One of the most important pieces of equipment to help make it through long, hard days is footwear. The boots you wear can be the difference between finishing the job or crying with your feet up when you get home. For anyone doing manual labor, whether for their job or at home, a quality pair of work boots is a must-have investment. Work boots should be comfortable, supportive, and durable—with all necessary safety features to keep your feet healthy.
To find the best work boots for men, we tested nine of the most popular work boots available. After stress testing and wearing each for multiple days of yard work and in my woodshop, the Chippewa 55025 Hador Steel Toe Boots (available at Amazon) emerged as the clear winner. They look and feel great, and offer the protection and traction that you need to make it through a full day’s work.
If you’re a more occasional-use wearer with a limited budget and no need for steel toes, then the Ever Boots Tank Men’s Soft Toe Work Boots (available at Amazon) are our pick for Best Value. These comfortable work boots are perfect for being out in the yard all day.
Chippewa 55025 Hador Steel Toe Boots
If you’re looking for a pair of workboots for hard work day after day, week after week, and month after month, then you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than the Chippewa Steel Logger Boots. Made of heavy-duty leather, these work boots offer all the protection that you need. The steel safety toes are rated at the ASTM standards for impact and compression, and the soles feature electrical hazard protection to keep you safe even in certain dangerous conditions.
We were particularly impressed by the traction of the soles. We tested each boot using a shingled dummy roof pitched at 45 degrees and these were one of the only boots that let me stand right up without slipping. I’d feel confident wearing these for any roofing job (with other proper equipment, of course). I’d feel confident wearing these for any roofing job.
That safety and control do not come at the expense of comfort. By the end of our testing, these were some of my favorite boots. They climb high up the calf, giving plenty of ankle stability without any uncomfortable collar pressure. The arches are high and supportive, reinforced with a steel shank, letting you stay on your feet all day without aches or cramps.
While the boots are heavy—as all steel toes are—the Chippewas are insulated with 3M Thinsulate Ultra to take some of that weight away while keeping the boots breathable and moisture-resistant. They did take several days to break in. Once they did, the Chippewas felt like they were molded to my feet. This is a pair of boots that I would be more than happy to work in for an entire career, and are one of two pairs that I kept coming back to after testing was over.
The Ever Boots Work Boots were one of the major surprises of my testing. I fell in love with these affordable boots from the moment I put them on. They are comfortable, with a mix of flexibility and stability through the foot and up the ankle. The arches, which include a steel shank, are on the low side, but still provide plenty of support to wear comfortably all day. I experienced no uncomfortable chafing or blistering at all during any of our testing.
The Ever Boots work boots are made of quality materials: real leather, reinforced stitching, and rubber soles. You should probably buy a new pair of shoelaces in the store when you pick these up—the included laces stripped within a few days. The one real drawback of these boots is the lack of steel toe, which means that they’re going to have limited applications.
They’re much more suited to occasional-use homeowners than someone who needs real protection on the job site day after day. If that sounds like you, then these are hard to beat for the price. They were the boots that I wore most often once the official testing was done.
I’m Jean Levasseur, a former conveyor mechanic, property manager, and hobbyist woodworker, in addition to being a writing instructor at a local university. I come from a family of tool-users—my grandfather was a carpenter, my father owned an excavation company, and my mother was a mechanic. Between growing up working for my family’s businesses and then moving onto my own projects, I’ve used most tools you’ve heard of and quite a few that you haven’t. I spend a lot of time out in the yard maintaining my landscaping or on my feet down in my shop woodworking.
The first step was to break in and assess the comfort and fit of each boot. There are many strategies for breaking in boots, but we went with a tried-and-true method: wearing them. I tried to wear each pair of boots for five days, starting with an hour or two the first day, and then ending with some kind of multi-hour working session either out in the yard or down in the shop. As I wore them, I looked at overall fit, breathability, and support, as well as signs that the durability wasn’t up to snuff, such as leather peeling or stitches pulling.
Once we had finished the wearing phase, we put each pair of boots through a series of safety and performance tests. The first was around traction. I built a 45-degree small ramp with asphalt shingles to mimic a 12-pitch roof, which is fairly steep. From there, I tried to stand up on the ramp in each pair of boots. We sorted each pair into one of three categories. Lowest was if I couldn’t actually get enough traction to stand on the ramp without holding on. Second was if I could step up onto the ramp unaided but then slip down a few seconds later. Highest was if I could stand on the ramp and stay put.
Our next test was a drop test. We filled the toe of each of the boots with modeling clay, and then dropped a 40-pound weight onto the toe from 22.5-inches in the air. This gave us the energy impact equivalent to the ASTM 175 safety standards, which is the highest impact rating in the U.S. Not surprisingly, all of the steel toe boots passed this test with flying colors. Also not surprisingly, this test showed the importance of not dropping 40-pound weights on your feet without steel toes.
Our final test was to see how rugged the sole of each boot was. I drove a nail through a piece of wood, and then tried to force that nail by hand through the sole of each pair of boots. Again, we separated each pair of boots into three categories: whether this was easy, intermediate, or difficult to accomplish. Here I was pleasantly surprised at how hard it was to drive the nail through any of the boots by hand.
What You Should Know About Buying Work Boots
Quality footwear is critical to keeping you on your feet until the job is done. If you’re doing any kind of manual labor, the right work boots will keep you safe, supported, and comfortable.
First and foremost, work boots need to give you the protection you need. However, not everyone needs the same level of protection. Higher-end boots will include features like steel toes to protect against drops and electrical resistance to protect you on job sites with potential electrical hazards. Those are both critical safety features for a lot of workers, and are well worth the extra cost and weight that go along with them—if you need them, don’t skip them.
However, if you’re just looking for a pair of boots to mow the lawn on the weekend, then these safety features may not be necessary. A lighter, more flexible pair might be the best option for you.
Safety is what keeps your feet intact. Fit is what keeps you on your feet. Quality, durability, and safety don’t mean anything if your feet slide around inside the boots.
Properly fitted boots should be snug around the heel so that your foot doesn’t move side to side. Your ankle and calf should be supported, but still able to move and bend as you walk. You don’t want boots to change your gait or put strain on your knees. And you certainly don’t want the collar of the boot to cut off circulation
The toe box should have enough extra space that you can wiggle your toes. This will again allow circulation through your foot, and allow your toes the movement and flexibility needed to keep you balanced.
Finally, pay attention to the arches. Do you need a high arch for support? Or do you need something a little bit flatter? You can purchase new insoles to provide a different level of arch support if you need.
Above all, you want to walk naturally in your new boots. Anything else is going to drain your energy and leave you with sore legs and feet day after day.
Break Them In
Most of the time boots (especially those with natural material like leather) come out of the box stiff. If you try to wear them for eight or ten hours on day one, you’re going to wind up with blisters and sore feet. It’s well worth taking the time to break in a pair of boots before you start to use them in your regular day-to-day.
People swear by different methods to break in boots. Conditioning the leather with a product like mink oil is a great option. Simply folding, bending, and massaging the leather can soften it up, particularly around the ankle and toes where the boot needs to flex the most. But the most reliable way to break in boots is to wear them gradually. Start with an hour, then two, then a few more, building up over the course of several days or a week. This allows the boots to stretch and form around the shape of your foot, which is the ultimate goal anyway.
Don’t be afraid to wear band-aids or fabric tape during the breaking-in period in places where it feels like blisters might form. And don’t think that uncomfortable boots will suddenly become comfortable after breaking in. If they’re not at all comfortable in the store, then they won’t be comfortable at home. Stiff boots will loosen up—painful boots probably won’t stop being painful.
Other Work Boots We Tested
Wolverine Raider Steel-Toe 6-Inch Work Boot
The Wolverine 6-inch Raider steel toe work boots went through just about every test we threw at them with flying colors, performing nearly as well as our ultimate winner. Right out of the box, the shoes were very comfortable, and grew even more comfortable as I wore them. The rubber soles and arches provide plenty of support for a full day of working. The cushioned ankle collar cradles your leg while still providing the flexibility to move around easily.
In terms of safety and performance, the Wolverine Raiders excel as well. The steel toes showed no sign of damage after our drop tests, and I was able to stand right up on our dummy roof. The leather construction feels durable, and shows no sign of wear after all of our testing. I would imagine these boots will be able to make it through even some of the toughest jobs out there. This is an excellent pair of boots for anyone who needs quality footwear to keep them on their feet day after day.
It’s no surprise that a company known for rugged, heavy-duty working machinery produced a rugged, heavy-duty work boot. The Caterpillar Second Shift steel toe boots meet the ASTM safety standards for impact, compression, and electrical hazard protection, keeping you safe on even the toughest job sites. The slip-resistant soles have excellent traction, allowing me to stand up and stay on our test roof.
All of that safety comes with good quality and decent comfort. The leather material is durable and heavy-duty, while the insoles are breathable and don’t get too hot, even in a waterproof boot. They provide great support with solid comfort through the foot and heel. My biggest problem with the boots is that the collar that wraps around the ankle never softened up. My calf ached after any multi-hour wearing session. They didn’t hurt while I was wearing them, but it was a relief to get them off at the end of the day. But if you don’t feel that same pressure, this is another high-quality boot worth trying on.
Timberland is one of the top names in working footwear, and the Pit Boss steel toe work boots are a good example of why. They’re made of high quality, durable leather, provide plenty of support, and meet ANSI, ASTM, and F2892 standards for safety. What’s more, they’re one of the lighter pairs of heavy duty work boots that we tested, and never got uncomfortably warm. The antimicrobial footbed and odor-resistant interior help keep your feet fresh even after a long day at work.
Right out of the box, they’re quite stiff, and require several days to break in before they are truly comfortable. The padded, v-shaped collar provides plenty of ankle support while letting your legs breathe a bit, but it is actually one of the major drawbacks of this boot. After only an hour or two, that collar really made my calves ache every time. In addition, this was one of the few pairs of boots that gave me blisters during breaking in. These are both of course issues that your feet might get used to over time, but I prefer boots that fit comfortably within a day or two of unpacking.
The Rocky MobiLite steel toe work boots started out great. They felt like high-quality material, with a comfortable fit, especially after a few hours of wearing. They provide lots of support, while still being flexible enough to break in relatively quickly. The comparably low collar and ankle support make them great for walking around, with comfortable footbeds and cushioning to keep your feet feeling fresh. And of course, they are ASTM rated against impacts and compression, so you can rest assured that your toes will be safe.
There were a few drawbacks to these waterproof work boots, however. Every time I wore them for more than an hour or so, my knees started to ache. What’s more, their traction on our test roof was quite bad. I was never able to actually stand up on the 45-degree pitch without slipping back down to the ground. Finally, after only a few days of wear, I noticed the leather in several places already starting to peel. These are probably fine for many homeowners looking for occasional-use boots, but they’re not a pair I would trust to get me through a full day on the job site—particularly not at this price.
The Brahma Raid steel toe work boots are the least expensive that we tested, and unfortunately, that low price came alongside some sacrifices. Right out the box, it was clear that the boots were not of the highest quality. Stitches were starting to pull, and the faux leather was scratched. When I tried them on, the quality didn’t improve much. There wasn’t a lot of cushioning in the sole of the foot—it felt like standing directly on top of the rubber sole. And those soles don’t provide much traction. I wasn’t able to stand on our test roof at all in these shoes.
All that said, these boots are steel toe, at a price that’s very hard to beat. If you need an affordable pair of steel toe boots to wear for a few hours on the weekend, then these are worth a look. However, these likely won’t stand up to the rigors of a regular work day.
The first thing to know about the Danner Bull Run steel toe boots is that they do not look like work boots at all. They look like a pair of moccasins with a high ankle and a thick toe. Which is fine, if that’s an aesthetic that you’re looking for. Unfortunately, the performance of the boots did not make up for the non-traditional look.
Right out of the box, they were uncomfortable. The tongue dug into the top of my foot and ankle, and I was never able to find a position where it didn’t hurt. The soles didn’t feel like they had much in the way of support, and my feet ached after only a few minutes wearing them. While they did pass our drop testing as well as any other pair, and did OK in our rooftop grip test, there simply isn’t enough good in these boots to justify the expense.
With the Hudson Classic work boots, Lugz seems to be trying to straddle the line between fancy dress boots and work boots. Unfortunately, it seems like they leaned a bit too hard toward the dress boot side. These boots are extremely light, which can be a plus. However, they simply don’t feel like they’re going to offer much protection, or have the kind of long-term durability that a good pair of work boots should have. They don’t have a steel toe, so they’re not meant to stand up to the rigors of a real job site. However, I also question whether they will stand up to home use.
What’s more, they’re about as comfortable as my dress shoes—and I don’t own a comfortable pair of dress shoes. There’s just not much to them in terms of stability or support. If budget is your number one criteria, then there are other, higher quality boots in this price point.
Jean Levasseur became a professional writer over a decade-long career in marketing, public relations, and technical writing. After leaving that career to stay home to care for his twin boys, Jean has continued to write in a variety of freelance roles, as well as teaching academic writing at a local university. When he's not reviewing tools or chasing toddlers around the house, he's also an avid fiction writer and a growing woodworker.
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