Work boots on test – which are the best?

There’s plenty to consider when buying a new pair of work boots, particularly if the old pair weren’t up to the job. Does more dollar get you a better boot? Will the cheap ones wear out? Heavy and durable or light and comfortable?

We’ve tried out a selection of lace-up boots, some of which you’re likely to find on the shelf of your local agricultural emporium. It’s not an exhaustive list – there are loads more boots out there – but we’ve also thrown in a few wildcards to spice things up a bit.

To get to the bottom of each boot’s virtues each one had to endure three weeks of solid farmwork, which varied from workshop welding to bedding the cattle. The test is by no means scientific – our views are wholly subjective – but it should give a good idea of how each one shapes up.

See also: Six impact drivers on test

Dewalt bootsDewalt Apprentice
Score: 6/10

Weight 696g
Steel protection Toe
Quality 6/10
Not of standout quality. Price seems steep – there is better on the market for less cash.
Comfort 7/10
The soles eventually settle in after a less comfortable first week. Wafer-thin sole has benefits where driving is concerned, particularly when compared with the heavy-duty Hoggs.
Durability 5/10
Lightweight design makes them a perfect summer boot, but sole is bonded rather than stitched to upper, which might peel apart and reduce life expectancy.
Grip 6/10
Sole short of off-path grip but rubber lugs run perpendicular to gain some hold on terra firma.
Price £64.99

Amblers bootsAmblers FS112 
Score: 4/10

Weight 725g
Steel protection Toe and midsole
Quality 3/10
Budget looks. Padded ankle supports protect sock line from Rhino-hide leather.
Comfort 4/10
It doesn’t take long for the uncomfortable innersoles to shift about. They’re also a faff to get on and off.
Durability  4/10
Laces lasted just a week before beginning to shred. The Amblers are also suspiciously light for a boot with a steel toe and midsole, but you get what you pay for.
Grip 5/10
Stiff soles take some perseverance to break-in but feel sturdier than the Dewalts. Like the other cheapies, the base is bonded to the upper section so may begin to crack and leak with time.
Price £27.50

Dickies bootsDickies Medway      
Score: 6.5/10

Weight 836g
Steel protection Toe and midsole
Quality 7/10
Hiker-type boot is a tough-looking cookie but gets zero style points.
Comfort 5/10
A very snug fit for a size 9, not helped by the well-spread lace eyelets that pull the dense insulation tight against the foot. They didn’t really loosen with time either, so it was three weeks of sweaty feet.
Durability 8/10
Heaps of rubber protection including a scuff-protecting toe cap and heel guard. Comes with a spare pair of laces, which is a bonus.
Grip 6/10
Art deco soles bonded to leather upper provide adequate, if unremarkable, grip.
Price £50

Buckler bootsBuckler B 301SM 
Score: 8.5/10

TOUGHEST BOOT

Weight 1,139g
Steel protection Toe and midsole
Quality 9/10
Uses quality materials and looks built to last, though lacked quick-lace hooks.
Comfort 8/10
Big and clumpy, but surprisingly comfortable from the start. It also had a good quality innersole – the bread and butter of any decent farm boot.
Durability 9/10
Does what it says on the tin – hard as nails. A scuff-proof cap protects the toe and leather upper is stitched to sole so should fare better in the long term.
Grip 8/10
Solid sole provides decent grip and protection from stones and sharp objects underfoot.
Price £68

Caterpillar bootsCaterpillar Generator          
Score: 8.5/10

EDITOR’S PICK

Weight 935g
Steel protection Toe
Quality 9/10
Top-notch materials with candy-floss-soft leather stitched to a fat-lipped sole.
Comfort 10/10
The most comfortable from the start. Two rows of quick-lace hooks make putting them on a doddle and, once on foot, felt like a pair of slippers.
Durability 7/10
The rubber lip stops water and muck splashing up but adds unnecessary girth, which makes them more clumsy than they need to be. The biggest downsides are the nylon tongue and laces, which were quickly frazzled by sparks from the welder. Don’t bother buying the Cats if you spend a lot of time in the workshop.
Grip 8/10
A flexible sole gives the wearer a bit of feel underfoot and is a better bet for driving.
Price £109.99

Hoggs-Saturn bootsHoggs Saturn           
Score: 7/10

Weight 1,139g
Steel protection Toe and midsole
Quality 8/10
Big, bulky and old-school, but clearly well-made.
Comfort 6/10
Very comfortable while sitting down, but felt almost unbearably heavy once on the move, despite weighing in the same as the Bucklers. Encourages a curious walking style because the wearer has to throw one leg in front of the other when hiking across the yard.
Durability 6/10
Laces lasted one week before they fell apart. Two rows of quick-lace hooks make them easy to put on, though.
Grip 8/10
Groovy, red soles provide plenty of grip and can be replaced if you really love your boots.
Price £54.95

Hoggs-Tornado bootsHoggs Tornado         
Score: 8/10

Weight  893g
Steel protection Toe
Quality 8/10
The Tornado is a good-quality boot at a reasonable price. Soft nylon inners make them comfortable from the start, but they don’t have quick-lace hooks. It makes them a nightmare to pull tight from eye to eye and a bit of a palaver to get on.
Comfort 8/10
Top marks go to the soft innersole. They are also far better sized and weighted than the lead-heavy Saturns.
Durability 8/10
Will stand up to most general farm work
Grip  8/10
Soles can be replaced if you wear them out.
Price £48.50

Dr-Martens Airwair bootsDr Martens Heath St            
Score: 6/10

Weight 1,048g
Steel protection Toe and puncture-resistant midsole
Quality 9/10
No shortage of good-quality materials, but it wasn’t reflected in the comfort score, where it failed to beat the budget Amblers.
Comfort 2/10
Waterproofing gusset between tongue and sidewall digs into wearer’s ankle and makes it near-impossible to get the laces done up tight without being in pain. The sole is more than an inch thick, too, so wearers are at serious risk of turning an ankle or, as we found, getting backache from the awkward standing angle.
Durability  9/10
Should stand up to the test of time if nothing else – there’s enough sole on the boot to last a lifetime.
Grip 4/10
Reasonable grip counts for nothing because the meaty sole and high heel means wearers will be tottering around the yard like a drunk nightclubber. Difficult to drive in, too.
Price   £95

Buckler-Buckshot bootsBuckler Buckshot    
Score: 7/10

Weight 945g
Steel protection Composite toecap and Kevlar midsole. No metal – ideal for an electrician.
Quality 8/10
The well-made Buckshot uses a combination of zip and laces to get the boot tight. It is the tallest on test, reaching well above the ankle to provide lots of support.
Comfort 6/10                       
The zip design didn’t work and we still needed to undo the laces to get them on/off. We also found it undid itself during the day, and the hunk of material protecting the wearer’s ankle from the zip mechanism ended up digging into the leg.
Durability 7/10        
No issues with durability, though the zip pulled open with increasing regularity as the weeks went on. Would have scored higher without the zip.
Grip 7/10                  
Tough sole provides hiker-style grip.
Price   £75

No-Bull bootsNo Bull             
Score: 5/40

BEST VALUE

Weight 1,116g
Steel protection Toe and midsole
Quality 4/10
Plain Jane boot for those shopping on a budget. Leather loosened up pretty quickly and made them easy to get on despite the lack of quick-lace hooks.
Comfort 5/10
Size and weight forced us to walk in a slow, lumbering manner, so don’t be surprised if the wearer starts clumping chair legs with his boots – they feel enormous. That said, they didn’t take long to wear in and were very comfortable given the price.
Durability  5/10
May not stand up to farm perils quite like the Hoggs, but a good, cheap option nonetheless. Beats the Amblers hands down when it comes to value.
Grip 6/10
Tough sole provides good, firm grip.
Price  £33.99