If you need a new pair of work boots, this is the guide for you. Whether you work as a plumber, a scaffolder, a builder, a laborer, or just want to get stuck into some DIY at home, a good pair of work boots is one of the most important things you can buy.
Everyone is looking for something different from their boots. Some want comfort, while others need strength, and waterproofing is a prized quality too. In this guide, we will highlight the best boots for all your needs. We will cover the best brands and the most popular styles. We will also cater for budgets big and small. This is the most comprehensive guide to the best work boots you will find anywhere.
How to choose a work boot?
There is a huge range of different work boots on the market so choosing the right one for you can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
There are lots of specialist guides on the internet but not too many sites have compiled a comprehensive list of the best work boots around. That’s where we come in.
Before we begin recommending our favorite work boots, you need to decide how you are going to choose the right work boot for you. The best way to start is by narrowing down the things you are looking for in your ideal boot. The main features most people are interested in are:
- Steel Toe Caps – If you are lifting or moving heavy items, a steel toe cap is essential to protect your feet. But they can make work boots heavy and less comfortable, so be sure you need them before opting for a steel toe-capped boot.
- Waterproofing – If you are working outdoors a lot or perhaps in the plumbing industry, waterproofing is essential. Nothing is worse than having wet feet all day. But a waterproofed boot won’t breathe as well and so can feel hot and less comfortable.
- Ankle support – Some work boots are designed to support your ankles but not all of them. If you are working outdoors or on uneven surfaces, this can be a vital feature so make sure your boots have this extra support if you need it.
- Electrical safety – Some work boots can help protect you from electrocution by preventing electrical currents from reaching the ground and so making a circuit. Electricians and anyone who might encounter electricity should consider a boot like this.
- Slip protection – If you are working in wet or oily environments, a boot with additional slip protection is worth having. These boots have outsoles made of soft materials that can maintain grip in tricky environments and tread patterns with siping designed to draw fluids away from under the shoe.
- Comfort – You are going to be wearing your work boots all day every day, so it has to be comfortable. No-one can do their work properly if their boots are rubbing or squeezing their feet. Regardless of what job you are doing, comfort should always be a top priority.
- Design – Even at work, a lot of people want to look the part, but work boots are not always a priority for the design department of manufacturers. This is beginning to change though and it is possible to get some really stylish boots that are functional and look the part too.
- Price – A work boot can cost a lot of money but not everyone has deep pockets. Price doesn’t always reflect value for money either, so everyone should be looking for a boot that offers what they need at the most cost-effective price.
- Quality – The variety of quality in the work boot market is large. Some manufacturers are much better than others, but this is not always reflected in the price. Sometimes it is better to pay more upfront for a boot that will last longer, but some cheaper models can be very durable too.
ASTM performance criteria
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has a standard performance criteria for boots that are intended to protect wearers from various different hazards. It is known as ASTM F2413 and features nine specific categories of hazards, represented by a one or two-letter abbreviation:
- C: Compression, or crushing forces in the toe area, with four classes: class 75 (2,500 pounds) for men and women, and class 50 (1,000 pounds) for men and women.
- I: Impact to the toe area (class 50 or 75, as described above).
- CD: Conductive, or static electrical discharge hazards, to prevent ignition of volatile materials.
- EH: Electrical shock, resistance to protect heels and toes from connecting to ground.
- SD: Static dissipative properties, to reduce the accumulation of excess static electricity.
- PR: Puncture resistance, to protect soles from puncture.
- MT: Metatarsal impact, to protect the top of foot from impact.
- CS: Chain saw, to provide cut resistance.
- DI: Dielectric insulation, to provide insulation in the event of accidental contact with circuits or conductors.
Work boots that meet ASTM F2413 standards will show a four-line format that will identify the hazards that a particular pair of boots will protect you against. This format will use the abbreviations summarized above and will be set out as follows:
- Line 1 – the specification – ASTM F2413
- Line 2 – Gender (Male or Female) and classification.
- Line 3 and 4 – The specific hazards the boots will protect against.
The 8 best work boots for men
In compiling this list of the best work boots on the market, we have conducted extensive research. As well as testing the boots ourselves, we have also compiled reviews from across the web and also received direct feedback from workers across a wide range of professions.
The majority of the boots we have identified will comply with ASTM F2413 standards. But do check with the seller about the precise hazards your chosen boots can protect against. These details should be advertised clearly on their site.
Using all the feedback and information we have compiled, we have selected the very best work boots on the markets. If you want to know which boots made it onto our list and why just keep on reading:
Best overall work boot
The Tobacco Plain-Toe Boot has a classic work boot style. It is made in the USA of 100% leather that is soft and malleable from the day you buy it. Unlike some leather work boots out there, you can wear these all day from the first day with no discomfort or rubbing. It is like slipping on a pair of sneakers.
The design of these boots is amazing and they look terrific. It is tall and offers great ankle protection as well as featuring speed hooks which allow you to lace up fast and on-the-go.
The soft, non-slip MAXWear wedge outsole is comfortable and safe on just about any surface. This particular model does not feature a steel toecap but that option is available too.
If all that wasn’t enough, the manufacturer Thorogood also offers an exceptional refurbishment program that allows you to take well-worn boots back to be given a new lease of life. These boots are of exceptional quality, reasonably priced, and they will last you for years.
The appearance of this boot is clunky and functional and, to be honest, when we first opened the box, we had our doubts. But once you wear this boot in, which takes a lot less time than some, it quickly comes into its own.
The 100% leather boot molds quickly to your feet and feels comfortable with all manner of thick socks. It offers a slip-resistant lugged sole that really impressed our testers and proved safe on just about any treacherous surface you can think of.
Despite the price, this work boot comes with steel toe caps and ankle support, both of which are robust and don’t affect the overall comfort of the boot. Essentially, this boot does everything that many far more expensive boots offer, meaning it is excellent value for money. The only downside for us is appearance, but if style isn’t your top priority, the Caterpillar Second Shift is a great option.
Best for ease of use
The Timberland Pro Boondock is one of the most user-friendly work boots we tested. The first thing that struck us is how lightweight it is for a steel toe capped boot. This is a boot that offers the ultimate in protection without weighing you down on the job too.
It is a 100% leather boot that delivers on comfort and style too. These boots can be worn immediately without paying for it after work. They look rugged and determined but are amazingly easy to wear. Speed hooks make lacing quick and simple which is ideal in a busy work environment.
The tread is robust and effective on a wide range of surfaces. They should keep your feet dry too but the low profile can make it easier for some water to get in the top.
For the mid-level price, the Timberland Pro Boondock offers a great deal and is ideal for workers in most professions.
If it is style that matters most to you then the Red Wing eight-inch Classic Moc has to be high up your list. This boot is part of Red Wing’s heritage collection and its classic timeless style is something everyone can appreciate.
It is a boot that has been designed with style rather than functionality in mind. Its tall design looks great but means you have to unlace at least five eyes before you can take this boot off. There are no speed hooks here.
Once you have it on, this 100% leather boot will wear in pretty fast and is comfortable on your feet. It boasts a rubber outsole which is fine for solid surfaces but less effective on slippier surfaces thanks to a fairly shallow tread.
Red Wing sells this as a “rugged lifestyle” boot and it isn’t a work boot for every environment. But for the casual DIYer or less demanding workplaces, it serves a purpose. And no matter where you wear it, this is a boot that will always ooze class and style.
The Wolverine Moc-Toe is a mid-range priced work boot that seeks to bridge the gap between a functional and a stylish work boot. It does so with considerable success.
The simple design makes these boots look classy without making them stand-out. But crucially, these boots will keep you safe when working too. There is no steel toe cap but these boots are still robust and durable making them ideal for light laboring.
They are great for winters and cold environments since they give you enough room to wear thick socks and also feature padding around the neck which helps to insulate. It also serves as a layer of protection that stops debris and other things from getting inside the boot.
Speed hooks and a jug loop near the top mean these boots can also be got on quickly and simply. Not work boots for the building site but for more casual endeavors, these boots are perfect.
If you need a work boot that is strong, secure, and durable, then look no further than the Irish Setter Mesabi. This is one of the most strong and substantial work boots on the market. But it also offers no shortage of style too.
Our tests found these boots durable with a strong support around the foot and a substantial steel toe cap. They are fairly heavy boots and can take a few days to wear in properly but there was no significant discomfort during these first few days.
Once you have worn them in, these are boots you can wear to do just about anything. They are 100% waterproof and their tall design is combined with speed hooks allowing you to get them on and off fast. They also boast a deep tread and soles which will give you grip on most treacherous surfaces.
For the price, this is an excellent work boot.
Keen classes its Pittsburgh steel toe capped work boot as a medium-duty boot and we would agree with them on that. It’s hiking boot design is a give-away that isn’t a boot for heavy-duty tasks but in most other environments it performs admirably.
It is a very comfortable work boot and requires almost no wearing in at all. The tall design and padded neck mean there is next to no rubbing at all and our testers found the sizes to be just about ideal. It is 100% waterproof too.
For all its style, this boo has plenty of functional elements too. Its sole is robust with a deep tread and it can be worn in just about any work setting. Keen stresses the stability of these boots and our testers certainly noted the weighting felt very central which they found a big asset.
The Danner Bull Run work boot is a shorter design than many of the others on this list but still offers a superb blend of style and functionality.
Despite the short design, this boot offers plenty of ankle support without restricting your movement. It is made of 100% leather and is extremely comfortable to wear thanks to its OrthoLite footbed cushioning. Wearing in time can be quite long though.
The sole is a tan color which contrasts nicely with the rich brown leather. The tread is not very deep but nevertheless, we found this boot performed well on most surfaces. One tester found this boot’s tongue slipped to the side a lot, which they found annoying. But this appears to have been an isolated incident and doesn’t detract from a fine overall work boot.
In this guide, we have tried to identify a high-quality boot to suit every reader from a construction site laborer to a casual DIYer. Each of the boots we have recommended has been extensively tested and we have also compiled feedback from across the internet to feed into our reviews.
Each of these eight pairs of work boots has something different to offer; from durability and style, to robustness and water-resistance. Not every boot will be right for you but at least one will be, so read our reviews carefully to find your perfect work boot today.
Do you own one of these work boots? If so, how do you find it? Do you agree with our reviewer’s conclusions? Are there any other boots we should have included in this article but missed out? Tell us your thoughts now using the comment box below.