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Work Boots

What You Need to Know Before You Buy


Wolverine Swamp Monster Work Boots

For many blue-collar workers, a good pair of work boots is as essential as the tools they use on the job. Just as there are many different trades, there are several styles of work boots, many designed for specific workplace environments.

Choosing the Right Boot

Construction workers, for example, need reinforced toes to help avoid punctures, lacerations or broken bones. Those who work outdoors or on slick surfaces may need special soles to help guard against slips, trips and falls. Even weekend do-it-yourselfers will want sturdy, protective shoes or boots for garage or basement projects. And while many work boots appear similar -- typically, sturdy brown or black lace ups -- not all are created equal.

Kinds of Work Boots

There are several popular styles of work boots.
  • Steel-toe boots offer reinforced tips for jobs that require you to work with heavy objects.

  • Waterproof or water-resistant boots help keep your feet dry when you work outdoors.

  • Electrical hazard boots are insulated, offering protection from electrical charges up to 600 volts in some cases.

  • Slip-resistant boots have special soles that provide traction on wet or oily floors.

  • Insulated boots keep your feet warm in cold weather.

  • Additional options include all-terrain, medical and soft-toes work boots.

Brands and Prices

Some brands offer boots specifically designed for loggers, rangers, farmers, mechanics and miners. Popular brands include Ariat, Michelin, Wellington, Timberland, Red Wing, Caterpillar, Dexter Fargo, Rocky and Doc Martens. While many work boots are available only in men's sizes; a few manufacturers, such as Ariat, Timberland and Rocky, make work boots in women's sizes.

Price will vary depending on category of shoe, the brand and where you buy them, but generally, you should expect to spend at least $90 for a good rugged pair of work boots, to as much as $200.

Work Boot Materials

At constructiongear.com, experts suggest identifying the feature or features most important to you before you buy. Many lines have styles combining a number of features. Footwear can be made of leather, rubber or man-made materials and is available in a number of styles including six- and eight-eyelet lace-up boots, athletic-style shoes and even clogs. Choose carefully, since materials and construction can affect a boot's weight, flexibility, durability and waterproofing.

Boot Characteristics

If you work indoors or in warm weather most of the time, you might prefer boots made from a combination of leather and nylon-mesh. Combination boots tend to be less water-resistant than their full-grain leather counterparts, but they are also lightweight and flexible -- ideal attributes for hot, dry summers. Leather boots take longer to break in and are less breathable than boots made of a combination of materials, but they are highly water-resistant and supportive, and they generally last longer. Other options for your boots include waterproof liners and padded insoles.

Work Boot Construction

Work boots are constructed in several ways. Boots with stitch-down construction, in which the upper part is sewn to the outsole, are the only type that can be resoled. For a less expensive option, choose cement construction boots, in which the upper is glued to the outsole. In direct attach boots, which tend to last longer and have the strongest bond between outsole and upper, the two portions are molded together.

Getting the Right Fit

Quality, durability and comfort are the keys to choosing the best pair of work boots. Try on several different pairs and a variety of brands before deciding which work best for your needs. Most work boots run true to size. If you are buying an insulated boot, you may want to go up a half-size to allow room for heavier socks.

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content.

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