Choosing Footwear for Shop Use

Army boots? Flip-flops? It's a matter of personal preference, but here are some thoughts and observations. December 6, 2012

I've been a woodworker for over a dozen years. Early on, I would employ whatever pair of sneakers I was replacing with a new pair as my work shoes. This, I came to realize, was killing me. I wised up years ago and have since been buying shoes specifically for working in, but have yet to find a pair that hold up and are comfortable to wear all day. Any suggestions? Money is no object as I would gladly pay for quality and comfort.

Forum Responses
(WOODnetWORK Forum)
From contributor D:
When my son returned from Iraq with the Army, he gave me a pair of his spare military issue boots. They're made by Belleville and are the most comfortable boots I've ever worn. You can buy them online from Belleville for around $200.00. My shop has a concrete floor, and I can stand on it all day with no discomfort.

From contributor S:
Although I have not tried them myself, my employees and my son swear by Redwing products. They have work boots and work shoes. I have worn nothing but Merrells for the last 12 years and they are the best shoe I have worn.

From contributor K:

From contributor C:
I had a few pairs of wolverine Duraschocks for a while and they were decent to a point. Now I am on my second pair of Redwing boots and they are really comfortable. Takes a little time to break them in but I will buy another pair of Redwings for sure.

From contributor W:
I worked in the oil exploration industry and around drilling rigs we were required to wear steel toed boots. I bought a pair of Redwings, added Spenco work insoles (replaced yearly), converted them to Vibram yellow soles when I began chair making. I have been using them for 21 years.

I bought a second pair about 5 years ago and now alternate days. They are going strong and comfortable. Steel toes are totally worth it.

All that said, I spent 2-3 hours at the boot shop trying on 6-7 pairs of different brands, standing for at least 10 minutes (as I might in the shop) on their concrete floor. This is a significant part of your life so go for the best fitting. Redwing fit me best and Wolverine was close, as were Rockys.

From contributor N:
Shoes are a pretty subjective thing, but I got turned on to Dr. Maartens a few years ago and they are my choice of work shoe.

From contributor B:
I needed a new pair of work boots a few months ago. Tried everything in local stores but ended up right back where I started… with another pair of RedWings.

From contributor H:
You can get custom footbeds from an orthotic specialist. They'll scan your foot and CNC machine a perfect match from a block of foam. Fixes your foot, knee, hip and back pain in one shot and improves your posture. They go for around $400 cdn up here though. Funny, I did a kitchen for the owner and he thought I was expensive.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor G:
At age 70 I know something about feet that hurt. Folks, it is not the shoe, it is the foot and the circulation of blood that is the real issue. Get yourself some knee high compression socks. They're not pretty, but your feet will feel like you are 18 again!