The Most Comfortable Work Boots Known To Man
Built to make hard work look easy, these are the best boots to wear when you’re on your feet all day.
However you define ‘work’ – breaking stones at a construction yard, DIY Sundays in the garden, swanning around a trendy neighbourhood getting fit pics for the Gram – a pair of comfortable work boots are a non-negotiable. They should be written into your contract, we’d argue. An icon of purposeful, functional design, they are literally made to make your life easier and more comfortable.
Whether you’re buying them for practical or fashionable reasons doesn’t really matter. In both instances they should combine useful design features with cushioning and protective elements. In other words, they should be built for work – for movement, support and suboptimal conditions.
It’s these attributes that have, in recent years, made comfortable work boots as attractive to certain fashion crowds as they are to labourers and DIYers. Traditional workwear got trendy. Everything from chore jackets to carpenter pants to chamois and flannel shirts have become off-duty menswear staples, embraced for their hardy design, easy styling and old-school masculine credentials.
You could argue – and many do – that work boots and other workwear styles are a little overkill for those of us who work cushty jobs behind computers or in coffee shops. But the best versions are often hybrid designs that lend themselves to hikes, gardening and commutes as well as actual manual labour.
Plus, they just look cool.
Beyond specialist workwear brands such as Dewalt or Timberland, you’ll find hardy boots made by sneaker brands like Nike and New Balance. As if to prove that comfort is as important as anything else, they often bring sneaker-style materials and cushioning to their designs.
Types of work boots
6″ site boots
If you hear ‘work boots’ and your mind goes straight to a pair of sand-coloured CAT or Timberland boots, that’s because the style is one of the classics. Traditionally made for construction workers, these 6″ boots protect your joints with padded collars at the ankles.
Chunky soles, hardy nubuck uppers and optional steel toe caps make them as practical as they are good-looking.
Moc toe boots
The name of this distinctive style of boot describes the moccasin-style stitching on the square-ish toe box at the front of the boot.
Red Wing is synonymous with this style and it’s often associated with loggers and other outdoor workers. That’ll also be why the style is common in off-duty workwear wardrobes.
Usually made from water-resistant leather and rubber, it’s a style you’ll have to wear in – but once you do, they’ll fit like a glove for years.
Hiker-style work boots
In recent years, outdoors gear designed for hikers has been as popular as workwear. So it’s not surprising to see all-round work boots that bring in elements of hiking boots that help them go the distance.
These styles often feature spongy soles and mix good support with breathable mesh panels. A good choice for people who need an all-round boot.
Like hiking boots, tactical boots are often a mix of strength and comfort. Designed primarily for military and first-responders, they bring in sneaker elements for movement and ease-of-wear, while also being tough enough to handle off-road terrain.
From a fashion perspective, they’ve been growing in popularity ever since Ryan Gosling wore a pair by made in the USA boot brand Bates in Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
From wellies to specially-coated mid-tops, waterproof boots are usually designed for site workers and farmers whose work takes them into mud, streams and sewers.
But you can also find more lifestyle designs that are treated to keep the rain and trench foot out.
Comfortable work boots: what to look for
Padded sections around the ankle are a common feature of comfortable work boots because they protect your joints in a number of ways.
They support movement and twisting as you work and also shield your ankle from falling tools and other rogue objects.
Solid soles and flexible footbeds
Depending on what you wear your work boots for, the sole and footbed are well worth investing in.
Grippy rubber soles and slip-proof coatings offer comfort and security, while triple-stitching or Goodyear-welted construction will ensure they go the distance.
Flexible footbeds made from EVA or foam mould to the shape of your feet for support, cushioning and energy return with every step.
Cushioning and sneaker design
Modern work boots aren’t all about thick leathers and even thicker soles. Sneaker design has influenced this category with extra cushioning around the footbed and ankles. You’ll also find lots of options made from lightweight materials and with mesh panels for breathability.
These features usually come at the cost of protection and general sturdiness, but if you need to move around a lot and aren’t operating heavy machinery, they can be very wearable.
Get the tools you need for the job at hand. That means, if you often work outdoors or in the mud or water, then waterproof boots are a must.
Look for coatings and certified testing standards that prove your boots will handle the wet.
Steel and rubber toe caps, heat- and slip-resistant outsoles, fuel-protective coatings, anti-electric shock soles… these features are all available with comfortable work boots but they tend to be best suited to people with genuinely hazardous jobs, not those who’d like to look as though they do.
The best brands for comfortable work boots
If it’s authenticity you want, you won’t find many better work boots than the ones made by the same brand that builds actual bulldozers.
CAT’s extensive range includes industry-specific designs and helpings of protective design features including outsoles that are heat-, slip-, oil- and puncture-resistant.
Also check out its moulded footbeds that will keep you comfortable until the job is done.
Founded in Australia in 1870, Blundstone have always made tough boots made for outdoor living. Its signature style is a rugged take on Chelsea boots – easy pull-on, dusty leather, chunky soled designs made for horseback in the outback.
Today, the outdoors brand offers a small selection of genuine safety boots that would see you through all manner of apocalypse but its general lifestyle range is also ideal for everyday rough and tumble.
Think hardy but flexible rubber soles, arch support in the form of steel shanks and comfort in the form of EVA moulded insoles.
Minnesota’s finest has been making boots that go the distance since 1905. Its most popular design is its sturdy moc toe boots – beloved by loggers and creative directors alike – but it also does a range of other practical and comfortable work boots.
Over the years, it’s created boots for blacksmiths, hunters and railroad workers and all its styles come in tough leathers, handcrafted and stitched to durable and comfortable soles.
They’re not exactly site boots, although some designs do come with toe cap protection. Think of Red Wing as more of an all-round boot that will serve you as well for the commute as they will for DIY and outdoor adventures.
G’day to another Australian boot company whose boots are frankly over-engineered for strength and comfort.
Steel Blue’s feature lists read like something designed for war: Kevlar stitching, footbeds that reduce the wearer’s fatigue and coated leathers that repel chemicals and oils as well as water.
Its soles and footbeds are especially impressive when comfort is king. The company uses pads of urethane foam that take the strain under your critical pressure points in your feet and joints.
One of the genuine icons of the category, Timberland helped drive work boots as a fashion choice when its iconic yellow 6″ boots became synonymous with hip-hop and streetwear.
Before that (and since), the brand was a construction site favourite with comfortable footbeds, chunky soles and water-repellent nubuck uppers.
Today, the brand does as many lifestyle boots as genuine work boots. For the latter, check out its Pro range, which includes hiker styles for added agility and anti-fatigue soles designed to keep you comfortable on your feet.
This employee-owned Milwaukee company dates back to 1892. Thorogood combines Americana styling with tough-as-anything construction.
Its range includes cowboy-style wellingtons, traditional moc toe boots and hiking-style boots made for a range of working conditions.
For comfort, you’ll find EVA insoles, lightweight styles made from nylon mesh and cushioning suited to the job at hand.
Have some idea of what you want before you start browsing Danner’s collection of boots because it is vast. The US brand creates styles specific to an extensive range of jobs and covers categories that include work, hiking, tactical and hunting.
In each case, you’ll find a meticulous spec list that makes Danner’s US-made boots an uncompromising option whatever the job.
The company also carries that ethic into its hiking and lifestyle designs if you’re looking for a techy pair of everyday boots.
Founded in 2003, Keen Utility is a relative newcomer to a market crowded with veterans. The company does an extensive range of work boots, hiking boots and general outdoor styles.
Alongside its techy features – carbon fibre toe caps, anyone? – it makes efforts to create environmentally-friendly designs that limit waste and the use of chemicals and other harmful materials.
Since 1910, Kodiak has been making tough but comfortable work boots, as well as options for hiking and everyday outdoor life.
Many of its site styles are waterproof with protective toe caps and also protect against slips, oil, abrasion and electric shocks.
Kodiak are also a solid budget boot option in a sector where things can often get expensive.
Another acclaimed men’s bootmaker with more than 100 years of heritage, Wolverine does all-American styles with construction and safety features you can trust.
Its 1000 Mile range takes some of the brand’s classic styles and adds modern touches such as Vibram soles and Goodyear-welted construction.
Its dedicated work boots include all the safety features you could need, plus comfortable touches such as soles designed for shock absorption and energy return.
A brand with decades of tough workwear heritage behind it, Carhartt is also the poster child for trendy workwear. Don’t let that put you off though: its tight collection of work boots are designed for toughness and versatility.
Carhartt is transparent about the safety standards its boots are certified against and whether you need waterproofing or protection against abrasion or punctures, you’ll find something suitable.
And yeah, they look great.
As one of the world’s most innovative sneaker brands, it should be no surprise that Nike makes hiking- and athletic-inspired work boots.
Produced under its ACG (All Conditions Gear) sub-brand, Nike will admit that these are not intended to be used as genuine PPE, but if you’re looking for rugged, comfortable boots that can handle the outdoors, garden and DIY work, then they are more than capable.
Gore-tex fabrics keep the water out while oversized lugs on the soles mean you’ll stay sure-footed over rough terrain.
The undisputed king of comfortable dad shoes also does a respectable line in comfortable work boots.
With cushioning, energy transfer and other technologies crossing over from its running shoes, New Balance work boots are some of the most wearable on the market. The 989V1, for example, comes with composite toe protection, anti-slip outsoles and electric shock protection.
Whether you wear them at the outdoor grill is completely up to you.
Founded in the 1800s, Bates is a brand whose boots have proven staying power.
Suppliers to the US military as well as front-line domestic services like police and paramedics, Bates boots are made for movement as well as strength. Think plenty of cushioning and energy-return sole units that are perfect if you’re on your feet all day.
Some of its models even have an adjustable disc under the heel that you can tweak to optimise your comfort.