Which boots do I need?


Every day, you climb outta bed, put your boots on and punch that clock. Work’s tough, but so are you. If you’re walking around with worn-out soles and a sore back, you’re wearing the wrong boot. You need footwear that protects you from the hazards of the job...and gives you comfort. 

You wouldn’t show up to work with the wrong tools, would ya?

If you don’t know what kind of foot protection exists out there… how would you know you’re choosing the right ones?

That’s where we come in. We talk to people just like you every day and help them find the protective shoes that meet their needs. With so many different kinds of footwear out there, it can get confusing, quickly.

No matter where you are you can have access to expert advice and support the next time you’re in the market for a new pair of work boots.

Ready to find your next pair of work boots?

This’ll be painless. We’re going to ask questions and help guide you on your way. We’ll even offer a little insight on why we ask the questions we do. The more knowledgeable you are about your own safety, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Has your company provided you with footwear requirements for your specific job duties?

YES: Great! This should be pretty easy. Simply click here and refine your search by selecting the specific protective requirements you need and we’ll show you all the boots that best meet your requirements!

NO?: That’s alright. Answer the questions below to figure out which boots are the right fit for you. If you need help, contact a boot specialist or call 563.445.2170 We’ll ask you some questions to learn more about the work you do. And, then we’ll offer up some explanations of why you need certain protective factors in your shoe.

Do you need a steel toe or a metatarsal guard?

YES: The last thing you want is to have something heavy or sharp landing or rolling on top of your feet and not be wearing the right protective toe shoe. Talk about a bad day. That’s why protective toe boots or metatarsal guards are a pretty common footwear requirement (ASTM F2413-11) if you work with falling debris, heavy equipment, forklifts, crush hazards, nails or falling bricks.

Heads up, you may need a protective toe or meta-guard if you work in any of these industries:

  • Construction
  • Factories
  • Mills
  • Oil & Gas
  • Electric Utilities
  • Automotive
  • HVAC
  • Carpentry
  • Farming

What’s the difference between a steel toe and a composite toe?

They both protect your toes from getting crushed or pierced from objects at work. So, what’s the difference between them? Well, obviously steel toes are made from metal which can pose a problem if working with electricity, live wires, some kinds of chemicals or if you need to get through metal detectors. That’s why composite toes are a great alternative.

Composite toes are often made of non-metal materials like Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic or fiberglass. They’re often more lightweight and comfortable than traditional steel toes. Since they’re lighter, it requires less energy to get around, so you may end up less fatigued after a long day.

Take this into account: Steel toe boots also conduct heat, so your feet will feel colder when the temperatures drop and hotter when it rises. That could play a factor if you work in extreme conditions.

Your company may actually require you to wear safety-toed boots.

If they do, it’s a good idea to comply. If you thought you were having a bad day when you dropped that compressor on your foot, it’s about to get a lot worse. Not wearing the right safety shoe can get you sent home or fired. Think that’s all? Get this, your employer may not be responsible for your medical bills if they can prove you failed to follow the rules! That’s why you better cover those feet with the right gear.

Before you start going on about how wearing a steel toe is more dangerous than not wearing one, let’s squash that real quick. If we offered to drop a 50 lb. weight on your feet and you could have three choices to choose from, would you pick:

A) Your bare feet?
B) Regular work boots?
C) ANSI protective toe boots?

Come on, you know what you’d pick! Hell, they even proved that whole “steel toe boots can curl up and crush your toes” BS was a myth anyway.

Wondering what the heck is a metatarsal guard?

Well, you know those tiny little bones on the top part of your foot? Yeah, those are called metatarsals and they have a tendency to break pretty darn easily. When they do, they hurt like hell and take forever to heal. It’s not enough to use a protective toe like steel or composite, you need to think about protecting those little bones. 

So, instead of chancing an injury every time you head out to work, they invented these cool guards that cover those delicate little bones of your foot. Made from either aluminum, steel, plastic or fiber, they can be built into your shoe or worn overtop your existing safety shoe.

Here’s a little cheat sheet for you:

M   I/75   C/75   mt/75 

This line identifies the gender of the style – M (men's) or W (women's) It also indicates the impact (I/75) and compression (C/75) ratings as well as the metatarsal designation and rating (mt/75). For reference, 1/75 means the toe cap can withstand 75 foot-pounds of impact, C/75 means the toe cap can withstand 2500 pounds of pressure or compression, and mt/75 means the met guard can withstand 75 foot-pounds of impact and compression. 


Here are a few examples of boots that may meet your needs:

Do you work with sharp objects like nails, glass or sharp metal and require puncture-resistance?

YES: If the work you has the potential for some sharp object, tool or equipment to pierce through your skin, you’ll want to choose foot protection that stops that from happening.

Safety shoes and boots that are puncture-resistant can have a steel or composite toe to protect puncture from falling items. Or, they can have a sole that keeps pesky things like rusty nails and shards of glass from penetrating through to the bottom of your feet. Keep that in mind, when choosing puncture-resistant boots.

Here are a few examples of boots that may meet your needs:

Are you exposed to water or wet conditions?

YES: Work near water? Whether you work outside in the elements or there’s the potential for water, ice or snow to leak onto the floor or work areas, you gotta take that into consideration. Not only do wet surfaces increase the chances of you slipping and ending up ass-over-teakettle, it’s not fun to work in.

These are some industries you may find yourself sloshing around in water, snow or ice: 

  • Farming
  • Ranching
  • Landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Pipefitting
  • Well Drilling
  • HVAC

Think about how uncomfortable it is to work 8, 10 or 12 hours in wet, soggy boots. It sounds more like torture than just another day at the office, doesn’t it? Having cold and damp feet can actually cause you to fatigue, lose focus and get sick.

You’ll want shoes that are made from waterproof and breathable membranes to help keep feet dry in wet conditions. Your feet stay dry and you don’t end up looking like a quivering, shivering mess at the end of the day. Not a bad idea, huh?

Here are some waterproof or water-resistant boots that may meet your needs:

Do you need protection against slip hazards like oil, ice or water?

YES: You can’t get much work done if you’re slipping and sliding all over the place. Guess what? They make boots for that!

Do you work in any of these applications and need protection from slip and falls? 

  • Construction
  • Food Service
  • Healthcare
  • Custodial Work
  • Farming
  • Oil & Gas
  • Factories
  • Roofing
  • Commercial cleaning
  • Food processing

If falling flat on your face doesn’t sound like a raging good time, you probably should invest in a good pair of slip-resistant shoes or boots. Slip-resistant footwear is specially designed to address the varying coefficients of friction between the floor and the slippery stuff. Basically, they keep your feet planted firmly on the ground — where they belong.

You just need to make sure that the footwear you choose has been tested in a lab and can actually prevent you from slipping on surfaces covered with oil, animal fat or water.

Here are some slip-resistant boots that may meet your needs:

Do you work with hot metal chips or slag?

YES: If you enjoy the feeling of hot slag dripping on your toes, you can skip this question. If you’ve like to avoid welding sparks, heat, flames and hot liquid metal — then you’re in the right place.

You’ve got your helmet, apron and gloves. And, heck you even wear your safety goggles instead of just looking away. You little safety savant, you. Now, look down at your feet. Are you still trying to rock those old tennis shoes you used to wear in high school? Come on, man. They make boots for the work you do.

If you work with hot molten metal, sparks, sharp metal objects or toxic and corrosive materials, you’re going to want to revisit your footwear decisions. You want shoes that can withstand high-heat situations. Those tennis shoes aren’t going to protect you from any of these hazards. And, if they happen to catch on fire, chances are they’re going to go up in flames quicker than Steve Harvey at the Miss Universe pageant.

Here’s another thing to consider: If you end up with hot molten metal spilling on your shoes, you’ll want to be able to get out of them as soon as humanly possible. Speed lace systems and elastic side panels of a molder’s shoe may be your best bet.

Here are some boots that offer protection in hot work applications:

Do you work with electrical or static electrical hazards?

YES: Maybe you work with electrical systems and wiring. Or, the work you do carries the risk of an arc flash incident. If you do, you need the right protection for your feet.

We need to make sure you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Do you know the difference between shoes for electrical hazards (EH), shoes for electrostatic dissipative (ESD) hazards and conductive safety shoes?

Here’s a hint, they’re not the same!

EH Work Boots:

  • Reduces flow of electricity through the shoes to the ground
  • Offers protection from electric shock
  • Must be able to withstand 18,000 Volts at 60 Hz for an entire minute
  • Not a primary source of protection
  • Must have EH on the ASTM label sewn into the shoe
  • EH boots don’t have to be composite
  • Cannot be used near explosives or where conductive safety shoes are required
  • Footwear must remain dry!

ESD Work Boots:

  • Used in some handling facilities, processing plants and manufacturing facilities
  • Minimizes static electricity buildup on the boot, so you don’t get shocked
  • Conducts electricity through the insole, linings and outsole then into ground
  • Use when working in a non-explosive environments, where a spark is bad or when working with computer chips
  • Must have ESD or SD on ASTM label, sewn into shoe
  • Must use specially designed ESD insole replacements
  • Needs humidity to work, don’t use foot powders!

Conductive Boots:

  • Conducts static electricity through the shoes/boots and to the ground faster than ESD
  • Used to reduce the chance of static spark or discharge
  • Worn in highly flammable and explosive work zones
  • Must have CD on ASTM label, sewn into shoe
  • Cannot be worn in Electrical Hazard (EH) environments

Here are examples of boots that may meet your needs:

Do you work with any kind of biological, organic or animal matter?

YES: This may blow your mind. Other than the fact that most biological matter is pretty nasty stuff to begin with, did you know there’s another reason why it’s important to wear the right footwear? Were you aware that the very nature of these compounds can cause your boots to degrade? Yeah, even getting milk from cows and goats can cause your work boots to deteriorate to the point that they don’t protect you. That’s some crazy stuff!

So, if you work on a dairy farm, with animal fats and oils or most organic matter,  you don’t want to be wearing leather work boots. Oils, urine, fecal matter and perspiration can destroy the composition of leather. When oils accumulate on the surface, it can essentially eat right through it. That’s because these bodily functions are made up of salt, enzymes and fatty acids and can create a chemical reaction. Which over time penetrates, builds up and weakens the leather fibers. All of a sudden, your favorite work boots become useless and end up in the trash.

Note: Blood and animal fats can cause rubber to deteriorate quickly as well! That’s why you’ll want to choose boots that are waterproof and made from PVC or neoprene materials.

Here's an example of boots that may meet your needs:

Are you on your feet all day?

YES: Most people don’t realize that ergonomics play a huge role in the way we’re able to perform. Think about it. If you sit in a chair all day, you want the most comfortable chair possible. So, why do we give our rear-ends more consideration than we do our feet?

Ergonomic footwear is just a fancy way to say that the shoes and boots you put on your feet are made in a way that don’t cause extra and unnecessary burden.

Whether you stand in place on a production line or you’re climbing ladders — heavy and cumbersome work boots can increase fatigue. The last thing you want on a third story roof is a tired worker who’s distracted by how sore his feet are. Not only does it increase the risk of an accident at work, it can lead to long-term physical ailments. Not sure about you, but limping around in our old age doesn’t sound like a good retirement plan.

Fortunately, today they make boots that are lightweight and made to provide a more comfortable fit. You can find them to meet a variety of risk factors. Everything from protective toes to puncture-resistance, there’s a safety shoe that can keep you safe and comfortable.

For extra comfort and protection, don’t forget to consider anti-fatigue insoles and floor mats!

Here are some products that may meet your needs:

Do you work with chemicals?

YES: There’s no one type of work boot that can protect against every kind of chemical out there. That’s why you need to use your noggin. Use your safety data sheets to understand what chemicals, acids, caustics or corrosives you need to protect from and then choose accordingly!

Typically, there are 3 different chemical-resistant footwear materials you can choose from:

  • Rubber: Suitable for some chemical environments. Holds up well to acids and ammonias.
  • Neoprene: Lightweight and holds up well to most acids, oils, petroleums and other chemicals. Often used in meat and poultry processing, petrochemical, agrichemical, oil drilling and refinery, dairy processing, breweries, and farming.
  • PVC: Holds up well in some acids and some oils.

Know what you’re up against. Review your data sheets and then do regular hazard assessments as often as you can. Unfortunately there’s no one perfect boot that can protect you from everything you face on the job, so choose wisely.

Here are examples of boots that may meet your needs:

Are you a diabetic and require specialized footwear?

YES: No matter what line of work you’re in, if you’ve been diagnosed with a form of diabetes, you need to wear safe and protective shoes that are made just for your needs. Around 30 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes. And, somewhere around 7.2 million are diabetic and don’t even know it! Just because you have special requirements doesn’t mean you have to settle for less protection.

People with diabetes require work boots and shoes that are breathable, flexibility and provide arch support, extra room for the toes and energy absorption capabilities.

We can help you find the right work shoe or boot that keeps you safe from day-to-day hazards and prevent diabetic foot injury. Just reach out to one of our boot specialists and we’ll help you get started!

Here are examples of boots that may meet your needs:

Do you need protective footwear that comes in WIDE sizing?

YES: Do you have a tough time finding work boots that look good, protect and actually fit your wide foot? It’s a more common problem than you think, but there are options out there. And, we can help you find the right size! And, even if we don’t typically carry a particular brand or model, we can get it.

In case you didn’t know: Work boots that come in wide sizes need to be checked for fit. Their sizing may be a little bit different than what you’re used to and sometimes require a completely different size. Don’t worry. If you happen to buy a pair of work boots that end up too big or too small for you, we’ve got an awesome return policy for you. Some of our manufacturers even have extended comfort guarantees, so you know you’re purchasing the best work shoes for your needs.

Just because your feet need a little extra wiggle room, doesn’t mean you should have to forfeit protection and comfort. We can help!

Quad City Safety Has Your Back...and Your Feet Covered.

Buying protective footwear can feel complicated, but not when you have a team of boot specialists at your beck and call. Quad City Safety understands what you need to stay safe. How? Because we’ve been keeping the American workforce safe for over 50 years. You tend to learn a thing or two about protection. We’re not just going to try and sell you on the latest fad. We want you in the boots that keep you safe and get the job done.

If you weren’t able to find the right boots to meet your needs, you don’t have drive yourself crazy searching. Just give us a call or click on this button to schedule a consultation with us. We’ll talk about the work that you do, specific hazards you face and then determine the best safety shoe or boot that’s right for you!

We were hell bent on making this experience as easy as possible for you. So, we have return policies and manufacturer warranty programs that allow you to purchase a boot and return it if it’s not the footwear for you. Whether for size or comfort, we’ll get you squared away. Click here to review our return policy.