What makes for the absolute best boot for a Construction Project Manager or Project Engineer? It really all depends on exactly what type of construction company you work for, what their company requirements are, what hazards you are around, and how “dressed up” you have to be. For many of us, and myself personally, our roles can change by the hour. Whether I am on the jobsite working through an issue with our superintendent, sitting in the boardroom with the Company CEO, or doing a little business development at a client happy hour, I need something versatile. That’s a boot that will not only perform on the jobsite, look great on a date night out, but also is extremely comfortable for those days where you end up on your feet for 12 hours and walking 30 flights of stairs because the jobsite elevator is broken down yet again. In general, I prefer the look of a pull on boot versus lace up. Everyone has a preference but I feel like the pull on look has a bit of a “dressier” look for trips to the office. Be sure to read to the bottom of the article for answers to some additional frequently asked questions. Here are my top 7 boots for a construction manager including my personal everyday wear.
1. Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc or Beckman Round
I’m going to start out of the gate with a two for one. Since Red Wing introduced the Moc toe in 1952, the Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc has to be one of the most iconic boots in America. The Beckman Round is a more stylish dress boot yet built to excel in all seasons. Taking more than 230 steps to build, the whole Red Wing Heritage line is still made by hand in America. From tanning the leather locally at S.B. Foot Tanning Company in Red Wing, MN to the cutting, fitting, lasting, bottoming and finishing the care is taken to ensure a boot that will last a lifetime. Both boots are also built using Goodyear welt construction, a process that dates back to 1869. This construction stiches a thin leather welt together with the upper and the insole creating a fully resoleable boot. Also a little know perk is that Red Wing has a free lace replacement program. It appears that they have stopped the online program due to people scamming the system but you should still be able to go into most (if not all) retailers and get a new pair of laces, once every 30 days. It really is no exaggeration when you hear of people having a pair of Red Wings for decades. Check them out on Amazon here: Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc or the Beckman Round.
2. Red Wing Style 2206
The Red Wing Style 2206, Dynaforce 6-Inch boot has to be one of the most popular work boots ever sold. Maybe you are a working Project Manager/ Superintendent, foreman or Field Engineer, then these are the boots for you. The 2206 are steel toe, waterproof, electrical hazard, insulated with 3M Thinsulate Ultra 400-gram and has the Red Wing Dynaforce technology. The Dynaforce insole system is designed to block underfoot pressure points by redistributing them evenly across the foot all while minimizing shock making for All-Day comfort. They even come with a 1 year water proof warranty. Check them out here: Red Wing Style 2206
3. Tecovas The Dillon
Maybe you are looking for something a little more unique. I love these exotics and the Tecovas company. They do things the old fashioned way, crafting each boot by hand in over 200 handmade steps. Their business model is to cut costs by selling directly to consumers and cut out the middlemen. This means a great top-quality product for about half of traditional retail. The Dillon is a striking exotic cowboy boot, featuring caiman belly hand-lasted in a timeless cowboy profile. An angled heel and signature Tecovas hand-corded calfskin shaft complete the elegant exotic profile. Check them out here: Tecovas The Dillon
4. Timberland Pro Direct Attach 6”
When you think Timberland you think of their famous 6” men’s work boots. The Timberland Pro Direct Attach have been adapted for on-site survival while not loosing the style that made Timberland a classic from the beginning. The Timberland Pro are waterproof and have 200 grams of Thermolite insulation. Check them out here: Timberland Pro Direct Attach 6″
5. RM Williams
Catch a pair of Australia’s flagship boots the RM Williams (established in 1932) in Kangaroo, one of the strongest leathers for its weight in the world. Roo leather is naturally soft and strong and is lighter, stronger, and more flexible than goat or cowhide. Kangaroo leather conforms quickly to the foot, wears well and does not absorb as much water as other leathers. The RM last features a classic chisel-square toe with soft toe cap, flat block leather heel, the iconic RMW tugs and elastic sides. They are just as comfortable and suitable for a wedding as they are the jobsite. Check them out on Amazon here: RM Williams
6. Ariat Quickdraw Western
These Ariats have been my go-to boots for years. I love the “Tumbled Bark” color and how they can be paired with either my jeans or khakis. While I have never owned a pair of Red Wings, these are the most comfortable pair of boots I have ever owned. I wish I could calculate the number of miles walked and flights of stairs climbed in these. They don’t do great in extreme cold but being from Texas these puppies let your doggies breath. Since I am indeed on a construction site most of my time I could inadvertently ruin a pair of boots so the price point on these is perfect for me. You can check them out on Amazon here: Ariat Quickdraw Western Boots
7. Muddy Boots
Okay. This isn’t actually a boot you can go buy off the shelf or off Amazon. Instead, it is something that you have the work at and may take years to fully understand. The best career advice I ever received, was on early on and from an old field superintendent who would heckle the young buck project managers. He told me the best boots a project manager could ever have was a pair of muddy boots. He explained that a project manager who just sat at his desk in the job trailer or much worse, one that sat at the home office all day, had no idea what was going on in the field. In his eyes, the best construction managers were the ones who would get out in the trenches with the guys and truly understand what their struggles were. The PM could then do what he needed to do to clear the obstacles for the field crews and ensure they had what they needed to succeed at their jobs. It is especially important for a younger project engineer to get time in the field to understand how things are built and the means and methods of construction. Years later my experience says that I have to agree that Muddy Boots are the best boots a Project Manager can have and those projects more often than not will have better team morale on the jobsite as well as fewer delays and quality issues.
Frequently Asked Boot Questions
Do you need steel toe boots as a project engineer, field engineer or construction intern?
Really this depends on the industry you are in, actual job duties and company safety policies. A good rule of thumb is if you are going to be spending the majority of the time on the job site, you should wear what the superintendents are wearing. There used to be to be requirements on many job sites to wear steel toes or safety toes, but in my experience, most sites now require only “Substantial leather” boots. I would always get something that is waterproof and is over the ankle to help protect from rolling an ankle as you walk on uneven ground. Pro tip for interns or entry level engineers: Don’t show up to your first day in a brand new pair of boots! A good pair of boots can take a while to break in and you don’t want to be going through that process while also trying to learn your new job.
How long does it take to break in a pair of boots and how to do it?
It usually takes a full month of everyday use to really break in a pair of new boots. The first few days, you will be thinking you made a huge mistake, as your feet will be killing you. However, with persistence, your pain will not be in vain and they’ll be the most comfortable shows you own. Here is an awesome video I’ve found that will help you break them and has some great Do’s and Don’ts.
Boots for Women with smaller feet?
Many women find it hard to find good quality boots. I used to work with a petite lady who had pretty small feet. She actually had a good pair of kids boots that she loved. They fit her great and was about half the price of anything else. I’ve heard good recommendations on the Danner Bull Run Moc Toe. The women’s line starts at size 5 and appear to be quality boot that’ll last.
How do you go from a dusty or muddy construction site to an important meeting?
I prefer Brown boots as, even shined, they tend to hide some dust and dirt. I only wear black boots for more formal meetings or events. I also keep another pair in the truck for those extra muddy days. In addition, most architects and engineers that I know will keep an extra pair of cheaper boots in the car or truck for site walks.
How long will a pair of boots last?
This too depends on what you are doing and the quality of your boots. There is no reason a decent pair of boots should last less than a year. With resoling, a pair of Red Wing or Irish Setter should last 8 to 10 years. I personally am a Project Manager and even with everyday use, my boots will always last years. I am about due for a new pair and my current pair of Ariats have been around for about 4 years. Cleaning your boots regularly and using a quality leather conditioner will definitely help your boots last as long as possible. I use the Bickmore Bick 4. It’s a great product that Conditions, Cleans, Polishes, and protects without darkening finished leather like a mink oil will.