Buying a car based on looks and a 10 minute test drive can be risky. Knowing what is going on under the hood is extremely important.
Buying work boots is similar. If you walk in, pull a boot you think looks nice off the rack, try it on for 30 seconds, and call it good, you risk buying a boot that doesn’t fit your needs.
There are several factors that can affect the suitability of a work boot for your job, that may go unnoticed, or underappreciated. Let’s discuss five of the biggest issues you need to consider, that you otherwise may not.
Traditional work boots typically have either a flat wedge outsole, or a raised, square-heel outsole. These two types of outsoles are dramatically different, and each fit specific needs.
Raised heel outsoles that have a square heel are built more for rugged, uneven terrain. The deep lug patterns provide grip on rugged terrain, and the raised heel adds extra slip protection.
The raised heel is also very useful for those who spend much of their day climbing ladders and need the square heel for stability on the ladder.
Although these types of outsoles can help maximize grip, they are usually not as comfortable as the flat, wedge soles. These raised-heel outsoles tend to focus stress on the heel and toe pad, and can lead to discomfort.
Wedge soles have a flat design. The major benefit of a wedge sole is it helps evenly distribute stress across the entire bottom of the foot, which can help prevent discomfort from building up on the heel and toe pad.
Now, it’s important to note that many other factors in a boot can influence comfort as well, but this is certainly one to consider. If you are looking to maximize comfort, a wedge sole may be best.
So what is the drawback to a wedge sole? Well, a wedge sole does not have the raised heel, so it doesn’t have that extra layer of slip protection that a square-heel boot has.
Because of this, wedge sole boots (although they still usually have slip-resistant outsoles) are best used on smooth surfaces like concrete, tile, packed dirt etc. Wedge sole boots, more often than not, are indoor boots.
The shank is a supportive piece in the midsole of the boot. It can impact durability, flexibility, and even safety.
Many heavy duty boots use a steel shank. The advantage of a steel shank is it can offer under-foot pierce protection, and also improve durability.
If you climb ladders, kick shovels, or work on rocky, uneven terrain, the steel shank under the foot helps add support.
The drawbacks are that the steel shank adds a bit of weight and also decreases flexibility.
As a substitute, some work boots have a shank made of fiberglass, nylon, Kevlar, or some other type of non-conductive material. These boots tend to be more flexible than heavy-duty work boots.
Insulation is often overlooked when buying a work boot. Many people will see “Thinsulate” on the tongue and not even know that they’re buying an insulated work boot.
3M Thinsulate is used to insulate work boots. Thinsulate is very useful in boots and outdoor gear because it is extremely warm despite being non-bulky and lightweight. The microfibers trap in heat, but don’t take up a lot of space and don’t add much weight.
Most companies use 3M Thinsulate for insulation, although some companies may use other similar synthetic insulations.
The main takeaway is be sure to ask whether or not the boot is insulated. If you live in a warm climate, or work indoors, an insulated boot in not necessary and may lead to sweaty feet.
If you do need insulation, the weight of insulation will greatly impact the warmth of a work boot. Most companies, for legal reasons, do not apply a temperature rating to their boots.
The most typical weight of insulation is 400g, but it can range all the way from 200g to even 2000g and beyond. If you want to learn more about insulation, and explore your options, visit one of our articles below.
If you work outdoors, you will probably need a waterproof work boot. But not all waterproof boots are the same.
Some boots may boast “waterproof leather”, but fail to tell you that the boot doesn’t actually have a waterproof membrane.
If you are looking for superior waterproof protection, you will want a boot made of waterproof leather that also has a waterproof membrane (also called a bootie) that helps keep moisture out.
But do you actually need a waterproof boot?
If you work indoors, you likely don’t. And not only does the waterproof membrane drive up cost, it also traps in heat and can make the boot uncomfortable in a warm, indoor environment.
Unfortunately, most work boots on the market today are imported. Yes, this makes them more affordable, but it also makes them typically less reliable.
If you are interested in buying work boots made in the USA, you do have quite a few options. The drawback is these USA boots will usually be more expensive.
But in some cases, paying up for a well-made work boot may save you money in the long run if that boot holds up for a longer period of time.
If you are interested in USA boots, here are some of our resources:
Work boots can come in many different types of heights. Some work boots will finish at or near the ankle, while others will push up the calf near the knee.
The height of the work boot can affect:
- The amount of coverage protection for your leg.
- The amount of support for your ankle.
- The weight of the boot.
You’ll want to make sure you consider how much upper leg protection you need, and how heavy of a work boot you can tolerate. It’s an awful experience to feel weighed down by your work boots.
If you are looking for a lace-up boot, two common heights are 6-inch and 8-inch.