In this article I will be discussing how to find the best work boot for your personal circumstances, by explaining some of the varied technical features of boots and the different choices available.

 The topics I will cover are;

  1. 1.Why it is important to find the right boot for your circumstances
  2. 2.Things to consider in your work environment
  3. 3.Varieties of safety toe
  4. 4.Varieties of safety midsole (underfoot protection)
  5. 5.Boot construction type
  6. 6.Sole type

I will then go on to compare some of the different boots that I tried on and elaborate on how there features affected comfort and functionality as well as pointing out some of the extra features that are less common.


1. Why it is important to find the right boot for your circumstances

Choosing the right work safety boots for your circumstances is a complicated process these days with so many more options available. It is an important decision as the wrong boots can cause both injury and regular discomfort and working a long day can be made that much more bearable with comfortable footwear.

 2. Things to consider in your work environment

What are the risks in your workplace? Are there extreme temperatures or possibilities of exposure to dangerous substances? Do you work with heavy objects or machinery? Are there sharp objects on your work site? Do you have to climb ladders or walk on slippery surfaces? All of these things must be considered to both ensure your safety and comfort and to be sure that you have a boot or shoe that can stand up to the obstacles of your environment. Once you have answered these questions you will have a fairly comprehensive list of exactly which features you need in a boot. Below is a little bit of information that explains the different features that are available.

3. Varieties of safety toe

In the safety toe there are 3 main categories;

The relatively modern composite toe made from kevlar or carbon fibre combinations. These are a lighter alternative to steel that can be more comfortable to wear and do not conduct heat or electricity. They can have a big advantage for people who work outdoors in extreme conditions where the heat or cold would be more intense with a Steel toe cap.

  • Aluminium is your second alternative to the traditional steel toe cap. It aluminum is also lighter than steel and does not conduct heat but it is still a metal and will set off metal detectors and may have problems with large magnets.
  • Steel is the traditional option when it comes to the safety toe, it is the strongest of the three options (although the difference between steel and aluminium is minimal and all three materials have passed industry standards). Steel is still proven to be the strongest when a direct drop of extreme weight occurs, this is not something that most environments would have a large risk factor for and in most cases, composite toes would be strong enough.

 As you can see each material has its pros and cons so you need to think about which safety toe category one is right for you.

4. Varieties of safety midsole (underfoot protection)

Another feature that is well worth looking out for if you work on a construction site or anywhere else that nails and sharp objects may be sticking up from the ground, is underfoot protection commonly referred to as a “steel midsole” or “composite midsole”. I won’t go through the pros and cons of each as they are much the same as the safety toe above.

5. Boot construction type

When choosing your work boots or shoes the way they were made and what they are made from is obviously an important factor, affecting durability, comfort, flexibility, stability and of course protection.

There are two basic types of construction to consider;

  • The traditional option is welted, where the upper and the sole are stitched together with an adjoining piece of leather between them making the soles easy to remove and replace.
  • The slightly more contemporary option is cemented. In this instance the upper is cemented directly to the sole. The downside is that when worn down these cannot be removed and replaced. However, they are a lighter option than welted soles, which could mean improved comfort and reduced fatigue for the wearer.

6. Sole type

With sole type there are also two main options;

  • Rubber, which tends to be slightly cheaper but can vary a lot in its consistency from brand to brand.
  • Polyurethane (often listed as PU), which is more durable, often tends to be lighter and it has better grip than rubber.

The boots that I tried

To demonstrate the sheer variety of work boots and shoes on the market I spent an afternoon trying them on and reading about them. I must admit, I was in absolute heaven in room full of boots to try on but it wasn’t just indulgence, it also enabled me to find out about some of the other features that are worth considering when picking out your next pair of work boots.

   Dickies Graton Safety Boots                Dickies Donegal Safety Boots

The boots pictured (above left) are the Graton Safety Boot by Dickies. They are extremely similar to the Dickies Donegal Safety Boot (above right) both in style and features. Both sets of work boots have safety toes and midsole protection, the difference being that the Donegal is more traditional in both style and construction. With safety elements made from the traditional steel, and a look that is regarded as the classic work boot. The Donegal is made with a time tested formula featuring the polyurethane we mentioned earlier as well as slip resistance and a removable sole. This boot has become the classic style for good reason.

The Graton safety boots, although similar, have some key differences. They feature the composite safety toe and midsole, making them a lot lighter and really comfortable to wear. The sole on these is not removable, but is made more in the style of a trainer or hiking boot both enhancing comfort to the wearer and giving the boots a more contemporary style. 

A third boot that fits into this category, with all the same features as the boots above, is the Pelton Safety Boot by Caterpillar.

Caterpillar Pelton Safety BootsCaterpillar has a great reputation for quality and endurance, and the work boots do have the extra feature of oil resistance which could be important to a variety of professions. These boots come in the pull on style, rather than being laced, so if you have a high instep you really should make sure to try them on to be sure of how comfortable they will be for you. That said I found them to be quite a comfortable boot, albeit a little more tricky to get on and off.

Hiking Boots

If you are in the market for safety footwear, but are not keen on the traditional style work boots, then there are plenty of other options on the market now. One of these options is the hiking boot. You can find these with the safety toe and midsole so that you keep the protection in a more trainer-like boot offering great comfort and a popular style.

Some of these hiking boots, such as the Medway by Dickies (below left), have added elements like heel guards and scuff caps whilst others like the Grafters safety hiking boot (below right) have resistance to oils, acids, and alkalis.

  Dickies Medway Safety Hiker                               Grafters Safety Hiker M216

Safety Trainers

Safety trainers come in a variety of styles, the Click Footwear Sneakers (Below left) come with steel toe and midsole protection, oil and slip resistance in a skater style shoe that is very on trend and really comfy to wear. The Lusum Safety Trainer from Portwest (below right) also comes with all of those safety features in a bright mainstream fashion style. One key difference between the two, aside from style, is that the Lusum trainers are also heat resistant.

Heat resistance could be a really important feature for safety footwear: if you work around really high temperatures this is definitely a feature that you would want to be looking for.

  Lusum Safety Trainers                 Click Safety Sneakers

Riggers and wellies

The final type of boot I looked at were riggers and wellies. I will resist the urge to go too far in depth about these, as the safety features are much the same as those I have already discussed above. One of the big differences with these is that they protect against extreme weather, are fully waterproof and provide insulation against the cold.

Below are the Rockfall Texas Rigger (left) and the Rockfall wellington. The reason I have chosen to feature these is because the construction and quality of them is just so impressive and they are up to the task. They have all of the important safety elements we have discussed (the rigger has heat resistance, but the wellie does not) as well as amazingly deep grip on the soles and I have never seen such durable boots/wellies before. 

 Rockfall Rigger Boots                         Rockfall Wellington

Comfort is one of the most important elements in work footwear because we spend so long in our work boots and the wrong pair can really impact your day. If you are buying online make sure that you choose a retailer with a good returns policy so that you can send them back if they are not right.

So, after all this boot and shoe research which ones am I going to buy? I will be getting myself a pair of the Gratons from Dickies, because they were so light and comfortable, and they provide me with the perfect level of protection for my work environment. It is worth mentioning that I did not actually intend to buy new boots before working on this article - but they were so nice that I have decided I “need” them!

Happy boot shopping - I hope this was some help!