What Is the Shaft of a Boot? [Explained w/ Photos]

If you want to know more about boots, an important part to consider is the boot’s shaft. The right boot shaft makes all the difference between your feet being protected on the jobsite and being vulnerable to harm. What is the shaft of a boot?

The boot shaft is the long, tube-like part of the boot that starts at the top of the heel and moves up to cover your leg. The shaft is measured from the top of the arch directly up to the top collar of the boot (where your foot slips in).

The shaft height of boots can vary significantly. In ankle boots, it may be 3-6 inches, and for over the knee boots it may be 18 inches or even taller.

Tall shaft work boots can help protect the ankle and shin from abrasions and other hazards, but with that extra protection comes extra weight. You’ll want to make sure you actually need the lower leg protection before choosing to use a heavier work boot. In this article let’s discuss boot shafts in greater detail, including why they matter.


What Is the Shaft of a Boot?

As we discussed above, the boot shaft is the long, tube-like part of the boot that starts at the top of the heel and moves up to cover your leg. The sizing of a boot’s shaft can vary significantly boot to boot, and can affect the overall weight of the boot, and how much protecting it offers to your ankle and shin area.

How to Measure the Shaft of a Boot

Here’s a look at the shaft of a pull on work boot that I use. To measure it, you start from the top of the arch and measure to the top of the collar.


As you can see, my boot has a shaft that measure 11 inches.

Sizes of Boot Shafts

The shaft comes in many sizes. Here is a breakdown of common boot styles, and the typical height of their shafts:

Type of bootCoverageHeight
Ankle bootsOnly cover ankle3’’ to 8 ¾’’ tall
Mid-calf bootsHalfway between ankle and knee9’’ to 13 ½’’ tall
Tall bootsNearly to the knees without covering them13 ¾’’ to 17 ¾’’ tall
Over the knee bootsHigher than the knees18’’ tall or taller 

For work, most boots are either ankle boots or mid-calf boots. Most pull on work boots are mid-calf work boots that have shafts in the 10-11 inch range. Fashion boots will, at times, push up near or past the knee.

There are some forms of snake boots that will provide protection all the way up near the knee, and will often have shafts that measure near 17 inches. Although extra leg protection is nice, the longer the shaft, the heavier the boot will be. Some tall shaft work boots will use textile uppers to help keep the weight of the boot down a little bit.

How Can A Boot’s Shaft Protect You? 

Pull on work boots that have 10 or 11 inch heights will finish around the mid-calf for most people, and can provide abrasion protection to the lower part of the leg. This can be particularly helpful for those working in or around brush, or for those who need extra waterproof protection up around the leg.

Lace up boots usually fall in the 4-8 inch range. An 8 inch work boot will finish up around the ankle, and some work boots may have padding or extra material around the collar to help protect the ankle bone.  

Retailer Nicks Handmade Boots explains which boots are appropriate for which situations:   

Boot HeightGood For
6’’ Employees who have to move quickly on foot. EMTs, police officers on foot patrol, most tradesmen, factory workers
Around 10’’Employees who are exposed to the elements, or inclement weather. Firefighters. Workers who have to deal with chemicals – often use pvc boots. Farmers and ranchers who have to deal with sloppy farmland.
12’’ to 16’’ Employees working in deep water, around tall brush, loggers working on trees. Electricians working on utility poles. 

A safe pair of work boots will not only protect your legs but will also prevent small objects, such as screws or nails, from falling down into the boot and contacting your feet. The last thing anyone needs during their carpentry gig is a rusty nail stabbing them in the foot! To prevent things from falling into the boot, it’s important to make sure the boot is fitted correctly. 

How Does the Shaft Affect The Fit Of A Boot?

When you choose boots with taller shafts, there are two other measurements that you’ll need to take into account to find the boot that fits you perfectly: these measurements are the boot’s ankle circumference and its calf circumference.

Now, these two measurements don’t refer to your leg; they refer to the boot itself. The ankle circumference is measured at the narrowest part of the boot, which is located at the ankle, and the calf circumference is measured at the fullest part of the boot, which is located at the calf. 

To measure your ankle and calf circumference:

  • Find a flexible tape measure, such as a sewing tape measure, that can wrap around your leg. 
  • Sit down in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Wrap the tape measure around your leg at the widest point of your calf and at the narrowest point of your ankle, making sure the tape measure keeps in contact with your leg the entire way around.
  • Measure to the nearest inch or the nearest half-inch. 

A person with 15” circumference calves should choose a boot with a slightly larger calf circumference. This will guarantee a snug fit while at the same time giving your legs enough room to move around when you’re walking around or sitting down. Once you have these measurements, you’ll be able to make a fantastic footwear choice, every time. 

How Does The Shaft Affect the Comfort Of A Boot?  

Cowboy boots and tactical boots are two examples of tall-shaft footwear that look undeniably cool, but often you can’t help but wonder if they’re comfortable to wear. And because short-shaft footwear (i.e., tennis shoes and dress shoes) is so much more common than tall-shaft footwear, many people simply are not used to the overall feel of a tall shaft. It can take some time to get used to if you’ve never tried it before.  

The main factor in finding a comfortable tall-shaft boot is finding one that fits you. A good-fitting boot is a comfortable boot, and there are few things quite as satisfying as a boot that looks great, keeps you safe on the worksite, and feels comfortable.

What you’re going to want to look for is a “just-right” fit: loose enough to give your legs and feet some breathing room, yet snug enough that they don’t move around too much, which can lead to irritation and chafing. 

Proper fitting isn’t the only factor, though. It might come as a surprise to those who’ve never worn boots for an extensive period, but most new boots aren’t completely ready for duty from the moment they’re bought. Although a few manufacturers offer ready-to-wear boots, they almost always need to be “broken in” to become truly comfortable to wear.

One drawback to tall shaft pull on work boots is the fact that they can be quite heavy. To help keep the overall weight of the boot down, some companies may incorporate textile (in addition to leather) to the upper part of the boot. Some companies may also use a composite material for the outsole to help control weight.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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