray which if used regularly can be really effective and prolong the life of your boots. Other home waterproofing options include waxes, pastes and creams, which can be applied as you would boot polish.
A top tip when it comes to waterproofing your safety boots – clean off any dirt, dust and debris first with a dry cloth before applying your waterproofing, and repeat your treatment when you see signs of its water-repelling super powers wearing off, which will usually be after a couple of weeks.
Our Top Pick
A high-performing hiking/general work boot, the quality waterproof leather, mid-ankle support and robust design make the Timberland Men’s White Ledge Ankle Boot our top pick. There’s some great comfort features and the leather and construction means these boots are made to last. As a versatile shoe at a good price, the White Ledge is hard to beat and will be at home in the garage pit, outdoor site or workshop as it is on the trail.
- Find a pair of work boots - Wiki How