The land of liberty – back before the NSA watched everything we say and do – was built on hard labor done by rugged individualists. These women and men toiled their entire lives to help create a nation worthy of pride. Building a country in this way takes grit, determination, and a pair of boots that can kick in doors, slog through mud, and live to tell the tale. While much of the country has gone soft, preferring to inherit wealth rather than work, there’s still those among us who strive to build and do. To craft and create. For them, the only acceptable footwear is America’s 14 best boots.
Here are the 14 best American-made boots we have found in our research.
The runways of Paris, New York, and Milan might never be graced by the ‘basic’ design of the Second Shift, but that’s because runways can’t walk. If they could, they’d tell you that Goodyear Welt construction gives you flex as you move, yet holds your ankle well in place hour after grueling hour.
#2 – Wolverine Plainsman
It’s tough to recommend Wolverine these days, as many of their models seem to be suffering from longevity or comfort woes. The Plainsman stands tall as an example of what Wolverine was, and likely will be again. Horween leather makes up the body, with a PU footbed creating a lovely house for your feet to work in all day. The longevity is solid, for the price, but if you can scrape together another $50 or so, you can get a lot more mileage out of some other choices.
#3 – Chippewa Rugged
Admittedly the leather being used here isn’t the name brand stuff you’ll find at higher price points. That’s not to discount it, but to say you’re saving money by getting a bombproof, leak-proof pair of kickers at a discount. The Vibram outsole provides a combination of excellent traction, even in wetness, and a comfortable ride as you mosey.
Danner is in the conversation with names like Red Wing, Thorogood, Chippewa, and Frye. What it brings to the table that the others don’t is stitching that would make Betsy Ross sit up and take notes. Okay, it wouldn’t, but that’s only because Betsy was a baller. She’d appreciate the full grain leather, Vibram sole for comfort, and uninsulated body for people who work where it’s hot and wet.
Carhartt doesn’t mess around with cute little names for their boots. It’s too busy designing and executing Storm Defender waterproofing over the quality leather exterior, packing in Ortholite ergonomic soles for better comfort, and wrapping your tootsies in FastDry fabric for wicking moisture.
A few brands of American work boots show up again and again. Thorogood is currently the top contender among them. In the lineup of this legend, the American Heritage option is handily the best choice for most. That’s not to say it’s the best designed – though that Tobacco Gladiator oil-tanned leather and Poron 4000 shock absorber ain’t anything to ignore – but the best balance of cost and durability.
You could swing a dead cat all day at the Frye factory and not hit a bad Arkansas model. We prefer the Moc Toe, with its tumbled leather build. It has excellent DNA, using a tactical lacing system to go along with the timeless look, but it’s also made to be worn when not on a job site.
Odds are good that if you’ve never heard the name Justin Original, you’ve been talking to lazy people. The B. Bay 6 is a marvel of comfort, with a mesh spacer footbed to keep your feet happy and healthy. Reduced foot funk and potential fungal infections are on tap here, thanks to a Dri-Lex system that allows air to move in, around, and away as you move, taking some of the strain off your socks.
A classic miner’s boot from a company that has forgotten more about digging ore than most will ever know, the Blacksmith is as traditional as apple pie on a windowsill. Made in a snappy variety of colors, with a Vibram 430 Mini-lug outsole for comfort, these are much a fashion statement as a tool for walking the Earth.
#10 – Allen Edmonds Normandy
A derby boot that has a little extra fashion sense than many of its brown brethren, the Normandy is named and designed after the cap-toe boots worn into battle during D-Day. Donning this distressed leather with soft kudu upper and double oak leather sole will make you want to boot some Nazis, for certain.
If you feel like an ass saying “Iron Ranger” it’s just as simple to call these the No. 8111. Whatever nomenclature you prefer to spit, do it while you’re sticking your barking dogs into these chromed delights. Made with Amber Harness leather, then sexified with Goodyear Welt and triple stitching, they’re more than ready for action. The features are numerous, as leather heel pockets and Nitrile Cork outsoles come standard on every model.
#12 – Danner Quarry
Work boots are either made correctly for generations, or they never quite measure up. The Quarry is an oddity as it’s only been around for a little over ten years. Despite its youth, it has become beloved by people who actually have to kick rocks for a living. Specifically made for working on the uneven, uncomfortable surface of rock, the Quarry flexes when you need to scramble, holds fast when traction is necessary, and feels good even on uncompromising ground.
#13 – Trask Elkhorn
Coming out of the Windy City where each pair is crafted out of tanned Horween leather, the Elkhorn brings the best of the old and new. Slathered onto that sweet leather body is a mixture of oils and treatments that have been used since humans first wore hide. Supple and soft, yet hard as barbed wire, these gentle souls are ready for everything.
#14 – Alden Indy
If we weren’t already kneeling to lace these up, we’d be dropping down to give thanks for the Indy. That’s true Chromexcel leather from Horween, combined with neoprene cork outsoles, right there. The insoles are vegetable tanned leather that helps the whole operation breathe for comfort and airflow all the live-long day.