According to OSHA, common foot injuries at the workplace include amputation of the toes or feet, punctures of the soles of the foot, cuts, burns, electric shock, and sprains due to slips. All of these injuries could be minimized or even prevented if workers wore proper boots.
More importantly, employees need to know when to replace their shoes so the pairs maintain their integrity and function. So, how long should work boots last?
The average lifetime of a work boot ranges from 6 to 12 months, depending on its quality, frequency of use, maintenance, and many other factors. Below, we’ll break down these elements and reveal pro tips to lengthen your boots’ lifespan.
Table of Contents
- How Long Should Work Boots Really Last?
- How Often Should You Replace Work Shoes?
- How Do You Know When You Need New Shoes?
- Ways to Make Work Boots Last Longer
How Long Should Work Boots Really Last?
In general, work boots can last from 6 to 12 months. This period is not when they are completely worn out, but when they lose their integrity and are not as protective as they used to be.
Unlike your daily shoes, work boots must be discarded when they show any considerable damage, such as leaks, shabby outsoles, or loss of sturdiness.
There isn’t one specific answer for the lifespan of work boots, but below are several factors that influence how long your shoes can survive:
One determinant of your boots’ lifespan is their quality. Top-quality boots made with full-grain leather and Goodyear Welt construction will outlast those with cheap craftsmanship.
For example, while regular shoes might only withstand six months of severe working conditions, Cowboy Ariat work boots can last from 5 to 15 years. They are super comfortable and durable, and their seams and soles won’t tear even when worn 8 to 10 hours a day.
Different materials will have different lifespans. For example, you can expect leather boots to last more than six months for construction workers.
Suede boots might only survive four to five months under harsh working conditions, and rubber soles can last for about four to six months.
3. The distance you walk in the boots
The more you walk in a pair of shoes, the faster it will deteriorate. So, if you work as a restaurant server, mailman, or porter, your work boots will expire sooner than others. Under normal conditions, the mileage of work shoes is 300 to 500 miles.
The wrong shoe size will cause you discomfort and wear out faster. For instance, loose shoes that cause heel slippage might hit the floor with a higher impact each time you walk, which makes the sole deteriorate quickly.
When you get new shoes, don’t just grab the same size that you have been wearing. Always try on several sizes to find the one that suits you most. The longest lasting boots are the pairs that you feel most comfortable wearing.
5. Whether you rotate your footwear
An active person produces approximately eight ounces of foot sweat daily, which is enough to turn a pair of shoes into a house of bacteria, odor, and fungus.
If you rotate between two pairs of work boots, each can dry out properly after each use. This will help extend the shoes’ lifespan.
6. The type of surface you often walk on
Rougher surfaces create higher friction when you walk on them, which makes your shoe soles wear out faster. If your job involves carrying heavy loads on uneven terrain, your outsoles might become shabby earlier than those of someone who works in a store.
7. Exposure to heat, dirt, moisture, and harsh chemicals
Elements such as heat, dirt, chemicals, and moisture can all cause your footwear to deteriorate sooner. So, try to avoid them. Always store your shoes away from the bright windows, untie them after wearing so they can air out, and dry them properly if they get wet.
The last thing that affects your boots’ lifespan is how well you maintain them. Well-maintained boots always last longer.
Instead of ripping the shoes off your feet after a workday, untie them and gently take them off. You should also clean them regularly and apply care products afterward.
How Often Should You Replace Work Shoes?
Despite how expensive your work boots are, they will reach their retirement age eventually. There are no boots that last forever. Some manufacturers recommend wearers switch shoes after two years of medium-duty work, but that depends on multiple factors.
Here are the lifespans of some popular models and brands people discuss on Reddit:
- Timberland boots Pro series: two years
- Keen work boots: two to three years (or 400 to 450 miles)
- Moc Toe Thorogood boots: 18 to 24 months of hard wear
- Danner work boots: over two years
- Carolina loggers: less than six months
A good rule of thumb is to inspect your work boots regularly and discard them when their integrity is compromised. Worn out work boots are no longer as protective as they once were.
How Do You Know When You Need New Shoes?
It’s impossible to accurately predict the expiration date of your work boots, but you can check for these signs to know whether you need to replace them.
1. Visible wear and tear
Most work shoes are discarded due to physical damage signs. Here’s a checklist to go through when you inspect your pair:
- Toe cap: The toe cap is a protective reinforcement inserted in the toe area of a shoe. It guards against impact from falling objects, compression, and cuts from running equipment. When it shows dents or cracks, you should immediately replace the shoe.
- Outsole: The shoe’s heel and tread are crucial for grip, waterproofing, and slip resistance. If water permeates through your shoe sole or surfaces feel more slippery than they used to be, check the outsole and consider a replacement.
- Metatarsal guard: When an impact has occurred, you should replace your metatarsal guard boots. The reinforcement might have weakened and won’t be able to protect you next time an incident occurs.
2. Water and chemical-resistant ability
The waterproof layers on shoes can wear out over time. When you feel like moisture can penetrate your shoes, change them. Wearing unreliable water-resistant boots can be extremely dangerous, since the feature affects the shoes’ electrical hazard insulation.
Water can also enter your shoes via leaky seams, cuts, cracks, and punctures. Inspect your pair regularly for these signs of deterioration. If the impaired area is minimal, you can sew it or try an adhesive.
But if it is beyond repair, you need new shoes, especially when your job involves dealing with hazardous chemicals.
You should hold the boot shoe lace up and bend it to see if the toe touches the heel. If they touch easily, your boot has lost its sturdiness and should be replaced right away.
Ways to Make Work Boots Last Longer
When you take well care of your work boots, they can reach their maximum potential. Well-maintained boots can last up to 36 months while maintaining all their protective functions perfectly. Follow these tips!
1. Have your boots repaired periodically
If only one part of your boot is showing signs of damage, you can have it repaired instead of purchasing new shoes.
Steel toe boot repair, steel toe replacement, and replacement work boot soles are services that many brands offer. You can also change insoles in work boots when they lose their softness and support, which might be every six months.
2. Clean and condition your shoes
You should clean your shoes regularly following the manufacturer’s instructions. For instance, if you wear rubber boots on muddy terrain, make sure to spray off the grime with a hose after each use.
Cleaning work boots frequently will prevent bacteria and odor from developing and keep the boots functioning at their best. Doing so also helps you spot any deterioration more easily.
If you own a pair of leather boots, don’t forget to apply leather conditioner or mink oil after washing them. Regular conditioning will improve the durability of the material.
However, don’t expect your work boots to last over three years. Though many pairs are incredibly durable, they can’t withstand extreme hazards after three years of constant wear. Lifetime boots just don’t exist.
To sum up, how long should work boots last? A pair of protective shoes can last up to 36 months if it’s high-quality and given proper maintenance.
On average, a foot injury costs around $17,000, including the loss of productivity and wage, medical costs, and other uninsured expenses. So, find the work boots that suit you, wear them properly, and replace them when you need to. Thank you for reading!
Veronica is our content editor. She is a talent in delivery. Her main work is editing and writing articles that are both informative and simple to follow. She is in charge of synthesizing our understanding of what personal protection equipment (PPE) is needed in each job, how to best apply it, and how to visualize that equipment.