Contractors place themselves in a unique position in the world of employment. They take on work for other people or companies without the safety net of employment laws, as they would have if they were regular employees. There are many rewards to contracting, of course, but it does often mean that a contractor has to take care of their own health and safety requirements.
Now, contractors can come from any field, but when we say “contractor” we are mostly referring to construction trades—roofers, bricklayers, electricians, etc. In short, trades where personal health and safety are essential. We’re not saying an IT contractor doesn’t have to work hard, but they generally don’t have to worry about protecting their feet from falling bricks!
That is why a good set of work boots are essential for a contractor—it is one area where you can’t afford to skimp. Your work boots will not only protect your feet in the event of any unfortunate droppage but also keep you comfortable in a job where you will typically be on your feet a lot.
When it comes to choosing a work boot, there is no shortage of options, which can sometimes be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this list of best work boots for contractors. We can’t tell you which boots to buy for your specific circumstances, but we can narrow your choices down considerably.
1. Timberland PRO Men’s Titan Waterproof 6″ Alloy Safety Toe
Timberland’s PRO Men’s Titan boots are a beefy entrant to this list. It makes use of a lightweight alloy that is, nevertheless, strong enough to exceed ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. Protection is not limited to the steel toe cap, however. The outsole of the Titan is slip-resistant, and the reinforced upper section of the boot provides ample protection and reinforcement to your ankles.
The Titan is waterproof, making them suitable for outdoor work, or working in standing water, as long as it isn’t higher than your ankles! Being waterproof does not come at the cost of sweaty feet; however, as spaced mesh is utilized to keep air circulation flowing inside of the boot. Speaking of the insides, they are moisture-wicking, which should help to keep your feet fresh, and anti-microbial, which should keep the unpleasant odors at bay.
The Titan is exceptionally durable; making use of cement construction to ensure they stand up to the hardest of use. The upper section is made from premium leather, which is a sturdy, durable material, and looks great as well.
For comfort, the Titan has extra cushioning in the heel, a padded collar around the ankle area, and a surprising degree of flexibility for such a solid boot.
- Anti-slip outsole
- Waterproof with breathable mesh lining
- Extra ankle support
- Bonded outsoles are not as secure as stitched
2. Caterpillar Men’s Diagnostic Waterproof Steel-Toe Work Boot
Aimed squarely at the more technical side of contracting, such as electricians, and plumbers, the Caterpillar Men’s Diagnostic boots offer a higher degree of flexibility that you will find from many other boots on this list. Of course, that increased flexibility comes at the cost of some protection, but these are trade-offs you will have to weigh up for your personal circumstances. And that should not be confused with no protection—these boots still offer a great deal of protection.
The boot makes use of cement construction and a steel shank for excellent durability, while the waterproof treatment of the boot makes it great for most outdoor situations. The outsole is slip-resistant, with oil, water, heat, and abrasion all listed as things it can withstand. The upper section is constructed from full-grain leather, which is both durable and looks great.
Inside you will find a comfortable, breathable lining that should keep your feet from roasting in their own juices. The collar sports some substantial padding, and is quite high for a boot of this kind, meaning more protection for your ankle.
Appearance-wise, this boot is a striking mix of tan leather and black rubber, liberally adorned with the famous CAT logo. Looks aren’t generally a priority for work boots, but if that kind of thing interests you, this boot looks great.
- Waterproof on the outside, breathable on the inside
- High, padded collar offers plenty of ankle support
- Anti-slip outsole
- An excellent looking boot
- Provides more freedom of movement than many rival boots
- Not as strong as many rival boots.
3. Timberland PRO Men’s 6″ Pit Boss Steel-Toe
Timberland’s Pit Boss steel-toed boot is an excellent example of how style can mesh nicely with function. These boots are extremely popular, primarily because of the comfort they provide, while still offering outstanding protection against the dangers of contracting work.
That protection comes in the form of a steel toe cap inside of a durable leather body that sits on top of a rubber outsole that is resistant to oil slippage and abrasion. It also offers protection from electrical hazards, making it an ideal boot for anyone working with electronics.
The boots incorporate a “suspension system” that reduces foot fatigue, as well as a beefy padded collar that is quite high, offering a good deal of ankle protection and support. There is a removable sock liner that is both breathable and suffused with anti-microbial properties. The toe box is roomy, making for a more comfortable fit; however, it should be noted the boot itself is a little on the narrow side—something to bear in mind if you are a bit wider of foot than average.
The boot is not waterproof, and it is recommended that you treat the boot with a water-resistant application before use, to preserve the quality of the leather as long as possible.
- Removable, breathable sock liner
- Comfort suspension system reduces foot fatigue
- Spacious toe box
- Boot runs a little narrow
- Not waterproof
4. Wolverine Men’s Hudson W02194 Work Boot
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Wolverine Men’s Hudson W02194 is the price. Compared to other boots in the same space, the Hudson is quite inexpensive. That shouldn’t be confused with “cheap”, however, as this boot is every bit as robust as you could hope for from a work boot.
The Hudson features a padded collar for ample ankle protection. The upper section of the boot is made from suede leather and can be ordered in a range of colours, though the natural tan brown has a certain charm to it. The insole is fully cushioned for maximum comfort, while the outsole is designed to work well on slippery surfaces.
The construction of the boot features water-resistant mesh and a breathable insole, which should keep your feet both dry and fresh in those damper conditions. It is rated for electrical hazards, so you don’t need to worry about that protective steel toe cap electrocuting you should an incident occur.
Appearance-wise, the Hudson mixes rugged suede leather with the black rubber of its sole and toe cover nicely, even mixing in hints of orange in the sole and laces.
- Waterproof and breathable
- Cushioned midsole for additional support
- Slip-resistant outsole
- Rated for protection against electrical hazards
- Rubberized toe area can wear out quickly
5. Thorogood Men’s GEN-FLEX 6-Inch Lace-Toe Composite Work Boot
One of the more distinctive-looking boots on this list, the Gen-Flex is a heavy-duty work boot with a lot of protection. They sport a rubber outsole that makes use of Gen Flex technology (hence the name of the boot), which is remarkably flexible for a work boot and provides excellent grip on most of the types of surface you are likely to encounter as a contractor. The sole is also slip and oil resistant.
The toe protection is made from composite materials and meets ATSM standards. It also features rubber side protection to increase the longevity of the boot, as this area commonly suffers from scratches and increased wear and tear. The boots are rated for electrical hazards, so they are great boots for electricians.
Inside the Gen Flex, you will find a mesh lining for increased ventilation, and compression-moulded midsoles for improved shock absorption. There is ample cushioning to keep your feet comfortable on those long jobs, while the composite shank offers enhanced arch support.
Unfortunately, these boots are not waterproof, so that will have to factor in if you tend to work in damp places, or outdoors.
Moving back to the outside, the Gen Flex is a canvas of stitch lines and embossed shapes, with black rubber and dark brown leather highlighting the tan of the upper. It can be a little… noisy, for some, but is undoubtedly a distinctive boot.
- Excellent grip and flexible outsole
- Shock-absorbing mid-sole technology
- Rubber side protection against excessive wear and tear
- Not waterproof
6. KEEN Utility Men’s Pittsburgh Boot-M
The Pittsburgh work boot from KEEN is a solid entry in our list of best work boots for contractors, mostly due to its versatility. The tread of the boot is suitable for a wide range of surfaces, including dirt, gravel, or other loose mediums. They are waterproof, so working outside is not a problem—unless you plan to wade into a lake, these boots should keep your feet nice and dry.
The steel toe protection is ASTM rated, and asymmetrical so as to offer more protection in the areas that tend to take most of the abuse during a hard day’s work. Layered construction means that you would have to wear through multiple layers before the Pittsburgh would be worn out around the toe.
The boot sports a breathable membrane to ensure that your feet remain fresh, even as moisture from outside is being kept at bay by the waterproof construction. The look of the boot is reminiscent of a CAT workboot, with tan leather, black rubber, and yellow highlights.
- Waterproof and breathable
- EVA footbed and midsole for additional support
- Rated for electrical hazard protection
- Can be a little toasty in warmer temperatures
7. Irish Setter Men’s Ely 83608 6″ Steel Toe Work Boot
The Irish Setter Men’s Ely boot is another example of flexibility while still providing adequate protection in the workplace. Made from a hundred percent leather, the Ely is a rugged boot with a lot going for it. The toe protection is ASTM rated, while the rubber outsole will keep you safe from electrical hazards. The collar is a little low compared to many of the boots on this list. And, while that means less protection for your ankle, it does provide you with increased freedom of movement over some of those other boots.
The outsole is slip-resistant, while the insole is designed to keep your feet comfortable. The dark leather exterior is quite stylish for a workboot, with plenty of adjustment available in the lacing. The boots are waterproof, so you should have no problem working outside in them.
- Rated for electrical hazards
- Anti-slip outsole
- Less ankle support than rivals
8. WOLVERINE Men’s Floorhand Waterproof 6″ Steel Toe Work Boot
Made from thick, full-grain leather, the Wolverine Men’s Floorhand boot is a robust and durable option. You may have to persevere a bit longer when breaking them in, but you’ll be glad that you did. There is plenty of room inside, even in the toe box, so you don’t need to worry about the ATSM-rated steel toe caps encroaching on your space.
Underfoot you will find a cushioned footbed on top of a thick midsole. The boot is rated for electrical hazards and waterproof. They are not insulated, however, but the thick leather does an excellent job at keeping your feet warm. The outsole is well-suited to avoid slippage on water, oil, and loose mediums such as dirt and gravel.
The boot is bonded together using lightweight cement construction. The look of the boots is simple, perhaps understated, so you won’t need to worry about your feet drawing attention while you work.
- Rated for electrical hazards
- Thick full-grain leather offers a good deal of protection
- Can take a longer than average time to break in
- Lacks insulation