Fall Winter season 2020 guide to the 12 best waterproof work boots for men.
Here’s our handy fall/winter seasons 2020 guide to the 12 best waterproof work boots money can buy.
According to the Bureau of Work Statistics, there are over 53,000 foot injuries per year leading to days off work. I can testify to this, having once dropped a full keg of beer on my big toe – you could hear my screams in Alaska!
In addition, working with cold or wet feet can contribute to colds and fevers and slips and falls are often caused by ill-fitting shoes or inappropriate footwear. It’s no surprise that one of the most important items of work-wear is a sturdy pair of boots. Fortunately, there are plenty of great choices on the marketplace, from well-known brands to niche products.
In this article, we’ll look at what you should be looking for and the pitfalls to avoid, and then run down a dozen of the best waterproof work boots for men We’ll also answer some FAQs you might have. Let’s jump in with both feet.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT WORK BOOTS
Shopping for shoes is tough enough, with the sheer variety to choose from. Finding a good fit for your feet can seem like a fairly exacting science,. Particularly if, like me, you have fallen arches, unusually wide feet and one foot a full half size bigger than the other.
WHAT IS A WORK BOOT ANYWAY?
Put simply, a work boot is just a piece of specialized footwear designed for a work environment. If you work in construction, manufacturing or other heavy industries, they will be as much a required item of clothing as hard hats and safety goggles. They tend to prioritize function over form, and are sturdy in construction and design, durable and hard-wearing.
Having said that, work boots have sometimes crossed-over into the world of fashion. The Doc Martens worn by British punks and skinheads in the 1970s and beyond began as specialized work-wear. Even today, work boots can be fashionable and stylish, but this shouldn’t be your primary consideration when choosing a pair. As statistics show, a good pair of waterproof work boots can even save your life – 831 workers died from slips and falls alone in 2016, according to the National Safety Council.
What specific type of work boots you choose will depend on your working environment and the types of hazards you might encounter. What works for a refrigerated warehouse would not suit a foundry, for instance. There will be a series of questions you should ask yourself, and we’ll go into these in the “What Should I Consider” section below. First lets consider what types of work boots are available.
TYPES OF WORK BOOT
Broadly speaking, there are three types of work boot: general purpose, cold weather insulated and steel toe cap. Whatever type you choose, you want them to be waterproof. Pretty much every working environment will involve working on, in or around water, whether its hosing down a warehouse floor, working on a ship’s deck or hauling frozen products into refrigerated trucks, you be glad of footwear that keeps your feet warm and dry. Let’s take a closer look at these three types.
If you work in an environment without heavy machinery or products that might damage your feet in a fall, you might just want a good all-rounder. These should still be slip resistant, water resistant, proof against most acids, insulated against electrical discharge and offer good traction and durability. They tend to be relatively lightweight too and should be quick to break in. These are probably the commonest kind found on the market.
OUTDOOR WORK BOOTS
You’ll need something with an insulated lining or other insulated material inside if you work in a cold environment. If you’ve ever experienced the sensation of toe-freeze and the pain that thawing toes can produce, you’ll be glad of a pair of thermally-insulated work boots. They will keep your feet dry in wet conditions as well as be highly slip resistant for frozen environments. They might be a little heavier than an all-purpose shoe but they will tend to be reasonably comfortable.
These are the hard men of the work boot world. In workplaces where heavy tools, machinery or materials are being moved about, having reinforced toe caps and puncture resistant soles could make all the difference. Drop a hammer on your steel toe caps and you’ll laugh it off. These work boots should be the most protective of all, including having thick and solid soles, in case you tread on a nail or piece of broken glass. You won’t want to go dancing in these boots, as they will be fairly heavy, but you’ll have the confidence of wearing the most protective kind of work boot.
WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER WHEN BUYING WATERPROOF WORK BOOTS?
There’s a lot to consider. First and foremost, read the health and safety guidelines in your employment contract. They may describe in detail what specific protection your footwear should provide. Beyond that consideration, use the list below to decide which elements are must-haves in your choice of work boot.
- Water resistant – note that some boots are described as water resistant rather than waterproof, because truly waterproof boots (such as the rubber waders worn by fishermen) don’t let any water in or out. Your feet can become extremely wet from perspiration if your boots can’t wick moisture away from the feet. Fully waterproof boots should allow your feet to breathe a little, while resisting water droplets and water seeping in from outside.
- Slip resistant – The type of outsole your work boots have will determine how much traction you get. Traction is simply a measure of how well the boots grip the surface you’re walking on. Textured rubber soles tend to provide better traction than leather soles. If you are working on slippery surfaces such as wet concrete or metal, you might want to prioritize this element.
- Electrically absorbent – there are different types of electrically insulated boots. Some are electrostatic resistant, meaning that they won’t pick up an electrical charge, and thereby accumulate dust or other particulates. If you are working around potentially dangerous electrical sources, you will want boots that are electrically-insulated, meaning that they ground any electrical discharge, keeping you safe. Certainly, you want to avoid work boots made from any material that conducts electricity. Boots reinforced with traditional hobnails might be unwise in such scenarios.
- Acid Resistant – these are specialist work boots that do not corrode in acidic environments. Check with your employer if you require this kind of protection.
- Oil resistant – this feature means your boots won’t absorb oils and become slippery, which can be extremely helpful in some environments (oil drilling platforms and fishing boats, for instance).
- Puncture Resistant – If your workplace has a lot of sharp objects, broken glass or nails lying about, you’ll want puncture resistant boots – ideally for both soles and uppers. In construction work, for instance, this is a must.
- Heat/Cold Insulated – As well as work boots that keep your feet warm in cold environments, you can get boots which protect you from excessive heat. These would be particularly helpful in working in a foundry, or outdoors in the summer, heat for instance. Did you know that the tarmac of the roads in Death Valley gets hot enough to melt the soles of running shoes?
- Steel Toe Capped – As we’ve seen, these boots will protect you from some (but not all) accidents involving falling objects. There is a common myth that the steel plates in these boots can curl inwards and amputate toes. This has been thoroughly debunked. The only significant downside to wearing steel toe cap boots in the workplace is that they are considerably heavier than normal boots.
- Extra Supportive – Some work boots designed for prolonged use in workplaces where there may be a lot of twisting and stretching, provide additional support for the ankles and calves and offer improved comfort. There may be trade-off in price and other functionality if comfort is your main priority.
- Lightweight – As with extra-supportive work boots, lightweight ones will be good for prolonged wear but may not be much better than normal shoes at protecting your feet. However, there are new technologies being developed all the time, such as carbon fiber, which provide strength without resorting to metal plates. Check that these work boots suit whatever Health and Safety compliance rules you are required to work within.
- Stylish – To be honest, this is an afterthought. But since there are a host of manufacturers making waterproof work boots with a lot of the same essential safety features, you may not entirely have to sacrifice style to be safe.
THE DIRTY DOZEN – 12 Best Work Boots for Fall-Winter 2020
These USA made work boots have a great pedigree, and have been manufactured in Michigan since 1883. They have a full grain leather upper, a rubber outsole for traction and a removable footbed for added comfort. They are fully waterproof and stylish enough to keep wearing if you’re grabbing a beer after work. Users report good comfort but Wolverines may not last quite as long as other brands. They have a six inch shaft which will provide some ankle support and comfort. They have a soft toe, so would not be suitable for workplaces where a metal toe cap in required. The sole is relatively thick and lacks flexibility until they’re fully worn-in. However, at this price, they are one of the best all-purpose work boots around. They come in size 7 to 14.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
#2 – Timberland
Legendary boot maker Timberland’s Pro Boondock model is a no-nonsense piece of footwear. These boots are slip, oil and abrasion resistant and reinforced with rubber toe protectors. They are made from 100% leather with a composite sole that provides improved shock absorption. They are also one of the more stylish boots on the market with a two-tone chestnut and black color scheme detailed with orange stitching and trim. Users find them surprisingly comfortable, given their sturdy build and they offer great traction. They’re a little pricey perhaps, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Possibly the best composite toe work boot available. Boondocks are sized from 7 to 14.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
#3 – Caterpillar
Cat boots are good-looking and can be worn in everyday life, as well as on site. These are a little lower in height than other brands at 5.25 inches and offer a breathable leather upper layer for added comfort. Laces and eyelets are especially durable, given how much abuse work boots tend to suffer. They are electrical hazard rated and have a removable footbed for added comfort. These soft toe boots should be decently waterproof and feature seam-sealed liners to keep you dry in extreme weather or wet conditions. Users report that they size a little larger than other brands but if you want breathable waterproof work boots, Caterpillars might be right for you. Available size 7-15 and reasonably priced, although not the best bargain available.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
#4– Irish Setter
These distinctive work boots offer an aluminium toe cap, a simple lace-up style and full grain waterproof leather. Like many of the other brands we tried, they provide a removable footbed. The rubber outsole is heat resistant to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as being fully electrical hazard compliant. They’re certainly not the most affordable or beautiful work boots we looked at, but they should keep you safe in medium-risk working environments. Traditionally, they are a work boot favored by outdoorsmen and craftspeople and are both lightweight and comfortable. Available in size 7 to 14.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
#5 – Chippewa
There’s something almost feminine in this 9-inch all-leather work boot from Chippewa but don’t tell the lumberjacks! But bringing flair and style to a highly-functional piece of workwear is not a bad thing. With a 2.5 inch heel, these boots give you a decent lift as well. The boots are electrical hazard compliant and come in a range of colors. Because they were originally designed for loggers, they have a fully-compliant steel toe cap, safe from any slip of the chainsaw. They also feature Thinsulate lining for added warmth. A great all-round composite toe work boot and worth the considerable investment. Chippewa make a wide range of sizes, from 6 to 14 and with 3 width fittings.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
#6 – Keen
There urban-styled shoes hardly look like work boots at all. But looks can be deceiving. They feature a lightweight but protective alloy toe and surpass all electrical hazard safety standards. They are oil and slip resistant and feature good midfoot support and moisture wicking. Keen work boots are also one of the best value offerings in this list. They are padded and have a breathable membrane to keep your feet dry and supported. The Keen range come in gradations of “work duty” and weights between 646g to 980g, so make sure you choose the one that’s right for you. Although they score high in price, style and comfort, they may not offer as much durability as other brands. Sizes: 7-15 available.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
#7 – Thorogood
Not only do these tall, USA made work boots feature full steel toe caps but they also have fibreglass shanks, for added solidity and to prevent cracking around the sides. They are a classically-styled American boot and should provide good traction and warmth. They come with a memory foam footbed to achieve a perfect fit. They have a retro 1950s styling, and chestnut brown coloring with yellow thread detailing. Some have said that the soft tongue bunches up in places. They’re also rather pricey, but if the style suits you and you need a steel toe cap, these might be just the ticket. Comes in size 8 to 14.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
#8 – Skechers
No Work boot review would be complete without a pair of Skechers, a modern classic. Reasonably-priced and certainly solid, the Hartan Onkin work boot have a sturdy steel toe cap. They are a little tight-fitting, so they might require a longer work-in period. They come in dark and light brown leather with rubber paneling and good traction grips. These imported shoes are also good value for money and wouldn’t look out of place on the street. They have memory foam insoles and are reasonably durable for the comparatively low price. Some users have reported that the feet get a little sweaty in them after prolonged wear – you may need to air them or use shoe deodorants. These boots are available between sizes 7 to 14.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
#9 – Carhartt
Another classic logging shoe, the Carhartt 8-inch work boot features some simple but clever design, including right-angular heels which make climbing ladders easier and safer. They have a composite safety toe cap and are oil, chemical and slip resistant. The USA made work boots feature Thinsulate interiors and breathable technology. As well as being waterproof, they should keep your feet warm and free from perspiration. As a brand, Cathartt also has a long legacy, dating back to its founding in 1889. For a tall boot of this quality, it is priced very reasonably and comes in sizes from 8 to 15 with wide fittings. This is a good all-rounder.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
#10 – Georgia Boot
The first slip-on pair of boots in this list, the Georgia mid-calf work boot excels in comfort and ease of use. It would not be suitable for a construction site, due to its limited range of safety features. But in a low-risk work environment, this is a very stylish and deceptively functional shoe. It is waterproof and moisture wicking and meets electrical hazard standards. Worn with boot-cut jeans, this is one of the smartest-looking work boots available. This shoe might best suit a craftsman, painter or gardener. It does not feature a particularly non-stick or rugged sole. It is also a little limited in sizes available (8 to 13 with wide fittings) but is one of the most lightweight, waterproof work boots on this list.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
#11 – Ariat
The excellently-named Workhog scores highly on comfort and balance with Advanced Torque Stability to help prevent twists and sprains. It features a cushioning midsole and a chunky oil and slip resistant sole, made from a durable vinyl compound. It is also available with or without a steel toe cap. These USA made work boots are understated and subtle in their styling and available in sizes 7-14, including wide fittings. Wearers highlight the work boot’s comfort, making this brand a great mid-priced all-rounder.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
#12 – Danner
The Danner is technically a Wellington boot, being a tall, slip on. But these work boots have been described as combat boots – they can be pulled quickly on, leaving you ready for workplace battle. They have electrical hazard compliant slip-resistant soles and are triple-stitched for durability. They are styled in lightly-textured, full grain nubuck leather, rather than suede, for durability and water resistance. These work boots feature a dry-liner to keep your feet healthy and a comfort-enhancing footbed. Probably the safest and most comfortable wellington around but not suitable for work involving a lot of crouching or kneeling. Sized 8 to 14 with women’s sizes. Features a soft toe cap.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WORKING: FAQs
Q: Are steel toed boots comfortable?
A: The best-designed boots should be cushioned underneath the toe-cap. Most boots come with a guarantee, which should allow you to return the boots if they cause excessive pain. Initial discomfort may be due to the work boots being inflexible until they are worn in, which may take a couple of days. Try wearing them over a weekend before you take them to work. While wearing them in, you could wear extra-thick socks or insulating toe covers. When the work boots become worn-in, they will become more flexible. It is inadvisable to buy a tight-fitting pair as your feet may swell slightly after hours of energetic wear. Err on the size of slightly too much space at the toe.
Q: How important is electrical hazard compliance?
A: Very. In fact, your workplace may require it. Most commercially-available work boots do comply but check with the product description first and make sure it matches with any requirements given in your work contract.
Q: Is price always commensurate with quality?
A: Not always but it is inadvisable to skimp on something which is so vital to your day-today safety and health. Much depends upon who’s footing the bill, of course, so if you have a workwear allowance, treat yourself to the best pair you can afford.
Q: Which brands are best for women?
A: Smaller sizes, lightweight design and sleeker styles are available from Timberland, Ariat, Keen and Skechers but most of the brands featured in this article produce shoes from size 7 upwards and they should be considered unisex.
Q: What are the best brands for large and wide feet?
A: Chippewa have the greatest range of wide and extra-wide work boots while Caterpillar, Skechers and Catharrt extend their range to size 15. There are specialist suppliers and brands not on this list for larger foot sizes, such as this supplier in Minneapolis: XL Feet.
Q: Is it safe to buy work boots online?
A: Most stores will have a returns policy but make sure you check with your supplier before you commit.
Q: How do I know if these boots are safety standard compliant?
A: Check your work contract for the specifics, then look at the documentation that comes with the footwear. Contact the brand directly if you are in doubt. Most of them will have dedicated websites with customer service chat or email facilities.
Q: What should I look out for when trying work boots on?
A: Test their traction, flexibility, weight, waterproofing, degree of support and comfort. Try to depress the toe cap using your fingers. Make sure you leave enough space at the toe and around your feet for them to swell into. Pay close attention to where chafing may occur and how comfortable you feel walking, crouching and kneeling in them.
Q: Can’t I just use a pair of ordinary work shoes?
A: Absolutely not. Once again, the health of your feet is way too important to trust to a pair of everyday shoes, no matter how sturdy they may seem. You might also be in contravention of workplace health and safety requirements. If in doubt, check these with your employer.
Whether you are working outdoors or indoors, with electricity, heavy machinery or dangerous tools, in sub-zero temperatures or humid heat, you want your work boots to be comfortable and safety compliant. There is a huge array of styles and designs available, with prices to suit every pocket. This means that buying work boots is a potentially daunting task, but it needn’t be.
If you shop methodically, using a checklist of wants and needs, you’re sure to find a pair of work boots you’ll grow to rely on and love.