Three Things to Consider Before Buying Work Boots

A good pair of work boots can keep your feet comfortable and safe in just about any work environment.

A pair of boots sitting outside
A good fitting, well-made pair of work boots will serve you well, while a poorly made pair will make your day

A number of studies have shown that those who wear safety shoes or boots for long periods of time often have one or multiple foot problems. But wearing such footwear is a must in many situations, as feet are prone to injury. A recent study showed falling objects, sharp objects on the floor and slippery surfaces commonly put workers at risk of foot injuries, with slips, trips and falls accounting for 31 percent of all non-fatal workplace injuries in 2017/2018. While proper fit and ensuring you get a boot with adequate support are important, several other factors also merit consideration.

Laces or Slip On

Ariat Work Men's Groundbreaker Work Boot
These pull-on work boots from Ariat feature a heavy-duty oil- and slip-resistant Duratread outsole.Ariat

If you’re buying your boots mostly for casual occasions, the decision between pull-on and lace-up boots isn’t a big deal—just choose whatever you think looks best and is most convenient. However, for jobs that require a good pair of work boots, the decision is a little tougher. In general, if you value convenience over other factors, a pull-on boot will likely make you happier than a lace-up model. If fit is a more important factor for your particular purpose, you’ll be better off with a lace-up boot, since they generally fit better and hold your foot in place better. In the end, both kinds can keep your feet safe in dangerous working environments.

Steel Toes

Timberland PRO Men's 6" Pit Boss Steel-Toe
These work boots offer maximum protection for dangerous worksites.Timberland

If your job requires to walk and move around a lot in a tough demanding work environment, a safety-toe boot is the best choice for you. In many situations, OSHA requires that workers wear steel-toed boots, which can offer full protection to your feet, especially from compression and falling objects. Most such boots also have a midsole plate, which is helpful for protecting your foot from puncture. Composite-toed shoes are another option for those working in dangerous areas. In those boots, the Kevlar, fiberglass or other hard polymer or plastic has most of the strength of steel but doesn’t conduct heat as well as steel and makes it easier to pass through metal detectors if that’s part of your daily routine. Work boots without steel toes are more suited to those who have little danger of compression or falling object injuries. Of course, there are lots of jobs like that, and the additional comfort of work boots without steel toes makes them a good choice in those situations.

Indoor or Outdoor

Carhartt Men's 6-Inch Waterproof Wedge Soft Toe Work Boot
These work boots are good for indoor or outdoor jobs or chores.Carhartt

Whether you’ll be doing most of your work indoors or outdoors is important in determining whether you need boots that are waterproof or not. Of course, a good pair of waterproof work boots is a critical piece of equipment for the working man or woman who spends any time at all outside in the elements, though comfort isn’t the only reason why keeping feet dry on the worksite is important. If your non-waterproof boots become waterlogged, the skin on your feet will also absorb the water and become soft and wrinkly, providing more opportunity for painful blisters that could make work even more difficult. Constantly wet feet also lead to athletes’ foot and even ringworm. If you’re 100 percent sure you’ll always be working indoors, don’t worry about waterproofing. But if you will be outdoors at least some of the time, waterproof work boots will serve you better.