How To Make Your Work Boots Comfortable

Best work boot insoles

After a day in work boots, your feet are killing you. Your boots are doing a great job of protecting your feet when you're working, but they're uncomfortable. There are ways to make your feet feel better, from the boots you buy to the arch support insoles you put in there, you can make your work boots comfortable with a few easy fixes.  

THE BASICS ---

  • Work boots are made to be durable and rugged. While they're great at protecting your feet, they're probably also the reason your feet are killing you at the end of your shift.
  • Unless you're investing in custom work boots, the ones you buy won't have the arch support your feet need. That's why they leave your feet in agony. Adding arch support insoles, getting the proper boot fit from quality boots and wearing the right socks will make a huge difference.
  • We recommend Tread Labs Ramble or Pace insoles for your work boots. If you prefer a firm insole, go with Ramble. If you like extra firmness, have plantar fasciitis or are heavy on your feet, go with Pace. 

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ---

Work boots are designed for workplace safety. If your job poses a danger to your feet, the US Department of Labor and OSHA require your employer to ensure you wear protective footwear on the job. And while there are rules for how the outside of the work boot is made, there are no guidelines for the inside. 

That means you can spend a long day in work boots that are really uncomfortable, leaving your feet in a lot of pain. But a few changes can transform work boots that are killing your feet into comfortable footwear. 

How Should Work Boots Fit?

Getting the right fit for your work boots, even if it takes a lot of time, is worth it. Try on a few different pairs of work boots and compare how comfortable they are. Too short or narrow will crowd your feet. Not good. Too big or wide will allow for too much movement, leaving you with blisters and hot spots. Really not good.

The rules for trying on work boots are easy. Just remember to:

  1. 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.
  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 exactly between the heel of your foot and the back of the shoe. Test both feet.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Try work boots on at the end of the day.Your feet will swell at the end of a long day, especially when it’s hot. That's the perfect time to try on work boots as your feet will be at their largest. 

    Why Do My Work Boots Hurt My Feet?

    It all comes down to support. Unless your boots are custom, they don't have enough arch support to support your feet properly. Each day, the impact on your feet is equal to the weight of a fully loaded cement truck. Your arches need some help holding up to all that pressure, especially if you have flat feet or arthritis. Adding insoles to your work boots will help keep your feet from hurting.

    The lack of arch support in your work boots can cause problems. Big problems. Plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and tendinitis all have one thing in common. They can be helped, or even better, avoided with proper arch support in your work boots.

    Here's what arch support insoles can do to make your feet stop killing you at the end of your shift:  

    • 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.

    By now, you're probably wondering about those stock insoles that came in your boots, especially the expensive boots. Aren't they supposed to make your boots more comfortable? While they may add some cushioning, they don't provide adequate support. And cushioning without support doesn't mean comfort. 

    To determine which insoles will give you the support you need to be comfortable all day, you'll want to look for a few things.

    1. Sturdy 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
    2. The Right 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.
    3. Durability – When you invest in quality insoles, you don't want to have to replace them every six months. That can get really expensive, fast. Instead, look for insoles that use a two-part system, allowing allow you to replace the top cover while keeping the arch support piece. 

    What Makes A Good Work Boot?

    The short answer? It depends. Work boots are made to serve different needs since a delivery driver and a smoke jumper require different features. But the key features you'll want to watch out for are boot height, weight, water resistance, safety toes, insulation, boot construction, and style.

    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 heavy. Backpackers say a pound on your feet is equal to 5 in your pack. Keep this in mind. Heavier boots used to be associated with better support but today's improved materials make boots lightweight while still supportive. 
    3. Water Resistance – Some boots have waterproof leathers or are made with especially breathable materials. Others have waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex. Waterproof boots can be great when you stand in water all day, but they don't let moisture escape (despite the claims) so your feet will feel hotter and wetter. Plus, waterproof boots are harder to dry each night so if you don't need water resistance, they're not your best option.
    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 temperature drops, insulated boots are a must for outdoor use. But during the summer, insulated boots will be hot and make your feet sweat. In warmer weather, consider boots with fabric or mesh uppers. While they're not quite as durable, they're 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 to extend their life. 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, make sure you're buying boots that give you the option.
    7. Style – There are plenty of different work boot styles available, from traditional moc-toe to contemporary hiker and iron worker. Whichever you go with, make sure it's comfortable. 

    What Are The Most Comfortable Work Boot Brands?

    There's one thing that makes the biggest difference in the comfort of your work boots. A cushioned outsole. The cushioning between your feet and the hard ground protects your feet from shock and stress, making your boots much more comfortable.

     

     

    When you're shopping for boots, hone in one these brands that feature cushioned outsoles: 

    1. Irish Setter - Ashby 6" boots. Aluminum toed work boots with heat resistant outsoles and old school styling. 
    2. Wolverine - Durashocks 8" boots. Waterproof, insulated boot with comfortable polyurethane outsoles. Could pull double duty as an upland hunting boot. 
    3. Timberland - PRO Hypercharge 6” Comp Toe Work Boots. A modified hiker style with waterproof features. 
    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. 

    What Socks Should I Wear In Work Boots?

    Socks are often an afterthought, but they impact your day in work boots more than you'd think. Those cotton crew socks that come by the dozen? They may seem like a great deal, but they're actually not so great for your feet. The reason? Moisture management.

    When your feet are dry they stay cooler in summer, warmer in winter and blisters don’t form on your softened skin. Also, dry feet resist athletes foot and reduce the growth of bacteria, the cause of stinky feet. 

    When you're looking for socks to wear in your work boots, find ones that are: 

    • Not cotton - Cotton 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 Do I Take Care Of 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 - Wearing one pair of boots until they wear out seems like a good strategy, but your boots (and shoes) last much longer if alternate between two pairs. You'll give one a chance to dry completely between uses and your feet will be more comfortable.
    • Dry your boots – Allow your boots to dry after a long day. 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 to draw out the moisture.
    • 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. Clean and dry your boots 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.

    Tips For Comfortable Work Boots

    Use all these tips to stop your work boots from killing your feet. By thinking about the boots and socks you're buying to adding durable arch support insoles, you'll make your work boots much more comfortable and long-lasting. And that will make everyday on the job better.

    SHOP TREAD LABS

     

     

    Questions? Drop us a line at hello@treadlabs.com. We're here to help.

    Mark Paigen
    Mark Paigen

    Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.



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