If suede boots are your go-to, you know what wet weather or a dirty worksite can do to them: serious effing damage. As such, you won't see (or at least shouldn't see) many trudging through fresh snow or crossing an ankle-deep puddle in their classy Chelseas. These tasks are better saved for boots designed to get dirty — ones you don't need to worry about ruining.
They were made to withstand the messiest, wettest, wildest (you name it) workdays or weather. Which ones are they? Well, there are duck, muck, rain and snow boots, but there are general-purpose work boots, too. While the former don't protect against much more than water, the latter are often equipped with protective toes and padded collars. They're better suited for places where injuries could (but hopefully don't) happen.
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What to Look for
With work boots, no matter what your job is, you want a design that can perform on a daily basis but also protect your feet from moving vehicles, heavy objects or slick floors — whatever it is the day throws at you. Versatility is important but so too is comfortability. If your job requires work boots, it's fair to say you probably work on your feet. A comfortable insole is a must, but most boots are big enough to accommodate an insert — like Fulton's cork one, which molds to your foot with wear.
Other musts include a high collar, reinforced toe box, lug sole and slip-resistant tread. High boots can protect your ankle as well as where pant hems might expose when you step up. Steel toes are a smart choice, but they're pricey. Most folks can get by with a reinforced toe box alone. The lug sole and slip-resistant tread guarantee control on slick surfaces, in muddy work zones or on debris-covered construction sites.
And, as we say with all boots, really, an expensive boot is almost always worth as long as its features warrant the price — not just its aesthetics. Not only do nicer boots last longer, but they look better as they age, ultimately saving you the money you'd otherwise spend annually on a new pair.
Terms to Know
A steel toe is the surest way to guarantee yours won't get crushed under a moving machine or raw materials gone rogue. Sure, there are other options out there — a cap toe or aluminum — but steel is the strongest choice.
Electric Shock Resistant (ESR), Heat Resistant (HR), Acid Resistant (AR), Electrical Hazard (EH)
These are all ratings that determine whether a boot will prevent electric shock if you step on an exposed wire, sustain high temperatures, protect against acid erosion and so on and so forth.
A membrane, in this industry, is a protective layer that separates the wearer within the boot from the elements. Membranes are often breathable, too, so they keep you dry while letting sweat evaporate.
A leather boot can be waterproofed using an oil coating. Most oiled boots need minimal care and maintenance, too — just a cleaning and conditioning every few months (or sooner if you really put them through it).