Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Doug Morneau
The overall condition of work boots is essential as most workers will be spending 10 to 12 hours, on average, on their feet with little to no rest.
In that context, workers end up beating their expensive safety footwear to the point of asking if they should buy a new pair or try repairing them.
This article is my attempt at solving this question and telling you how often should you replace your work boots.
How Often Should You Replace Work Shoes
There’s no length of time that when passed requires you to spend hundreds of dollars on a new pair of work boots. If you really want to know, I’d say work boots last between 12 and 24 months on average for most workers.However, if you take good care of them and you buy the best brands, they can last decades.
Here are a couple of tips to know exactly when it’s time to replace your work boots so you don’t waste your money:
1. Check the Outsoles
First of all, you should check if the outsoles are in good shape.
- Are they worn down? Are the lug patterns still there?
- Is the outsole separated from the upper?
- Are there wholes in your outsoles?
If the outsoles aren’t in good condition it might be time to replace your work boots. I mean, you won’t want to work without slip-resistant work boots as you could be seriously injured, just look at these statistics if you’re not convinced.
Pro-tip: Some work boots are resolable, you could save hundreds of dollars by just sending them to a shoe repair shop and getting them resoled. Check with the manufacturer, it might be worth it.
2. Check for Wholes
This is an easy one.
If you see that your work boots have wholes either in the uppers or the outsoles then you better know you must replace your work boots ASAP.
I mean, wearing work boots with wholes is not only very unappealing but also a serious safety issue. You could get severely injured if you don’t wear proper footwear at your worksite.
3. Check if They Are No Longer Comfortable
Most workers don’t really pay attention to this issue. But, the thing is that most work boots lose the effectiveness of their comfort features:
- The cushioned footbeds are no longer cushioning
- The midsoles are crooked
- Even some work boots with ergonomic designs can be totally deformed
This could present a serious long-term issue for workers. If they don’t wear safety shoes with shock-absorbing features they could develop severe foot issues (i.e. plantar fasciitis).
4. Are They Still Waterproof/Insulated?
If you bought work boots with some kind of insulation or waterproofing that means you most definitely need these features to keep your feet dry and warm when at work.
So, if you found out that your work boots lost their waterproofing or insulation attributes, then that might be the signal you need to spend your money on a new pair of insulated or waterproof work boots.
Do You Need to Replace Your Work Boots? Do this.
So, you already know you have to replace your work boots… now what?
Well, I’d say you should start by looking for safety boots with a mixture of solid comfortable, durable and protective features. This will guarantee you won’t regret your purchase in the future.
In terms of protection, I’d look for work boots with the following features:
- Steel toe caps: These toe caps will protect your toes from getting crushed by heavy falling tools
- Slip-resistant outsoles: Slip-resistant outsoles will give the worker the traction needed to walk on slippery surfaces without the fear of falling and getting injured
- Waterproofing/insulation (in case you need it): Some workers need some kind of waterproofing or insulation to maintain their feet dry and warm when exposed to cold winter temperatures or exterior liquids/chemicals. If you are one of them, you should definitely consider waterproof or insulated work boots
Regarding comfort, I’d search for safety shoes with:
- Cushioned footbeds: These footbeds will keep the base of the feet cushioned which substantially enhances the experience of workers having to do 10 hours work shifts standing on their feet
- Shock absorbing midsoles: Shock absorbing midsoles will provide the feet the support needed to walk on hard and rocky surfaces without transferring any shocks to the feet and knees, thus, keeping workers safe from developing short term and long term pains
Durability is also key, which is why I’d look for work boots with:
- Full-grain leather: This type of leather is key for work boots as the more you use it, the stronger and more comfortable it gets
- Reliable construction methods: When work boots are manufactured with excellent construction methods (i.e. Goodyear Welt construction) the worker gets the guarantee their expensive work boots won’t break after a few months of heavy use
If you ask me, I’d say the Timberland Pitboss work boots are a fairly good option for workers looking for safety boots that have a nice combination of protective, comfortable, and durable work boots.
Pro-Tip #1: Give Proper Care To Your Work Boots
If your work boots are not yet ready to be replaced, then you might still have the opportunity to take proper care of them and restore them to their original state.
To do this, you must make sure to follow a thorough and reliable maintenance process. Luckily, I made the following guide which can be easily followed by anyone and needs minimal tools:
- Brush as much dirt off the work boots with a boot brush as you can
- Clean the work boots with saddle soap and an old (but clean) toothbrush
- Wipe the work boots
- Apply a light layer of leather conditioner and massage it with your fingertips
- Let the conditioner nourish the leather for about 20 minutes
- Wipe the excess conditioner with a clean cloth
- Lightly buff the boots with a brush
Consider doing this from now on as you will substantially increase the lifespan of your work boots which will save you hundreds even thousands of dollars in the long term.
If you’re more of a visual learner, you might enjoy this video where a thorough process to maintain work boots is explained step by step:
Pro-Tip #2: Consider Repairing Your Work Shoes
If your work boots are beyond recovering, there’s still a chance for you to restore them.
Some brands have special programs to repair and restore work boots. For instance, Red Wing Shoes has a special program that lets you send them your work boots and they will resole them, repair the heels, etc…
If your work boots’ manufacturer doesn’t have a program like that then you can still take them to a local repair shop and hopefully, they can restore and repair them. In fact, it might be cheaper!
What I definitely do not recommend is trying to repair them yourself.
Restoring work boots is a complex process that needs experience and expensive machinery, you’ll be better off sending your boots to professionals or even spending your money on a new pair even.
A perfect example of the potential repairing work boots has is the following video of these guys that restore work boots for a living: