A good pair of safety boots is essential equipment in many industries. Safety boots are precision constructed to protect against common workplace dangers: slip and fall accidents, electrical shock, chemical burns, and broken bones.

Types of work boots

Steel toe work boots are designed to protect your toes and upper foot bones from injury by falling objects, and soles are designed to protect against puncture. Steel toe boots are favored by construction workers, firefighters, and police officers. Steel toe safety shoes come in the form of work boots, shoes, sneakers, and clogs.

Composite toe: Comp toe work boots are quickly becoming the industry norm. A composite safety toe is made of non-metal materials like Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, or fiberglass.

Plain-toe work boots have no steel in the toe box. They are reinforced with extra stitching and leather, but not steel. Plain-toe work boots are not rated to protect against heavy objects falling on your feet or crushing injuries from something rolling over your foot.

Waterproof boots are a must for people whose work conditions can be wet or rainy.  Waterproof boots may be made from both leather and nylon mesh. Leather boots are bulkier. Nylon mesh work boots are much lighter, but the waterproofing is sprayed on and will have to be repeated in the future.

Insulated boots have extra insulation to prevent frostbite in colder working conditions.

Slip-resistant boots are found in the food service industry, factories and ships, where floors are frequently slick due to spills.

American classification system

A label is required under the tongue of the right shoe in all work books. Every standard the shoe is designed to meet is listed on the tongue. Here’s what you should look for when you purchase your next pair of work boots.

  • The first thing on line one is which standard was applied when testing this work boot (ANSI or ASTM). On this tag, the entire top line is the ASTM standard.
  • Gender (“M” or “F”) for male or female.
  • Impact Resistance (“I”) and its rating: 75, 50 or 30 foot-pounds
  • Compression Resistance (“C”) (the amount of force before it crumples) and its rating: 75 (2500 lbs.), 50 (1750 lbs.), 30 (1000 lbs.).

Up to three standards can be recorded on one line.

ASTM testing

To comply with ASTM F2412-05, shoes must meet several tests:

  • Shoes sold as “impact resistant” must protect the toes and upper feet from heavy objects falling on them, objects rolling across the top of the foot, and punctures by sharp objects through the sole.
  • If labeled “electric shock resistant,” shoes must protect workers who might accidentally step on electric circuits somewhere in the work site.
  • A static dissipation test assesses whether the shoe safely conducts an electrical current through the sole, safely discharging it to a grounded surface.

What to consider when choosing a work boot

Budget: Expect to spend between $150 to $200 for a good pair of safety shoes. Set a firm minimum as well as a firm maximum you can spend and stick with it. Make sure you buy from reputable work boot companies.

Use: You do not have to buy every protection available; you do need all that are applicable to your working environment.

Style: The best work boots come in many styles; you can now consider your design preferences as well as safety standards when purchasing work boots.

  • Materials - Are your boots waterproof? If you work outside when it rains or has rained, or if your facility is at risk of water on the floors, this is one protection you must have.
  • Full-grain leather uppers are extremely durable - They come with the added benefit of being naturally water-resistant (note this is not waterproof). The price is somewhat more moderate than a waterproofed material, but the shoes are heavier.
  • Nylon mesh work boots are lightweight, breathable, and flexible shoes, making a very comfortable boot for long days on your feet. The level of protection is not as high with nylon mesh boots as with the other two materials being used.

Construction methods

Stitch down: Stitch down construction, also known as the Goodyear welt, was the original method of shoemaking. The outsole and the upper of the boot are stitched together. A very durable variation of the stitch down method is to add a strip of leather or some other synthetic material (called a “welt”) to both the upper shoe and the sole. This allows you to replace the sole when it wears out and can add years to your purchase.

Cement: The most popular method, probably because it is both the quickest and the cheapest, is the cement method. Glue or adhesive is used toattach the upper to the sole. This method is less sturdy, and you will not be able to have a worn solerepaired or replaced.

Molded: First a mold is placed on the upper; then molten rubber is poured across the upper to form the sole. Boots constructed in this method are very durable, second only to the stitch down method.

Best boots for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis involves stretching of the tissues on the bottom of the heel that connect to the bones of the middle foot. These tissues act as a shock absorber for the body. To relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis, buy work boots with extra deep heel cups and additional arch support.

Best boots for flat feet

For flat feet, you should choose boots with superior arch support. In the worst-case scenario, you may need boots with an arch plus an additional arch support.


If your employer provides shoes, check the label to make sure they cover the safety features you need. Buy a new pair of shoes whenever you notice they no longer feel like your own skin.