Best Firefighter Boots Reviewed & Rated for Performance

For a firefighter, every day on the job presents a myriad of hazards. To be adequately protected from the constant dangers associated with this challenging profession, a highly-rated and well-manufactured pair of boots is required.

Last Updated: August 6, 2018
By Tony Skye:

The recent update reflects the best of 2018’s firefighter boots of all types, shapes, sizes, colors, with new information as to how to choose the best firefighter boots and our criteria for evaluation. Also, included are some of the most frequently asked questions about firefighter boots.

Firefighters need protection from high-temperatures and heat, rough terrain, slippery and wet conditions, punctures, falling debris, and more. It’s also essential that these boots allow for ease of movement and proper agility, so they don’t slow you down. A fireman needs to be able to move without hesitation as one split-second delay can mean the difference between a life or death situation.  

Featured Recommendations

Bates Ultra-Lites
  • Bates Ultra-Lites
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Size Zip
  • Made from Ballistic Nylon
  • Price: See Here
Under Armour Stellar
  • Under Armour Stellar
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Waterproof
  • 900D Nylon Upper
  • Price: See Here
Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0
  • Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Slip-resistant Outsole
  • Removable EVA Insole
  • Price: See Here

The brave men and women who work in the fire department are modern-day heroes! They’re the ones who run into a burning building while everyone else is running out and who risk their own lives every day to save total strangers. It takes a specific piece of footwear to adequately protect these brave individuals against all those dangers which is why we have made this list, after careful research, of the very best firefighter boots available, to help you narrow down your search for a new pair of boots to wear while battling a deadly blaze.

 

10 Best Firefighter Boots

 

1. Bates Ultra-Lites

When the alarm sounds and the station becomes a teeming swirl of action, firefighters need a firefighter boot that is easily removable so that they can get into their protective wear as quickly as possible. The Bates Ultra-Lites 8 Inches Tactical Sports Side-Zip allow for the most efficient way of managing this, all while being a sturdy, rugged tactical boot made out of high-quality materials and featuring slip-resistant outsoles.
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Functionality
High top work boots have the benefit of providing security and stability to the wearer’s ankle. A lace-up vamp and breathable lining make the Bates Ultra-Lites a high top work boot that is as stabilizing as it is comfortable. Its rubber sole and durable, slip resistant outsole make it perfect for the times when duty calls and every second count. They are also constructed of ballistic nylon so that they can take a beating.

Versatility
The Bates Ultra-Lites have a cushioned insert that is removable, making them uniquely modifiable depending on the surrounding temperature. For those that need it, the removable EVA footbed has shock absorbing pads and helps alleviate joint pressure. The rubber outsole is also 30% lighter than previous incarnations of tactical boots in the series, allowing for efficient movement in an environment that often demands a change of direction at a moment’s notice.

Cost and Value
The Bates brand is known for performance, durability, and quality. Their ballistic nylon construction, removable insoles, and light feel all in a classic tactical boot package give them the edge over the competition and make them the most in-demand firefighter boots at the station. For the great features you get with their product, they’re definitely worth the expense.
Pros

Removable EVA Insole

Lightweight and Comfortable

Made from Ballistic Nylon

Slip-resistant Outsole

Cons

Replacing laces is suggested

2. Under Armour Stellar

Under Armour is a name synonymous with high impact interval training and high powered workouts; a titan in the fitness clothing industry. The Under Armour Stellar Tactical boot upholds the standard of excellence associated with the Under Armour brand by providing a boot that is lightweight, durable, and comfortable. They are a boot that feels more like an athletic shoe, giving them an added level of versatility beyond a typical high top tactical boot.
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Durability
Waterproof and made from DWR treated leather and 900D nylon, the Under Armour Stellar Tactical boots have toes that can be polished so that after the beating they take hour after hour, day after day, any scuffs can be easily removed. The hardy material of their construction combined with durable rubber soles make them fit for a wide variety of terrain and environments.

Comfort
If you’re on concrete floors for 10 hours a day, these boots will save your feet. The dense station floor will no longer leave you needing a long soak after a long shift. They’re lightweight and well padded, the tongue having the cushion of a basketball shoe. The feel of an athletic shoe makes you forget you’re wearing tactical boots at all.

Cost and Value
Some wearers may feel that for the price of a high top model, they’re not getting as much boot with the Under Armour Stellar Tactical. What they lack in height or bulk they make up for in durable materials, lightweight construction, and comfort that feels more like an athletic shoe than a boot. Some wearers may prefer a low ankle boot as opposed to a high top, and Under Armour is the best choice.
Pros

Lightweight

Waterproof

Treated Leather and 900D Nylon Upper

Comfort of an Athletic Shoe

Cons

No side zipper

3. Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0

Like Under Armour, the Smith & Wesson brand is associated with excellence and quality. Branching out beyond the firearm industry, they have created a tactical boot that sets the standard for quality, durability, and affordability. Like the previous tactical boots mentioned, they are constructed of fine leather and nylon, as well as having a removable EVA insole. Where they differ is the addition of a steel shank in the midsole for support, and a gusseted tongue to keep debris out of the interior.
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Functionality
The rubber outsole is a unique design that prevents loss of traction on a wide variety of surfaces such as concrete, metal, wood, wax, and brick. This makes it perfect for the firefighter that has to quickly ascend a ladder or run through a building interior where smoke may be obscuring their vision. Not having to worry about whether or not your boots will be able to keep your feet firmly planted in a life or death situation means a firefighter can keep their focus on subduing any calamity.

Durability
The Breach 2.0’s consist of high-quality leather and nylon on the outside, with an interior of board-lasted construction that prevents foot fatigue and helps hold up the structural integrity of the boot. Unlike the Bates’ brand of firefighter boot, they have YKK side zippers, which last much longer.

Cost and Value
It was important for Smith and Wesson to bring a boot to the market that was less expensive than its competition but didn’t sacrifice any features. It also needed to uphold the Smith and Wesson brand standard for excellence and quality. The Breach 2.0, with the familiar features of other firefighter boots (like removable EVA insoles, leather and nylon construction, and nonslip outsoles), also contributed innovations like the introduction of steel shanks for added support and a gusseted tongue to keep dirt and debris out. For a high top boot of superior quality, you can’t beat it’s value and price point.
Pros

Removable EVA Insole

Non-slip Outsole

Steel Shank

Affordable

Cons

Non-certified

4. Bates DuraShocks

4. Bates DuraShocks
The heel and forefoot area have shock-absorbing pads which help to transfer energy. This, in turn, aids in giving you a day in comfort. In addition, the upper is made with leather and ballistic nylon; perfect for situations requiring heavy-duty action. A nylon side zipper makes for easy on and off and the rubber outsole is slip-resistant. These are, also, metallic-free and are undetectable in electronic environments.
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Ballistic Nylon Upper
This pair is one tough set of footwear. Made with leather and ballistic nylon in the upper, these are sure to last, even in the toughest of environments.

Bates Durashocks Technology
Comfort is important, as we all know. With this technology, the forefoot and heel areas have shock-absorbing pads to help transfer energy and, thus, lower load-rate.

Cost and Value
These are budget-friendly when compared to others on this list. Furthermore, they are made with high-quality materials and utilize stitch-out welt construction. They will last, in terms of performance and durability. Moreover, they are worth the purchase price.
Pros

Leather/Nylon Upper

Nylon Side Zip

Rubber Outsole

Bates Durashocks Technology

Stitch-out Welt Construction

Cons

Stiff laces

5. Danner Acadia

5. Danner Acadia
Waterproof GORE-TEX® linings work to keep your feet dry during those precious moments when you need to concentrate on the job at hand. In addition, the upper is durable with the 1000 denier nylon and full-grain leather combination. The Vibram® Kletterlift outsole handles well on both wet and dry surface types. Furthermore, with the stitch-down construction, you can be certain these will last for years to come.
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Tough Upper
With 1000 denier nylon and full-grain leather, you cannot go wrong with this tough-as-nails pair of boots, so to speak. The upper is durable and should last for years.

Wet/Dry Surface Traction
This is a rather important attribute to have in firefighter footwear. In addition to giving you stable traction on both wet and dry surfaces, the Vibram® Kletterlift outsole is thick and sturdy, as well.

Cost and Value
This footwear is at the high end of cost association when compared to the rest of this list. These are made for tough situations, and as such, they are built tough. Made with excellent components and technologies, this is a pair you want to add to your firefighter gear.
Pros

GORE-TEX® Lining

1000 Denier Nylon/Full-grain Leather Upper

Vibram® Kletterlift Outsole

Stitchdown Construction

Wet/Dry Surface Traction

Cons

Break-in period

6. Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air

6. Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air
Like Under Armour Stellar tactical boots, Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air’s are a tactical boot that feels like you’re slipping on a running shoe. One of the best boots for urban law enforcement and first responders working long shifts, they provide the stability and features of a high top boot with the added comfort of athletic footwear. They sport EVA midsoles, an airport friendly nylon shank for added support, and a uniquely visible “air cell” in the heel that absorbs impact.
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Durability
Since they have a double stitched upper of 3-ply bonded nylon thread, they won’t start breaking apart at the seams the way other high top boots can after the first few months of wear. The majority of their construction is made of leather, which can with a little help be polished to a shine, ensuring that they can always be made to look their best even after repeated wear.

Functionality
The custom molded phylon EVA midsole gives extra support and comfort, so even after being worn for long hours, your feet won’t feel fatigued. Unlike Smith and Wesson boots that have a steel shank inserted into their construction for added support, the nylon shanks inserted into the Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air’s are airport friendly and provide as much comfort and stability.

Cost and Value
Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air’s are incredibly affordable for all their features, most notably that they are a high top tactical boot that feels like a running shoe. The 3-ply bonded nylon upper, and leather construction makes them durable, while the molded EVA midsole and airport friendly nylon shank make them superior performers in comfort and stability. Polished up to a high shine, these boots will make quite the impression.
Pros

3-ply Nylon Double-stitched Upper

Athletic Footwear Feel

Airport-friendly Nylon Shank

Custom-molded Phylon EVA Midsole

Cons

Size runs big

7. Danner Striker II EMS

7. Danner Striker II EMS
The Danner Strike II EMS is designed with first responders in mind, providing them superior penetration protection from the fluids in their environment and any harmful chemicals. They are made from full grain leather and designed for maneuverability, safety, and durability. It has all the best benefits of a high top boot of its class, with durable traction that spans heel to toe, a sturdy side zipper, an outsole that is spill and slip resistant, a removable footbed, and a nylon shank to provide support and stability on long shifts.
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Functionality
Water, organic oils, bodily fluids, and blood are no match for the Cross Tech fabric of these boots, engineered to withstand all manner of hazardous waste. Their Gore-Tex leather is not only tough and durable, but it can also be polished to a high shine, which is preferable when you want your boots cleaned quickly. A Terra Force X Lite provides great traction and transfer of energy, and the nylon shank in the toe cap is non-metallic and thus easily maneuvered through metal based security systems.

Comfort
Not all high top tactical boots have a padded tongue and collar, but the presence of these features on the Danner Striker II EMS boot certainly makes them more comfortable as a result. Cross Tech fabric designed to provide penetration resistance also provides maximum breathability. The X Lite platform provides lightweight and durable traction, while the TFX Lite outsole gives you protection from foot fatigue. The lightweight non-metallic Pro-Tec toe cap resists the conduction of heat and cold.

Cost and Value
The Danner Striker EMS II boot is easily one of the most expensive tactical boots on the market. With its full grain leather and cross tech construction, engineered for superior penetration protection from hazardous wastes, and its TFX Lite outsoles that provide traction and prevent foot fatigue, it’s not hard to see why. The added benefit of having a protective toe cap that resists the conduction of heat and cold puts it in a league of its own. It is a quality investment in safety, comfort, and durability.
Pros

Spill-resistant

Slip-resistant

Removable Foam Insert

Cross Tech Lining

Puncture-resistant

Cons

On the expensive side

8. 5.11 Company 2.0

8. 5.11 Company 2.0
To some firefighters and first responders, being able to get out of their footwear and into their fire protective gear quickly is almost more important than any of the footwears’ other features. Never is this more easily done than with a slip on boot like the 5.11 Company 2.0. It features top of the line full grain leather, a synthetic sole, and a number of features that make it incredibly easy to pull on and slip off. It’s even oil and slick resistant, which is a feature previously only seen in high top boots
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Functionality
Though a small boot, it can still play with the big boots and hold its own. It’s leather, and synthetic construction is lightweight yet sturdy, and a “Quick Call” collar and kick plate make it easy to pull on or slip off. Its outsole is oil resistant, and its multi-directional tread provides excellent traction on slick surfaces. It has built-in climbing lugs which make it extremely good for scaling buildings and climbing ladders.

Comfort
Like the Smith and Wesson Breach 2.0, it has an injection molded Phylon EVA midsole, making it padded for comfort and providing extra cushion. It also has an antibacterial and moisture wicking liner to keep feet dry, cool, and itch-free, as well as an OrthoLite sockliner.

Cost and Value
The 5.11 Company 2.0 has a more professional profile than it’s high top tactical boot brethren. The fact that it can be easily removed or slipped on makes it great for first responders that need to change into protective gear in a hurry. It's designed materials make it slightly more expensive, but the added features such as oil resistant multi-directional tread, climbing lugs, and the presence of an OrthoLite sockliner set it apart from similar boots of its style.
Pros

Oil-resistant, Multi-directional Tread

OrthoLite Sockliner

Climbing Lugs

Anti-bacterial Lining

Cons

Not waterproof

9. Oliver 45 Series

9. Oliver 45 Series
The Oliver 45 series is heat resistant boot that is lightweight and absorbs shock from impact well. It's PU midsole makes for a comfortable work boot that is suitable for long hours spent on the job. The Oliver 45 is liquid-resistant, tough and long-wearing boot that features a SympaTex waterproof membrane that works hard to keep moisture out while allowing air to flow really. The 45 includes a composite toe and XRD metatarsal guard which protects the top of the foot from Impact and falling objects, along with oils, acid, and electrical hazards. These safety work boots meet ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 MT/75 EH safety standards.
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XRD Metatarsal Guard
PORON XRD® Metatarsal Guards are made sturdy and can dissipate up to 90% of energy from a high energy impact even though they are lightweight and thin in design. PORON XRD® is the newest material being used to construct metatarsal guards and is comprised of a microcellular, urethane, and open cell material.

Safety
The Oliver 45 Series is a shock absorbing safety work boot that features a composite toe cap and is resistant to impact, oil, acid, electrical hazards, and heat. These boots are made robust and will keep your feet secure and safe even in the hardest of environments.

Cost and Value
One of the lower-priced options on the list, the Olive 45 Series certainly doesn’t lack in protective features. These boots will stand up to the test and are made to last even in the harshest conditions.
Pros
  • PU Midsole
  • XRD Metatarsal Guard
  • Heat-resistant
  • SympaTex Waterproof Membrane
Cons
  • Toe may rub

10. Scarpa Fuego

10. Scarpa Fuego
The Scarpa Fuego is made robust and is ideally suited for wildlife firefighters. It features a durable and heat-resistant leather upper, along with a long-wearing Lugged Vibram® M4 Tech outsole that offers superior traction even on the toughest terrains. The mountain-styled boots have a gusseted tongue that provides an extra layer of protection and a secure lace-up closure system.
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Gusseted Tongue
The Fuego features a double tongue for a wholly snug and secure fit. Its gusseted tongue keeps trail dirt and debris out of your boot and away from your foot.

Durability
A durable leather upper can withstand tough trail work and provides the necessary traction for battle off-trail blazes. The Scarpa Fuego allows you to have peace of mind knowing your boots will hold up during the countless hours spent struggling in mountainous conditions.

Cost and Value
While these boots don’t come cheap, who wants a cheap pair of protective footwear anyway? These boots bring a bold level of protection and are designed for use off-trail on the most extreme terrain.
Pros
  • Double Tongue
  • Vibram Outsole
  • Mountainous Style
  • Secure Lace Closure
Cons
  • Heavier

That concludes this list of 10 of the best firefighter boots available today and hopefully, it has helped you to narrow down your search for the most appropriate pair of boots for your specific area of specialties. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that even though many firefighter boots may look the same and have some similar features, there are distinct differences that make them useful for specific purposes. Though some may have side zippers and removable footbeds, they may not both have a shank in their midsoles to protect against footbed penetration. One may be water resistant, and another entirely waterproof. Some may defend against organic oils and chemical hazards, but may only come in a lace-up model where a slip-on model is preferable. Depending on the sort of environment a first responder finds themselves in, a boots functionality depends significantly on what features set it apart. It is prudent to note the similarities, but more important to note the differences, because they may be the aspect that saves a life.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Firefighter Boots

Breathability/Temperature Regulation

While it’s true that firefighter boots need to stand up to high temperatures, it helps if they have a certain level of breathability built into their construction. Firefighters and first responders are depending on boots that are made from materials that can withstand high heat but also not retain it. This means that along with leather and other fabric choices that comprise their design, they might even have some mesh weave or insole technology that makes sure heat doesn’t get trapped inside the boot. Some of the best fabrics and materials to withstand high-temperatures are:

  • Leather
  • Rubber
  • Steel
  • Composites
  • Aluminum

According to performance standards, the soles inside surface should never exceed 111F if it genuinely has conductive heat resistance. A breathable lining makes boots stabilized and comfortable. Temperature regulation in firefighter boots allows for more maneuverability and ensures the responder won’t overheat in a time of crisis. This can lead to fainting, loss of vision, loss of equilibrium, and severe injury.best firefighter boots- extreme conditions-durability

Extreme Conditions/Protection

Fighting fires brings first responders in contact with hazardous conditions. Protection against flames is just one aspect of combating them when extreme high heat can melt metal pipes, make trees crack and explode, and warp concrete. Therefore, firefighters often favor a tall boot versus a short boot for extra protection along their calves, made from materials like the Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0’s ballistic nylon, and midsoles that are puncture and penetration resistant.

Any metal components to their construction, like steel midsoles or steel toes, need to be resistant to corrosion at high temperatures so that they can remain functional. Wildlife firefighters may even want a gusseted tongue to keep falling debris out of the interior of their boots, and reliable traction if their environment is uneven, rocky, or precarious.

In extreme conditions with the presence of different types of fluid, slip-resistant outsoles protect against oil, grease, pathogens, and other unusual substances that might impair a firefighter’s footing. Boots like the Danner Striker II EMS provides superior penetration protection from the fluids in their environment and any harmful chemicals. They’re designed for maneuverability and safety with Cross Tech fabric that was engineered to withstand hazardous waste.

Protective toe caps are also an essential aspect of a firefighters boot and are essential for protecting the delicate area surrounding the toes. There are several materials used to produce a toe cap including:

  • Steel: Steel toe caps offer excellent protection but can be heavier than other materials used, weighing in at between 80 to 90 grams. These type of toe caps are best suited for use in standard work footwear as they can be too heavy for use in sport styled footwear or for individuals who need to be quick on their feet while working.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum, or alloy, toe caps mimic the resistance and strength of a steel toe but weigh in around 30 to 50 percent lighter. Aluminum toe caps are thin and do not add any extra bulk to a workboot.  The only downside to this type of safety toe cap is that it lacks in thermal insulating.
  • Plastic: Plastic toe caps are a chunky composite style of toe cap that is not the best suggestion for use in heat-resistant boots as there is a chance of the plastic melting under high-heat conditions.
  • Composite: Composite toe caps are made without the use of metal materials and are made from either carbon fiber or fiberglass. Composites are suitable for firefighters boots because they offer superior thermal insulation and are highly effective against extreme hot or cold temperatures. The only downfall of these types of toe cap is that they are more costly than other materials.

Traction/Grip

Because firefighters can face a high number of unknown variables when it comes to their environments, having the reliability of superior traction and grip means that they can spring into action without worrying about their footing being jeopardized.

Boots that have rubber outsoles prevent loss of traction on a wide variety of surfaces, such as:

  • Concrete
  • Metal
  • Wood
  • Dirt
  • Mud
  • Rock

This means that whatever their environment is comprised of, the only focus the responder needs is on containing the situation and not on keeping your footing sure. Excellent traction and grip also mean that if a firefighter has to quickly ascend a ladder or run through a building interior, they won’t lose their bearing even if smoke may be obscuring their vision.

Weight

best firefighter boots- climbing ladder

Not all firefighter boots weigh the same, despite many of them having similar properties. Firefighters who combat wildfires usually want heavier, thicker boots because of debris and contact with the elements, whereas those in urban environments or around the station want boots that are lighter and slightly more maneuverable.

Boots made by 5.11, Inc, Bates, or Rocky weigh in the vicinity of 5 pounds, usually attributed to the addition of steel instead of nylon shanks in the midsole, more rubber along the outsole and sole, and more practical hardware. Original S.W.A.T. and brands that make boots that fit and feel more like athletic shoes tend to be a lot lighter, somewhere in the vicinity of 2-3 pounds, which allows for efficiency of movement when you have to change direction at a moment’s notice. Heavier boots also mean more work for the firefighter, who is already laden down with heavy gear, oxygen tanks, and has to still concern themselves with moving debris in extreme heat. Some of the lightest materials used in the construction of a firefighter boot are:

  • Leather
  • Rubber
  • Kevlar
  • Teflon
  • Carbon Composites
  • Nitrile

 

Shock Absorption

bottom of boot-best firefighter boots

Shock absorption is an aspect of the firefighter boot that wasn’t always a prominent feature, especially when firefighter boots were simple rubber slip-on boots that looked more like rain gear. Adequate shock-absorption is a crucial part of maintaining the health of our feet, legs, knees, hips, and back, if these areas are repeatedly exposed to high-intensity shock waves, they begin to deteriorate and will cause all sorts of aches and pains. 

It has now become a significant part of the overall design and construction because of its protection of a firefighter’s joints. Shock Mitigation systems of shock absorbent padding mean long-lasting joint health, while brands like Original S.W.A.T have put “air cells” in the heel of their boots that absorbs impact. Almost all modern firefighter boots have removable EVA footbeds with shock-absorbing pads, just like running shoes.

Comfort

best firefighter boots- tired firefighters

Comfort plays a critical role in the selection of a firefighter boot because most firefighters will be working long hours while standing on their feet, ducking, and crawling. Features like a hypertext lasting board and cushioned insoles provide enduring comfort, and when they wear out, they can be replaced.

Generous open cell foam cushioning that run the entire length of the footbed and collar ensure that no matter how long you have to be on your feet and what surface, they won’t feel fatigued. Padded tongues and collars provide a glove-like fit around your foot, as well as prevent ankle chafing over time. A lightweight Pro-Tec toe cap that resists the conduction of heat and cold means a firefighter can enjoy a regulated temperature inside their boot. A lightweight boot with less hardware can also mean less foot fatigue and less wear and tear on a firefighter’s joints and muscles.

Shock absorption is another key feature when regarding comfort. Tromping through muddy areas may not require it as much as running across a parking lot. But one thing is for certain, shock absorption is directly linked to your comfort levels, or the lack thereof.

Proper Fit

best firefighter boots- pair

Having an ill-fitting boot puts a firefighter at a greater risk for injuries, as the propensity for a firefighter to trip while in their gear is high. Not even taking into consideration downed trees, power lines, rubble, or the blurred vision that a firefighter might be facing at any given call, a clunky, loose boot is just one more thing that they don’t want to have to deal with.

That’s why so many brands now offer slip-on, bucket boots with stirrups, side zips, front zips, and a combination of laces. This allows a first responder to be able to customize the fit of their boot, by tightening or loosening one of the closure features at their discretion. Some modern manufacturers have even implemented standards like a double-stitched upper of 3-ply bonded nylon thread, that won’t start breaking apart at the seams the way other boots can after only a few months of being worn.

When fitting your footwear, ensure that you choose the end of your workday, as this is the time when your feet will be at the largest. In addition, you need ample room in the toe box for toe splaying. There are times when heavy lifting may be involved and the last thing you want is a cramped toe room area. Be careful, however, that it is not too roomy, per se. That is, you don’t want your toes slamming into the front of your boots after coming to a sudden stop during a run.

Consider the volume, as well. Depending on your foot type and conditions, thereof, you may need to add an orthotic to ensure better overall foot health and stability. Removable insoles are a plus, in this regard.

Terrain/Environment

best firefighter boots- environment

From descending sides of mountains to scurrying up ladders leaned against skyscrapers and apartment units, a firefighter never knows what hazards their terrain will bring. All firefighters will want sturdy boots with great traction, durable traction that is skid and slip resistant, as well as a component in the midsole like a steel or nylon shank that stabilizes the footbed. They should also be waterproof and made from treated leather and nylon, like Under Armour’s Stellar Tactical boots. When the waterproof layer covers the entire boot and not just the fabric portion, it ensures a tight seal against moisture (though some brands have built-in moisture wicking lining). This sort of footwear protection is ideal for when a firefighter is surrounded by the several tons of water needed to put out a fire, encounters muddy conditions, or is simply hosing off their boots after their shift.

Common features to expect on wildfire firefighter boots

  • Water resistant/waterproof materials
  • Flex cracking resistance – puncture resistance construction that ensures no portions of the boot will suffer flex cracking under stress
  • Toe impact resistant materials
  • Electricity resistance design
  • Soles, heels, and uppers designed to be puncture resistant

Common features to expect on station firefighter boots

  • It has built-in climbing lugs which make it extremely good for scaling buildings
  • Ladder shanks for ascending and descending ladders
  • Materials, especially along the seams and uppers, designed to be resistant to pathogens
  • Materials that prevent liquids from penetrating the fabric
  • Materials designed to be flame resistant
  • Traction and grip on the soles to be slip and skid resistant
  • A thread that is resistant to heat and won’t char or fray
  • Materials that are resistant to oils, animal fats, and other oleaginous substances

Flexibility/Energy Return

Since firefighters are often on their feet for long periods of time in varying terrain, it’s important for their boots to be flexible and have a lot of energy return. The degree of flexibility can vary, as some first responders will want a boot that fits tight against the foot and doesn’t leave a lot of room for bending so that the structural integrity won’t be compromised.

But if there’s no flexibility at all, and a boot can’t respond with the appropriate celerity the situation calls for, a firefighter might become injured. With a high amount of energy return, there’s less of a chance of foot fatigue and joint pain. Rubber boots, like Viking Footwear’s Firefighter WP, are ultra flexible, exceeding a 305,000 flex rating, which allows them to move with the motions of your feet and still provide incredible arch support, ankle support, and energy return.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: What’s the difference between wildfire firefighters boots and station firefighter boots?
A: While both the boots used to fight wildfires and those used around the station share many of the same features, where they differ tends to be in those areas that are dictated by the sort of environment they’re most often in. To fight wildfires, heavier boots are often favored because the more weight put into areas like the soles, outsoles, steel toes and midsoles shanks, the more durable they are. As the elements wear them down potentially more than station boots, they have to be able to withstand drastically varying temperatures, wind currents, rock slides, etc. Wildlife firefighter boots will often be taller, with more protection around the calf and shin, and be made from fine quality leather over rubber.

Station firefighters may find themselves climbing ladders, stairs, and so forth. As such, this footwear will tend to be lighter. This is to ensure you don’t become too exhausted during the climbs, especially in situations where you might find yourself in dire and urgent situations. The last thing you want is to tire down too quickly when there are two more flights of stairs to cover, so to speak.

Q: Are there specific standards for all firefighter boots?
A: Specifications of firefighter boot standards fall under the requirements in the NFPA 1977 Protective Footwear for Wildland Fire Fighting 2005 31DR Edition. They must be at least 10 inches high, measuring from the inside of the boot to the highest point of the boot where there technically continues to be liquid protection. There is also a range of heel breast angle allowed, between the heel and the sole. The NFPA requires a wide variety of sizes be made available to first responders to prevent discomfort and injury from ill-fitting boots. They are field tested by firefighters through wear trials, one of the best ways to get an accurate assessment of their durability and functionality. They measure the ease by which a firefighter can get through standard hazards or obstacles, and with what degree of difficulty.

Q: What brand of firefighter boots is the toughest?
A: Because firefighters face a variety of hazards in a plethora of different environments, there is no boot considered the toughest. Many have specific features for specific types of terrain and conditions, and therefore can’t be measured in the same way. However, there are specific features such as side zippers for easily getting them on and off, removable EVA foam insoles for maximum comfort and the reduction of foot fatigue, a shank in the midsole for arch support and stability, and many are steel-toed or water resistant. But they do come in a variety of heights, with a variety of closures, and in a variety of aesthetic styles, colors, and weights. The upper is likely to be made of ballistic nylon and leather. This helps to ensure a toughness factor, as it were. This is an ideal material combination and can, also, serve to lengthen the associated longevity, as well.

Q: Which is better: a nylon or metal shank in the midsole?
A: A shank in the midsole is helpful for arch support and also the structural integrity of the boot, providing stiffness along the footbed in front of the heel. A non-metallic nylon shank makes it easy for a first responder to get through metallic based security access points and is less prone to corrosion than a steel shank. A steel shank is superior at resistance in field tests, however. Again, this is one of those situations in where your environment will dictate the proper features. As such, the most common environment you face should be the guide ruler you use to choose between a nylon and steel shank.

Q: How long do firefighter boots last?
A: Because firefighter boots take a beating over time, and that various elemental and physical factors cause them to wear down, there are critical features put in place to prevent this from happening. They are designed with corrosion and penetration resistant materials, as well as waterproof exteriors and protection against viscous liquids like oils, fats, waxes, and even human-born pathogens. That being said, they will wear down over time, but a quality, durable firefighter boot should last you several years, where the only aspect you have to replace is the insole every few months. Also, the amount of action you see will determine the speed rate at which your footwear breaks down. For rural areas, some firefighters may only see action a few times a week; whereas, in urban areas, these men and women could be sent out repetitively in a single day.

Terminology

  • Outsole: The outermost sole of a shoe that comes in direct contact with the ground.
  • Ergonomic: Something which is adaptive to the environment around itself.
  • EVA: Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) is a manmade foam material that is lightweight and flexible making it perfect for use in various style of footwear.
  • Footbed: The part of a shoe on which the footrests and can be either fixed or removable.
  • Metatarsal Guard: A form of personal protective equipment that protects the upper top side of the foot from compression related injuries.
  • Mitigation: Lessening the severity of something.
  • Moisture Wicking: The process of pulling moisture away from the foot and drawing it towards the outer layer of the shoe.
  • Stability Shank: A stability shank is a part of a shoes supportive structure which rests between the insole and outsole and lessens the pressures on both the shoe as well as the foot.
  • Toe Cap: A protective piece added to the toe box of a shoe to further protect the toes from impact injury.
  • Vamp: Is the upper frontal piece of a shoe’s construction.
  • Waterproof Membrane: A thin layer of waterproof material that is placed over a surface to prevent water from penetrating it.

 

If you need to clean your firefighter boots, visit our complete guide on how to do so.

Maybe you need to make some small repairs to your boots? Here’s a guide for that.

Long day give you blisters? Here’s how to treat them.

If you find yourself dealing with corns and calluses, here’s a guide for that too.


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