Safety footwear is essential for many types of job and hobby, whether you work in a warehouse, in catering or, like us, in a welding workshop.
Even if you’re just working on your car at home, gardening or doing a bit of home improvement, safety boots will protect your feet from wayward sharp and heavy objects- and we do practically live in our work boots.
But safety footwear is also bloody expensive and with most pairs of boots now costing close to £100, you need to know you’re buying something decent before you commit that kind of money to a product.
Because you live in these shoes eight hours a day, five or more days a week you’ll want to spend what’s necessary to get something comfortable that’s going to do the job, and we’ve found that cheap safety boots aren’t always the best option for that- but then equally the most expensive safety footwear doesn’t always outperform cheaper options either.
Matt’s been a mechanic for over twelve years now so he’s had plenty of experience wearing different brands of safety boots and is going to be reviewing some of the best work boots out there for men.
Whilst, after three years in the workshop, I’ve also become familiar with the range of safety footwear on offer for women, which is, quite frankly, often disappointing- especially if your feet are on the smaller side, like mine and you’re not overly fond of Barbie pink.
Buying work shoes in the past we’ve gone both very cheap and very expensive in an effort to find the best quality and performance shoe for our money and what we’ve found has been interesting but not always as expected.
So today we’re reviewing the shoes we've worn in the workshop over the years and hopefully giving some good advice if you’re in the market for safety footwear. We've had first hand, extended experience of all the footwear we're mentioning here- by which we mean, we've put these shoes through their paces and worn them to death, so we know them pretty well.
Also, we paid full price for all these shoes and these reviews are our unfiltered, honest opinions.
So let’s get started!
What are the Safety standards for work shoes?
When you’re looking at buying safety shoes from Screwfix or elsewhere, the codes supplied next to the boots can be confusing (well it was for me at first) but it’s just rating how good the boots are and can help you decide what to buy based on your individual needs.
There are various stages of safety for work boots, the most basic level of protection is “SB” which is a toe cap with a resistance of 200 joules (usually made from plastic) and the system goes right up to “S5” which has all the safety features of the lower categories, plus midsole penetration resistance (meaning nothing will get stuck in your foot from the underside, like a rusty nail).
But you might not need something as protective as an S5 boot, and the next level up from SB, the S1 has all the good stuff you’d want in a safety boot, including: a closed heel area, energy absorption at seat area, antistatic properties and resistance to fuel oil.
Can I Claim Back the Cost of My Safety Footwear?
As a piece of safety equipment that are necessary to do your work, safety boots are most certainly tax deductible. Safety shoes can be deducted as a business expense if you’re self-employed and if you’re an employee you can claim tax relief on the cost of replacing your safety footwear (but sadly, not the initial cost of buying them). Some employers also offer a fixed amount towards a pair of boots once a year, usually about £20.
What Safety Footwear We’re Wearing in the Workshop Right Now
Helen:- DR MARTENS ROSA FUR-LINED LADIES RIGGER SAFETY BOOTS in TEAK
I’m on my second pair of these Doc Marten boots now as I loved them so much I practically lived in them and destroyed them within two years.
Annoyingly, the famously indestructible "bouncing soles" and outer parts of the first pair of these boots were still perfect, but the hard plastic part at the inside heels had worn through, cutting into my ankles and giving me blisters- so they had to go in the bin. It was a very sad day for me.
The faux shearling fleece lining does actually make a huge difference, as my feet are freezing in winter unless I’m wearing these boots paired with some thick Jeep ladies work socks (unfortunately, I can only find these socks on eBay now as Sam Turners have stopped stocking them.)
Matt has declared that if they made these boots in his size he would buy a pair just because of the fleece lining, and I always get lots of compliments on them and questions about where they're from.
Safety wise, these Rosa boots also have protective toe caps which have saved my feet a few times, and I’m constantly finding bits of metal and grinding wire sticking out of the sole, so I guess the protective midsole works too!
Also, a tip if you buy these boots (and why wouldn't you?) the fur lined top bit that's folded over can be turned up if you find, like me, that the bright white fleece is not compatible with a workshop and starts to look a bit grubby.
The only thing I would criticise is that at a size 5 they’re slightly on the big side for me, but a size 4 is too small. But then, I’m really being picky at that and am actually very grateful that a company have designed some work boots for women that are not Barbie pink, but in fact very stylish and warm.
Please never stop making these, Dr Marten!
Matt:- DEWALT TUNGSTEN WATERPROOF RIGGER SAFETY BOOTS in BROWN
Like Helen, I also really like the boots I have right now.
I tend to trash my footwear quickly because I do a lot of bending down and kneeling in the workshop, but these Dewalt boots have so far put up pretty well with it- which is great, because safety shoes can damage your feet if they’re completely worn out, so it’s important to replace your boots as soon as they become uncomfortable if you don’t want to end up hobbling around your workplace like a lame goat (ask me how I know).
I like that the protective strip across the toes is moulded to the sole, unlike on other pairs I've had. This strip will usually just fall off the boot after a few days of kneeling in them and then wear through to the steel toe. Useless.
These Dewalt Tungsten boots are also very flexible and easy to move in so when you kneel down you don't even notice you're wearing them. I also like the look of them, very sturdy and industrial.
At £85 these boots were cheaper than the last pair I had, my Doc Marten safety boots, but for me these Dewalt boots are much better and have so far lasted longer.
1) Dr Martens Turbine Steel Toe Waterproof
These boots were the most expensive pair I've ever bought so I expected big things. Maybe I expected too much? I also had another pair of industrial Doc Marten boots before these, the "Kestrel" that they've stopped making now. Those seemed better quality and looked better, more like the DeWalt ones I have now.
We both love the Doc Martens brand and I really wanted these boots to be good, and they were actually very comfortable (the ankle padding was nice) but sadly they fell apart on me quicker than I expected so I couldn't recommend them and don't plan on getting another pair.
On both pairs of Doc Marten safety boots I had the lining pulled out which made it awkward to get the boot on and off, especially with thick socks on.
If you were only using them from wandering around a workplace these boots probably wouldn't wear out as fast as they did for me because, as I said earlier, I work my boots to the limit.
2) HYENA NEVIS WATERPROOF RIGGER SAFETY BOOTS
I liked the look of these boots and had high hopes for the Hyena brand, which I'd never tried before, but was not overly impressed with them.
The boots seemed sturdy but were uncomfortable with not much flex. Weirdly, my feet got very damp in them and I didn't know if they were leaking or it was just condensation but I haven't come across this with any other boot before.
3) Jallatte Rigger Safety Boots
I had these when I worked in a car garage and wasn't doing any kneeling. They lasted me about 6 months. From what I remember they were comfortable and good for the money.
4) Site Strata Safety Trainers
I bought these as a nice change from rigger boots for summer.
These trainer safety shoes were quite comfortable and looked ok to wear out without feeling too scruffy. However, they were probably overpriced at nearly £40.00 and, like other pairs, didn't last long for me.
I'll probably buy another pair of safety trainers in the future, just a different brand.
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