Best Work Boots for the Money

Safety is a top concern in any industry. This buyers guide helps you understand the different safety metrics to check out in a work boot.

An employee may actually need safety shoes only once, but you have to be confident that when that one time occurs, the employee is protected against disabling injury thus reducing workers compensation claims.

Enough Work TM only reviews quality name-brand work boots, to insure that ANSI’s strictest requirements are met.

You know how important safety is. However, not everyone realizes the impact an accident can have on the workplace. These are just a few examples of hidden costs related to losing an employee to an accident that could have been prevented. Obviously, the cost of providing proper footwear pales in the comparison.

Becoming Acquainted with the Work Boot

Pier 48 warehouse demolition

For industrial lines of work like demolition, workers choose protective steel-toe boots. Photo taken by Washington State Department of Transportation.

There’s a boot out there for everyone. Whether you are a construction worker or a lumberjack, manufacturers produce a variety of protective footwear tailored for specific lines of work.

But how does one select a work boot?

Most employers will provide a set of regulations for workplace footwear; however, some may expect you to make your purchase without guidance.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) provides a number of minimum requirements for the work boot. Their standards cover the performance of boots and shoes in resisting puncture or chainsaw penetration.

Safety footwear is designed to protect feet against a wide variety of injuries – the most common of which are impact, compression and puncture. This is why it’s important to identify the hazards that will be encountered throughout the workday.

For example, you may want to evaluate the following:

  • The materials handled.
  • Risks of objects falling onto or striking feet.
  • Any material or equipment that might roll over feet.
  • Any sharp object that might cut the top of feet.
  • Object that may penetrate the bottom or side of the foot.
  • Possible exposure to corrosive substances.
  • Possible explosive environments – risk of static electrical discharges.
  • Risk of electrical discharge damaging sensitive electronic components or equipment.
  • Risk of coming into contact with energized conductors of low to moderate voltage.

Also remember to account for injuries that may results from walking on rough terrain or slippery surfaces, extreme hot or cold temperatures, and/or exposure to abrasive machinery. Additionally, remember to consider any exposure to liquids or water that may damage boots or harm feet.

Steel-Toe Versus Composite Toe

Steel-toe boots offer reinforced toes for jobs that work with heavy materials, such as construction workers. As mentioned above, a number of risks would be resolved with these boots. Composed of a single sheet of steel, the reinforced toe safeguards against punctures and falling objects.

Composite toe boots are also reinforced, but instead of a steel composition, they are produced from composite materials, or plastics like thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Composite materials are made from two or more materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties. Composite toe boots are 50 percent lighter and resist extreme cold and heat. They are as strong as steel.

Construction workers- best work boots to buy

Photo by MSU Campus Archaeologist

Styles of Work Boots

Workers can rely on several well-known styles of work boots to address potential workplace hazards, as discussed on and in “Men’s Steel-Toe & Composite Toe Boots.”

Careers of the outdoor variety will require a waterproof or water-resistant boots to keep feet dry. For example, forestry employees, back-country guides, or park rangers might find these boots useful.

  • Electrical hazard boots have insulation that protects the wearer from electrical charges up to 600 volts. Those who work with electricity, such as linemen, electricians, and inside wiremen, should consider these work boots.
  • Slip-resistant boots have special soles that provide traction on wet or oily floors. People who work in auto body shops or in factories may want to invest in a pair of these.
  • Insulated boots keep feet toasty during frosty conditions. Lined with materials to keep feet warm, the boot has a bit more weight to it. They are ideal for those who work in cold conditions, such as employees of refrigerated warehouses, ice road truckers or anyone who has to work outside during the winter.

Work Boot Symbols Revealed

If you have figured out what you are looking for in a boot, how do you know if they have these characteristics? The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offer some helpful advice on identifying symbols. The symbols are the same throughout the North American continent, so they are applicable to many U.S. boots.

  1. The green triangle signifies a puncture protection of Grade 1 protective toe, ideal for any industrial or heavy work environment, including construction, where sharp objects are present.
  2. Yellow triangle means the boots have puncture protection in the sole and Grade 2 protection toe. Those employed in light industrial work, such as warehouse workers, would wear this boot.
  3. The white rectangle with the omega symbol indicates that the boot has soles that provide electric shock resistance. If an industrial worker may come into contact with live electrical conductors, they should look for boots with electric shock protection.
  4. A yellow rectangle with green letters SD and a grounding symbol signifies the soles are static dissipative. Boots with this characteristic should be worn in industrial environments where a static discharge may harm workers or equipment.
  5. A red rectangle with a black letter C indicates the footwear has soles that are electronically conductive. These boots should be considered when the workers may come into contact with low-power electrical charges that could be a hazard for workers or equipment.
  6. The white label with a green fir tree means that the footwear provides protection against chainsaws, which is ideal for forestry workers and others who work with or around hand-held chainsaws and other cutting tools.
  7. A blue rectangle signifies a Grade 1 toe with no protective sole that is ideal for industrial work that does not require puncture protection.
  8. The grey rectangle indicates that the footwear has a Grade 2 toe with no protective sole. Those in an institutional or non-industrial line of work and do not require puncture protection should buy this style of boot.

Internal Protection Codes

Additional markings that indicate the level of protection will be found on the boots. They include:

  • 1 or 2 will indicate a Grade 1 or Grade 2 toe protection (0 if not present).
  • P for puncture-resistant soles (0 if not present).
  • M for metatarsal protection (0 if not present).
  • E for shock-resistant sole, S for static dissipative sole or C for conductive sole (0 if not present).
  • X for chainsaw protection (0 if not protection).