Published Jul 8, 2022 11:53 AM
Not everyone shares the same idea when it comes to a comfortable pair of work boots. Given that there are so many variables that impact comfort, finding a pair of work boots that are comfortable enough to wear for an entire workday is subjective.
The type of work can also determine what boot can also impact comfort. Someone who’s working in muddy conditions on rough terrain requires a waterproof boot with a lug sole that stabilizes the foot along with a shaft that provides ample support for the ankles. Meanwhile, a 9-to-5 job on hard concrete demands a wedge sole that will distribute weight across the foot along with a thick layer of shock-absorbing high density foam in the midsole.
While comfort may vary from foot to foot, job to job, there are a few things that all comfortable work boots have in common. They should be well made with durable materials and come equipped with ample cushioning in the midsole and inner sole that prevents leg fatigue while keeping the soles of your feet feeling fresh. If your aching feet are in need of relief, check out our picks for the most comfortable work boots.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Comfortable Work Boot
The midsole sits between the outsole and the insole and serves as the primary source of shock absorption and rebound in a work boot. A comfortable work boot will have a midsole that has cushioning that returns energy to your feet and legs as you walk while at the same time absorbing impact as your feet hit the ground or pavement. Look for work boots with midsoles that use high density foam or air pockets to absorb shock.
A boot’s insole consists of the footbed inside the boot. A good insole will use high-density foam that molds to your foot and will resist compression over time. Some insoles also use gel to absorb impacts and provide cushioning. In addition to cushioning, pay attention to the type of arch support the insole has. If you have high arches, you’ll need ample arch support to prevent foot fatigue. Look for insoles with very little arch support if you have flat feet.
Work boots come in both lug and wedge style outsoles and suit different types of work: lug soles and wedge soles.
Lug soles have an outsole that covers mainly the heel and ball of the foot, while leaving a gap in the tread between the two. This style of boot sheds dirt and debris well and allows for a deeper tread, making them an ideal choice for outdoor work. The gap between the heel and ball also creates a place for the boot to hook into the rungs of a ladder. However, lug soles can be uncomfortable on flat, smooth concrete surfaces due to the amount of pressure this style of sole distributes to the heels and balls of the feet.
Unlike lug soles that have a gap in the middle of the tread, the entire outsole of a wedge style boot makes contact with the floor. Not only does this design allow for more traction on smooth surfaces, it also distributes weight across the entire foot (and not just the ball and heel), making this type of boot ideal for working on unforgiving concrete surfaces.
While comfort may be important when it comes to purchasing the right work boot, you also need to consider how well the boot will protect your feet. Many comfortable work boots come with hard caps, which provide the toe protection that many workplaces require. A lot of work boots also have non-slip outsoles to prevent falls on slick surfaces. A good work boot will also have a shaft that ranges in length from 5 to 11 inches to provide support and protection for the ankles while preventing water from entering through the boot’s opening.
Most Comfortable Work Boots Overall
Why It Made The Cut
Equipped with Wolverine’s highly regarded DuraShock system and a wedge-sole design, the I-90s are simply some of the most comfortable work boots you can slide your feet into.
- Sizes: 7-14
- Material: Rubber and leather
- Toe: Composite
- Durashock technology for comfort
- Wedge-style boot has more traction
- Full grain leather with Goodyear welt construction
- Tread not suitable for more rugged outdoor conditions.
Wolverine is well regarded for having some of the most comfortable work boots in the business, thanks to its DuraShock technology. The term DuraShock refers to the insole and midsole of the Wolverine’s boots. The midsole features dense foam for bounce and cushioning that provides the rebound and shock absorption needed to keep feet comfortable while standing and walking. There’s also a foam footbed that molds to the foot, providing an additional layer of cushioning.
In addition to the DuraShock system, the I-90 is also equipped with a wedge-style sole that distributes pressure throughout the foot while taking stress off the balls and heels of the feet. That wedge style sole has the added advantage of creating more traction on smooth surfaces, such as concrete and macadam. As many wedge-style boots do, these have a moc-style toe (which refers to the style of toe found on moccasins), which creates a toe box that not only allows you to wiggle your toe more but also flexes better as you crouch and walk.
The I-90s are also waterproof, thanks to a Goodyear Welt seam that joins the outsole with the upper, locking water out. Inside the boot, a waterproof membrane prevents water from getting in while a moisture-wicking liner keeps your feet from getting sweaty (and stinky).
Most Comfortable Pull-On Work Boots
Why It Made The Cut
Ariat’s use of a four-layer footbed in this riding-inspired work boot makes them one of the most comfortable pull-on work boots on the market.
- Sizes: 7-14
- Material: Full grain leather with a rubber sole
- Toe: Soft
- Full grain leather upper
- Comfortable 4LR cushioning in the footbed and outsole
- Attractive Western look
One look at Ariat boots and it’s easy to see why they’re named after the legendary racehorse Secretariat. These equestrian-inspired work boots feature a distinctly Western look from their tall shaft and square toe to the Cowboy-inspired flame design in the stitching. You’ll feel just as comfortable wearing these boots for a night out as you will wearing them to work.
But Ariat’s line of highly-regarded work boots are about much more than style. Ariat Groundbreakers also happen to be some of the most comfortable boots you can pull over your feet. That’s because they use a cushioned insole that uses Ariat’s 4LR technology, which stands for Four Layer Rebound. This Ariat tech consists of a four-layer footbed that combines cushioning with a lightweight shank for support.
The upper consists of full-grain leather that is more durable and softer than the top grain leather found on other work boots. There’s also welted seams that make for a more durable and watertight boot. The slip-resistant tread features a one-inch raised heel that sheds dirt and makes these boots suitable for climbing ladders. A tall 11-inch shaft keeps mud and water from finding its way inside the boot.
Inside, a mesh lining wicks away moisture and odor along with it. While Ariat boots come at a premium price, the quality of material and workmanship means they’ll likely outlast less-expensive alternatives.
Most Comfortable Steel Toe Work Boots
Why It Made The Cut
Though pricey, the 1957s are, hands down, the best made and most comfortable steel-toe work boot we could find.
- Sizes: 8-14
- Material: Full-grain saddle leather with a rubber sole
- Toe: Soft
- Full-grain saddle leather upper
- Extra cushioning in the footbed
- Goodyear Storm Welt construction
Sure, Thorogood boots are one of the most expensive pairs of work boots you can wear. But before you write them off as overpriced, hear us out: Thorogood’s use some of the highest quality materials you’ll find on a work boot. Let’s start with the uppers, which consist of full-grain saddle leather that will outlast the lower-quality top-grain leather found on other work boots.
You can find a wedge sole on many cheaper work boots, but you will be hard pressed to find a pair that can absorb shock and flex as well as the Maxwear Wedge, which consists of a dual-density foam footbed that provides extra shock absorption for the heel and ball of the foot.
Steel-toe boots are notorious for being inflexible and crowding the toe box. Not so with the 1957s which smartly use a moc toe, named so for the moccasin style, which allows you to wiggle your toes while allowing for more flexibility whether walking, kneeling or crouching.
The 1957s also use high quality Goodyear Welt seams that last much longer than cement construction while doing a better job of making the boots watertight. Adding to the waterproofing are a gusseted tongue that prevents liquids from finding their way past the laces and into your boot and lining that wicks water vapor from sweat away.
Most Comfortable Work Boots for Women
Why It Made The Cut
Keen’s San Jose boots are designed specifically to conform to the shape of women’s feet.
- Sizes: 5-11
- Material: Genuine leather with a rubber sole
- Toe: Soft
- Women’s specific design
- Ample cushioning with Keen’s Luftcell technology
- Waterproof welted seam construction
- Tread not suitable for outdoor work sites
There are many unisex work boots out there that come in both women’s and men’s sizes, but let’s be honest: Most of these boots only have men’s feet in mind when it comes to design, making them uncomfortable for many women. Women’s feet typically have a higher arch, are narrower, and have a more pronounced curve on the inside of the foot.
Unlike those unisex work boots, Keen’s San Jose boots are built specifically to suit the shape of women’s feet. In addition to a women’s specific shape, the San Joses are also a bit wider than the standard women’s work boot, allowing for more comfort. Other women’s specific features include a narrower shaft that better conforms to smaller ankles for support
In terms of comfort, the boots are equipped with Keen’s Luftcell technology, which consists of an air infused midsole that absorbs shock while providing rebound that keeps your legs feeling fresher for longer. The San Joses also have a nylon shank in the midsole and a shellback heel that locks the foot into place to add comfort. The broad outsole has an anti-slip treatment, giving it excellent traction on smooth concrete surfaces.
The San Joses also have a wedge style that distributes weight across the entire foot and not just on the ball and heel of the foot, which equates to less pain over long hours of standing and walking. Moisture-wicking material on the inside and an antimicrobial treatment keeps the feat try and odorless.
Most Comfortable Budget Work Boots
Why It Made The Cut
This pair of boots is affordable and comfortable, thanks to Cat’ Ergo comfort system.
- Sizes: 6-15
- Material: Genuine leather with a rubber sole
- Toe: Steel cap
- Affordably priced
- Genuine leather upper
- Lightweight high density foam midsole
- Cement versus welted seams
You’ll likely spend at least $150 on a good pair of work boots. While it’s certainly possible to find a cheaper pair, they more than likely won’t be as comfortable—nor will they last as long as a more expensive pair. This pair of work boots from Cat are an exception. They feature quality construction with features that make them some of the most comfortable budget priced boots you’ll find.
At the heart of this work boot is Cat’s ERGO insole and midsole. In addition to being 30 percent lighter than other midoles, the ERGO also features an internal shank that stabilizes the foot along with high density foam that absorbs shock.
While the shoes have cement construction versus the more highly regarded welt seams, the upper consists of genuine leather that’s water resistant and durable. Inside is a waterproof membrane that keeps your feet dry while allowing moisture from sweat to escape. These hiking inspired work boots have a shorter 5.25-inch shaft, allowing for more freedom of movement for jobs that require crouching and walking.
A deep tread makes them suitable for use in more rugged terrain while a slip resistant outsole grips smoother surfaces. The steel cap provides protection from crushing hazards.
While the most comfortable work boot will differ from person to person and job site to job site, there are some main qualities one can look for when shopping for the most comfortable work boot. Keeping that in mind, I took the following factors into consideration when selecting the boots for this list:
How We Made Our Picks
- Soles: Regardless of whether you have flat feet, high arches, or suffer from plantar fasciitis, how comfortable a work boot is largely comes down to the midsole and insole. I chose boots that use designs and materials that provide ample cushioning in both parts of the shoe for comfort and shock absorption.
- Durability: Work boots, perhaps more than any other type of footwear, take a beating while seeing long hours of use. It’s crucial that these boots be made from quality materials. I chose boots with genuine-leather uppers with high-density foam in the footbed and midsole that resists compression.
- Protection: While comfort is certainly important, the boot, first and foremost, needs to protect the feet. Keeping that in mind, I included boots with steel- or composite-toe caps for jobs that involve heavy equipment along with a few soft toe boots for jobs that don’t have these hazards. My selections also come equipped with other important safety features, including outsole non-slip treatments and 6-inch shafts for ankle support.
Q: What does a TPU toe cap mean?
TPU stands for thermoplastic polyurethane, which is a hard-toe cap that some boots use in lieu of steel. This type of toe cap is much lighter than steel, reducing the overall weight of the boot. TPU caps won’t set off metal detectors and offer electrical resistance for those who may be working around live wiring. A composite cap also provides better thermal insulation for those working in cold environments. That said, it’s important to understand that TPU caps do not offer the same level of crush or puncture protection as boots with steel caps.
Q: Are composite- and steel-toe boots the same?
Composite- and steel-toe boots are not the same. Composite-toe boots use a hard-plastic cap to provide crush protection while steel-toe boots have steel caps. While composite-toe boots have advantages over steel toe, making them suitable for certain types of work, they do not offer the same level of crush or puncture protection.
Q: Can you wear steel toe boots all day?
Steel-toe boots are not as comfortable as soft-toe boots due to the fact that the steel toe makes the boot less flexible and heavier. Steel-toe boots also conduct cold and heat, which can make them uncomfortable when working in extreme temperatures. That said, many boot manufacturers use designs that make steel toe boots comfortable enough to wear all day long.
Q: What does the green triangle mean on work boots?
A green triangle on the boot indicates that the boot is equipped with a Grade 1 protective toe cap and sole-puncture protection. This type of boot is suitable for jobs in heavy industries and construction and any workplace in which there are heavy objects that pose a crushing hazard or sharp objects that could puncture the sole of the work boot.
Q: What is the most comfortable work boot for concrete?
The most comfortable work boot for concrete is a wedge style work boot. A wedge-style work boot has a flat outsole with a larger surface area that makes contact with the floor. This design distributes pressure from standing and walking throughout the foot as opposed to only on the balls and heels of the feet. Wedge-style boots also have a very thick midsole that can absorb the impact of walking on concrete.
Since the most comfortable work boot will vary depending on foot shape and the type of work, choosing the most comfortable work boot is subjective. What might be comfortable for one person’s feet and occupation may not work for another’s.
Keeping that in mind, we looked for a good all around comfortable work boot. The Wolverine I-90 tops our list because of the DuraShocks system that makes this boot so comfortable. Those looking for the most comfortable steel toe work boot can’t go wrong with the Thorogood 1957, which may be pricey, but will far outlast less expensive boots.