Much like denim jeans, work boots have gone from the job site to the streets, having been adopted for everyday wear by a variety of subcultures ranging from hip hop heads to punks. Since many brands are cognizant of their casual fanbase, many-storied shoemakers have tailored their footwear to fit everyday wear, rather than the rigorous demands of a worksite. That doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in quality, but it can limit the functionality of wearing many work boots to do actual work. That’s why if you are planning on working on a job site, it can be hard to find shoes that are actually up to safety standards.
One of the most essential features of a proper work boot is a reinforced toe. Sometimes these reinforced toes will be made out of a composite material, which has its own benefits, but steel remains the best option for providing safety for your feet. It can be hard to tell steel-toe boots apart from regular boots just by looking at them — that’s because the protective toecap is typically inserted inside the boot under the leather of the toe box, so you can’t see the steel from the outside of the shoe. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best steel-toe boots available right now.
These boots are perfect for the job site, but many are comfortable enough to wear as a casual shoe or when doing yard work. This list includes six-inch ankle boots, full eight-inch boots and even a cowboy work boot. What they all have in common are genuine leather uppers and steel toe caps. These are the ones to get.
1. Carhartt Men’s 6 Work Safety-Toe NWP Work Boot
Carhartt has been a legendary manufacturer of workwear for over 130 years, and while most people associate them with jackets, pants and hats, they also make great footwear. These leather boots have a rubber sole with cushioned ankle support and two sets of speed hooks to easily take them on and off. These shoes are Goodyear-welted; that means the soles are comfortable and more water-resistant. Best of all, a Goodyear-welted shoe can be re-soled, so you can keep wearing the shoes after the soles have worn out.
Pros: Goodyear-welted boots with genuine rubber soles and a genuine leather outer. Cushioned ankle support.
Cons: No pull-tab at the ankle. Not as many color options.
2. Thorogood Men’s Safety Toe Boot
Thorogood doesn’t get as much love as Red Wing, but the brand has quietly and consistently cranked out some of the best work boots since 1892. The fact that they fly more under the radar means that Thorogood tends to be less expensive than Red Wing, even though both are made in the US. These stylish and hard-wearing eight-inch leather boots have a steel safety toe, a durable Vibram wedge sole, and they’re Goodyear-welted (meaning they can be re-soled). A fiberglass shank adds structure and support to the boot, and the cushioned insole is removable.
Pros: Goodyear-welted boots with a Vibram wedge-sole. Removable cushioned footbed. Made in the US. Full eight-inch height for more support. Available in wide and extra-wide sizes.
Cons: More expensive than other options on this list.
3. Caterpillar Men’s Second Shift Steel Toe Work Boot
The Caterpillar brand is pretty much synonymous with worksites, and they make all manner of heavy machinery. That’s why it’s no surprise that they make solid work boots, too. These boots have the Cat logo on the tongue, and the label is printed with “Steel Toe.” They come in several traditional work boot colors ranging from black to dark brown to honey, and they’re made from genuine leather with a synthetic sole. They have four pairs of eyelets and two pairs of metal hooks (also called speed hooks), which make it easy to take them on and off.
Pros: Genuine leather with oil-resistant coating. Cushioned ankle support. Easy on/off with speed hooks and rear pull-tab.
Cons: Laces could be better quality. The insole is not that comfortable.
4. ARIAT Men’s Groundbreaker Pull-on Steel Toe Work Boot
If you want a proper workboot but you also want to show a little more character, then consider these unique boots from ARIAT. ARIAT is known for cowboy and western-style boots, and these steel-toe work boots borrow elements from workboots and western wear. The rugged rubber sole and rounded steel toe allow it to function as a work-boot, but the medallion stitching on the vamp and pull-on style borrows aspects from cowboy boots. The sole is oil and slip-resistant for more safety while working.
Pros: Unique boots with a western-inspired design, workboot elements like a steel toe and slip-resistant rubber soles.
Cons: Takes time to break them in.
5. ROCKROOSTER Work Boots for Men, 6 inch Steel Toe
While most people associate Chelsea boots with the kind of dressy footwear you could wear with a suit, ROCKROOSTER’s steel-toe boots prove that a Chelsea-style can be worn on a job site, too. The elastic at the ankles and the pull tabs make these boots easy to get on and off. Like the other options, these boots have a steel toe and are made from genuine leather. The boots have what they call a Coolmax lining — this wicks moisture away from the feet for more comfortable wearing on hot days.
Pros: Affordable genuine full-grain oiled leather boots with an easy on-off Chelsea construction. Thick protective insole and moisture-wicking lining.
Cons: These boots are not ideal for wet conditions.