Your choice of work boots are more important for your back than you might think.
As a construction worker your feet take a pounding during the working day.
Walking on hard, concrete floors, climbing up and down ladders, and standing for long periods all take a heavy toll.
And the bad news is that site work is not just hard on your feet.
It can also cause you big problems in other areas of your body, such as your knees, ankles and lower back.
And pain in these areas makes working so much harder than it should be.
But how can you avoid this if your working life consists of long and gruelling shifts on site?
Well did you know that by wearing the right footwear you can greatly reduce these problems?
In fact you could even get rid of them completely.
So read on and find out just how you can make your working day a lot easier by investing in the a pair of work boots that suit the tasks you need to carry out.
Why Is Wearing The Right Work Boots So Important In Preventing Back Pain?
There are two main reasons that wearing the wrong type of footwear can cause lower back pain:
- Ill-fitting boots can cause an unhealthy walking gait which leads to muscle imbalances, forces your body to compensate, and increases the strain on your lower back.
- Lack of arch support can throw your body out of alignment and jar your back as you walk, leading to back pain and possible disc problems.
Pretty worrying right?
Now it may be hard at first to make the connection between your feet and your lower back pain.
I mean, how can what is happening to your feet be a cause of back pain?
Well, when you view the body as a whole you can start to see the link.
Because our bodies are all connected parts of the same machine and each part needs to be working well to be able to function properly.
It's a bit like a car, where it seems that once one thing goes wrong everything else starts to go wrong too!
This is especially true with movement, as each step you take affects how the rest of your body moves along with it.
And to return to the car analogy, your feet act as shock absorbers for your body.
So when you wear boots that are lacking in support, each step causes impact pressure on your feet which resonates up through your whole body.
Jarring and jolting your lower back.
And if those boots don't fit properly it affects how you walk.
Which can throw your whole body out of alignment, causing you to adopt a bad posture and leaving your back strained and in pain.
So when buying yourself a good pair of boots for work it's vital that you make sure you:
- Buy boots that are comfortable and fit properly (in width as well as length). Your toes should have a bit of room to flex as you walk.
- Buy boots that have good arch support.
By following these two rules you are halfway towards a less painful day at work.
But you also need to buy a pair of work boots that are best suited to the tasks you most commonly do in your job.
"What Are The Best Work Boots For Me?"
This question is not always the easiest one to answer.
The problem you have is there is so much choice out there.
In fact it can be quite confusing and overwhelming.
So how can you know you are getting the right pair for your specific needs?
Let me help!
In the following sections I'll recommend the best work boots for you depending on what your working day usually entails, including:
I'll also give my choice for the most comfortable work boots for those who like their creature comforts!
So let's get started.
Best Work Boots For Walking On Concrete Floors
As a construction worker you are certain to spend plenty of time at work walking and standing on concrete floors.
And the impact of walking on such a hard, unforgiving surface can be extremely bad for your joints, feet and lower back.
Especially when you are doing it all day every day.
This is because concrete is made to be as dense, hard and unpenetrable as possible.
There is literally no give in it, and your body has to absorb the impact of every step you take.
And this doesn't just cause back, knee and foot pain.
It also leads to cramps and fatigue in your legs.
Bad news all round!
So to protect yourself from these effects from the concrete as you work, you need to wear work boots with excellent support that can absorb the shocks to your joints.
And a great pair that do this job well are the Timberland Pro Men's Endurance 6" PR Work Boot.
- These boots are built for endurance and are especially good for workers who spend long hours on their feet.
- They come with an anti-fatigue technology that absorbs shocks from the concrete, taking the pressure off your feet, joints and back.
- Shock absorbing cones minimises the impact of the concrete, reducing foot fatigue and muscle cramps.
- The contoured insole gives extra support to pressure points in your heels and balls of your feet that come under the most stress from working on concrete.
- Some people have reported that the soles on these boots didn't last as long as they had hoped.
Best Work Boots For Climbing Up And Down Ladders
If you are a sparky, a painter, or a window cleaner, then climbing up and down ladders all day is an unavoidable part of the job.
And while climbing up and down ladders can be fun, it can also be a cause of back and joint pain.
I'm sure we all know that feeling of aching feet and limbs after a long day on the ladders.
Personally I always sleep extra well when I'm painting exteriors anyway!
But climbing ladders doesn't just leave you feeling tired, it can also lead to serious injuries if you're not careful.
Because the long hours spent standing and balancing on the top of ladders can lead to back pain if you don't maintain a good posture or keep your core muscles strong.
While climbing up and down them all day can wear out your knees and ankles if you don't have the right support.
Also, with ladder work you are at risk of slips, falls and accidents if you are wearing the wrong footwear.
And no-one wants to be falling through the air like a drunken superman, right?
So if you are a regular on the ladders you really need to invest in a good pair of work boots that guard against these pitfalls.
Ideally a pair that offer great grip, support to absorb the shocks from climbing, and are comfortable and light enough to allow you to keep going all day.
And the ones I'd recommend for you are the Timberland Pro Helix Safety Toe Work Boots
- The support provided by the anti-fatigue technology helps to absorb shocks and keep your feet energised.
- The rubber outsole is slip resistant and provides excellent grip.
- These boots also come with a 'ladder lock' outsole radius, which offers extra grooves that make it easier and safer to climb the rungs.
- The lightweight construction means you are carrying less weight up and down, making climbing easier.
- They have a breathable mesh lining to keep your feet cool, dry and comfortable during a long day on the ladders.
- These boots tend to come up a bit narrow, so may not suit those with wider feet.
Best Work Boots For Standing For Long Periods
Now it may seem that by standing around and doing less work, your back should be under less stress and therefore be in less pain.
But unfortunately for the lazy sods among us, this just isn't the case.
Because our bodies are designed to move.
So when we stand in the same position for hours on end, pressure and strain builds and is applied to our joints and muscles.
Which leads to muscle fatigue in your lower limbs, and means your back has to take on more of the strain while at the same time getting less support.
In fact if prolonged standing is a daily part of your life it can be a cause of long-term lower back pain.
But don't despair as there are things you can do to protect yourself such as:
- Taking breaks every half an hour or so to move around and stretch your body.
- Shifting your weight from one foot to the other periodically to relieve tension.
- Making sure you maintain a good posture as you stand, and keeping your weight evenly distributed.
- Keeping your core muscles strong so your back has plenty of support throughout the day.
And another good idea is to use a pair of work boots that offer plenty of support and help to keep you balanced and comfortable as you stand.
Which makes the Timberland Pro Endurance Waterproof 6" Work Boot a great purchase for those professional standers among you.
- As the 'endurance' part of the name suggests, these boots were made especially for workers who spend long hours on their feet.
- The cement construction of the boots makes for top comfort and flexibility.
- Comes with an 'anti-fatigue technology comfort system'. Basically shock absorbing pads that take the pressure off your joints as you stand.
- Has a contoured insole that gives extra support to pressure points in your heels and balls of your feet.
- Did I mention they're comfortable?!
- Being made from cement construction and not goodyear welt they are not as endurable as other boots. However for standing that shouldn't be an issue.
- Not the widest boot, so may not suit those with wider than normal feet.
Best Work Boots For Shoveling And Digging
A long day spent digging and shoveling can be gruelling work at the best of times.
So the last thing you want to do is add back pain into the equation.
But unfortunately back pain is a common occurrence for men of the shovel.
Now there are many ways you can attempt to avoid this pain, such as these 10 things you can do to shovel safely without pain.
And another way you stay pain-free is by wearing the right footwear.
Because when you are shoveling it's vital that you wear boots that are solid, waterproof, comfortable and have a good grip.
This allows you to remain balanced, and gain good purchase as you perform the powerful digging movements.
And a great pair of work boots for this purpose are the Keen Utility Men's Pittsburgh Steel Toe Work Boot,
- They have a rubber outsole stretching right up over the toe that is oil and slip resistant. This gives these boots a great grip in all conditions.
- The waterproof uppers will keep your feet dry as you shovel.
- They are tough but comfortable too. The footbed is designed to contour to your feet and support you as you work.
- The solid structure means that it may take a few days to break these boots in. But after that they will feel supremely comfortable to work in.
Best Work Boots For Lifting
Not taking care when lifting things at work is one of the biggest causes of back pain amongst construction workers.
So if your job requires you to lift and carry heavy loads, first things first you need to make sure you are using safe lifting techniques to keep you fit and healthy.
But at the same time, what you wear on your feet can also go a long way in preventing any injuries.
For instance, boots with good support take the strain off your joints and your lower back by absorbing the shock as you lift.
And having a good grip means you get a good purchase during the lift and don't slip when carrying heavy loads.
You also want a comfortable pair as you are going to be on your feet all day.
So if lifting is a regular part of your working day I'd recommend you take a look at the Keen Utility Detroit Steel Toe Work Boots.
- The steel toe in these boots covers all your toes in case you drop something heavy on your foot!
- The footbed design provides excellent arch support.
- They are comfortable and designed in a similar way to a hiking boot, making carrying loads in them easier.
- These boots have a waterproof design but are also breathable, meaning your feet stay cool and dry.
- Oil and slip resistant.
- A lightweight and comfortable choice, important for long shifts.
- While great for factory work, not durable enough for heavier site work.
Best Work Boots For Driving
Driving all day for work can actually be one of the worst things you can do for your back.
Not only do you have to deal with long periods of sitting, you are also exposed to whole body vibrations from your vehicle.
And this combination can be deadly!
So if you are a trucker or a delivery driver, you need to be aware of this and learn how to keep your back healthy while driving.
And it is also vital that you wear the right footwear.
Now I know that some of you may like to wear comfortable trainers for long days on the road.
After all, who wants to end up with sore and aching feet every night right?
But while this is fine in the truck itself, it can become a big problem at other times as these trainers will be lacking in true support and good grip.
And both of these elements are crucial.
Because a big part of your day will be spent loading or unloading heavy boxes and pallets, and climbing up and down from your rig.
And you'll have to do this even in wet and icy conditions, which exposes you to a big risk of slips and accidents if you are wearing the wrong footwear.
So when driving you need to wear a work boot that is:
- Comfortable to wear during the drive.
- Supportive enough to absorb the shocks from loading and unloading.
- Equipped with a great grip that is effective in any conditions and on any surface.
And one that ticks all these boxes is the Timberland White Ledge Men's Waterproof Boot.
- Made with a soft, high quality, waterproof leather that will keep your feet dry.
- Has a rubber sole with multi-directional lugs, giving them a great grip on all surfaces.
- Rubber sole and lightness of the boots makes them easy to walk and climb up and down in.
- Breathable footbed will keep your feet cool and dry as you drive.
- Comes with a "BSFP" support system (brake, support, flex and propel) which helps to absorb the shock from lifting.
- Not really suitable for heavy use on site. For that you need something more sturdy and solid.
Best Work Boots For Comfort
If comfort is king for you, and your job doesn't involve as many heavy duties, then you can find some great boots to keep your feet happy throughout the day.
I must admit I've always been fussy about what I put on my feet, and can't stand wearing anything too stiff and bulky.
It just feels so much better when your feet are comfortable right?
And let's face it, for plenty of jobs on site you don't need the full bells and whistles in your work boots such as steel toes, rigid construction, and high fits that can make them uncomfortable.
So if that's the case for you, find a pair instead that are lighter, fit better, and allow your feet to relax and breathe.
And the good news is that you can find comfortable work boots without totally sacrificing support and grip.
Even ones that are good for your back.
One such example are the Timberland Pro Powertrain Work Boots.
- These boots come with an alloy toe rather than steel, making them lighter and easier to move around in.
- Cement construction makes them flexible for added comfort.
- They also come with a 'comfort suspension system' which comprises of cushions and great arch support.
- Comes with a breathable mesh lining, allowing your feet to stay cool, free of sweat and comfortable.
- Anti-fatigue outsole keeps your feet supported and energised throughout the day.
- They feel more like trainers than work boots!
- Not suitable for heavier tasks on site.
- Might need a short period of breaking in, but they become super comfortable afterwards.
When To Seek Out Expert Help From A Podiatrist
While getting a good fitting pair of work boots with good arch support should help most people reduce the pain and strain in their backs, sometimes you may need a bit more help.
This is because there are various conditions related to your feet and legs that can also be a cause of lower back pain.
And these may require the help of an expert to put right.
- Leg length inequality - having one leg longer than the other can cause muscle problems and imbalances that may require an orthotic shoe insert to correct.
- Bad posture - over-pronounced knees and ankles that face inwards or outwards as you stand and walk can put strain on your back and joints.
- Flat feet - can be a cause of back pain and needs special arch support in orthotic shoe inserts or boots to correct.
So if you think you may be suffering from one of these issues yourself, it's a good idea to see a podiatrist.
These 'foot doctors' are specially trained to check your feet, arches, walking gait and general alignment and will offer solutions to put right any problems they discover.
These solutions range from orthotic shoe inserts, custom-made boots, and adjusting your posture and walking habits.
Which will all help you to maintain a natural alignment and get your body working in balance as you walk and stand.
All of which will leave you with a healthier and happier back.
And if you want to try an orthotic shoe insert for your flat feet without visiting a podiatrist, check out Tread Labs who have a great range to choose from.
I hope you now have an understanding of just how important it is to invest in a good pair of work boots.
Long hours on site can be gruelling and wearing on your body.
And means back pain is extremely common among construction workers.
But by buying a pair of work boots that fit well, offer good arch support and suit the tasks you need to undertake, you can greatly increase your chances of staying pain-free on site.
Hopefully you'll be able to find a pair of work boots amongst the ones I've recommended that suit your needs.
Let me know how you get on and if your new boots have made a difference for you.
Resources used in researching this article: