What Makes Good Waterproof Work Boots? The 3 Optimal Steel & Square Toe Shoes

What should you look for in good waterproof work boots? What manufacturing features generally result in a quality work boot.What materials perform best in waterproof footwear? We answer those questions and more in the paragraphs below.

Updated March 2020 by Tony Bleak

good waterproof work boots

In a Hurry? The Top Pick

The Herman Survivors Pro Series Work Boots. Read on to find out why. 


Comparison table

Waterproof Safety Toe Features
Rocky Iron Clad
Work Boot
Yes Soft
Rubber, 7-layer outsole
Goodyear welt construction
Slip- & oil resistant
View
Herman Survivors
Pro Series Boots
Yes Steel Rubber outsole
Slip- & oil resistant
Puncture resistant
Orthotic footbed
Welt construction
View
Timberland PRO
Boondock Boot
Yes Composite
Thermoplastic urethane sole
Slip- & oil resistant
Abrasion resistant
Rubber toe cap
Insulated with 400gr
Welt & concrete construction
View

Key Features 

Good waterproof work boots is truly waterproof, and stay that way.

Let me include a caveat before I explain what I mean. The caveat is this–work boots that face daily stress and grime need to be maintained periodically in order to retain their waterproof character. Many manufacturers suggest cleaning  and rewaxing your boots whenever they get grimy. Some say at least once every 3 months, regardless. 

So, if you purchase a pair of good-quality waterproof work boots, AND maintain them regularly, the waterproofing should last as long as you have the boot. 

A good waterproof work boot resists slips and helps prevent possible injury to you when you walk on surfaces that are damp from water, oil or chemicals. 

A good waterproof work boot helps you stay on your feet, rather than or your face, knees or back. To do this, some boots utilize a wide non-slip wedge sole that often has moisture-diverting channels formed into it. A wedge sole allows all of the sole to connect with the work surface as you walk. This increases traction.  

The majority of non-slip soles have some form of heel and at least a small cutout under the arch. Most add channels to divert moisture and lugs (grooves) that allow the sole to permeate loose ground, Boots made for loggers and climbers usually have a 90-degree heel that’s about 2 inches tall. The heel helps them grip limbs and keeps them from slipping off ladders.

3 examples of good waterproof work boots

Rocky Men’s IronClad Eight Inch Work Boot

The Rocky Men’s IronClad Eight Inch Work Boot is a waterproof soft-toe work boot with a rubber sole and a leather upper. The Rocky is built with Goodyear welt construction and a 7-layer outsole. The sole is slip-resistant, oil-resistant and breathable.

PROS

  • Waterproof 
  • Slip-resistant
  • Goodyear welt construction

CONS

  • No safety toe 
  • Over $100
  • Imported
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Herman Survivors Pro Series Waterproof Steel Toe Construction Work Boots

The Survivors Pro Series Waterproof Steel Toe Construction Work Boot by Herman is a waterproof leather boot.. The slip-resistant sole also resists oil and is puncture resistant. It is built using welt construction and has an orthotic footbed. It is priced at approximately $100.

PROS

  • Waterproof
  • Slip resistant
  • Puncture resistant

CONS

  • No EH rating 
  • Imported
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Timberland PRO Men’s 6 Inch Boondock Comp Toe WP Insulated Industrial Work Boot

Timberland’s PRO Men’s 6 Inch Boondock Comp Toe WP Insulated Industrial Work Boot is a waterproof leather boot with 400gr insulation that will keep you warm in winter weather. The sole is slip resistant and oil resistant.

PROS

  • Combination welt and cement construction
  • Slip resistant
  • Oil resistant and abrasion resistant

CONS

  • Not EH rated 
  • Imported 
  • Most expensive of the 3
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Customer Impression

Here’s what purchasers like and dislike about these boots.

Obviously, most reviewers like these boots or we would not have chosen them. They get 5-star ratings from at least ⅔ of the reviewers, and “fit as expected” percentages of at least 80%. Here’s what customers think about each boot.

Rocky Men’s IronClad Eight Inch Work Boot–Reviewers rate the Rocky IronClad as a very comfortable, durable and sturdy work boot. Several reviewers have owned multiple pairs. A few rate these boots as their most comfortable ever. One downside of this boot is that it doesn’t break in quickly. Reviewers who gave them a few weeks to break in, really liked them, though. Another difficulty faced by a few purchasers was that the soles fell apart within a few weeks or months.   

Herman Survivors Pro Series Waterproof Steel Toe Construction Work Boot–Customers appreciate the toughness and the durability of this boot, especially since it is available at Walmart for approximately ½ the cost of the boots with similar features sold by name brands like Thorogood, and Keen. The biggest difficulty of these boots is that they are quite heavy compared to other brands.

Timberland’s PRO Men’s 6 Inch Boondock Comp Toe WP Insulated Industrial Work Boot–This boot gets excellent reviews for comfort and for durability. Purchasers love the style, too, saying that the boot is attractive enough to wear outside of work. Several say it’s the most comfortable boot ever owned.  The few negative reviews mention workmanship/quality control issues and waterproofing that failed quickly. 

Conclusion

All 3 of these boots exemplify what makes good waterproof work boots. They are made with leather, have a slip-resistant outsole and utilize welt construction.They provide a range of features and incorporate cushioning and support to give you added comfort.

One negative is that none of them is available in black. If you need a black work boot, you will be disappointed. Based on its price and features,the Survivors Pro Series Waterproof Steel Toe Construction Work Boot by Herman is our best of the best. It’s a quality boot at a reasonable price, and is available locally as well as online. 

Can you tell me how to waterproof work boots?

Following a few simple steps will show you how to waterproof work boots very effectively. (This process works equally well for men’s or women’s boots.)

Choose a waterproofing product for the type of boot you have. 

There are 3 main types of waterproofing products–sprays, waxes and creams. Sprays are the only products that are very effective on synthetic materials. Waxes and creams work very well for leather boots, but not so well for synthetic materials. 

Clean your boots well before you apply any type of waterproofing product. 

Remove the laces. Using a soft brush or cloth, remove all the dirt from the uppers, and any caked mud from the soles. (You may need a stiff brush to get the dirt from between a lugged sole.) If you have spots that won’t brush off, use a slightly damp cloth to remove them. As you clean, be very careful to catch any bits around the seams and along creases. 

  1. If your boots are wet at all, let them air until they are not quite completely dry. Do not hasten the drying process by using a hair dryer or setting your boots in direct sunlight.
  2. Apply the waterproofing product according to the package directions. If this is the first time you have waterproofed them, you may want to apply a bit of the product to a less-visible area of one boot to see if it darkens substantially when you treat it. It probably will darken some. Be sure you can live with the darkened color before you treat the whole boot. Follow the directions carefully. Use the number of coats that the product manufacturer recommends. Cover the entire boot. If you’re using a wax or cream, be sure you work the product into the seams. 
  3. Let your boots air dry completely before you wear them again.If you’re in a hurry, you could place them in front of a fan. Don’t use a hair dryer. 
  4. Plan to repeat the process if your boots get particularly dirty, or when water stops beading on the surface of your work shoes. 

Following these steps carefully should help keep your feet dry and also lengthen the life or your boots.

In your opinion, what are some good square toe waterproof work boots?

Most square toe waterproof work boots are western boots that pull on. Many of them have 90-degree heels and some sort of pull tab to help you get the boots on easily. 

Ariat  and Justin manufacture more waterproof boots with a square toe than most other companies do, which makes sense since cowboy boots often feature square toes. Some of their products also include safety features like composite or steel toes and slip-resistant soles. Both companies also offer a lace-up version of a square-toe waterproof boot.

Two great slip-on options from Ariat are

  • the Groundbreaker Wide Square-toe Waterproof Boot and the Workhog WST Metguard Work Boot. The Groundbreaker soft-toe boot has a sole that is EH rated for safety and a very roomy toe box.
  • The Workhog line includes a few varieties of waterproof square-toe boots. Some have safety toes. This one also has a met guard to protect your metatarsals as well as your toes.
  • A third option from Ariat is the Overdrive Work Boot. This is a waterproof lace-up boot with a square toe. It offers a safety toe and wear guards on the toe, sides and heel of the boot.

Justin Boots provides waterproof square-toe boots in its Stampede and Driller collections, as well as others. These include good options that get very good reviews. 

The best square-toe, waterproof work boots by these companies–or other companies like Carhartt, Keen, Carolina, and Wolverine that make traditional work boots rather than western boots– will be the boots that provide the other features your work environment requires.For example, as a logger you may need a puncture-resistant sole or upper in addition to square toe, waterproof boots. Men in the welding business made want a safety toe or a rated that meets EH safety standards.

I’m a construction foreman who needs a pair of good steel toe waterproof slip resistant work boots.

What should I bear in mind as I search?

With that list of requirements, you need to consider each of the individual features carefully. Then choose the boot that provides the best combination of the 3 requirements in steel toe waterproof slip resistant work boots. 

Steel-toe boots will be heavier than boots with a soft toe, composite toe, or alloy toe. Unless you need a really heavy-duty boot, I’d suggest that you consider the weight of each of the pairs you consider. Steel-toe boots must all meet minimum safety standards. A heavy steel toe is not inherently better than a steel toe that is lighter.

Check the safety ratings so that you are sure you’re comparing boots that meet the same standards. Then, if other things are equal, go with the boots that are more lightweight. Your legs will thank you, especially on days where you walk several miles. 

Select boots that specifically claim to be waterproof.

Avoid options that are water resistant. There are differences in the construction methods between the two. Waterproof boots incorporate a welt system and/or a waterproof lining to seal water out completely. Water resistant boots are made using regular leather or synthetic materials and then treated to resist water better. 

Slip-resistant soles are usually made of  one or more types of synthetic rubber. Rubber works very well because it is naturally cushiony and shock-absorbent. It’s also very grippy. Slip-resistant soles often have lugs and channels marked into the sole. This increases traction. 

Don’t expect to find a good pair of steel-toe, waterproof, slip-resistant boots for $50. Boots with all those features aren’t cheap. In the long run, though, you’ll find that quality boots are worth the initial expense. 

What separates the best waterproof work boots from work boots that are just ok?

That’s a great question! The best waterproof work boots are similar in many ways to their mediocre counterparts, but they use better materials, better methods, and better quality control.

The best waterproof work boots use thick, high-quality leather. Boots that are not quite so good often use thinner, lighter leather that isn’t as durable, or synthetic fabric that’s difficult to waterproof for the long term. Lower-quality leather is apt to scuff easily and age quickly. The best boots also use rubber soles that contain lugs and grooves to provide extra grip and channel water away. 

The best waterproof work boots are made using production methods that are more likely to result in a long-lasting work boot. Read 5-star ratings of any boot made by an established boot manufacturer like Redwing, Carolina or Danner and you are sure to at least 1 reviewer who says his previous pair of work boots lasted 15 years and still fit like a glove. He’ll go on to explain why he was forced to change boots–the boots couldn’t be resoled any more, or the waterproofing finally just gave out. 

Comments like this mean that the manufacturer:

  • 1) used a welt construction which allows the boot to be resoled and increases its waterproofing ability, and
  • 2) probably also used a membrane or liner to add another layer to protect your foot from moisture. These methods take time and add to the boot’s production cost.  However, they also distinguish between good boots and the best waterproof work boots. 

The best waterproof work boots are carefully inspected before they leave the factory to make sure that each pair is up to standard. Shoddy quality control is often to blame for the 1-star rating from the irate customer who received a pair of boots that had misaligned shoestring eyelets or stitching that showed where it wasn’t supposed to shoe. Even if the imperfection is cosmetic, it lowers the purchaser’s opinion of the boot and of the manufacturer.

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