Feature
Work Wear

Work It Out

There’s work (boot) life beyond the construction site

For a large — and growing — group of professionals, what they put on their feet is part of the critical equipment for the day. Whether it’s nurses, chefs, waiters, urban farmers, lawn and garden pros, fishermen or warehouse and delivery drivers, these work shoe and boot wearers are looking for light, durable, protective and stable footwear that makes their job easier. Luckily, brands are ready to deliver.

Long days (and nights) in the restaurant world mean wearing a path through the dining room and back to the kitchen — shoes need to cushion the feet for all those miles on foot, be slip-resistant on multiple surfaces from tile to carpet to wood, and look good no matter the uniform. These all-black-everything styles fit the bill.

Clockwise from top left (picture above): The Workshift from Fila ($60) offers slip-resistant style with a memory foam footbed; The $129.95 Baseq from TRAQ by Alegria has a breathable upper and flexible construction with removable footbeds, and has an embedded Traq Q-chip that tracks your steps via Bluetooth; Skechers’ Elite SR Rytas ($85) brings an oversized midsole with plenty of cushioning to bear for the most demanding shiftwork.

In the course of a shift, nurses see it all, and they need footwear that can keep up. What does it take? Slip-resistance to keep them on their feet, great support underfoot and an easy-on silhouette so they don’t lose any time. These sneaker looks in cool blue check all the boxes and add a stylish pop to scrubs, too.

Clockwise from left (picture above): The $70 Techknit sneaker from Fila has a stain resistant woven CoolMax upper for comfort when things get hot and easy cleanability when they get messy; the Nyomi from Propet ($74.95) is built for duty with a double-gore slip-on construction and Scotchguard protection; a muted metallic print on the Nubuck upper means they’ll work on and off the job; Vionic Pro’s Juliana style ($119.95) marries a slip-resistant outsole with an ultralightweight mesh upper.

Workers who spend most of their day in the elements need boots that will keep them safe, so durable, protective features rule. And don’t forget waterproofing: Dry feet are happy feet.

Clockwise from top (picture above): ECCO’s $300 Roxton boot is packed with features: Gore-Tex waterproofing, 400g of Primaloft insulation, a rough-finished nubuck leather upper specially designed for outdoor durability, and a bonded sole that resists the splits; the $149 Snugboot Pioneer from Dunlop uses Purotex to make the upper lightweight, breathable and waterproof while keeping things insulated for cold-weather warmth; Merrell’s Moab Duluth Pack 8” Waterproof Steel Toe boot ($190) marries a waterproof leather and canvas upper with an oil-, slip- and heat-resistant outsole to keep the wearer safe, dry and stable no matter what the workday brings.

Workers whose jobs take them inside and out need all the safety features of traditional work boots (protective toes and grippy outsoles), but in an outdoor-friendly package that keeps them grounded and protected (durable uppers and a structured, supportive underfoot ride). Hiker-style boots and shoes offer the best of both worlds.

From left (picture above): Keen’s Flint II Sport boot has a low-cut, athletic silhouette with carbon fiber toe protection and a siped outsole that meets Mark II and Satra no-slip testing standards; the Crosstrex I-Met2 from Thorogood is a lightweight, waterproof hiking boot with an integrated metatarsal guard and composite toe cap.

Delivery drivers and warehouse workers need well-rounded footwear: For all the trips around the floor and from van to door, cushioning is a must, and so is a durable upper package. For the lifting and moving, true underfoot structure and slip-resistance are key. (Oh, and a safety-toe build never hurts.)  

From top (picture above): Twisted X’s chukka-style WXCC001 ($126.95) boot brings safety-toe protection to casual style; the Zero-G Lite 6719 from Red Wing has sneaker style to spare, with an aluminum toe and super lightweight Ultra-Light Sole that is slip-, oil-, gas- and chemical-resistant, it’s ready to work; Ariat’s Edge LTE Slip-on Work Boot ($139.95) has a versatile, low-profile look that’s packed with features, including static dissipation, metal-detector-friendly construction and an oil- and slip-resistant outsole.

Front-of-the-house restaurant workers and other busy professionals need their shoes to look great, but all the standing means comfort is key.

From left (picture above): Spring Step’s Power Maze ($109.95) has a luggy, skid- and oil-resistant outsole and a patterned upper for sneaker style; the $135 Dansko Fawna Mary Jane style has a removable footbed and adds a punch of color; Ariat’s Hera Expert clog ($119.95) is easy to clean and has provides indoor slip-resistance and a supportive underfoot feel.

Lawn and garden workers lift, pull, push, squat and trek in all weather conditions. Lightweight construction, waterproof uppers and supportive insoles are critical to getting the job done no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

From top (picture above): The waterproof Muckster II Mid by Muck Boot ($110) is built for all-day wear, and the neoprene upper can be rolled up or down for versatility; Bogs’ $90 Sauvie boot is waterproof, slip-resistant and easy-on, easy-off.

Clockwise from top left (picture above): Iron Age Footwear’s Immortalizer 10” Wellington Work Boot features mortar and lime resistant leather as well as a Muckraker outsole cleaning system — details that fight against leather and rubber creasing, cracking, delaminating and splitting created by concrete and mortar. A Muckraker metallic cleaning tool scrapes wet mortar and mud out of the grooves, allowing for a longer-lasting outsole. The $135 Men’s Safety Neoprene Mid Boot by Western Chief has a composite toe and a handmade waterproof vulcanized construction, with a textured rubber mud guard. The Women’s 15” Legacy Boot ($140) from Xtratuf has a flexible, triple-dipped waterproof shell that’s fully waterproof and acid-resistant, with a slip-resistant outsole, as well as a women’s-specific fit and a Salmon Sisters Mermaid Life print liner. Reebok’s Fusion Flexweave Work marries a woven upper and sneaker styling with versatile protective features.