Choosing the Best Work Boots for Electricians
We teamed up with Red Wing’s Irish Setter crew to look at choosing the best work boots for electricians. Working around electricity, your requirements are different than a framer’s or carpenter’s. Not only do your boots need to be comfortable all day, but they also need to be comfortable in a variety of conditions and avoid acting as an electrical conductor to your body.
Choosing the Best Work Boots for Electricians
The Safety Factor
If you’re new to the electrical trade, get familiar with the “EH” designation on work boots. This is ASTM’s code for “electrical hazard” protection and it’s a must-have feature in any boot you’re considering.
Both options come in soft or safety toe and that’s important. OSHA isn’t currently requiring safety toes for electrical work, but your employer or the terms of a contract may.
Our resident electrician, Ben Parker, is well-known for putting some wear on his boots and some of that comes on the toe cap. Eventually, they can wear through enough for the safety toe to expose itself. Other times, an accident may cut through the leather even though your foot is protected by the safety toe. Either way, a non-metallic safety toe is a great option just in case. OSHA doesn’t consider a steel toe to be an electrical hazard, though.
Steady as She Goes
As a runner, I prefer low cut, lightweight boots as often as I can wear them. But when the job calls for climbing, uneven or loose terrain, and varying wetness, I want more support. Moving up to a 6″ boot is part of it, but it goes much deeper than that.
Quality work boots start from the ground up with durable non-slip tread that offers excellent traction and doesn’t hold onto mud. You also need a boot with some torsion control—a shank in the midsole that helps resist front-to-back twists on unstable ground.
Let’s make a quick note about those wedge boots that I’m in love with thanks to their comfort. They’re great on hard, clean-ish surfaces like concrete and asphalt. However, their tread pattern is shallow, more prone to hold onto mud, and they aren’t great for climbing. They’re not the best choice for varying jobsite conditions. If you’re going to have a pair (and I hope you do!), be very particular about the environments you wear them in.
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Comfort is King
Whether it’s buying your first racing bike or a pair of high-quality works boots, if they aren’t comfortable, you won’t use them. We say that some boots “wear lighter than they are”, meaning that they absorb enough pounding throughout the day that our legs and feet don’t feel as fatigued at the end of the day.
It starts with the proper fit. I’m a 12-1/2 and no one carries that size in work boots. Normally, I wear a 13 but occasionally have to move down to a 12. It’s easy enough to get it right in the store. If you’re ordering online, be sure to check the return policy. Irish Setter gives you 30 days to swap them out and covers the shipping if you buy directly from them. It’s better to take the time for a replacement that fits right than hate your boots for the next 6 or 12 months.
There are plenty of other things to look at as well. A flexible boot with a shock absorbing midsole and quality insole that gives you proper arch support goes a long way for comfort. If you’re not blessed with “normal” feet (what the heck is a normal foot, anyway?), the key to comfort might be as simple as swapping the insole for an orthopedic that’s better for your foot.
Look for waterproof, breathable works boots. They wick away sweat and moisture from the inside while repelling water on the outside. They won’t keep your feet perfectly dry if you sweat a lot (guilty!), but they’re great at keeping it to a manageable and comfortable level.
Don’t be afraid to ask about comfort technologies. Even though they have eye-catching names, they’re very real improvements over standard boots construction.
When you’re choosing the best work boots for electricians, there’s a good chance you’re buying a quality boot if you checked off all the boxes above. However, consider the quality of the build itself. Check to see how well the materials are stitched together. Look for double and triple stitching for the best build.
Also, consider how the shoe comes together. Cementing is a glue that has the best flexibility and the lowest durability. Direct attachments use an injection system that creates a bond between the upper and lower. Welting is the strongest of all connections with the trade-off that it’s usually not as flexible.
The combination of all of these ideas and how you prioritize them against the price of the boot should be the deciding factor. Buying a pair of premium boots is nice—just make sure you understand what you’re getting and that it fits your day-to-day work as an electrician.
Check out Irish Setter work boots for yourself on their website.