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What to Look For in a Work Boot

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Finding the right work boot is a lot like drafting your fantasy football team – it takes some research of key strengths to put together the winning combination. 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.

1) 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.

steel 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.

composite toe work boots


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

Best for:

  • Walking or lifting heavy objects
  • Colder climates

2) Slip-Resistance

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 outsoles


  • 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 outsoles


  • 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 midsoles


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

Best for:

  • Walking or climbing
  • Back or knee pain

3) Construction

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 construction


  • 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 construction


  • 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 construction


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

Best for:

  • Cold and wet climates

4) 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!

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Are My Work Boots Tax-Deductible?

Frequently Asked Questions:

  Q. What's an upper?

A. The upper is the part of a boot or shoe above the sole...

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  Q. What's an insole?

A. The insole is the fixed inner sole of a shoe or boot where your foot bottom rests...

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  Q. What's an outsole?

A. It's the outermost layer of the sole (i.e., the exterior bottom)...

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  Q. What's a welt?

A. The welt is a strip of material, often leather, which is sewn around the edge of the outsole to attach the upper to the outsole of a pair of boots...

Read more here

  Q. What's a steel toe?

A. A steel-toe boot contains protective reinforcement made of steel...

Read more here

  Q. What are the criteria for safety shoes?

A. Most safety shoes have symbols on the outside to indicate the protection the shoe provides...

Read more here

  Q. What's a composite toe?

A. A composite toe is crafted out of materials such as plastic, carbon fiber, and rubber...

Read more here

  Q. What makes a shoe or boot slip-resistant?

A. Slip resistance is determined by a shoe's outsole design, material, and tread pattern...

Read more here

  Q. What's a rubber outsole?

A. A rubber outsole is when the bottom of a boot or shoe is made of rubber...

Read more here

  Q. What's a TPU outsole?

A. A TPU outsole is when the bottom of a shoe or boot is made from thermoplastic polyurethane...

Read more here

  Q. What's an EVA Midsole?

A. Suffer from back pain? Your footwear may be partially to blame. An EVA midsole helps to disperse weight and provide stability, learn more.

Read more here

  Q. What's a Steel Shank in Boots?

A. A shank is crucial to the functionality of your boots; find out why.

Read more here

  Q. Which Boots are OSHA-Approved?

A. Falling objects and other hazards are some of the leading causes of workplace injuries. Find out which boots will keep you safe.

Read more here

  Q. What's a Metatarsal Guard?

A. Depending on your line of work, you may want to invest in a metatarsal guard for added foot protection. Learn more.

Read more here

  Q. Why Would I Need Rubber Work Boots with a Steel Toe?

A. Working in wet conditions puts your safety at risk, find out why your standard rubber boot might not provide the protection you need.

Read more here

  Q. What's Thinsulate?

A. Did you know the same material used in sleeping bags could help keep your feet warm?

Read more here

  Q. Why is Chemical-Resistance Important?

A. Learn more about the different types of chemical-resistant boots to choose the right pair for your job.

Read more here

  Q. Why are PVC Materials Used for Boots?

A. Learn more about plastic polyvinyl chloride, a plastic that provides a broad range of chemical protection, to choose the right pair of boots.

Read more here

  Q. Why Should My Boot Be Waterproof?

A. You prefer to stay dry and warm, right? It makes your day (or night) at work seem shorter, and its healthier. Learn more.

Read more here

  Q. What is the Direct-Attach or Cementing Method?

A. This method creates lightweight, comfortable boots that mold to your feet. You'll feel the difference and thank us later! Find out more.

Read more here

  Q. What's Welting?

A. This method creates a durable, long-lasting boot. You might not even have to replace your pair once it starts to wear. Find out more.

Read more here

  Q. What's a Blake Welt?

A. Blake welting enhances flexibility given fewer layers of material used. Find out how it works.

Read more here

  Q. What's a Goodyear Welt?

A. Goodyear welting allows for more support and water-resistance due to extra layers. Find out how it works.

Read more here