If your feet get sore while working, it could be that you have a medical condition. If the pain is severe, you should see a doctor. How
If your feet get sore while working, it could be that you have a medical condition. If the pain is severe, you should see a doctor. However, if it’s general soreness, blisters, or calluses, there’s a good chance your boots are at fault. Either the fit is poor, and they rub at the skin, or they aren’t giving your feet the physical support and protection they need. Some people simply have more sensitive feet than others.
Investing in quality footwear is often the solution, and fortunately there is plenty of choice. In this article we’re going to look at the various features that help tackle foot pain at work. We also offer our recommendations for the best work boots for sore feet to suit a wide variety of occupations.
Things to Consider Before Buying Work Boots for Sore Feet
If you suffer from sore feet at work, it’s important to consider the cause. General soreness may be the result of poorly fitting boots. Heel pain (technically plantar fasciitis) can result from frequent impacts. While the best work boots for sore feet undoubtedly offer better all-round comfort, some are engineered to focus on specific problems. Each of the following areas needs to be considered.
Good fit is obviously a key component, and you should never put up with anything less. The availability of half sizes should allow you to choose a pair that fits really well. It may be that a wide or extra wide is a better choice. If ordering online, check the boots straight away, and don’t be afraid to return them.
Leather offers toughness and abrasion resistance, but can be very stiff initially. If you have sensitive feet it’s worth looking for oil-tanned leather, or other treatments that make the boots supple so they don’t need breaking in.
EVA foam, gel or orthotic insoles offer various levels of cushioning. Some work boots use memory foam that molds itself to your foot shape. Footbeds may also be padded. Outsoles can be designed to absorb impacts, and to provide grip on slippery surfaces.
A supportive work boot will help prevent twisting injuries or muscle tears. Some work boots have extra support around the vulnerable ankle area. This can be particularly valuable for those who work on uneven or loose surfaces.
Arch support in the form of a steel, nylon or fiberglass shank may also be provided. These shouldn’t reduce flexibility, but do help resist torsion. They are especially beneficial for people who frequently climb ladders or who have to stand on them for long periods.
The most obvious form of protection is a safety toe. In many workplaces it’s a legal requirement. Safety toes can be steel, alloy, or non-metallic composites but what’s important is that they meet the ASTM safety standard. This should be clearly stated. From a comfort point of view, the protective cap should be large enough not to cramp the toes.
If your feet are wet or cold for even short periods, it can dramatically increase soreness. While leather is tough, it isn’t naturally waterproof. To overcome this, a membrane like GoreTex is often fitted. However, although these are 100-percent waterproof, there’s a common misconception that they also provide insulation. They do not. For added warmth you need Thinsulate, or one of the other advanced, lightweight insulators available.
Why It Made The Cut
The Wolverine Overpass is a great example of how foot-friendly a modern work boot can be, while still providing the durability and protection required.
- Material: Leather and textile
- Sizes: 7 to 14 (including extra wides)
- Insole/Footbed: Removable Ortholite
- Flexes like a running shoe
- Removable Ortholite footbed
- Composite safety toe
- No waterproof membrane
- Extra wides, but no wides
The Wolverine Overpass work boot is a tremendous all-rounder, but as this is an article about the best work boots for sore feet, let’s start with the comfort features.
The boot uses what Wolverine calls Contour Welt technology for the overall construction. Basically, it is designed to mimic how the foot flexes naturally, so your feet don’t have to force the boot into shape. To add comfort inside there’s an insole from foot health specialists Ortholite, which molds to the foot shape, providing cushioning and helping prevent abrasion. It is removable to allow a prescription footbed to be inserted if necessary.
A moisture-wicking liner prevents the build up of sweat that leads to blisters. There is an impact-absorbing polyurethane (PU) midsole, then there’s a nylon shank to resist twisting, and a dual-compound rubber and PU sole for maximum traction.
The Wolverine Overpass also offers great durability, and high standards of protection. Reinforced leather around the ankle area provides maximum support. Abrasion-resistant composite rubber shrouds the front of the boot. Inside, there’s a composite safety toe that is ASTM-rated for both impact protection, and secondary electrical hazard protection.
It’s difficult to find much to criticize about the Wolverine Overpass work boot, though some say it takes a day or two to become fully flexible. Also, while Wolverine claims the boot is waterproof, there is no separate membrane so we suspect the leather will require periodic maintenance to keep it that way.
Why It Made The Cut
The Ever Boots Ultra Dry work boot offers many of the features found in premium brand footwear, but at a price that is easier on the pocket.
- Material: Full-grain leather
- Sizes: 6 to 14
- Insole/Footbed: Removable PU
- Tough, but don’t need breaking in
- Excellent waterproofing
- Budget-friendly price
- No wides
- Footbed could be improved
Ever Boots use full-grain leather for the upper of their Ultra Dry work boot. It’s a material that is known for its toughness and durability but initial stiffness can be uncomfortable. That’s not the case here, and these Ever Boots are supple from day one.
Feet getting wet and cold are a prime reason for soreness. Ever Boots combat this with a 100-percent waterproof membrane that is also breathable and moisture-wicking. As a result, feet stay cool and dry. There’s also polyester insulation for added comfort when the temperature starts to drop. A removable PU footbed offers reasonable comfort, but is one area that buyers may wish to upgrade.
The sole is hard-wearing and oil- and slip-resistant composite rubber. Deep lugs shed mud for added traction. It is bonded to the upper so water can’t seep in through stitching holes. A steel shank reinforces the structure, and offers good arch support.
By Ever Boots’ own admission, their Ultra Dry work boot runs a half-size large when compared to brands like Timberland and Wolverine, so that needs to be borne in mind when ordering. Unfortunately they do not produce wide fit versions.
Why It Made The Cut
Timberland’s durable White Ledge boot offers great performance for work and hiking, and has been specifically designed to provide long-term comfort for the female foot.
- Material: Premium leather
- Sizes: 5 to 11 (including wides)
- Insole/Footbed: Cushioned EVA foam
- Removable EVA foam footbed
- Cushioned dual-density sole
- Sealed seam construction
- No safety toe
- Some prefer a taller model
Women can find it particularly challenging to find comfortable work boots. Some manufacturers produce smaller sizes in an attempt to provide a solution, but that doesn’t take into account the different physicality of the female foot. The result is foot pain simply because the boot is not shaped properly.
The Timberland White Ledge work boot is one of the exceptions. It is a tough, high-quality ankle boot for women that provides the correct fit and proper support for work or hiking. The upper is made from 100-percent waterproof leather, with a padded collar and gusseted tongue that makes for a snug fit, and keeps out debris.
Inside, there is a cushioned EVA foam footbed that could be replaced with orthotics if necessary. There is a dual-density midsole for further cushioning and to absorb shocks. The outer sole is rubber, with deep lugs that use what Timberland calls the BSFP system: braking, supporting, flexing, and propelling. This provides comfort, and confident footing in all conditions.
The Timberland White Ledge women’s work boot uses a sealed seam construction to provide further waterproofing, though the leather will need periodic maintenance. With a weight of under a pound it can be worn for long hours without causing fatigue.
Why It Made The Cut
The KEEN Utility Pittsburgh work boot provides support, and cushioning to help alleviate plantar fasciitis, while still providing excellent protection for those in potentially dangerous environments.
- Material: Nubuck Leather
- Sizes: 7 to 15 (including wides)
- Insole/Footbed: Dual-density EVA foam
- Waterproof, breathable membrane
- Supportive TPU shank
- ASTM-rated safety toe
- Occasional durability issues
- A little heavy
Although plantar fasciitis can be a problem with actual foot structure, it is often the result of long hours standing on difficult surfaces (like concrete, for example), or poorly fitting work boots that don’t support or protect the foot correctly. With plantar fasciitis these factors have a pronounced effect on sensitive heels.
The KEEN Utility Pittsburgh work boot tackles both problems. Support comes from a strong upper made from durable but supple Nubuck leather, reinforced around the sides and back of the ankle. A thermal polyurethane (TPU) torsion plate running the length of the sole prevents lateral twisting but still allows good flexibility.
Inside, the KEEN.Dry waterproof, moisture-wicking membrane pulls sweat away from the foot, helping prevent the heat build-up and abrasion that causes blisters, particularly in that all-important heel area. The dual-density EVA foam footbed uses what KEEN calls “Metatomical” design to improve cushioning and hold the foot in place. It can be replaced if necessary. These are steel-toed boots, ASTM-rated for impact damage.
The EVA and PU midsole absorbs shocks, as does the oil- and slip-resistant, non-marking sole. We have read occasional reports of these soles not providing the expected durability, but it is impossible to know the circumstances, and the incidents don’t seem to be common.
Why It Made The Cut
The Timberland PRO Pittsburgh work boot combines renowned durability with a lightweight safety toe cap, plus a custom-designed system for increasing comfort, and reducing fatigue.
- Material: Leather and Synthetic
- Sizes: 7 to 15 (including wides)
- Insole/Footbed: Removable Polyurethane
- Anti-Fatigue Technology
- Breathable, antimicrobial liner
- ASTM-rated Alloy safety toe
- Footbed cushioning could be better
- Can run a 1/2 size large
The Timberland PRO Pittsburgh gets our award as the best work boot for all-day comfort thanks to a combination of factors that provide strength, support, and cushioning throughout the structure.
The upper uses waterproof leather for toughness, with a hard-wearing synthetic fabric for flexibility. The heel and toe also have an abrasion-resistant rubber coating. A waterproof membrane is used, along with a moisture-wicking, antimicrobial liner that provides sweat and odor control.
The removable polyurethane footbed is part of Timberland PRO’s Anti-Fatigue Technology that spreads shocks across the sole, and around the outside of the boot rather than impacting directly up through the foot. This is helped by a fiberglass shank that resists twisting, and protects the arch when climbing ladders. The system is very effective, though the footbed doesn’t have as much padding as some.
The alloy safety toe reduces weight, and provides not only ASTM-rated protection from impact and compression, but also from secondary electrical hazards. The sole comes from specialist manufacturer Vibram, and is designed to offer high levels of durability, traction, and directional stability.
Why It Made The Cut
Carhartt’s Work Flex work boot is designed to flex in the same way the foot does naturally, yet still provides excellent protection thanks to the ASTM-rated safety toe.
- Material: Oil-Tanned Leather
- Sizes: 8 to 15 (including wides)
- Insole/Footbed: PU and EVA Foam
- Multi-layer comfort footbed
- ASTM-rated safety toe
- Competitively priced
- Occasional sole separation faults
- Nor for smaller feet
Carhartt is another brand with a reputation for excellent work boot quality. The Work Flex 6” boot is part of a range of workwear that uses an ergonomic system called Rugged Flex, designed by Carhartt. It is intended to provide durability, and protection while allowing feet to flex naturally.
The upper is oil-tanned leather that is hard-wearing but supple. It is reinforced around the heel for abrasion-resistance, and to help prevent ankle injuries. Inside the Carhartt FastDry liner provides moisture-wicking for sweat control. A PU and EVA foam footbed offers cushioning, and support to help minimize fatigue. An EVA midsole incorporates a Strobel pad, the kind of cushioning often found in high-performance sports footwear.
The composite toe is a great safety feature, combining weight reduction with ASTM-rated protection against impact, and electrical hazards. The oil- and slip-resistant sole is a durable rubber compound. It offers good traction without the excessive lugs that can make some work boots uncomfortable on hard floors.
While they aren’t the cheapest work boots for sore feet we looked at, they are competitively priced, and for such a high-quality brand offer excellent value. We have heard of a couple of occasions where the sole has started to separate from the upper, but these do seem to be isolated incidents rather than a general problem.
How I Made My Picks
I think many of us have suffered with sore feet from time to time, and often just put it down to a hard day’s work or long hours upright. Looking into the physical aspects of foot care, and the way many of the top work boot manufacturers approach the problem was an interesting exercise.
The considerations section above had a major impact on my choices for the best work boots for sore feet, but there were two other important areas: variety and value.
- Variety: Some people experience generalized foot pain, whereas for others, it’s in the arch or heel. In selecting our top six, I looked for work boots that tackle foot pain in different ways. The result is a range of footwear that provides high comfort solutions for as many different occupations as possible.
- Value: Cheap work boots are one of the leading causes of sore feet. They tend to be stiff when new but don’t stand up to hard use, and therefore offer neither comfort or lasting support. It doesn’t matter how little they cost, that isn’t good value. The best work boots are never cheap, but the investment is worth it for improved foot health. While all of my picks come from leading brands renowned for their quality and durability, I also tried to include as wide a range of prices as possible without compromising on performance.
Q: What causes sore feet?
All kinds of things cause sore feet, and if you’re getting persistent discomfort, regardless of the shoes or boots you wear, you should seek the advice of a medical professional. Sometimes sore feet can be a symptom of something more serious, so early intervention can help prevent the condition getting worse.
Of course badly fitting work boots are a prime cause of sore feet, blisters, calluses, and the heel condition known as plantar fasciitis. The article above offers a number of high comfort solutions.
Q: Do work boots help plantar fasciitis?
Work boots can help plantar fasciitis, but it’s important to choose those with good arch support, and heel cushioning. Rebound or impact protection can also help protect the plantar fascia (the tissue that attaches the heel bone to the toes) from damage.
Q: How much do work boots cost?
How much work boots cost varies tremendously. We wouldn’t recommend cheap work boots because they can often be the cause of persistent foot pain. Quality work boots that help care for your feet need to be no more expensive than any other good work boot, which we would expect to run from $80 to around $200 or so.
Q: How tightly should work boots fit?
Work boots should fit tightly enough to provide good support, but not be so tight that they restrict movement or cause discomfort. By contrast, a boot that is too loose will rub, causing blisters and calluses. Some of the toughest work boots can be very rigid at first, but get broken in after a week or so. If you already suffer with sore feet then one of the picks above, which offer good initial flexibility, are probably a better choice.
Q: How do I clean my work boots?
How you clean your work boots will depend on the material and the conditions they are subjected to. The boot manufacturer should offer advice, and following this will prolong the useful life of your boots. A good boot cleaner is useful for getting everyday dirt off. You can also use either a dry nylon bristle brush, or with warm soapy water will remove most mud and dirt. If the work boots are leather, treatment with an oil or wax will keep them supple and add a degree of water resistance.
The Wolverine Overpass is a superb work boot from any perspective. It’s tough yet flexible, very supportive, offers good all-round protection, has a high-comfort interior, and it’s waterproof. The price is competitive too. The Ever Boots is an excellent general-purpose work boots with an impressive range of features for the money. The insoles may not be as good as some, but the fact that they are removable means orthotic alternatives can be swapped in if preferred.