Assuming you will buy work boots with the correct safety rating for the jobsite, then the number one consideration when buying a workboot is comfort. If it’s not comfortable, you won’t wear it.You know your left foot and right foot are not the same size. Your feet also have particular length - Wei’s stocks some work boot styles from size 6 to 16.
Your feet have a particular width, too – and the most popular width in Canada is EE or EEE. Wei’s also stocks single E and D widths, and selected B widths. So whether you need a 6B or a 15EEE or something in between, Wei’s legendary selection means we probably have stock of a boot that fits you.
Besides length and width your unique feet have a particular heel width, arch depth and length, instep height, and toes that may seem short or long. Read below how each boot brand uses unique lasts that create boots for specific feet. That’s why you should try on different brands, because they fit differently.
Each facet of your foot can be accommodated by a combination of the boot brand and size, and an insole as needed. Wei’s also stocks a variety of Red Wing insoles, Ariat insoles for square toe or toes toe styles, and other insoles that help your work boot fit just right and provide extra comfort.
Your foot has many more dimensions than just your foot size. Your foot’s width, height, arch, instep and ball girth are just a few individual differences that you try to match when you buy a boot.
Each work boot manufacturer uses a last, a unique foot-shaped plastic model. Each last is shaped slightly differently, so each brand fits differently. One of the reasons each work boot brand has its own diehard fans is because those boots fit better for that person’s feet.
The leather is pulled over the last from the top, then the sole is stitched, or welted, to the leather using a variety of specialized cobbler’s tools.
The upper part of the boot protects your shin, instep, ankle and toes. The sole of the boot protects and supports your heel, arch, and ball of the foot, and helps prevent foot fatigue. So far, so good. Now to join those two pieces together and create the final work boot.
When boots and shoes were handmade (and they still can be, if you have the budget), the upper and sole were often stitched together using an additional piece of leather called a welt.
The welt was stitched to the upper, and stitched to the sole. The presence of the welt allowed the footwear to be re-soled, so your investment could last longer. However the extra labour ensured this footwear was more expensive, and not affordable for everyone.
In about 1872, Charles Goodyear finalized a machine that would complete this welting process, meaning the shoe could be manufactured more quickly and less expensively.
Boots with Goodyear welts could be more affordable compared to handmade versions, could be re-soled as needed, and did last longer. When you see a boot with stitches around the outside, you’re looking at a Goodyear welt.
Since about the 1970s, most shoes have been made by gluing or cementing the upper part of the boot to the sole. Once the sole wears out, it is not possible to attach another sole to the upper part of the boot. The lifespan of the footwear is much shorter, or is even disposable, but the cost is lower too.
Most work boots are not intended to be disposable. You buy the best fit and get the quality you need, then you break them in by wearing them week in and week out.
Having the option to re-sole the boots preserves the time you spent making them your own, and also costs less than buying new boots.
The most popular sole in the world is likely a Vibram sole. The classic Vibram Carramoto sole was introduced in 1937 by Vitale Bramini to enable better traction and safer mountain climbing. Almost 100 years later, this sole design is still licensed to many boot makers around the world.
The classic Vibram sole introduced in 1937 (left).
A Vibram Longhaul sole used by Canada West boots (centre)
A Vibram sole developed for Dunlop boots (right).
In the 1970s Vibram used Nitrile, an oil-resistant compound, in the Security sole to reduce slippage where oil hazards exist. The company has continued to develop high traction soles, often for other boot manufacturers.
For example, boot maker Dunlop commissioned a Vibram sole for the oil industry, resulting in one of Dunlop's best boots. See the Dunlop boot at Wei's.
As workplace safety standards increased, especially in the 1950s, foot protection solutions were a priority since foot injuries are common.
Your feet need protection from falling objects on top of the foot and punctures into the bottom of the foot, as well as protection from intense heat, electrical and chemical hazards, and of course from slipping.
Steel toe boots, steel toe caps and safety shoes became increasingly mandated, especially after the Occupational Health and Safety Act was introduced in the US in 1970.
Steel may also be used to protect the metatarsal (upper instep) part of the foot, or placed on the bottom of the insole to protect against punctures from sharp objects.
Work boots are now offered in steel toe, aluminum toe and composite toe styles. How do steel toe caps compare to composite to caps?
The steel used in safety boots is not just a slab of steel - the pieces are precisely cut according to safety standards and are of course fitted to a particular boot style.
The main advantage of steel is its strength. For many decades steel was the strongest manufacturing material available. Steel plates have typical thickness of about 1.5 - 2mm, so they are very thin, while being very strong.
Disadvantages of steel toes include their conductivity. Steel is a great conductor and a poor insulator. It will conduct electrical charges and freezing cold temperatures. The steel in your boot is wrapped in leather or other materials to limit this conductivity.
The weight of the steel adds to the weight of the boot, influencing foot fatigue and general productivity.
As aluminum improvements and options increased, alum toe caps have now become
A big advantage of composite toe boots is they will not conduct electricity the way a metal toe would. If you work around electrical hazards, this could be a big purchase factor.
Another advantage of composite toes is they will insulate against freezing cold temperatures better than steel toes.
Composite toes weight a lot less than steel toes. Hold a composite boot in one hand and a steel toe in the other, and you can probably tell the difference in weight.
Is there a disadvantage to composite toe boots? There could difference in the amount of impact these two types of work boots can withstand. Just like a car made of high tech plastic versus steel, there may be a difference in impact resistance.
However, if composite boots meet safety code standards then there should not be a worry.