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We’ve covered boots here on TM before, and we definitely have additional boot coverage coming. But TM reader Joel needs some boots right now, and he needs some help finding the right pair for his budget. He writes:

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For about 12 years I wore a pair of black Dr. Martens cap-toe boots. They were tough as hell, reasonably waterproof, super comfortable, and they shined up nice to make for great dressy shoes as well. But they’re more cheaply made now, and they no longer have the classic work-boot tread pattern, opting for a pavement-loving design. I suspect the material will not last as well, either. So I’m looking for a new boot, but I’m having a hard time finding anything I like except some really expensive boots from Wolverine and Red Wing.

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So what might work for him?

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We’ve gone round and round about this in the Toolmonger office, and there’s no clear consensus: When does it make sense to wear steel toe work boots, and when does it make sense to wear lighter, more comfortable standard boots?

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Kidding aside, if you’re one of those folks that likes your toes to fly free in your boots, you probably hate most steel-toes — and not just because they’re heavy. Most steel toe boots reign in toe room because they need the extra room to cram in the steel box that gives ‘em their name. Red Wing feels your constriction, though: Their King Toe models offer 44% more toe room.

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Ever since we spent some time in a pair of 8″ Wolverines, I’ve become a fan. I’ve generally worn only really cheap boots because hey — they all seem the same, right? Maybe not. While I won’t argue that there’s nothing wrong with a $25 pair of work boots, the $170 Wolverines kicked some serious ass in the shop and around town.

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ArmyNavyUSA.com is offering a deal on Wolverine’s 6″ DuraShocks Slip Resistant Work Boots for $99.95, and all of their boots over $89.99 qualify for free shipping through January 30.

Toolmonger previously covered Wolverine work boots in 2007 and in 2008 with Sean’s detailed Hands-On review of the 8″ Raiders. This winter, since half the U.S. is covered in ice, these #W02038 slip resistant, waterproof boots might be handy to have on hand (or foot).

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So admittedly Toolmonger’s own Sean O’Hara isn’t exactly recognized as a world-class sartorialist, despite the fact that he owns more than one suit and that most TM staffers agree that he “cleans up pretty well.” But savor this rare moment: GQ — yes, that GQ — agrees with something he’s been banging our ears off about for years. On page 64 of the November issue — the first page of their GQ winter survival guide — they recommend “Start from the bottom: lace up in a classic American work boot.”

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The 21st century must be here; you can now get carbon fiber in your shoes. Not that anyone will notice, but perhaps later on they’ll start putting them on the outside like carbon fiber car hoods or something.

While not all of these new boots use carbon fiber, composite-toe safety shoes are becoming commonplace, using fiberglass or similar materials. Lighter than and just as strong as steel toes, they help to keep your dogs from barkin’ too loudly at the end of the day, without sacrificing any peace of mind. Most of the larger manufacturers such as Wolverine, Bates, and Hytest, have one or more offerings with composite toes, and they generally retail for a few dollars more than their steel-capped counterparts.

Whether a lighter shoe is worth the extra cash depends on how much value you place on comfort, but given how high the cost of good safety shoes can be, an extra $10 or $20 seems like a good trade.

Wolverine CarbonMAX boots [Wolverine]
Bates Composite-toe Boots [Bates]
Hytest Composite-toe Boots [Hytest]

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Toolmongers with feet that would impress a yeti know the pain of trying to find a good pair of work boots. Wide-footed individuals the world over have leaned towards New Balance products for ages, but New Balance doesn’t make work boots, do they?  Well, sort of:  Rockport Works, a work shoe manufacturer, contracts with New Balance to design their foot beds and toe caps, leaving the uppers, tongue, and lace arrangement for themselves, at least according to Moe at Harry’s Army Surplus.

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Thankfully Toolmongers who’re required to wear steel-toe footwear now have a number of non-work-boot options from which to choose, including the ever-popular hiking shoe. DeWalt’s Baltimore (above) looks more like something you’d find in REI than the shop floor, but still exceeds ASTI standards for compression and impact protection.

Admittedly these look more than a little like DeWalt’s previous Oxford work shoes, but as far as I’m concerned, the more options steel-toe wearers have, the better. Maybe this will encourage more DIYers working around heavy equipment to ante up and protect their toes. Remember: you won’t know you need steel-toes until, well, you already did. Street pricing starts around $70. Keeping one’s toes starts around, um, priceless.

Baltimore Steel-Toe Hiker [DeWalt]
Street Pricing [Google]

 

If a busy day for you includes contractor planning meetings, investor face time, jobsite organization, and good old-fashioned hard labor, you know that the jump from jobsite-ready to boardroom-professional can be difficult.  For just such a many-faceted worker DieHard makes their duty oxford shoe.

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