Choosing the Right Work Boot for You and Your Work Day
Work boots have always been a staple for the Northwest worker. From industrial and construction workers to ranch hands and farmers, your on-the-job footwear requirements matter. Before you lace up a new pair of boots, here are a few things to consider.
Construction jobs often require toe protection. With all of that heavy machinery, equipment, and more, it makes perfect sense. But when you try on a pair of boots with safety toes, you’re going to find huge differences, including bulkier boots. You’ll need to decide which type of ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)-rated safety toe is needed for your line or work. Plus, you’ll want to decide which is more comfortable.
- Steel: Steel toes are pretty typical. That’s because they do their job nicely. But if you work on a jobsite with metal detectors or giant magnets, you might want to stay away from steel toes. Keep in mind that steel does conduct temperatures, so your feet could be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer.
- Aluminum: Similar in strength to steel, aluminum toes are thicker. But they do not conduct temperatures like steel toes do.
- Composite: Made from carbon fiber, plastic, or Kevlar, these toes are great for workers who need a safety toe that won’t get cold in the winter and hot in the summer while offering the same level of protection as a steel toe.
Adding a Metatarsal Guard
If you know what a metatarsal guard is, chances are you need one for your line of work. But if you’re new to work boots, the metatarsal guard is a piece of leather that sits atop the laces and often extends the full length of the boot. It’s put there to protect the upper part of your foot and toes from welding embers, nails, and heavy objects.
The other advantage of a metatarsal guard is that the laces won’t get burned, cut, or melt under high temperatures. As an added bonus, a majority of your boots will be protected from the elements. However, it’s not an ideal option if you’re working outside (on a ranch, for example), need access to your laces, or want to reduce the weight of your boots.
Coastal Tip: Ensure your bootlaces never melt or break by choosing Kevlar fiber or other fire and cut resistant laces.
Living in the Northwest means you’re probably going to need two pair of work boots – one for cold days and another for hot, summer temperatures. That’s because most work boots are made for a specific temperature range.
For example, LaCrosse Footwear’s new Alpha Range boots are fully waterproofed, durable, and comfortable from -20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a nice range. But when it comes to hotter temperatures, you’ll want to switch out to a non-insulated pair or work boots.
Where you live should play a big role in the boots you choose. Do you work in the dryer part of the Northwest? You may be able to skip the thicker neoprene boots or choose a reduced insulation rating for a lighter, more comfortable work boot.
Your Sole Mate
Choosing the right sole for your type of work is paramount. Today’s boots offer specific soles for specific industries. Let’s say you work in construction and climb ladders all day. There are boots with ladder tread to ensure you don’t slip when climbing. Loggers and those working outside will appreciate a deeper tread for added stability in any terrain. Aside from the sole’s purpose are the construction and materials.
- Rubber outsole: Rubber is a common option for construction and manufacturing work boots. You’ll find different manufacturers use different types of rubber. Find the one you like best and stick with it.
- Thermo Poly Urethane (TPU) outsole: If you’re working in rugged terrain, TPU outsoles will give you the most grip. Plus, these soles last longer and are often lighter than typical rubber soles.
Yes, where your boots are made is important, but equally important is how those boots are made. A well-made boot will easily mingle flexibility and performance with safety and durability. When it comes to construction types, there are two basic options.
- Cement construction: This means the boot’s sole is cemented directly to the upper portion of the boot. These boots are typically lighter but when the sole wears out they cannot be replaced.
- Welted construction: With welt construction, the upper and inner sole are stitched together with a leather strip. This is where the sole is stitched to the boot. Welt constructed boots can be resoled and repaired easily.
Yes, leather boots will stretch over time, but work boots are notorious for rigidity. Boots can be especially restrictive when you add steel or reinforced toes. Be sure you get a pair of boots that are both non-restrictive (not too tight) and slightly snug. It’s a delicate balance.
To get the right fit, go boot shopping in the afternoon or evening. That’s when your feet are the most swelled. Bring along your thickest pair of work socks so you get an accurate feel for the boots.
Coastal Farm & Ranch has aisles of work boots in stock right now, including boots with and without reinforced toes, specialized soles, as well as comfort and weather enhancements for your neck of the woods. Stop by and try on a pair or two (or three) for yourself at the Coastal store near you.
Boot shopping tips:
- Make a list of everything you need in a work boot before trying on a single pair.
- Your feet swell throughout the day, so shop for your next pair of boots in the late afternoon or evening. Your feet will thank you, especially on those long workdays.
- Bring along your thickest pair of work socks when you try on new boots.
- Comfort is paramount. Lace up and walk around in at least three pair of different boots to ensure you’ve found the perfect ones.
- Follow the care instructions for your boots to ensure longevity. That includes proper care of the leather uppers, as well as storing your boots in a clean, dry place when you’re not wearing them.