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The Best Work Boots You Can Buy

From waterproof icons to handcrafted pairs from Northwestern artisans.

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Strong, long-lasting and just warm enough to stay on your feet for most of the colder months: that’s all a work boot really needs to be. It's no surprise the style was more or less perfected half a century ago. Editions since expand on certain features to cater to certain customers or emphasize comfortability — since work often requires a lot of standing.

The no-frills lace-up style protects the lower legs and feet and usually features a durable lug sole. A steel toe is ideal, but it's rare you find an affordable boot with one. Protective toes are another thing entirely: They prevent stubbing when you kick a crate or topple a tree log. What else should a work boot have and do?

Shopping Tips

  • Find a boot with a high rise: 6 inches or taller.
  • Leather boots are best because the material is more durable.
  • Steel toes are the end all be all of protective footwear features, but a reinforced toebox will do if you can't spend the extra dough.
  • Always get a lug sole. The thicker the better, in my opinion.
  • Slip-resistant tread — like that on Red Wing's Moc Toe boot — will help prevent falls.
  • Goodyear-welted boots can be resoled if you wear through them.
  • An expensive boot is almost always worth it as long as the feature warrants the price — not just the aesthetics. They'll last longer, look better as they age and prevent the annual re-up we all dread.

The Best Work Boots for Men

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Best Overall Work Boot
Iron Ranger Cap Toe Boot
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Red Wing

If you just want to know which work boots to get, the Red Wing Iron Ranger is it. The brand's reputation is built on its Goodyear-welted boots and its Iron Ranger is among its most iconic. It features a protective cap toe, cork misdole that adapts to the wearer's unique foot shape, speed hooks and resolable Goodyear-welt construction. The pull-up leather (tanned by Red Wing) is beautiful from the start, even more with time. You'll need to step into them knowing about the tough break-in period, but fans will tell you it's totally worth it.

  • Goodyear-welted
  • Protective toe cap
  • Speed hooks
  • Four colors
  • Made in the US
  • Vibram rubber sole

  • Difficult to break in
  • Not for high arches
Best Upgrade Work Boot
Service Boot 2030 - Chromexcel
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Viberg

I wouldn't go sloshing around a wet worksite in these, but jobs done in a studio or small- to mid-sized factory? For sure. These are Viberg's most iconic style, with a history stretching as far back as 1931. They're cut from hard-wearing Chromoexcel leather, feature a Dainite sole and brass hardware.

  • Brass hardware
  • Slip-resistant Dainite sole
  • Chromoexcel uppers
  • Resoleable

  • No steel shank
  • No protective toe
  • Not waterproof
Best Affordable Work Boot
Waterproof Boot
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Timberland

When Timberland introduced its now-iconic work boots in 1973, it was a revolution. The cement construction made it among the first boots to be truly waterproof and the design has remained much the same since. The nubuck uppers are constructed with quadruple needle stitching and outfitted with PrimaLoft insulation padded ankle collars and tough rubber lug soles.

  • Classic style
  • Easy to find
  • Waterproof
  • Insulated
  • Rubber soles
  • Lots of sizes
  • Four colors

  • Heel wears down with extensive walking
  • Tight at the toes
  • Scuffs are very noticeable
1000 Mile Boot
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Wolverine

This is Wolverine's 1000 Mile Boot. It's named after the number of miles you can put on a pair, but you can probably add even more. This one is modeled after the original’s pattern, which was first produced in 1914, and made in Big Rapids, Michigan. Unlined, the boot’s upper is made from premium Horween leather and there’s a leather outsole with a Vibram heel, too.

6-inch Classic Moc Gore-Tex
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Red Wing Heritage

When Red Wing introduced the Moc Toe, it was designed for outdoorsmen — people trekking through mud and over rough terrain, who needed to strike a balance between comfort and courage. This version of the venerable boot is made with a Gore-Tex membrane, making it entirely waterproof. You won't sully your feet should someone splash or a puddle surprise you. Plus, they're plenty comfortable still.

  • Made in the US
  • Waterproof
  • Rip- and stain-resistant
  • Goodyear-welted
  • Anti-slip traction tread outsole
  • Oil-tanned leather uppers

  • No reinforced or protective toe
  • Sizing is different — most should order a half size down
  • No shank
  • No arch support
Groundbreaker 6" Work Boot
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Ariat

This Ariat boot is one of the brand's more affordable options, but that doesn't mean it can't do the job — whatever it may be. It's a six-inch, lace-up boot with a rubber Ariat sole and a heel tab for easy removal. You won't find a steel toe here, but you can add one for ~$50 dollars. Some customers have cited a discrepancy between this version and pricier Ariat boots, but you get what you pay for — and that's plenty still.

  • Affordable
  • Durable rubber sole

  • No steel toe
  • Flimsier body
  • Seams aren't as strong
  • Not resoleable
Shop Boots
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Filson x White's

These work boots were born from a collaboration between White's and Filson, two well-known Washington-based outfitters. They look a bit like Timbs, but they're totally an upgrade. (Sorry, Timberland.) Made in the US, the co-branded Shop Boots come with a steel shank, a Vibram outsole, and full-grain roughout leather uppers.

  • Timbs, upgraded
  • Made in the US
  • Vibram outsole
  • Steel shank
  • Padded collar

  • Light color makes marks more visible
  • Structured but not steel toe
  • More expensive than others on this list
Standard Steel Toe Jobmaster
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Wesco

Whatever the job requires, Wesco’s Jobmaster gets it done with full-grain leather uppers and a hunky Vibram lug sole which boost it to 10 inches tall. With effectively indestructible build quality, full-leather insoles and midsoles, and brass eyelets that get better with age, it's worth considering the price jump from our Just Get This pick.

  • Thick Vibram sole
  • A very tall boot — 10 inches
  • Leather insoles
  • Resoleable
  • Steel toe
  • Two widths
  • Can be customized

  • Expensive
Archie-01 GRM
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Unmarked

Incredibly durable, Unmarked's Archie-01 boots were designed as an homage to Mexican worker boots, which were made from heavy cowhide leather with calf leather liners and a cork-filled footbed and midsole. There's also a ripple soled version for those seeking something... edgier.

  • Made in Mexico
  • Calf leather liner
  • Cork-filled footbed
  • Three colors
  • Goodyear-welted
  • Fair Trade

  • Natural leather is specially treated so inconsistencies are possible
  • On-demand production means they could be delayed
  • No protective toe
350 Cutter
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White's Boots

The 350 Cutter was originally designed by then White's owner Otto White, who famously took a chainsaw to a taller boot to make something loggers could wear on off days. The upper's waterproof and there's a mini Vibram outsole, plus each pair is both resoleable and rebuildable.

  • Waterproof
  • Resoleable
  • Vibram outsole
  • 11 colors
  • Two widths
  • Leather shank
  • Handmade in the US

  • Run large — order a half size down
  • No protective toe
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