How to Choose the Right Firefighter Work Boots
How do you choose the right firefighter work boots for everyday use? By checking for comfort, support, protection, and durability, and by selecting which of the 3 firefighting work boots is most suitable for your tasks.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 64,875 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty per year.
With over 1 million fire outbreaks annually and less than 2 minutes to get dressed to fight them, don’t let your career go up in smoke because you’re wearing the wrong firefighting work boots.
Through this article, you’ll discover:
Our editorial squad at MyBestWorkBoots goes all out to bring you the hottest commercial developments.
Rigorous testing went into collating this all-inclusive appraisal of selecting the ideal firefighting work boots.
Let’s dive right into it.
Just a bit of basic fire work boot information before we get started:
- Firefighters must consider comfort, protection, support, and durability.
- Station boots, duty boots, and wildland firefighting boots are the three types of fire boots.
- Unless you buy custom boots, you’ll need to add arch support insoles to your fire boots to keep them comfortable, especially if you buy cheap boots.
What Should I Look For in the Best Firefighter Work Boots?
What you should look for in the best fire fighter work boots are comfort, protection, support, and durability.
Let’s unpack these in more detail.
Firefighter work boots need to provide you with essential comfort; aching feet will not serve you well when circumstances shift and time is of the essence.
Protection is an indispensable feature that your boots should have; the terrain in the wildlands is exceedingly harsh.
The urban environment can be as difficult.
Your feet must be safe from rocks, debris, moisture, and heat.
Without support, your feet will suffer fatigue.
Your feet require firm suspension like a motor vehicle to smooth out the bumps and give a safe ride.
Durability1 is something to look out for in firefighting work boots.
The best value is not the cheapest boot.
Cheap throwaways end up costing more in the long run.
Purchase high-quality shoes and resole them as needed.
What Are the 3 Types of Firefighter Work Boots?
The 3 types of firefighter work boots are station boots, bunker or turnout boots, and wildland firefighting boots.
Let’s get into these briefly.
As the name suggests, station boots are the boots worn at the station and on non-fire calls.
Many stations allow for a wide range of clothing options.
Local fire stations frequently want quality, black service boots, but no safety toes or puncture-resistant insole plates are required.
Bunker or Turnout Boots
Bunker, or turnout boots, are used for urban firefighting.
They are required to meet toe protection and puncture resistance standards2.
Rubber is used to construct traditional bunker boots.
However, more firefighters choose newer leather boots that are lighter in weight, more comfortable, and easier to drive in.
Steel or composite toe protection is available.
Although composite is lighter and warmer in cold weather, it is also more expensive.
Wildland Firefighting Boots
Wildland firefighter boots combine the grip and performance of a hiking boot, the durability of a pulaski (the axe-like equipment that many firefighters carry with them), and the comfort to keep you on your feet when you’re weary.
Here, heavy-duty, welted leather boots are the standard.
They are re-soleable and long-lasting.
How to Choose the Right Firefighter Work Boot for the Job
You choose the right firefighter work boot for the job by considering:
- Fit and comfort
- Price and return on investment
- Style and necessary features
- Quality and service
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Fit & Comfort
Fit and comfort are the most important factors to consider in your firefighter work boot selection.
Don’t overthink it.
Keep the following suggestions in mind:
The arch of your foot should be centred in the boot.
Some boots feature a pronounced high arch due to their leather shank3, which may be uncomfortable but will soon wear in.
If your arch feels like you’re walking barefoot on ladder rungs, you’re in for a long, painful break-in.
Your toes should be able to wriggle freely while wearing your boots.
Your toes should be a thumb’s width apart from the boot tip.
Your boots should be snug but not pinching when you squeeze the outsides (near the ball of your foot and underneath the tiny toe).
When you walk around, your heel should not rise on the inside of your boot – of the insole.
Walking around is a good idea to gauge your boots’ fit and comfort levels, so go ahead and do it.
It’s important to take note
It should fit just fine if you can visualise strolling around in your boots while making dinner without thinking about the boot or feeling any pinch points.
Don’t be concerned about a personalised fit.
Unless you’ve had major foot surgery or your chromosomes are half martian, your feet should be able to fit inside a standard firefighter boot.
If you desire certain special elements, such as rough out, split leather colors, or extra leather toe coverings, you can be confident that your custom boot will fit similarly to the basic boot.
To make boots, whether personalized or mass-produced, manufacturers need a model or mold known as a “last.”
When a custom boot is required, the bootmaker must design it around a last that will fit most people.
Try on a variety of boots with the features you require.
It’s preferable to try on these boots at the end of the day when your feet are more swollen than they were in the morning.
Price & ROI
Additional determining factors to your firefighter work boots are their price and return on investment.
Your financial comfort level can only determine your return on investment.
Some people buy one cheap pair of boots per month and wear them to death.
Others choose to go on the pricier trek to gain some extra comfort.
Although there is a strong association between price and value, consider the following factors:
Most handcrafted work boots can be rebuilt (upper and lower parts, and typically the sole).
This saves you money on new ones while keeping your exact fit.
Rebuilt boots usually seem brand new since the cobblers do an excellent job.
Keep in mind the turnaround time of rebuilding your boots; it’s advisable to have a backup pair until the rebuilt boots are ready for collection.
The quality of the leather is ordinarily the key pricing element.
You might not notice or feel the difference in leather from one boot to the next, but the value comes from long-lasting use and comfort.
But here’s the kicker
With regular wear and minimal maintenance, your boots should last a year.
A high-end boot may cost less than 50 cents a day after two years.
Not bad for someone who is playing with fire.
Style & Necessary Features
The style you are aiming for and the necessary features you need in a work boot will help you match these requirements with your specific activities to help you make a better choice.
When making your decision, consider the following features:
- National Fire Protection Association
- The shank
- The lace and stitching
- The kiltie
- The soles and heel
- Quality and service
Let’s delve deeper into each of these.
National Fire Protection Association
Look for an indicator that the boots have been approved by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)4.
The majority require this certification of stations.
It’s the industry standard.
Leather5 is naturally resistant to fire and flame.
It also breathes, expands, and conforms to your foot.
The better the benefits, the higher the quality of the leather.
The thickness and cut of the leather are used to determine the leather’s quality.
To preserve the leather’s integrity, use only petroleum-free boot oil or lubrication when caring for it.
Most other products claiming to be waterproof break down the leather and give it a false sensation of suppleness and cleanliness.
The shank is a thin rod-like material located inside the boot, between the insole and the outsole, which offers stability and structure to the boot.
Shanks vary in substance and weight to offer the appropriate level of wear for the boot.
Boots with a composite or metal shank are rigid, but they break in quickly.
Nylon or TPU (plastic-type) materials are more elastic and flexible.
Lace & Stitching
Kevlar stitching6 is a durable flame deterrent.
You don’t want to lose your thread in the middle of a fire.
Consider using Kevlar, leather (which is flame resistant but not as tough or long-lasting), or rhino laces instead of conventional laces.
A kiltie is a frayed leather strip that begins the lace stitching.
The kiltie keeps twigs and other vegetation from getting into your work boots.
Sole & Heel
Your work boot sole should match the style of terrain where you work most of the time.
Do you work in a desert?
What about rain and ice?
Is the terrain steep?
Deeper lugs on the outsole often boost stability and durability when traversing uneven terrain.
They can also help with weariness.
The heel depth aids in steep descents by reducing slippage.
The heel and back heel support cups provide additional stability, reducing tiredness and back pain.
Quality & Service
There are numerous online and physical establishments to choose from these days.
Retailers work as ambassadors, providing an assortment to assist you in making the right choice.
Consider the personal services that a store provides, such as storing your purchase history, return or exchange services, custom fitting measuring services, and reward programs.
Consider your performance, comfort, and durability requirements.
When you find a boot you like, you’ll probably be hooked, and when the time comes to replace them, you’ll know exactly what to get them.
Tips for Choosing Wildland Fire Work Boots
The tips for choosing wildland fire work boots are to:
- Ensure that the boots comply with fire standards.
- Test the boots out before committing.
- Don’t skimp on quality.
- Consider different styles.
Ensure That the Boots Are Fire Standard Compliant
Before purchasing a pair of wildland fire boots, it is important to confirm that they meet United States Forest Service (USFS) regulations.
The United States Forest Service (USFS)7 is a U.S. Department of Agriculture organization that manages 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)8 has devised a set of requirements for protective apparel, including work boots.
This is to guarantee that wildland firefighters are appropriately protected against the severe environmental circumstances they experience.
If boots are certified to NFPA 1977 standards, they will bear a label earned by third-party laboratories.
According to the most basic USFS guideline, wildland firefighting boots must:
- Measure 8 inches from the top of the boot to the bottom of the heel
- Be laced
- Have a melt-resistant lug sole
- Have an outer made of leather
Being aware of these crucial characteristics is the first step in selecting a pair of wildfire boots that will keep you as safe on the job as possible.
Don’t Skimp on Quality
Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to your safety.
Buying a cheap pair of boots that are not sturdy and don’t provide adequate protection can result in serious injury.
Poor quality boots can even endanger your life in extreme situations where maximum mobility is required.
Poorly fitting boots and footwear that may break apart on the fire line may prevent you from working.
Test the Boots Out Before Committing
Another piece of advice for selecting wildland firefighting boots is to try them on before purchasing.
Though you can bet that most brands will not allow you to test their shoes on the fire line for a day or two before purchasing them, you will most likely be able to try them on for a while.
We’re not done yet
When putting on boots, don’t just put them on; walk a few steps in them, and call it a day.
Lace up the boots, go for a brief walk, try bouncing up and down, and walk on inclined or declining surfaces to get a good feel for how they feel on your feet.
While you must account that the boots have not yet been broken in, a quick test drive will assist you in assessing whether they will be comfortable on the job or if they will cause severe blisters.
Consider Different Styles
Consider the different boots available to determine which style is best for you.
This may not always be as simple as it sounds.
Traditional hand-crafted boots are often logger-style boots constructed from hefty gauge leather with a large heel capable of gripping loose scree in mountain terrain.
This sort of boot is quite robust, but it may be heavy.
So here’s the deal
Mountaineering boots intended for use around fire are now available in various styles.
Some people have a full shank, which means they don’t like to flex.
You may not be aware of this user preference until you try them on.
Mountaineering boots are typically less expensive than standard logger boots; however, they cannot be resoled or mended.
There is no wrong answer; the key is to understand yourself and determine what works best for you.
Ensure Your Firefighter Boots Give Your Feet the Support They Need
Ensure your firefighter boots give your feet the support they need.
Whatever style of firefighting boots you wear, unless they are tailored, they are unlikely to give the arch support required for comfort.
There’s a simple method to change it.
Insert arch support insoles into your firefighting boots.
When replacing the insoles in your boots, seek ones that provide strong support while mimicking the curves of your foot arches.
You’ll have more spring in your step and will be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
How Should Firefighter Work Boots Fit?
Your firefighter work boots should fit a touch tightly at first until they break in.
This is true for any type of work boot, whether they are fire boots or leather work boots.
However, there should be adequate freedom for your foot to flex properly after some wear without any pinching or irritation.
What Are Structural Firefighting Work Boots Made Of?
Structural firefighting work boots are made of premium vegetable-tanned leather.
Smooth leather is available, but roughout leather is favored since it can take a hammering and not show it.
These boots also have a steel toe cap, a steel midsole, and a leather heel.
What Kind of Work Boots Do Firefighters Use?
Firefighters use station boots, duty boots, and wildland firefighting boots. These are the three kinds of firefighter boots.
As a firefighter, you expect a work boot with a good fit, support, comfort, and longevity, whether you’re in the station or on the scene of an emergency.
Therefore, if you are wondering how to choose the right firefighter work boots, make sure you choose ones that are designed to satisfy your standards, comfort, and needs.