The 13 Toughest And Best Waterproof Work Boots (Review)
You get one pair of feet to last a lifetime, so it makes sense to protect them from accidental damage on the job. In particular, if your work contains hazards like uneven ground, heavy or sharp objects, and chemical spills. Plenty of workplaces specify the need for safety work boots. However, there are others where it just makes sense to wear protective footwear to keep your feet safe. This gets further complicated if you work in or around water, or will likely face wet weather. In this case, you will need to stay dry and invest in the best waterproof work boots you can find.
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Why Choose Waterproof Work Boots?
There are four key reasons for why you should choose waterproof work boots.
1. Most work boots have leather uppers for durability, strength and breathability. However, untreated or poorly maintained leather absorbs water, and the damp leather distorts and ruins the boots' fit.
2. Wet feet are unhealthy and may result in various problems, like trench foot (swelling and inflammation) and infections. Damp boots are an ideal breeding ground for fungi and bacteria – none of them good for human health.
3. Wet feet slip around inside your work boot resulting in blisters and rubbed patches prone to infections. In addition, you may lose your stability if your feet aren't properly secured.
4. Wet and cold feet are a miserable experience. No one wants to spend your day at work with wet feet.
What Makes The Best Waterproof Work Boots?
Generally, work boots are either water-resistant or waterproof. The difference is very important.
Water-resistant boots will keep your feet dry if you find yourself walking in a light rain, or quickly walk through a small puddle. However, a water proof work boot will keep your feet dry in heavy rain and if your feet are submerged in a large puddle for a long time.
Many manufacturers will falsely claim that their work boots are waterproof when they are in fact only water resistant. Again, you will need to assess your working environment to determine whether this will make a difference to your health and safety.
Materials For The Best Waterproof Work Boots
The best waterproof work boots use full grain treated leather or rubber for the uppers. Most work boots use a combination of materials.
Thick rubber is waterproof, flexible, and resistant to penetration from sharp objects. It molds well and is the material of choice for the outer soles but may also form all or part of the uppers.
Full-grain leather is thick and durable, but it needs an extra coating of leather specific waterproof wax, paste or sprays to bring it closer to being waterproof. This coating, when applied to the leather, turns it from an absorbent material to one where water beads and runs off the surface. Leather needs re-application of waterproofing coatings and ongoing maintenance to remain almost waterproof .
Important note: Work boots are not waterproof because of the leather or the extra coatings. Rather, work boots become fully waterproof, as opposed to water resistant or almost waterproof, if they have waterproof linings. The lining materials may vary, but all waterproof boots have a waterproof lining.
This distinction is only relevant if you need fully waterproof work boots for your employment. Will your feet be completely submerged in water or deep puddles, or are you looking for waterproof work boots suitable for rain and small puddles?
Weak Points for Water Penetration In Work Boots
Water finds a way through weak points in the construction of the work boot. These weak points are:
- Lace-up area.
- Over top of the boot.
- Joint between the outer sole and upper.
The seams in waterproof leather work boots should be reinforced with additional rubber coatings to prevent water from seeping through them.
The tongue of the best waterproof work boots should be gusseted (connected at the sides) to avoid water penetration through the boots' laced area. Some pull-on boots dispense with laces just to avoid this weakness. Zipped waterproof work boots normally include extra internal and external waterproofing around the zip.
Select calf or knee length work boots. If you are wading through water, you risk water coming in over the top of your boots. However, a high top boot reduces that risk. You can walk through deeper puddles with less water penetration issues.
The best waterproof work boots have an extra rubber layer called the Goodyear Welt that is located in the joint between the boot's upper and sole. This strip of rubber seals the joint to protect the insole from water seepage.
Waterproof Work Boot Standards
In Europe, if you want to designate footwear waterproof, you must pass the standardized test – EN20345.
The footwear goes on a mechanical foot that flexes the shoe while partially submerged in water. If the boot survives 4,800 flexes without water seeping through the material or any other point of weakness, it passes the waterproof test.
The other standardized test involves hydrostatic testing - forcing water through the material at pressure. Waterproof boots must hold out to a minimum of 1,000mm, whereas water-resistant boots are only required to reach 200mm.
Work boots that pass the waterproofing test get the WRU label; if they are only water-resistant, they get a WR mark. All safety boots fall somewhere within the S2 to S5 range. However, waterproof work boots have an S4 or S5 rating.
When looking for the best waterproof work boots, look for a quality standard: EN20345, WRU, S4, or S5 to indicate that the boots are waterproof rather than water-resistant.
Features Of The Best Waterproof Work Boots
The best waterproof work boots offer many different safety features. What you may want or need will depend on your working environment.
Those features include:
- Steel or composite toes – steel to protect against crush damage and composite if you need electrical protection or can get away with a lighter boot. Some steel toe cap boots also offer electrical hazard protection.
- Traction – the lug and tread design on the outer sole to provide grip on different surfaces, and the grooves to channel away water.
- Puncture-proof outer soles – thick soles with rigid plates to stop penetrating injuries.
- Chemical and oil resistant outer soles.
- Electrical hazard protection.
- Heel and ankle support – to prevent sideways slips that cause sprains. Proper support keeps feet in the right position all day, reduces fatigue and avoids back problems.
- Cushioning in high impact areas - keep your feet comfortable and supported all day.
- Insulation – vital if you work in subzero temperatures because frostbite is no joke.
All the features are rare in every work boot. Instead, you pick the boot with the features you need at a price you can afford.
How These Reviews Are Organized
I have found the seven best men's waterproof work boots, one unisex pair, and the five best women's waterproof work boots. I've selected a range of style options for different workplace demands and environments. Accordingly, some of these have steel or composite toes, electrical hazard or chemical protections, or insulation. However, all these work boots have excellent traction, cushion and support, and of course, are waterproof.
Best Men's Waterproof Work Boots
Composite Toe: Best Waterproof Work Boots
Ariat started as a supplier of equestrian footwear, but now produces an excellent range of work boots for all purposes.
These men's waterproof work boots have an 8" high top and round composite toe. They are available in wide and standard fittings, and the 90-degree heel gives stability at various angles. The Ariat Work Men's Rigtek 8" boots have all the waterproofing features, plenty of cushioning to reduce leg fatigue, lots of safety features, and are oil and slip resistant.
Founded in 1989, Carhartt specializes in high-quality workwear, taking advantage of innovative technology.
Over 120,000 3D foot scans created the Insite engineered footbed of the Carhartt Ground Force 6". This provides the ultimate cushioned support to keep you energetic all day long.
Another highlight is the suede top that gives your foot grip inside these work boots. Feet sliding inside a shoe is tiring and results in uncomfortable rubbing, so this small feature provides significant benefits to your end of day energy levels.
The composite safety toe and other materials create a light boot that meets all the safety specifications for working in harsh environments with electrical hazard protection and protection against oils and chemicals.
Rock Rooster started with leather work boots in 1980 and it continues today as a competitively priced quality product. They are sturdy, no-nonsense work boots that are the best waterproof work boots for electricians and outdoor workers.
Rock Rooster includes all the innovations that you expect from decent men's work boots, including a waterproof liner that allows moisture to pass from your feet and through the leather, but doesn't let water in.
When you are standing on hard concrete all day, you need additional arch support to reduce fatigue and these Rock Rooster Woodland work boots offer that extra support. In addition, the design of the outer sole reduces the stress on your feet from repeated impacts. This feature is useful if you spend most of your working day outside, putting miles on your feet.
Steel Toe: Best Men's Waterproof Work Boots
Timberland makes a range of waterproof work boots with all the comfort features that you expect from a hiking boot. If you need work boots that offer electrical hazard protection or oil or chemical resistant soles, these are not the best waterproof work boots for you. But if you work in an industry where you need a comfortable pair of waterproof work boots with toe protection, these are excellent good-looking boots that are durable and comfortable.
The non-marking sole is an advantage if you move from outdoors to indoors as part of your working day. The breathable liner with odor control ensures a comfortable, dry, and fresh environment for your feet all day.
A relative newcomer to the work boot scene (started in 1972), DRKA produces affordable and functional steel toe cap work boots. These are the best men's waterproof work boots if you do not care about brand name.
The DRKA Men's Steel Safety boots are practical waterproof work boots for most workplaces. They would benefit from the inclusion of a breathable inner lining, but these are budget boots that meet the need for being fully waterproof.
Insulated: Best Men's Waterproof Work Boots
These are the best men's waterproof working boots for applications where you need a sturdy and warm all-weather boot but don't need all the extras of a safety boot. The advantage of a robust work boot without the safety features is the weight and comfort – these are like wearing sneakers. The added insulation means you stay warmer outdoors, and the waterproofing and breathable lining keep your feet dry.
The removable full-cushion insole of the Wolverine Dublin gives you the welcome option of putting in your own insole, which is useful if you need custom support for your feet. These boots are available in a bright wheat color and require careful maintenance to remain looking good. Most users report that they get about six months of intense and heavy wear from this model.
Soft Toe Boots: Best Waterproof Work Boots
Caterpillar's best men's waterproof work boots feature a new midsole – ERGO. It's 30% lighter than the competing EVA foam used as a standard in most work boots but with the same amount of cushioning. In addition, the proprietary CAT removable inner sole has some practical benefits because it doesn't compress as much as other foams and is about 10-15% lighter. This combination of features gives you more comfort, energy return, and durability. For those of you who need a custom orthotic, you can also replace the insole with a custom one.
Caterpillar boots are a known brand for functional work boots for a range of purposes. These boots are fully waterproof, keep your feet dry and provide a range of safety features for suitable workplaces.
Best Unisex Waterproof Work Boots: Neoprene Steel Toe
Some severe wet work environments (extreme fishing, food processing, petrochemical, brewing, waste disposal) need waterproof work boots that come close to the knee. The Xtratuf 15" Legacy Steel Toe work boots are your answer.
These waterproof work boots are a fantastic option if you spend your day in a wet, hazardous environment where laces and ankle boots would result in wet and possibly contaminated feet. The steel toe meets safety standards for compression and impact, essential for some marine fishing environments. In addition, the soles give excellent grip in slippery conditions.
Best Women's Waterproof Work Boots
Women who work in a challenging environment that require safety boots frequently end up with smaller sized men's boots, which don't always suit a woman's foot shape. However, the following work boots are designed for women, are waterproof and classify as safety boots.
Steel Toe Boots: Best Waterproof Work Boots
These are the best waterproof work boots for women if you need a steel safety toe and electrical hazard protection. These boots are anatomically correct for a woman's foot but still have all the safety features of a man's boot, and same comfort technology in the midsole to give additional cushioning and shock absorption.
There are no fancy colors or "ladies" design features. Instead, the Caterpillar Dryverse 6" are practical, hard-wearing work boots for when you want to keep your feet dry and safe.
***Be careful to pick the Cat Dryverse with the "waterproof" tag to ensure you get the waterproof boot rather than the water-resistant one.
The FSI Avenger range produces the best waterproof work boots for women that meet all the safety standards in a classic hiking boot design. This model gives you the safety toe, electrical hazard protection, waterproofing, and comfort. A removable insole lets you replace it with custom insoles for comfort or freshness.
One of the advantages of opting for a recent entrant into the work boot market is the affordability – you get all the features at a substantial discount to a branded work boot. The FSI Avenger 6" is available in black with some purple accents or brown with pink, and it is unmistakably a no-frills safety work boot.
Dunlop DURAPRO are the best waterproof boots for lighter industrial use where you face a lot of water, fuel, or oil. You get the steel safety-toe, and they are easy to pull on and off without difficulty. Shaping the top to accommodate walking without discomfort is a great feature, as is the tread designed to let you quickly hose down the insole before leaving a messy area.
These are affordable straightforward rubber boots with safety features that would be great when you work in a messy, wet environment.
Alloy Or Composite Toe: Best Women's Waterproof Work Boots
The added protection against blood disease makes these the best waterproof work boots for women in some messy environments, like the food and medical industries. These boots are packed with Timberland's advanced footwear technology. That includes an ergonomic design to fit women's feet with support and cushioning in the appropriate areas.
The alloy toe is lighter than steel but gives you crush and impact resistance to the same safety standards. You get electrical hazard protection, and the inner lining gives you waterproofing, breathability, and antimicrobial protection.
The range of features makes the Timberland Pro Titan an excellent choice for many industries except those where you need a high degree of puncture resistance in the outsole.
Insulated: Best Women's Waterproof Work Boots
The Thorogood Soft Streets 6" are the best women's waterproof work boots for those who have a job that involve outdoor work on concrete or other hard surfaces, but not construction or any other industrial role.
Thorogood describes these as street soft. They are for policewomen, security guards, postal workers, and any other working position where you need a sturdy, comfortable, warm, waterproof, and smart working boot.
400g Thinsulate means these are suitable for winter conditions in most winter environments. The sole has sufficient tread and traction for street walking.
Maintaining Your Leather Waterproof Work Boots
Leather is straightforward to maintain with waterproofing materials like wax, pastes, creams, and sprays. A routine of cleaning and waterproofing your work boots benefits by:
- Keeping your work boots waterproof and your feet dry.
- Avoiding waterlogged leather from distorting and permanently ruining the boot shape and fit.
- Maintaining the appearance of your work boots so they look newer for longer.
Step by Step Boot Maintenance For The Best Waterproof Work Boots
Maintaining the waterproofing on your leather work boots to ensure the best waterproof work boots is a straightforward two-step process.
Step One: Clean the surface – either use a cleaning cream or a damp cloth. Remove the laces and remove debris trapped in the tread. Allow the work boots to dry before proceeding.
Step Two: Apply your waterproof coating of waxes, pastes, or creams with a clean cloth in a gentle circular motion. If you choose a spray, it's better to apply multiple thin layers of spray rather than one thick coat. Remove any excess wax, pastes or creams with a second clean cloth. Allow the work boots to dry overnight.
Try and maintain a regime to reapply waterproof coatings on your work boots. Applying it once when you first get them won't work long term. Ideally, you should clean and re-apply the coating once every two-three weeks for optimum results. The drying time means that you need to schedule a waterproofing session for a day when you don't need your work boots.
For best results, you need your work boots to dry in a cool, well-ventilated room, and avoid force drying them with heat. You risk damaging the leather through cracking and scorching.
There are some techniques to quickly waterproof your work boots, but generally, I would avoid these. Most of these techniques come from people's military experience and a high level of desperation. They work, but they are not great for the durability or longevity of your work boots.
- Transmission oil – rubbing transmission oil over your leather will give it a waterproof coating. However, it will also stain the leather.
- Clear enamel spray – spraying a varnish layer will waterproof your work boots, but eventually, it will crack and let water in.
- Petroleum jelly – applying a greasy coat on your work boots will create a waterproof layer, but mud and dirt will stick to them, and the boots will feel tacky.
- Candle or beeswax - rubbing and melting wax over the leather for a shiny coat, but it will crack and flake off on impact.
If you have an emergency and you are desperate to keep your feet dry, then the principle of applying a waterproof layer to your work boots with whatever suitable materials you have on hand applies.
Typically, you invest good money when you purchase the best waterproof work boots for your needs. Accordingly, it is advisable to avoid using any of these DIY methods in favor of proper maintenance.