RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Many jobs require their workers to wear steel toed boots. They can be a lifesaver-or a foot saver-when working around heavy machinery or harsh weather. But they don't come cheap. They can range from $70 up to $300. So what's the difference?
Start with the leather. It will either be full grain or split.
"With full grain leather, it's actually the whole hide itself with split leather they'll take the hide, cut it in half and they can make multiple shoes out of that at a better price point," explained Bill Gardner, Richmond President of Red Wing Shoes.
Split leather wears out quicker. High quality boots will have a welted sole that is sewn to the upper.
"That way the boots can't separate," said Bill. "Make sure that's an actual stitch and it's not mimicked to look like a stitch."
Which you can see from the outside, but the inner construction can make or break a good boot. "Good quality urethane sole, safety cap, lining for moisture and perspiration and a waterproof bladder behind that," Bill showed us.
There's a fiberglass support in the arch. An internal, mid-foot guard protects the top of the foot from impact. A heel counter is found in better quality shoes.
"A heel counter will support and control the back portion of your foot so your foot can't roll over," he said.
Cheaper boots don't have any of these details.
"On the front end on the safety cap: there's a stitch that locks the leather and the safety cap is tacked down in there, so if the safety toe withstands a blow, it's not going to shift around," Bill said.
The special lining prevents the toes from wearing into the cap. Specialty boots have a puncture resistant layer attached to the insole.
"You'll save money in the long run by buying a higher quality product because they'll last better. One, and two for somebody that works for a living, they'll feel better," said Bill.
Another recommendation is to have your foot measured by the professionals. Bill says many of us are walking around in the wrong size, leading to unnecessary discomfort.