Tips for Amazingly Comfortable Work Boots

by Mark Paigen September 15, 2015

18 Comments

6 Tips for Amazingly Comfortable Work Boots

You’re on your feet all day. When you come home from work, your feet are killing you. For those of you who put on a pair of work boots instead of loafers before heading to work, you know your shoe choice serves multiple purposes – industrial protection, all-around safety, and long-lasting comfort. On the outside, most work boots are built to be tough, strong, and durable. But many boot manufacturers pay less attention to the boot’s inside.

Work boots are designed for safety in the workplace. In fact, both the US Department of Labor and OSHA require that employers ensure their employees are wearing protective footwear if their job poses a danger to their feet.

While various governing bodies dictate the outside structure of the work boot, none provide guidelines for the inside. Without proper support in your work boots, your feet will tire easily. Extra strain is put on bones and joints. This leads to painful conditions such as shin splints,  plantar fasciitis, and knee pain. Proper support is essential for avoiding injury and keeping you at 100% on the job. This is especially true for people with arthritis and flat feet.

There are ways to transform your work boots in comfortable footwear that keeps you going through your work day:

Comfortable Work Boots Must Fit Well

Boot fit is vital for foot comfort. You won’t get a good fit if you rush the fitting process. Make sure you try on a few different boots before making a selection. Boots that are too short or too narrow will crowd your feet an be uncomfortable. Boots that are too big allow too much movement and will cause blisters and hot spots.

  1. Wear the socks that you will wear on the job. Polyester or wool/synthetic blends will keep your feet more comfortable than cotton – winter and summer. Cushioning on the bottom of the socks will provide an added level of comfort. 
  2. 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 between the heel of your foot and the back of the shoe – no more, no less. Test both feet.
  3. Make sure that the laces can keep your foot comfortably in place. They should prevent your foot from sliding to the front of the boot without being uncomfortably tight.
  4. Make sure that 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.
  5. Know that your feet will swell at the end of a long day, especially when it’s hot. If possible, try boots on after work so your feet will be at their largest. 

Comfortable Work Boots Have Cushioned Soles

The average person takes 20,000,000 steps in their lifetime. Make each one comfortable by putting some cushion between your feet and the hard ground. Think of it as suspension for your feet. Here are some great examples of boots with cushioned outsoles.

  1. 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.  
  2. Wolverine - Durashocks - 8" Waterproof, insulated boot with comfortable polyurethane outsoles.. Might double as a great upland hunting boot. 
  3. Timberland - PRO Hypercharge 6” Comp Toe Work Boots. #A1RVS214. This modified hiker style is waterproof features a cushioned outsole. 
  4. Keen - San Antonio Mid w/Aluminum toe. Running shoe inspired boot features a lightweight EVA midsole and a rubber outsole for comfort and durability. 

Comfortable Work Boots Require Strong Arch Support

You’ve taken the time to find a pair of cushion soled boots that fit well. Now think about the arches of your feet and support. Each day, the impact on your feet is equal to the weight of a fully loaded cement truck. Without strong arch support, your feet will suffer. Big time. Plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, tendinitis - there are many types of foot ailments but they all have one thing in common. They hurt. The solution is arch support. Here’s why it helps.

  • Arch support relieves 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.
  • Arch support spreads the impact of each step over the entire surface of your foot, reducing pressure on the heel and ball of your foot.
  • Arch support corrects alignment issues that cause pain in your knees, hips and back. Insuring 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:

  1. Superior Cushioning - Your work boot inserts need to provide both support and cushion. While a cushioned insole may feel great for a few days, it doesn’t correct the causes of feet pain or prevent biomechanical issues such as  overpronation.
  2. Breathable Materials – When we are working hard, our feet sweat. Any aftermarket insoles for boots need to be made of breathable materials that will wick away sweat.
  3. Durability – Less expensive insoles break down quickly. Most have to be replaced after 6 months. Find  medical-grade insoles that can withstand your work day, day after day.

Choosing the Right Work Boot Features Improves Comfort

There are many kinds of work boots. A postman and a smoke jumper have very different needs. Here are some important features to consider:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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 (see below).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Choose The Right Socks for Work Boot Comfort

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 stay dry they stay cooler in summer, warmer in winter. Blisters don’t form on your softened skin and your socks maintain their cushion underfoot. Additionally, dry feet resist athletes foot and reduce the growth of bacteria, the cause of stinky feet. What are the best socks for work boots?

  • 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.

Rotate and Maintain Your Work Boots

  • 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.
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, it makes a huge difference in your job satisfaction. Whatever kind of boots you wear, in whatever kinds of environments – make sure your feet are well supported.

SHOP INSOLES NOW

    Mark Paigen
    Mark Paigen


    18 Responses

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    June 24, 2019

    Hi Michael,
    While it is tempting to address heel pain with soft cushion insoles, these will only provide momentary relief. You need strong support to spread the weight evenly over your feet and support the plantar fascia.
    Tread Labs Stride insoles address both the cause and the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Our insoles offer a dynamic arch support, available in 4 different heights, to provide a near custom fit.
    Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions about how to measure your arches, and which insole may be right for you.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    michael sharp
    michael sharp

    June 24, 2019

    i wear chainsaw boots all day 5 days a week and suffer badly from plantar fasciitis i use a after mkt insole but this dosnt help, also do the proper exercises , some relief but not much. any suggestions people ?? ps im 63 and 19st which does not help i know!

    Dan
    Dan

    April 30, 2019

    Hi David,
    Many styles of work boots do not offer a factory insert with the right level of support. For this reason we’ve found that adding an over the counter orthotic can add the proper elements for a perfect fit and feel to help you make it through your work day pain free.
    A boot which offers a removable factory insert will allow you to get the most out of the over the counter orthotic.
    The first step to finding relief will be to measure your arch height. Using the right level of arch support will help distribute weight evenly, taking pressure off of the arch as well as the heels.
    Here is a quick rundown of how to measure the arch height;

    1. Fill your tub with a small layer of water.

    2. Take two pieces of cardboard or heavy paper and set them on the floor.

    3. Step into the tub with one foot to wet the bottom of your foot.

    4. Lift up your foot and step onto one cardboard piece. Put your full weight on that one foot.

    5. Step off the cardboard and look down.

    Determine your arch height. If you see your entire footprint, you have a LOW arch. If you see half of your arch—like the typical “footprint in the sand” image—you have a MEDIUM (normal) arch. If you see a “C” shaped imprint, you have a HIGH arch. If you see just your heel, the ball of your foot and almost no arch at all you have an EXTRA HIGH arch.

    Once you have determined the arch height you’ll want to head over to our FIND YOUR FIT tool, this will determine the right insole style for you.
    Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    David B
    David B

    April 29, 2019

    Hey there,I’m a traffic Controller of many years. No matter what boots I wear they start hurting my feet. So I try different rubber to try lifting the back so it’s not jamming into my arch. Then,my arch hurts so I’m trying some other way to take that pressure off. Then my heels hurt. I’m really stuck for ideas,now going to work is a real challenge especially standing on asphalt all day. I’ve tried everything. Just can’t get both arch and heel comfortable at the same time.

    Dan-Tread Labs
    Dan-Tread Labs

    September 07, 2018

    Hi Kevin,
    We do ship to Australia. International shipping costs an additional $25 for 1-2 pairs, and $40 for 3-5 pairs.
    Thanks,
    Dan-Tread Labs

    Kevin Watson
    Kevin Watson

    September 07, 2018

    Do you ship to Australia?

    Dan, Tread Labs
    Dan, Tread Labs

    June 08, 2018

    Hi Sharon,
    Many of the factory inserts that come with work boots do not offer enough cushion and support. An over the counter insole, or one of Tread Labs semi-custom insoles, could be very beneficial for you and make your work shifts more comfortable.
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Sharon
    Sharon

    June 08, 2018

    Hi I work at the airport so my work boots are heavy duty but not contain metal as I have to go through security lots of time. They have been fine up till now . There only 3 months old . I’ve found that out of the blue the bull of my feet are very tender and are getting hard skin on them .do u have any ideas to make the more compfy like they once was

    Dan, Tread Labs
    Dan, Tread Labs

    May 14, 2018

    Hi Kelsey,
    Thanks for your question.
    Based on the discomfort you’ve described I’m lead to believe you have high arches.
    High arches can result in underpronation (more commonly known as supination). As a supinator, your arches don’t properly absorb the shock of walking/running. Your foot doesn’t sufficiently roll inward upon landing. In fact, a supinating foot has an inward motion of less than 15%. This means that most of the person’s body weight lands on the outer edges of each foot.
    All of Tread labs semi-custom insoles offer excellent pronation control.
    If your work boots offer a removable insert I would recommend taking a look at our Stride insole. If the boots do not offer a removable insert the Stride Short could be a great solution for you.
    Please feel free to give us a call at 781-435-0662 or send us an email with any other questions you may have.

    Kelsey
    Kelsey

    May 14, 2018

    I recently started a new job at a factory. I’m on my feet for twelve hours straight with few breaks to relieve the pain it brings my feet. I’m required to wear steel toed boots. The pain I find is along the sides of my feet and on my big toes. What insole would be best to help my feet be more comfortable and lastly pain free to make my work day easier??

    Dan-Tread Labs
    Dan-Tread Labs

    March 07, 2018

    Hi Z.D.,
    Thanks for reaching out to us.
    Tread Labs insoles are compatible with nearly all styles of footwear.
    We have found that for folks who’s shoe size falls between sizes, for instance, in some shoes you wear an 11.5 and in others you wear a 12, we recommend going with the smaller of the two sizes. In this scenario, the 10-11.5 would be the recommended size. This size insole will fit the arch more precisely, but also will fit the shoe better in terms of width. This may be the cause of the issue you had with the Dr. Martins.
    If I can assist with an exchange for the smaller size insole, if you think it would help, please contact me at 781-435-0662, or shoot me an email at hello@treadlabs.com
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Z. D.
    Z. D.

    March 03, 2018

    I use my tread lab insoles in a pair of Dr Martin work boots. After a year of use I noticed the insole is starting to wear through the boot on the side. I did not notice initially that the shoe is slightly narrow, causing the insole to not sit flush against the bottom of the boot on the sides. Are the brands listed above wide enough for the insole to fit inside the boot?

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    December 29, 2017

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for taking an interest in Tread Labs.
    Feet can go through some changes over time, and what used to be a great choice in footwear starts to feel more and more uncomfortable as we get older.
    An insole with arch support very well could help with your heel pain, and give your boots new life.
    Tread Labs offers arch supports in several different heights, so there is a great fit for nearly everyone.
    Give us a call or send us an email and we can help find you the right pair of insoles to make those boots comfortable again.
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Amanda
    Amanda

    December 28, 2017

    Hi. I don’t know if my question pertains to work boots but I am out of places to look. When I was younger I could wear boots all day walking from class to class in college and then at my after school job and they didn’t bother me. Now that I’m in my 30’s after 3 hours the heels of my feet are killing me and my lower back aches. Even when I wear the same boots I used to. Am I just getting old or could there be a fix I’m overlooking? Again sorry if this question is off topic.

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    November 15, 2017

    Hi DeWanda,

    If your work boots offer a removable factory insert I would recommend checking out the Stride insole. This insole will offer the most cushion of any of Tread Labs insoles. A 4mm thick top cover along with our medical grade orthotic gives ultimate support and comfort. For pain the forefoot region you may want to take a look at our Met Pad Kit. These pads easily adhere to any Tread Labs insole and can provide relief, from fore foot discomfort.
    Give us a call at 781-435-0662 if we can help in any way.
    Cheers,
    Dan

    DeWanda Coleman
    DeWanda Coleman

    November 10, 2017

    Bought new pair work boots from same company as usual the style was a little different…the old shoes where so comfortable. Even though they claim to have the same technology the shoe feels hard under the ball of my foot even on the out sides of my feet…there is plenty of room in the shoe. I would like to add more padding to those areas…can you recommend something.

    Sammy
    Sammy

    September 29, 2017

    I am going to be starting my first construction type job soon. I would like to buy some steel toed boots. I just hope they are comfortable to work long hours in.

    Tim @mybootprint
    Tim @mybootprint

    October 14, 2016

    Awesome article. Quality footwear is usually expensive, so any tips how to take good care of it and thus prolong its life are pure gold. In my opinion from all the tips, #2 is the most important. Getting quality and comfortable boots is crucial. If you get the low-quality boots, even with the best maintenance, they won’t last. I’ve also compiled a summary with the most comfortable boots for 2016 – check it here if you are interested.

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