Your feet are killing you. And it's probably your work boots that are doing it. While they're doing a great job of protecting your feet on the job site, they're not so great at keeping them comfortable. Luckily, there are some easy ways to stop your suffering.
THE BASICS ---
Work boots are made to be durable and rugged. Even though they're designed to protect your feet, they're probably the reason your feet are in agony at the end of the day.
Unless you're buying custom, work boots don't provide the arch support your feet need, which is why they hurt. Adding arch support insoles will make a huge difference, as will making sure you have the proper fit, buying quality boots, and wearing the right socks.
We recommend Tread Labs Ramble or Pace insoles for your work boots. If you prefer a firmer insole, go with Pace. If you like more flex in your arch support, go with Ramble.
Work boots are designed for workplace safety. In fact, the US Department of Labor and OSHA require employers ensure their employees wear protective footwear if their job poses a danger to their feet.
While there are rules for how the outside structure of the work boot is crafted, there are no guidelines for the inside, which can leave you saying "my work boots are killing me."
There are ways to make your work boots more comfortable so they keep you going through your work day.
How Should Work Boots Fit?
Taking your time to find the right work boot fit is worth it. You'll want to try on a few different boots to compare comfort levels. Boots that are too short or narrow will crowd your feet and be uncomfortable. Boots that are too big allow too much movement and will cause blisters and hot spots.
When you're trying on work boots:
Wear the same socks you wear on the job. Polyester or wool/synthetic blends will keep your feet more comfortable than cotton. Cushioning on the bottom provides added comfort.
Test for length. Slide your foot forward until your toes touch the front of the boot. Bend your knee forward. The width of your index finger should fit exactly between the heel of your foot and the back of the shoe. Test both feet.
Make sure the laces keep your foot comfortably in place. Without being uncomfortably tight, they should prevent your foot from sliding to the front of the boot.
Make sure the boots flex at the ball of your foot. Avoid boots that bend in the area of your arch. They do not have adequate support.
Remember your feet will swell at the end of a long day, especially when it’s hot. Try boots on after work so your feet will be at their largest.
How Do I Get My Work Boots To Stop Hurting My Feet?
Think about this. Each day, the impact on your feet is equal to the weight of a fully loaded cement truck. Your arches need firm support to hold up to all that pressure, especially if you have flat feet or arthritis. Work boot insoles give your feet the support they need, which keeps them comfortable and pain-free.
Lack of arch support can lead to many different foot ailments. Plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and tendinitis all have one thing in common. They can be addressed or avoided with arch support insoles.
Arch support insoles:
Relieve pressure on the ligament that connects your heel to your toes. This makes your feet feel comfortable at the end of the day and prevents the acute heel pain of plantar fasciitis.
Spread the impact of each step over the entire surface of your foot, reducing pressure on the heel and ball of your foot.
Correct alignment issues that cause pain in your knees, hips and back. Ensuring a stable foundation pays huge dividends in overall comfort.
Unfortunately, the stock insoles that come in work boots, even expensive ones, do not provide adequate support. Assuming you have chosen the right boots, nothing will improve their comfort as much as a pair of supportive insoles. When you’re buying insoles for your work boots, look for:
Strong Support - Put your insoles on the table. If you can easily deflect the arch to the table, the insoles are not strong enough. A soft, foam insole may feel great initially, but it won't correct the causes of foot pain or prevent biomechanical issues such as overpronation.
A Flawless Fit – Just as your boots need to fit, your insoles need to fit as well. Choose insoles that match the contours of your arch. A precise fit goes hand in glove with strong support to give all day comfort.
Durability – When you invest in quality insoles, you don't want to have to replace them every six months. Tread Labs 2-part insole system is designed for the long haul. The molded arch supports are unconditionally guaranteed. Forever. The interchangeable top covers can be replaced inexpensively, as often as you like.
How Do I Choose The Right Work Boot?
There are many kinds of work boots. A postman and a smoke jumper have very different needs. Important features to consider include boot height, weight, water resistance, safety toes, insulation, boot construction, and style.
Boot height – Taller is better for linesmen and for protection in the deep woods. But taller boots are harder to put on and heavier. Shorter boots are lighter, cooler, and better for all-around use.
Weight – The highest quality boots (Whites and Wescos) are massively strong but pretty darn heavy. Backpackers say that a pound on your feet is equal to 5 in your pack. Keep this in mind. In the past, heavier boots were associated with better support. Today, better materials and a greater understanding of arch support enable lighter weight boots to provide excellent overall support.
Water Resistance – Some boots have waterproof leathers. Some have waterproof membranes (Gore-Tex). Some are made with especially breathable materials. Waterproof boots can be great when you stand in water all day, but they do not let moisture out (despite the claims). Your feet will always feel hotter and wetter in boots with a waterproof membrane. Waterproof boots will also be harder to dry each night.
Safety Toes - Necessary on some job sites, steel-toed boots add weight and can make your feet cold in winter. Alternative protective footwear is made with composite protective toes instead of steel.
Insulation – When the temps drop, insulated boots are a must for outdoor use. Know that these boots will be hot in summer and make your feet sweat. For summer, consider boots with fabric or mesh uppers. Not quite as durable, but worth a look if you are a UPS driver in Tucson.
Boot Construction – Welted and stitchdown boots are built to last and can be resoled many times. Cement or direct construction – where the outsole attaches directly to the upper – can sometimes be resoled, depending on the boot. If resoling is important to you, ask your retailer for more information.
Style – In the end, we all care about how we look. Choose from traditional moc-toe styles, contemporary hiker styles, or pull out the stops and go for the iron worker look.
What Are The Most Comfortable Work Boots?
If your steel toe boots are killing your feet or you just need your work boots to be more comfortable, look for boots with cushioned outsoles. Putting some cushion between your feet and the hard ground can make all the difference. Check out these brands with cushioned outsoles:
Irish Setter - Ashby 6" boots #83606. Old school styling is back. Aluminum toed work boots with heat resistant outsoles. Made in USA and super comfortable.
Wolverine - Durashocks - 8" Waterproof, insulated boot with comfortable polyurethane outsoles.. Might double as a great upland hunting boot.
Timberland - PRO Hypercharge 6” Comp Toe Work Boots. #A1RVS214. This modified hiker style is waterproof features a cushioned outsole.
Keen - San Antonio Mid w/Aluminum toe. Running shoe inspired boot features a lightweight EVA midsole and a rubber outsole for comfort and durability.
What Are The Best Socks For Work Boots?
Socks are often an afterthought. Cotton crew socks by the dozen, what’s the big deal? The big deal is moisture management. When your feet are dry they stay cooler in summer, warmer in winter and blisters don’t form on your softened skin. Additionally, dry feet resist athletes foot and reduce the growth of bacteria, the cause of stinky feet.
Look for socks that are:
Not cotton - Cotton is absorbs moisture and holds it close to your foot. Wet cotton socks lose all their cushioning ability and feel horrible - winter and summer. They’re cheap, but that’s the only thing in their favor.
Polyester - This synthetic fiber does not absorb moisture. Instead the moisture is driven away by the heat from your foot. The cushioning of polyester socks maintains much better than cotton over the course of a long day.
Wool and wool blends - The best. Naturally antimicrobial (anti-stink), wool socks keep your feet dry and comfortable. The best ones offer cushion on the bottom and an open, ventilated weave on top. Thicker styles are better in winter.
How Should I Maintain My Work Boots?
To get the longest life out of your work boots, you'll want to rotate them out with a second pair, keep them dry and clean, and use leather conditioners.
Rotate your boots - Most guys buy a pair of boots and wear them till they’re worn out. Boots (and shoes) last much longer if they are rotated in use. Alternating 2 pairs gives each one a chance to completely dry out between uses. Your boots will last longer and your feet will be more comfortable.
Dry your boots – Allow your boots to dry after a long day on the job. Boots like to air dry without excessive heat. Never subject your boots to more heat than your hand can stand. Remove insoles to speed drying. If your boots get soaked, fill them with wads of newspaper. It will draw out the moisture from within.
Keep your boots clean – Remove mud to keep the leather from drying out. A stiff brush works well and avoids getting your boots wet. Remove salt with a mild solution of vinegar and water.
Leather work boots like conditioners – All leathers benefit from conditioners. Boots should be clean and dry before applying conditioner. Oil-based treatments (SnoSeal, Mink Oil, Redwing Boot Oil) will soften the leather. Silicone or PTFE treatments (Nikwax, Graingers) add waterproofing without softening the leather. Either way, use leather conditioners to keep your boots comfortable.
Stop your work boots from killing your feet and make them more comfortable. Strong, arch-supporting boot inserts will improve the comfort of all work boots, old or new. Pick your work boot insoles like you pick your tools. Invest in quality and you’ll save money in the long run. Look for strength and durability.
The most important thing is for you to experience the highest level of comfort possible. When you’re on your feet all day, make sure your feet are well supported no matter what kind of work boot you wear. It will make a huge difference in your job satisfaction.