Developed for farming and hunting with inspiration from Native American footwear, men’s moc toe boots have emerged as a calling card for any occasion. The best moc toe boots are sought after for their distinctly unique aesthetics—a U-shaped ridge that traces the perimeter of the toe, a wedge-treaded outsole, and an often contrasting raw leather lace. It’s a style rooted in toughness that’s been seen all over American cinema and gracing the pages of magazines.
What’s surprising is that even after 70 years, many guys are loyal to the original style. Red Wing sits on the throne as the Air Jordan of its category with a cult following. New bootmakers like Thursday Boot Co. have put their own spin on the classic as well, making space for their growing businesses. Regardless of who makes them, the best moc toe boots remain a solid choice for stomping through snow, rain, or treacherous conditions while blending style and substance.
What The Experts Say
“It was a style grounded in the concept of authenticity, of clothing well-built for a purpose,” says Red Wing Heritage Senior Product Manager, Jase Swalve.
Mens moc toe boots also exploded in popularity in Japan in the ‘90s, another locale with a penchant for adopting timeless Americana looks, he adds.
In Japan, ‘90s pop culture icons favored, “a look that was less work-focused, and more ‘American West-Coast Casual style.’” The look blended modern streetwear influences with oversized jackets, vintage denim and of course, moc toe boots.
At the same time, consumers began to look intensively for goods that were built to last, as opposed to fast fashion: Enter carefully made moc toe boots and selvedge denim, specifically Red Wing’s ever-popular moc toe style.
Red Wing Heritage Classic 6-Inch Moc Toe Boots
This is the first style that pops up when somebody mentions moc toe boots. These have been worn by everyone from Ryan Gosling to the construction crew down the street. It serves every purpose imaginable short of ice skating and tap dancing. Red Wing’s full-grain specialty oiled leather, treaded outsole, contrast stitching, and yellow raw leather laces are the picture of what to look for in the best moc toe boots.
Thorogood Boots 1957 Series Moc Toe Boots
The Red Wing v. Thorogood rivalry has raged for nearly 70 years, but Thorogood wins the battle of the soles. Each protects against slips on water and oil and offers sturdy traction. The polyurethane base for this 8-inch boot, compared to its Red Wing counterpart, also resists electric shocks. Also, this boot has a Goodyear storm welt compared to the Red Wing’s Goodyear welt.
In the world of the 8-inch moc toe boot, Thorogood is thoroughly great. Like Red Wing, this is also a brand that emerged in the 1950s that’s become synonymous with hardy workwear. With the added bonus from the sole and the extra waterproofing from the Goodyear storm welt, this becomes a great option for electricians and plumbers or any job site that risks water and electrical exposure.
Wolverine I-90 Durashocks Moc Toe Carbonmax Boots
These boots are work site-ready thanks to Wolverine’s protective toe guard, shock-absorbent sole and highly abrasion-resistant outsole. For anyone working away from the laptop and air conditioning and in the outdoors with their hands, the Wolverine’s I-90 Durashocks Moc Toe Work Boots with Carbon max are a safe, reliable boot at an affordable price. The upper is a full-grain, waterproof leather which is great for jobs close to water. The sole is abrasion resistant, standing up to wet, oily, or hot job sites, and claims to last three times longer than traditional rubber.
Thursday Boots Diplomat Moc Toe Boots
The perfect balance of quality and style and sold at the right price. This boot should cost much more than it does. While these boots aren’t equipped with construction site-ready design details—like a steel safety toe—they more than make up for it as a high-quality everyday fashion boot. With its weather-ready nubuck, Kevlar laces, Vibram outsole, and Goodyear welt, this moc toe boot combines some of the toughest brands into a beast of a boot.
Clarks Wallabee Boots
Clarks pioneered the chukka with their legendary Desert Boot, but the Wallabee, especially in soft suede, is equally iconic. Wes Anderson, Method Man, and countless other legends have put their own spin on the Clarks Wallabee. The chunky crepe sole moc toe boots are just enough of a style swerve to shake up any footwear rotation. They have a Nike-like approach to color releases, albeit without as much hype, but make a great alternative to a pair of Dunks.
Lems Shoes Boulder Waterproof Hiking Shoes
Moc toe boots don’t usually flex, let alone roll up into a ball. Lems Shoes made one that does both that won’t hog all the space in a carry-on suitcase. This is a style that breaks the mold. Moc toe boots typically don’t travel well. They’re riding, tough, and heavy—the opposite of plane-friendly. But these are designed to go everywhere. Light and flexible while maintaining its durability with waterproof leather and a rubber outsole, this moc toe boot works just as well on basic hikes as it does anywhere else life ends up.
Nisolo Mateo All-Weather Boots
Less intense than a traditional men’s moc toe boot, Nisolo’s Mateo boot offers a slimmer silhouette. It’s still workwear, but they made it business-casual. They’re made for Los Angeles day-jobbers. L.A. actors-gone-marketers are stylish and wear boots like these with a suit during the day and on stage at night.
Frequently Asked Questions About Moc Toe Boots
What Should I Look For in a Moc Toe Boot?
From the ground up, the details make the difference, experts note. “Well-made footwear starts with a well-designed shoe last,” Red Wing Heritage Design and Development Manager Mike Larson told SPY. “A moc toe boot should be built with a well-shaped ‘walled last’ to ensure that it has adequate volume and structure.” You’ll also want to look for a more heavyweight box toe to allow for durability and shape retention, Larson said.
What Material Makes the Best Moc Toe Boot?
Plenty of materials make the difference in the world of moc toe boots, Larson said, yet leather might be the most integral. “A quality leather moc toe boot should be 2.0 to 2.4-mm thick in the upper for maximum durability and longevity,” Larson said.
Photos of your boot of choice can help you eyeball its thickness, while you very well might want to reach out to a customer service rep to confirm the thickness of the boot leather in question. If the boot looks like it’s made from thick leather and can take a beating, and if it’s made by a trusted brand, you should very likely be in good hands.
What’s The Best Way to Style a Moc Toe Boot?
The old ways are sometimes the best: Pieces like indigo denim and a classic T-shirt, topped off with a shirt jacket, a field jacket or chambray shirt, are always reliable. Blue jeans can be swapped in for an edgier black pair or for relaxed chinos, or even cargo pants.
“The key for basics is a quality material and cut that complement the craftsmanship of the moc toe, and color tones that update while still reading classic,” Swalve of Red Wing Heritage told SPY.