What kind of conditions do you work under? Construction jobs? Outdoor, extreme weather jobs? Maybe your job requires safety toe protection or slip & oil resistant outsoles. Maybe you’re tired of wet feet and need waterproof work boots.
The best way to start your search for work boots and shoes is to choose the single most important feature to you and then look for additional features you may find appealing. For example, let’s say your work requires safety toe protection, but you may also want a work boot that’s slip and oil resistant. Some of the most popular categories of work boots are: Safety Toe work boots, Plain Toe work boots, Waterproof work boots, Slip and Oil Resistant work boots and Insulated work boots.
When searching for comfortable men’s work boots and shoes pay close attention to the type of outsoles or tread on the bottom of the boot. A deeper, more aggressive tread will give you better traction in the outdoors, but will not the best choice on hard surfaces like concrete. The more aggressive outsoles will also collect and track more mud and dirt.
Another important consideration when buying work boots is the materials and construction. The materials used and the boot’s construction can affect its weight, flexibility, durability, breathability and waterproofing. Common materials used in men’s work boots are:
- Nylon mesh and leather combination – Nylon and leather combination boots are lightweight, flexible and breathable, which makes them perfect for warmer weather. They tend to be lighter and softer on your feet, and take less time to break in. The downside is that nylon and leather combination boots tend to be less water resistant than full-grain leather boots (although styles that feature waterproof liners can be just as waterproof).
- Full-grain leather – Full-grain leather is extremely water resistant, durable and supportive (more so than nylon). It’s not as lightweight or breathable as nylon/leather combinations, but its typically longer lasting and is the best choice when working in harsh conditions. Full-grain leather usually requires a longer break-in period.
- Waterproofing – Waterproof liners (like Gore-Tex®) are built into many work boots. These waterproof liners keep water out, but allow sweat to escape keeping your feet dry.
Keep in mind that manufacturer’s use a variety of methods of waterproofing in men’s work boots and shoes. Waterproof performance depends upon the type of barrier used, the materials protecting it and how well the boots are taken care of. Here are the most common ways that manufacturer’s waterproof men’s work boots:
- Waterproof leather and taped seams – Waterproof leather is usually coated with silicone to repel moisture. The seams of the boot have also been taped from the inside to prevent leakage. This type of waterproofing is better than nothing, but it has a few disadvantages. First, silicone can clog the pores of the leather cutting down on breathability. In other words, if the boot does not breathe you can be standing in a puddle of your own sweat! Second, taped seams typically don’t last as long as waterproof liners.
- Waterproof liners – These are the special waterproof barriers described above that are built right into the boot to protect you from getting wet. These liners (like Gore-Tex) typically do a great job of keeping you dry, and are very durable.
Manufacturers use a variety of different methods to construct men’s work boots. When we talk about construction, we’re specifically talking about the way the outsole is attached to the upper part of the boot. Common construction methods include:
- Stitch down construction – This is the old fashioned way to construct footwear where the outsole is stitched to the upper part of the boot. A goodyear welt construction features one continuous stitch around the boot. Reliable and durable, this is the only method of construction where you can have the boots resoled.
- Cement construction – This method of construction is where the outsole of the boot is glued to the upper part of the boot. Cement construction is less expensive, which adds less to the price of the boots. Although improvements have been made in recent years, cement construction slightly less reliable compared to other methods of construction.
- Direct attach or molded construction – Direct attach is a method of construction that molds the outsole directly to the leather or fabric of the boot. This bond created is very strong and typically lasts longer than cement construction.
Get the Right Fit
Each day we take an average of 8 to 12 thousand steps. Proper fitting footwear is the key to achieving foot health and comfort.
Men’s Work Boot Care Basics
Buying a pair of good men’s work boots is an investment in your health. Properly caring for your boots will protect and lengthen the lifespan of that investment. Some of the most common factors of poor boot maintenance are neglect, and excessively oiling your boots and shoes. Keep your work boots clean by brushing off dirt and mud as both can ruin leather over time. Most work boots can be washed on the outside with a boot cleaner and water. Avoid using soaps and detergents.
If your work boots get soaked, stuff them loosely with newspaper and leave them to dry in a warm place. Never place them near a fire, heater or other heat source.
Work boots need to be conditioned from time to time, especially if they’re made of leather.