If you work on a railway, you need to have a work boot with specific safety features. The great variety of hazards in the railroad industry require all round protection. You’ll be facing work in all types of weather, uneven terrain, long hours on your feet and falling heavy falling objects to mention a few. Below are the most critical design and construction details in the best work boots for railroad workers.
Updated March 2020 by Maya
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The Best Railroad Boots Key Features
Safety Toe Shoes
You are working with heavy objects that might fall and crush your feet during railroad track maintenance. A safety toe boot is critical to have. Although a steel toe can withstand higher compression and impact weights, they also are more susceptible to temperature changes and are a higher risk for electrocution.
Most composite toe safety shoes have a high tollerance for heavuy falling hazards and can meet the safety requirement both with compression and impact rates specified by OSHA.
Your railroad work shoes sole needs to meet quite a few important safety requirements.
- The outsole needs to non slip, as you might be working on wet conditions and on uneven terrain
- They need to be made out a non conductive material such as rubber.
- There are a multitude of sharp metal hazards lying around on the railroad ground. The boot sole must pass puncture resistant tests to avoid any such dangers getting through your sole and ending up stuck in your foot.
- Do the outsoles have an anti shock feature built in? This helps if you are on your feet most of the day. The more anti fatigue technology you have in your boot the better.
Consider a zip up, pull on or slip on boot vs a lace up. This helps you not only get the boot on quickly and easily every day, but it also helps you get out of the boot just as quickly should your boot get stuck in a dangerous situation.
You do not want to have to fiddle with laces if you need to get out of the way quickly.
First of you should have one. A shank provides additional support and stability for your foot during a long work day on uneven ground. If you are working outside or have electric hazards in your vicinity, you want to choose a shank made from either fiberglass or another non conductive merterial. Do not get a steel shank.
You’ll be on your feet most of the work day. This means you need some supportive insoles with anti-fatigue technology. Insoles make an important difference by distributing the impact shock evenly along your foot. This is especially important if you are walking and working on hard surfaces, like cement, for extended times.
It is also useful to ensure arch support in your insole if your boot doesn’t have that built in already.
Both you arch, foot sole and you ankle need support from your work boot. You can achieve support from insoles for your arch. Support for your midsole comes from an inbuilt shank.
Support for your ankle is gained by having slightly taller boots with ankle cushioning. This is ideal for people working on uneven ground to avoid a serious injury from a small misstep. The railroad recommends boots to be 6 inches or more.
The defined 90 degree heel is very important and is specifically listed the railroad footwear guideline.
Optional: The heel can be around 1.5 inches. An anti roll heel or a heel cup are good options to ensure your heel stays put without any slipping.
This is one of the most critical features your railroad boots should have. Without this safety feature you are at risk of electrocution. Make sure your boots have the ATSM standard electrical hazard rating.
You might end up working in wet conditions, be it rain, snow or ice, you want your boots to be waterproof and not just water resitant to avoid very uncomfortable soaking feet.
If you work in a location that has very hot summers and very cold winters, you would want to consider different railroad work boots for each of those seasons.
3 of the best work boots for railroad
Timberland Pro Boondock Waterproof Railroad Work Boot
This safety boot meets all safety requirements you could want from the best railroad boots. It is also one of the most comfortable safety shoes thanks to the anti fatigue system, heel cup and padded ankle cushion. These are suitable for women as well, simply size down or wear thick socks.
- Electrical Hazard Protection
- Anti fatigue technology
- Waterproof leather membrane
- All weather TPU outsole
- Composite safety toe
- Combination of ¾ Goodyear welt and cement construction
- Rigid heel cup
- Cushioned top collar
- Shank made of Fiberglass
- 2.22 pounds
- Lace up
Reebok Work Mens Rapid Response
These are good lightweight boots, except that they are not waterproof and the composite toe has no impact or compression rating. You could waterproof the boots yourself. There are very effective waterproof sprays available and with that addition, this would be one of the ultimate safety boots fot railroad work if you do not face any heavy falling hazards.
- 8 inch boot
- Composite safety toe cap
- Black rubber sole
- Quick-Access Side Zipper
- Electrical Hazard Protection
- Removable Polyurethane Cushion Footbed
- Shock Eliminator Heel Cushion
- Heel Height: 1 1⁄2 inches
- Weight: 2 lbs
- Oil, chemical and slip resistant
- Water resistant and not waterproof
- No impact / compression rating
Ariat Men’s Overdrive 8″ Wide Square Toe Composite Toe Work Boot
This boot has the safety requirements without question. The 8 inches height is over the railroad recommended 6inches. Heel is defined and it is EH rated along with high impat and compression safety ratings. This boot cannot be faulted except that it is not a slip on style.
- 8 inch boot
- Lace up
- composite shank with Torque Stability
- Square Toe Style
- ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75
- Electrical Hazard Rated Protection
- 90-degree heel
- Waterproof full-grain leather and waterproof membrane
- Goodyear welt construction
- gel-cushioned footbed provide shock absorption
- EVA midsole
- oil- and slip resistant Duratread outsole
- Lace up
These 3 boots are good choices as railroad safety shoes, except the Reebok Response boot. This boot can only be worn outside hazardous areas where there is absolutely no chance of falling hazards.
Therefore the final choice of the best work boots for railroad workers comes down to the Timberland or the taller 8 inch Ariat. They are equally safe with EH and I/75 C/75 ratings. They are waterproof and have efficient anti-fatigue systems.
The Ariat has a wider square toe so if you appreciate a taller boot with more toe space, that will be the best choice for you.
If you like the look and feel of a rounded toe more, and appreciate a shorter boot with less shoelace to lace up, then the Timberland boots will suit you for safe and comfortable railroad work.
Red Wing boots used to be very popular as railroad worker boots but with their current high prices, other boots with just as good if not better quality have gained traction. Not only the brands above but also Wolverine, Carhartt, Carolina and Thorogood are amongst them. And although they aren’t cheap, they are sometimes half the price compared to Red Wing boots.
As an operator or conductor you are in the same environment as railroad maintenance workers dealing with track ballast work. You all need similar footwear that is safe for such a hazardous workplace.
Best boots for railroad workers
The best boots for railroad workers have both safety qualities and comfort qualities. Railroad work is less dangerous than it used to be but there are still hazards to be aware of and prepare for. Make sure your footwear is a help and not a hindrance when you go to work. You want to invest in the best railroaders boots and not take any chances.
Working with BNSF, your railroad work boots should have the following safety features at a minimum:
- EH rated
- Composite toe with impact and compression rating
- 6 inches or taller
- Lace up or slip on
- Anti fatigue technology
- Rubber outsoles
- Non-steel shank
- 90 degree defined heel
- Puncture resistant
BNSF and Chets had a winter boot program at one point in time. It is worth checking if they still do if you are looking for new boots.
You might think the comfort features are optional but if your feet are uncomfortable and aching, you will be distracted at work and that is how many accidents happen. Take care of your feet, keep them safe and comfortable.
Railroad work boots
Railroad work have come a long way and boots are now built to provide your feet not only safety from hazards but also keep them warm, dry and reduce their fatigue even after a long day of standing, walking and working on hard surfaces.
There are certain demands that come with the job. The railroad has a General Code of Operating Rules. The GCOR specifies footwear requirements for railroaders to ensure safety.
The rules include details regarding outsoles, heels, ankles and OSHA. Specifically, railroad work boots need to have good traction, be in good repair, have defined 90 degree heels, be 6 inches or more in height, lace up or slip on and meet OSHA standards.
If the safety work boot meets these specifications, it is railroad approved and safe to wear during railroad work. Except if you work on bridges. Bridge workers need to wear boots that meet FRA footwear requirements.