The 10 Best Men's Work Boots
The year that Jurassic Park came out–the original 1993 film, that is–a lot of the kids in my neighborhood went as Tim Murphy for Halloween. He was a relatable, young character who voiced all the nerdy interest in dinosaurs that the film would inevitably spark in us kids. I, however, wanted to be Dr. Alan Grant, Sam Neil’s character.
I had the denim shirt, the light hat, the red bandana tied around the neck like it was meant for a puppy. I even had a pretty approximate pair of khakis, a weapon much like the guns used in the film, and a little set of picks and brushes in case I came across any fossils worth excavating.
The day of my elementary school’s Halloween parade came along, and despite my efforts, there was still something missing: the work boots. Dr. Grant was a serious outdoorsman, a paleontologist with a wry smile and a half-way decent American accent (Neil, like so many actors invading American soil, hails from the UK). No footwear could be more appropriately American except, perhaps, for the cowboy boot. From a costuming perspective, though, the cowboy look might have detracted from Dr. Grant’s portrayed intellect.
The work boot has a deeper universality to it, at once demanding you recognize its strength while also implying its cunning with every use. Not only are modern men’s workbooks veritable tanks for your feet, they also benefit from decades of research into the science of standing and walking in difficult spaces like work sites and factories.
They boast features like waterproof leather exteriors, cushioned inserts, steel toes, quick laces, and gripping rubber soles for stability and comfort. All this they do while maintaining a specific and iconic form that works as well as a fashion statement as it does walking the beams of a skyscraper. The only thing left that could improve them would be if Dr. Grant could capture a triceratops or two instead of just hugging them. Then, we might have had work boots made of dino leather. There's always the sequels, I guess.
Working It Out
Choosing the right footwear isn't always something you do from a dry, clinical perspective, preferring practicality over all other considerations. If that were the case, all our shoes would be the shoes of some Soviet-style dystopia, black blocks of reasonably inexpensive material permanently glued to our feet, indestructible and adaptable to almost any task. Well, any task in the factory or labor camp, anyway.
Fortunately, the capitalists won the Cold War, so we continue to have a bevvy of options at our disposal that are as eye-catching as they are body-caring. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of work boots on our list that isn't both comfortable and useful, but it's that other aspect, the catching of the eye, that makes the most difference. Let your sense of style guide you toward a few of the boots on our list, and start evaluating other variables from there.
To get to the heart of those other variables, you should consider your intended use for your future work boots to help you narrow down our list to your best options. For example, you might be a motorcycle rider. That immediately rules out any boots that have laces, unless you want to get your leg caught in the gears and be viciously thrown from your bike at 70 mph.
Then, there's the question of actual employment, as to whether your job actually requires that you wear a work boot. If you do any kind of contracting, construction, demolition, or anything that puts your feet in harm's way, you want a boot that's sturdy and strong, and one that you can stand in for ten hours without losing feeling in your feet. Look for features like steel toes, Vibram soles, anti-microbial linings, and additional cushioning to ensure the highest level of comfort lives beneath that rugged exterior.
Always Leather On The Feet
The human foot has seen some grueling challenges of the course of its evolution. Everything from massive shifts in global climate, to a transition from nomadic to agricultural societies, and, my personal favorite, the timeless practice of foot binding, has shaped the way we stand and walk, and the way we think about standing and walking, for millennia.
Early footwear consisted of leaves or strips of hide strung against the foot or the calf with reeds, tree bark, and other, thinner strips of skin. These designs led to the sandals of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquity that have made a slight comeback in recent fashion trends.
The thing about sandals, though, is that they aren't particularly safe. In the era of the industrial revolution, more and more factory workers utilized boots or wooden clogs to protect their feet from the dangers of the workplace. After the second World War, Germany developed a kind of reinforced boot meant to keep the toes safe from falling objects, and to keep the soles from enduring any puncture damage.
These were the first work boots to meet the standards to which we hold the category today. Over the decades that have proceeded since then, the leather has gotten thicker and stronger; the soles have gained elasticity, grip, and functionality from the addition of rubber; and the style has reached out past the factory walls and into urban and millennial fashion.