What to Look for In A Work Boot

When shopping for work boots, there's plenty to consider, so it's important to keep your profession and industry in mind. Whether repairing power lines in the pouring rain, patrolling a neighborhood, or building a home, the people by your side and your equipment (including the gear you wear) can mean the difference between success and failure, or safety and danger. Let's review some of the more common features to look for when picking out your next pair.

Type of Toe

The two most common types are steel toes and composite toes, both of which are OSHA-approved and provide protection against impact and electrical hazards. When choosing the perfect work boot, some factors to consider include your profession, climate, and personal preferences.

Steel toes

containing protective reinforcement made of steel, are the original safety-toe work boots.


  • Best puncture protection
  • Shatterproof
  • Affordable

Best for:

  • Industries like construction, where safety (especially from falling or sharp objects) is of utmost importance

Composite toes 

are a more recent (and slightly more expensive) development, and unlike their steel counterparts, contain no metal. Instead, they're crafted from materials such as plastic, carbon fiber, and rubber.


  • Significantly lighter weight
  • Better electrical resistance
  • Temperature regulation, due to insulating properties

Best for:

  • Walking or lifting heavy objects
  • Colder climates


Slips, trips, and falls are responsible for some of the most common workplace injuries. Slip resistance offers a simple yet effective way to maintain your everyday safety. The level of resistance depends upon the design, tread pattern, and material used in the outsole. When it comes to boots, choose from three main types of soles:

Rubber outsoles utilize rubber's natural gripping property, which comes in especially handy on your boot bottom.

rubber outsolesBenefits:

  • Resistance to abrasion, oil, and slips

Best for:

  • Oil rig workers and anyone in wet or damp environments

TPU outsoles are made from thermoplastic polyurethane. This type of plastic has properties like elasticity and transparency that make it ideal for sporting goods, power tools, medical devices, and of course, work boots.

tpu outsolesBenefits:

  • Durable, long-lasting
  • Resistance to splitting, abrasion, oil, and chemicals
  • Heat resistant (up to 266° F)

Best for:

  • Oil rig workers and anyone exposed to chemicals or high temperatures

EVA midsoles are made from foam-like material called ethylene vinyl acetate that helps make great cushioning.

eva midsolesBenefits:

  • Light, properly distributed weight
  • Stability for support
  • Flexibility

Best for:

  • Walking or climbing
  • Back or knee pain


Not surprisingly, construction is also a big deal when it comes to boots. The way in which your boot is made, and specifically, how the sole is attached, can highly impact its wear and tear, which is an important detail to consider as you decide which type of boot is best for you. Be sure to also consider what'll work for your job and personal budget, of course.

Direct-attach or cement construction involves fastening the upper part of the boot to the sole using molten rubber. Cementing utilizes a durable and flexible adhesive to bond the outsole to the rest of the boot.

direct-attach or cement constructionBenefits:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable - the boot molds to your feet!

Best for:

  • Light-duty jobs
  • Being on your feet all day

The downside for direct-attach is that once the sole is damaged or begins to separate from the boot, you'll need to replace your boots altogether, unlike other methods that allow for soles to be repaired.

Welting is a more labor-intensive method that involves a welt - a tough strip of leather, rubber, or plastic stitched to the upper part of the work boot and sole, resulting in superior-made (though more expensive) boots. There are two kinds of welting: Blake and Goodyear.

Blake welting wraps the upper around the insole and attaches it to the outsole by a single stitch.

blake welting constructionBenefits:

  • Durable, long-lasting
  • Easily repaired
  • Flexibility given fewer layers of material

Best for:

  • Walking or climbing

Goodyear welting or double-stitched is the oldest method, which uses two-level stitching and results in the most durable (though also most costly) boots.

goodyear welting constructionBenefits:

  • Durable, long-lasting
  • Easily repaired
  • More supportive and water resistant due to extra layers

Best for:

  • Cold and wet climates

Safety Standards

Foot injuries make up 25% of all disabling workplace injuries. When it comes to safety, your employer is likely to have its own set of guidelines to follow when considering work gear and shoes.

As a general rule, you may want to look for boots that are OSHA-approved, which ensures they comply with standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI has criteria specific to electrical workers. How do you know which shoes qualify? ShoeBuy labels them to make it easy - shop our ANSI-compliant work boot collection.

Key Takeaways

Of course, choosing the right work boot has a lot to do with your personal preference. While safety is usually top priority, comfort is likely high on your list as well.

Need help finding the perfect fit or have a question about one of our products or work boots in general? We're here to help – browse similar topics and our FAQ section below!