Not all work boots are created equal. Different types of materials are used in the construction of work boots, and each has its own sets of benefits and uses. To choose a work boot it is important to consider your line of work to determine which materials are best suited to that particular work environment.

Upper Materials

- Leather
Leather is the most popular choice for work boots because it is very durable. Full grain leather is both durable and water resistant, but its thickness makes it heavy and not very breathable. If cost is not an issue, waterproof leather provides protection against water and boasts the same robustness as full grain leather. Another benefit of leather, is it provides a great fit once it is broken in because the material molds to the shape of your foot. Leather work boots are available with or without toe protection.

- Nylon
Nylon work boots are not as durable as leather, but they are more lightweight and breathable. The material is soft, making the boot more comfortable to wear. Usually these types of work boots are outfitted with nylon mesh panels to promote breathability. Nylon work boots are available with or without toe protection.

- Rubber
Rubber or PVC work boots are impervious to water and are easy to clean. However since you cannot adjust the fit, they have the potential to be cumbersome when you are walking. Rubber work boots are available with or without toe protection.

- Combination
There are also work boots that use a combination of leather and nylon fabrics in their construction. The leather upper materials are stitched together providing a combination of strengths and features. This is a popular choice among boot users.

Sole Materials

The sole material is just as important as the upper material because it provides support and protection for the bottoms of your feet. Different types of soles provide different capabilities, such as added traction in wet and oily conditions.

- Rubber
Rubber is the most common component used in making soles since it is abrasion, oil, and slip resistant. Most boot makers have proprietary rubbers, which gives the work boot additional performance or safety characteristics.

TPU are soles made from thermo-polyurethane, which makes the bottom of the work boot resistant to abrasion, oils, and even chemicals. TPU soles are very durable since they are resistant to splitting. They are also lighter than rubber soles.

Some work boot soles feature more complex outsoles with softer midsoles, which help create a more comfortable wear by dispersing weight and providing additional stability. Typical midsoles are made from EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), which is a foam-like material that is both light and flexible.

Toe Protection

If you work in an industrial workplace, it is important to protect your toes from falling objects. The most common material for toe caps is steel. Steel toe boots are sturdy, but they are heavy and can conduct temperature. Composite toe boots are made of other rigid materials like carbon fiber, dense plastic, or Kevlar. These types of boots are more lightweight and do not transfer temperature. They are safe to wear in metal free work environments.

Boot Construction

When choosing a work boot, it is also important to consider how it is put together. There are three types of work boot constructions: stitch down, cement, and molded construction.

- Stitch Down
As the name implies, the stitch down is where the outsole is stitched to the upper part of the boot with a strong stitch material. A Goodyear Welt stitch down involves a single, continuous stitch around the boot for maximum durability. Stitch down construction is the strongest, and it allows you to get the boots re-soled if necessary.

- Cement
Cement construction is where the upper part of the boot is glued to the outsole of the boot. Although this type of construction is more affordable than stitch down boots, they are not as long lasting.

- Molded or Direct Attach
Molded work boots are constructed by molding the outsole to the fabric of the boot. This type of construction is more durable than cement construction.

Since there is a lot to consider when choosing your ideal work boot, familiarizing yourself with the different work boot materials and their uses is a great place to start before you make a decision. By knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each material, you can better assess what will work for your specific environment and needs.