15 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.

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.  

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Last Updated: April 22, 2018
By Alanna Elia:

The recent updates include the addition of five more of the best firefighter boots on the market. We have also reviewed and updated the original products to ensure that we are representing the most up-to-date and relevant information. Additionally, we have added a 'Terminology' section which highlights and defines some of the most used terms from this page.

Bates Ultra-Lites
  • Bates Ultra-Lites
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Size Zip
  • Price: See Here
5.11 A.T.A.C. Shield
  • 5.11 A.T.A.C. Shield
  • 4.4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Shock Mitigation System
  • Price: See Here
Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0
  • Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Slip Resistant Outsole
  • 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.

 

15 Best Firefighter Boots

 

1. Bates Ultra-Lites Side-Zip

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 footbed insole

Lightweight and comfortable

Made from ballistic nylon

Slip resistant outsole

Cons

Replacing laces is suggested

2. 5.11 A.T.A.C. Shield

To continuously meet the demands of tactical and law enforcement professional operators, 5.11, Inc developed a tactical boot that could enhance their speed, mobility, accuracy, and safety, all while providing them with the durable features their high octane situations required. The combination of leather and nylon construction give them a polished but durable appearance, while a patented shock mitigation system and reinforced heels and toes make them highly functional. Lastly, they are incredibly comfortable, which means even after a long day being a hero, you won’t want to take them off.
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Durability
Made of full grain leather and nylon, these boots are tough but also breathable, and after a few times wearing them they’ll start to conform to the shape of your feet. They have a moisture wicking lining to keep your feet cool, and its antibacterial properties mean they’ll stay fresh and dry no matter how many hours you wear them. The YKK zipper hardware found on their side zip ensures the best degree of stability, while their stay-tied sausage laces won’t unravel when the pressure’s on.

Comfort
The 5.11 Shock Mitigation system of shock absorbent padding means long-lasting joint value, while the hypertext lasting board and cushioned insole provide enduring comfort. Generous open cell foam cushioning that extend the 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.

Cost and Value
The 5.11 ATAC, 8-inch boots, are top of the line in the market of tactical boots regarding performance and quality, and as firefighter boots, they can be worn in the station with confidence that their attention to mobility, accuracy, and safety means the best possible reactions for first responders in a crisis. For the same price as anything offered by the Bates brand but with the added benefit of a wide variety of features, including moisture wicking/antibacterial lining, the 5.11 Shock Mitigation system, and heel and toe reinforcement, they provide more bang for your buck.
Pros

5.11 Shock Mitigation System

Moisture wicking/antibacterial lining

Heel and toe reinforcement

Lots of extra cushion

Affordable

Very comfortable

Durable

Cons

Don't hold a polish well

3. Under Armour Stellar Tactical

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

4. Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0

4. 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 for added support

Affordable

Cons

Non-certified

5. Rocky Duty Alpha Force

5. Rocky Duty Alpha Force
Though similar in appearance to several other high top boots, the Rocky Duty Alpha Force boots carve their own niche in the market of tactical boots used by firefighters and first responders. For one thing, it weighs only 2 pounds as opposed to the Bates or 5.11, Inc choices which weigh in at 5. This gives it a lighter, more comfortable feel similar to the Under Armour Stellar Tactical boot. They also offer superior waterproof protection, which Rocky recommends you spray with silicone to keep in superior shape.
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Waterproof
Other boots may claim to be waterproof, but they’re water resistant. The Rocky Duty Alpha Force boot features a waterproof inner layer along with its waterproof outer layer of leather and nylon. The waterproof layer covers the entire extent of the boot from outsole to collar. This sort of footwear protection is ideal for a firefighter where copious amounts of water are almost as ubiquitous as massive amounts of flames.

Functionality
The outsole is slip resistant like many tactical boots, but where most of those are resistant to different types of surfaces, these are slip resistant to oil, grease, and other viscous fluids. Inside, the Alpha’s are lined with moisture-wicking fabric to keep your feet dry and cool, as well as a removable Black Airport footbed so you can adjust your level of comfort.

Cost and Value
While being slightly more expensive than the average tactical boot, the Alpha’s offer superior waterproof protection and functional comfort for their price point. Their round toe design, smooth lines, and engraved shield crest also give them a smart look. The slip-resistant outsoles, especially where viscous fluids are concerned, make them perfect for environments where there are oil and grease fires.
Pros

Waterproof

Removable Black Airport insole

Non-slip

Oil resistant outsole

Comfortable

Composite safety toe

Cons

Stiff and Heaver Upper

6. Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air Side-Zip

6. Original S.W.A.T. Metro Air Side-Zip
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

Run a little bit bigger than normal

7. 5.11 Company 2.0

7. 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 liner

Climbing lugs

Cons

Not waterproof

8. Danner Striker II EMS

8. 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

9. Thorogood Gen-flex

9. Thorogood Gen-flex
The Thorogood Gen Flex offers a leather upper and rubber outsole for superior traction on a wide range of surfaces. Its shaft measures in at 8.5-inches, and the platform is 1-inch. The Gen Flex is a durable ankle boot that features an oil-tanned leather upper and a smooth, shiny toe cap and heel counter. Its removable PU footbed boasts EVA cushion flex technology for top-notch support and comfort.
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Construction
These Thorogood boots feature Goodyear welt construction which is the strongest welt method there is. This form of construction will outlast all the rest and is made for use in areas of rough terrain and hazardous exposure. The Gen Flex is one tough boot made with a 100% leather upper and composite shank these boots will work as hard as you do while helping to keep you comfortable and dry.

Comfort
Made with a removable PU footbed that boasts EVA cushion flex technologies, the Gen Flex is a comfortable boot. It features a composite shank for additional support, and its thick lugged rubber outsole adds another level of supportive stability.

Cost and Value
These boots are some of the least expensive on the list, which is difficult to believe considering the level of quality these bring to the playing field. Sturdy and long-lasting Goodyear welt construction paired with a non-slip rubber outsole and oil-tanned leather upper are just a few of the prestigious benefits these boots have to offer.

Pros
  • Leather Upper
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Goodyear Welt Construction
  • 8.5-inch Shaft
Cons

Heavy

10. Viking Footwear Firefighter

10. Viking Footwear Firefighter
The firefighter boot that most closely resembles what a firefighter would wear, Viking Footwear’s Firefighter WP is a solid rubber black and yellow boot with stirrups, chemical resistant construction, and is flame retardant. While appearing like a beast of a boot, too bulky and cumbersome to have any real maneuverability, they are surprisingly comfortable and lightweight for their size. They weigh no more than your average high top boot (about 5 lbs) while going to the knee.
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Functionality
The rubber upper of these boots is extremely durable, resistant to chemicals, abrasions, oils, and flame. The chloroprene rubber outsole is heat resistant as well. It has a 14” tall shaft that protects your entire shin area, and a steel midsole that protects against penetration and provides maximum footstep protection.

Comfort
These are a slip-on boot that feels like a lace up. Their vamp and leg are lined with felt to make them more comfortable and to afford thermal insulation. Your heel and tendons are protected by a reinforced backstay, and they have an ergonomic orthotic insole. Though they may at first look like they’d be roomy, they fit quite snug. These boots are ultra flexible, exceeding a 305,000 flex rating. They move with the motions of your feet, all while providing incredible arch and ankle support.

Cost and Value
These boots are perfect for regular, auxiliary, and forest firefighters. Their all rubber construction is flame retardant and chemical and oil resistant. The steel shank midsole offers penetration protection and support, while the boot itself is extremely flexible with a 305,000 flex rating. A big high top boot that fits like a lace up but is actually a slip on guarantees a snug wear that will help your maneuverability, accuracy, and ensure you’re kept safe.
Pros

Flame Resistant

Oil / Chemical Resistant

Slip / Spill Resistant

14” rubber shaft

Ergonomic orthotic insole

Cons

Very Firm Upper

11. Danner Wildland

11. Danner Wildland
The Danner Wildland tactical firefighter is an NFPA certified boot, styled after an alpine hiker it's both lightweight and supportive. Its made from fire-resistant and durable leather and it's breathable mesh lining allows adequate air flow to the foot. These handcrafted boots are complete with a reinforced opanka stitch construction that offers a superior bond between the outsole and upper of the shoe. The Wildlands tough Vibram S587 outsole is made to withstand oil and is slip resistant even on rugged terrain.
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Fire Resistant Leather Upper
The Wildland features a chemically treated leather upper which is fire resistant and naturally long-lasting. It also boasts a Vibram S587 Fire and Ice outsole that is perfect for rugged terrain and offers oil and slip resistant that gives superior traction even in extreme cold and hot environments.

WTF Platform Construction
The Wildland offers optimal stiffness and provides stable underfoot protection. The combination of a full-length polypropylene board and integrated steel Shank gives maximum stability and support even in the harshest conditions.

Cost and Value
While the Danner Wildland is not the cheapest of boots, it undoubtedly features high-quality craftsmanship and will stand up to the test while working under extreme heat conditions. It's fire resistant leather upper, and sturdy long lasting Vibram outsole makes these boots the perfect option for any fireman in need of a reliable and secure pair of footwear.
Pros
  • NFPA Certified
  • Vibram S587
  • Fire Resistant Leather
  • Oil & Slip-resistant
  • Steel Shank
Cons
  • Expensive

12. Chippewa EH

12. Chippewa EH
The Chippewa EH is an 8-inch waterproof boot that features a sturdy steel toe for excellent protection. It's both comfortable and durable while providing a safe working environment and features 400-gram Thinsulate insulation which keeps heat in and cold out. These Chippewa boots feature Drilex® lining and a Texon® waterproof insole, along with a Vibram® Cascade Yellow Plug Logger outsole that offers superior traction on any terrain. Goodyear welt construction makes this boot a tough-as-nails and durable option for any firefighter.
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Weather Resistant
The Chippewa EH features 400-gram Thinsulate insulation that works hard to keep heat in and cold out. The EH comes complete with a Texon® waterproof insole and a Vibram® Cascade Yellow Plug Logger outsole that offers unparalleled traction on the slipperiest of surfaces.

Construction
Built using Goodyear welt construction, the toughest welting available, these boots are made to outlast all the rest. Sturdy, stable, and long-wearing, the Chippewa EH is a solid boot for firefighters to wear.

Cost & Value
The Chippewa EH is a relatively low-cost boot for firefighters. It is considerably lower-priced than some of the options on the list but delivers the same standard of quality as the higher-priced competitors. These boots feature 400-gram Thinsulate insulation, a Texon® waterproof insole, and a Vibram® Cascade Yellow Plug Logger outsole that offers superior traction on any surface. These Boots are built to last with durable Goodyear welt construction and sturdy steel toe protection.
Pros
  • 400-gram Thinsulate
  • Vibram® Cascade Outsole
  • Goodyear Welt Construction
  • Drilex® lining
Cons
  • Intricate Lacing

13. Oliver 45 Series

13. 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

14. Scarpa Fuego

14. 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

15. Redback Outback

15. Redback Outback
The Outback features a slip-resistant Mark ll outsole that’s machine tested for slip-resistance against oil, acid, and water. An anatomic support system hugs the foot to reduce pain in the arch and legs as well as limiting fatigue and strain. The Outback meets and exceeds ASTM F2413 - 11 standards for electrical hazard safety, and its designed with a steel safety cap for superior impact and compression safety.These Boots are favorite among police, EMTs, and firefighters.
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Steel Safety Cap
The Outback features a steel safety cap which meets be ASTM F2413-11 standards for impact and compression. These boots Are durable and have a solid and sturdy design to keep you well protected while working in a hazardous environment.

Anatomic Sole
Redback’s unique anatomic support system cradles and hugs the contours of your foot reducing arch and leg pain as well as preventing fatigue. These boots make long hours on your feet less grueling and will keep your sharp on your toes.

Cost and Value
The Redback Outback is a reasonably priced pair of boots that our favorite among police EMTs and firefighters. These comfortable and supportive boots are designed for maximum protection while working in a dangerous environment and feature a slip-resistant outsole tested against oil, acid, and water.
Pros
  • Mark ll Outsole
  • Anatomic Support
  • Meets Safety Standards
  • Steel Safety Cap
Cons
  • Heavy

That concludes this list of 15 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 eventthough 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.

Extreme Conditions/Protection

best firefighter boots- extreme conditions-durability

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 to 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.

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, powerlines, 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.

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
  • 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.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: What’s the difference between wildfire firefighters boots and station firefighter boots?
A: Wild 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.

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 in 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.

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.

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.

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 foot rests 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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