As a firefighter, it is imperative that you take good care of your feet. Your life and the lives of those around you depend on your ability to think fast and move even faster. Long hours and days can take a toll on your feet. Whether you are fighting fires in an urban environment or parachuting as a hot shot into a national forest, your feet keep you alive. Take care of them, and they will take care of you. Footwear for firefighters should have the following components:
- Comfortable - Aching feet will not serve you when the wind changes and speed is of the essence.
- Protective – Wildland terrain is extremely rugged. The urban landscape can be equally challenging. Your feet need to protect you from rocks, debris, water, and heat.
- Supportive – Without support, your feet will fatigue. Like a truck, your feet need firm suspension to smooth out the bumps and provide a stable ride.
- Durable – In the end, the best value is not the bargain boot. Cheap throwaways cost more in the long term. Buy quality and resole as necessary.
3 Distinct Types of Footwear for Firefighters
Station Boots – Worn at the station and on non-fire calls. Many stations give wide leeway on what can be worn. Local fire stations often ask for quality, black service boots, but they don’t require safety toes or puncture-resistant insole plates.
Bunker or Turn-Out Boots – Worn for urban firefighting, these must meet standards for toe protection and puncture resistance. Traditional bunker boots are rubber. But more firefighters are opting for a newer crop of leather boots, which are lighter weight, more comfortable, and easier to drive in. Toe protection can be steel or composite. Composite is lighter, warmer in cold weather, but also more expensive.
Wildland Firefighting Boots – Worn in rough terrain and sometimes for days at a time, these boots need to have the traction and performance of a hiking boot, the durability of a pulaski (the axe-like tool many firefighters carry with them) and the comfort to keep you on your feet when you’re exhausted. Heavy-duty, welted leather boots are the norm here. They are re-soleable and built to last.
Because of the wide variety of accepted boots, there are many brands and styles available. As with any type of footwear, you get what you pay for in terms of comfort and durability. Many service-style boots have been influenced by the design of athletic shoes. As such, boot weights are decreasing. Boots are also gaining more flexibility and comfort. Here are some models to look at. I’ve grouped them by price.
- Magnum – For under $100, Magnum makes a good boot with a steel toe and athletic fit. Check out the Response III.
- Thorogood – Also under $100, the 8" Academy Lace-Up looks to be a comfortable boot without a safety toe. Available in a wide range of sizes.
- 5.11 Tactical – The Skyweight Side-Zip Boot is light weight and offers the convenience of a side zip.
- Oakley – For a contemporary look and a quality Vibram sole, the 6" Standard Issue Assault Boot is a perfect choice for warm weather work.
- Danner – Stitch-down creation and a Vibram sole are indications of quality construction. This boot can be resoled for added value. Best fit for narrow feet. Made in the USA.
- Haix – With a futuristic look, the Special Fighter Men’s Boot, Quad-Certified from Haix, is high tech and rebuildable.
Bunker or Turn-Out BootsIn some cases, stations provide rubber boots, but often the cost of leather boots comes out of the firefighter’s pocket. This can get expensive. But remember that if you take care of your feet, they will take care of you. There are several good websites with a wide variety of bunker boots.
- Haix – Engineered in Germany, this brand has various technological features. In addition, many of their boots can be refurbished, thus increasing their value. Check out their Fire Hero Extreme.
- Globe – A leader in footwear for firefighters, Globe offers a variety of turn-out Boots. Their Structural-Proximity, 14" Leather Pull-On Boot is a top-of-the-line model (with top-of-the-line prices).
- Cosmas – Based in Italy with a U.S. office, Cosmas boots have an engineered fit for great performance. The Apollo 14" boot is less money than some of the competitors, but still comfortable and protective.
Wildland Fire Boots
- Thorogood – The value play. Made by the Weinbrenner company. Check out their 834-6383 Wildland Boot. Not quite the level of quality of the boots below but substantially less money.
- Wesco – West Coast Boot Company. A longstanding company with a great product and a great fit. Available as stock or custom made. Look at their Firestormer model. I wore a pair of their linesmen’s boots, and they were fantastic.
- Nick's Boots – Located in Spokane, WA, Nicks has both stock and custom boots. Consistently good reviews. Their Firefighter model is especially strong.
Footwear for Firefighters – Give Your Feet the Support They Need
Whatever type of boots you wear for your firefighting activities, improve their fit and comfort with arch-supporting insoles from Tread Labs. Durable polypropylene arch supports are guaranteed for life and the resilient top covers can be replaced as necessary. Don’t let your feet hold you back. Invest in the tools that will make your job easier and more comfortable. You have enough on your mind at the scene of a fire or accident, don’t let your feet grab your attention.