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The 2018 Work Boot Field Guide

You may have heard the saying before that goes something like “There are two things in life you shouldn’t cheap out on – your boots and your bed. You spend all day in one and all night in the other.” As a trade professional, you know better than anyone that your work boots are important. You’ve been buying boots for years, but if you’re looking for a new pair and want to know what’s out there in 2018 – or want advice for your apprentice – check out this helpful guide we’ve compiled. We combed through all the preexisting boot guides we could find, looked through all the sites, and boiled it down to the best boots in the business.

work boots on concrete

Here’s a quick look at our top picks. Click on the brand to view the boots, and refer to our chart to see all the qualities that they have to offer. Want more details? Scroll down to see in-depth descriptions of these qualities, along with links to shop both men’s and women’s boots in each category.

Our Top Picks

Boot Functionality

No matter what you’re looking for in a boot, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort. After all, it will barely matter if your boot is waterproof if it rubs your foot raw to the point that you want to take it off. Although not necessarily true in the past, today many of the most important qualities can be found in the same boot, making for the best and most durable shoe you can find. Below are some of the major boot types to help narrow down your search.

waterproof work boots

Steel Toe 

Not only are steel toes important for your safety, they are often a requirement to work on the job site. Steel toes help keep your foot protected, and they also provide extra structure and support to the shoe. There is a myth that steel toes can actually be more damaging if an object were to fall and collapse the steel into your foot, but this is not something to account for (and it was officially busted on MythBusters).

If a falling object has a 1,000-pound impact on you (think polar bear-sized), it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing – it’s not going to be good. But if something that’s closer to 50 pounds (a much more realistic scenario) crashes onto your foot, you’re going to want the steel toe. Look for ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards when shopping – a rating of I/75 C/75 means that the toe can take an impact of 75 pounds.

As SUPPLY.com’s resident trade expert Al Maxwell puts it: “Safety and Associate well being go hand in hand. Steel toed shoes play an important role in reducing work related injuries. A small investment in the correct footwear will pay off in the long run.”

For some inspiration, check out our own recommendations here.

Our Pick:

Men’s Steel Toe Boot

Women’s Steel Toe Boot

pro waterproof work boots in rain

Waterproof

Boots that are waterproof are extremely important, especially if you are a plumber or will be working outside. Waterproofing keeps your foot dry and keeps out the potential for infection that comes from rain or other fluids that you’re dealing with. You also have the option of getting a breathable waterproof boot that will help with sweat. Though you’ll probably want a good, quality all-round boot, consider getting a second, waterproof pair if you’ll be spending some time out in the mud and some time indoors.

Our Pick:

Men’s Waterproof Boot

Women’s Waterproof Boot

Cold Weather 

A warm, waterproof, and weatherproof boot is important if you live in an area with colder weather. Snow and ice will seep through some materials – one of the last things you want on a job is hypothermia. Though steel toes are generally recommended, composite toes can help keep your feet warmer in the winter. In some environments that vary extremely in temperature, it may be a good idea to alternate winter and summer work boots.

Our Pick:

Men’s Cold Weather Boot

Women’s Cold Weather Boot

Warm Weather 

Though it can be dangerous to work in the freezing cold without proper footwear, it’s not difficult to find an insulated boot and thick, warm socks. It can be trickier to find a good lightweight option, not only for your comfort but to avoid overheating. Leather is a good material that is tough without being too warm. Make sure that the inside isn’t lined and that there is plenty of room for your foot. To really keep cool, look for breathable boot socks to accompany your boot in the summer.

Our Pick:

Men’s Warm Weather Boot

Women’s Warm Weather Boot

Boot Style

Though you probably won’t be going to a fashion show in your work boots, if you’re wearing the same shoe everyday you’ll want to like how it looks, especially if you are constantly meeting new clients and want to come across as professional. More importantly, you’ll want to make sure the boot fits and works well.

work boots on job site

Lace-up vs Pull-on Style 

Lace-up boots tend to fit best, as you can tighten them to your liking. Laces also ensure more ankle protection, thus helping to prevent falls and injuries. If you’re in a less intense setting where a tailored fit is not as important, pull-on boots might be more comfortable. They are easier to pull on and off and provide more ventilation.

Most of our SUPPLY.com PROs (plumbers, contractors, etc.) work in fields that lean more towards laces – some professionals, like welders and other metal-tradesmen, may prefer pull-on boots so the laces won’t get burnt. If you do go with a lace-up boot, though, look for hook eyelets to make the lacing easier.

Our Pick:

Men’s Pull-on Boot

Women’s Pull-on Boot

Tread Pattern 

The tread pattern on the bottom of your boot determines how likely you are to slip or track dirt. Heavy-duty work like concreting is best accompanied by an aggressive tread boot, while a carpenter will prefer a smoother boot that prevents falls but doesn’t collect too much debris. If you are a plumber, you’ll definitely want a boot with a lot of traction for slippery settings that is also easy to clean.

Our Pick:

Men’s Slip-resistant Boot

Women’s Slip-resistant Boot

Height

Most work boots you’ll find for trade professions are 6” or 8” in height for men’s boots and 5” for women’s boots. Some workers won’t need very tall boots – professions like logging require a much higher boot than a plumber will need. It is important, however, to find a boot that is high enough to provide good ankle protection and that will protect your leg from water or other substances. SUPPLY.com Account Manager and former plumber Jack says: “I prefer a boot that is above the ankle, steel toe, with hook eyelets and a ladder cradle [on the bottom of the boot].”

Our Pick:

Men’s 6” Boot

Women’s 5” Boot

Additional Boot Information

There are plenty of options out there – some swear by their Red Wings while others wouldn’t dream of wearing any brand other than Wolverine. It all boils down to what works best for you – what makes sense with your profession, what fits best to your feet, and what won’t make you hate every minute of your job. With all other factors to consider, you’ll also have to figure out what works best in your price range, and what fills the safety requirements for your industry.

wolverine work boots

Price

If you can afford it, the boots that are $100 or more are usually worth the money. That being said, you don’t need to shell out $300 on boots every year or two. Start with our examples, but browse around if you’re looking for a different price range – just make sure to read the reviews or ask a store associate before purchasing.

Our Pick:

Men’s Work Boots Under $100

Women’s Work Boots Under $100

Regulations 

When it comes to workplace safety, regulations generally shouldn’t throw a wrench in your buying plans – after all, your safety is just as important to you as it is to a board. One of the most common regulators you’ll run into is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Your employer will likely tell you any guidelines you need, but if you are new to the business or want to know more you can find OSHA regulations on protective equipment here.

Boot Care

One thing we can’t stress enough is that you have to take care of your boots. If you’re wearing them almost every day, they are going to wear down no matter how high the quality. You’ll want to extend the life of your boots as long as possible. There are plenty of resources out there on how to care for your boots depending on the type you buy – here’s a general guide to get you started from TopWorkBoots.com. A product PROs swear by to help insulate their work boots is Tuff Toe – find it here.

More Information

Buying boots is a big investment – want to do more research before you order? Check out these guides that we went to for even more PRO advice:

TopWorkBoots.com – Reviews and Buying Guide

EnoughWork.com – Best Work Boots Under $100

BootRatings.com – 6 Best Insulated Work Boots

MyWorkWear.org – Top 10 Best Waterproof Work Boots for Men in 2018

HixMagazine.com – Best Work Boots … Buyer’s Guide for all Occupations

AConcord Carpenter.com – Choosing a Workboot

WorkBootsGuru.com – The Best Lace Up Work Boots: 5 Choices For The Regular Worker

Getting the right boots is just the first step (pun intended) to being a great PRO – the next step is to sign up for a free PRO account on SUPPLY.com to get discounts and specialized service on all the supplies you need from top brands like KOHLER, Moen, and TOTO.

Have any questions or want to sign up for a PRO account? Call our team of product experts at 888-426-2323 or visit SUPPLY.com below.

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