How Do Waterproof Safety Boots Work? (Explained For New Users)

If you’re anything like most people on the planet, for that matter, or me, then soggy work boots can ruin your entire day, especially if you don’t have a second pair of work boots laying around.

That’s where waterproof work boots come in, aka the lifesavers of workers around the world.

a person going through a deep puddle of water wearing a pair of waterproof work boots.

Waterproof work boots work by making sure the boot itself is sealed without any holes where water can come through and then sprayed with a waterproof coating. 

But what exactly makes them waterproof? And can any regular work boot become waterproof?

That’s what I went on a mission to discover, and in this article, we’ll be diving into the answers you’re looking for.

What makes a waterproof work boot waterproof?

The term waterproof is used on many types of work boots, and by that, I mean you’ll find it on everything from rubber work boots to firefighter work boots to more conventional work boots.

This isn’t a marketing gimmick; it’s because manufacturers use varying degrees of waterproofing and different methods that don’t necessarily protect the entire boot.

A rubber or firefighter work boot, for example, is waterproof by design since it’s made out of a material that is impenetrable by water. Same with the boots that you’ll use if you pour concrete.

These types of boots are made to protect you not only from water but also from dangerous chemicals that can get into the boots and cause some serious injuries.

On the other hand, things are a bit different with leather work boots since manufacturers employ a variety of ways to waterproof boots.

Here’s what I found out in my quest to figure what manufacturers do to make their work boots waterproof:  

1. Gusseted tongues

The tongue is generally the first place where water will pour through in a work boot since it is separated from the rest of the opening.

On the other hand, a work boot with a gusseted tongue is attached to the rest of the boot at the sides and base to prevent water from leaking through any spaces.

2. Raised eyelets

Most work boots have holes for the shoelaces, which can let water pour in. On the other hand, raised eyelets are attached to the top of the work boots, removing the need for a punch hole that could let water pour in.

3. Water-resistant coating

The material used in constructing a waterproof work boot is pretty much the same as any other type of work boot…

…the difference is the finish.

Manufacturers use industrial-grade water-resistant sprays to coat the exterior entirely in waterproof work boots, including the soles.

4. Waterproof soles 

The water-resistant coating isn’t enough to prevent water from getting in through the sole since the sole takes on the brunt of a day’s work.

That’s why waterproof glue or stitching is used to make seam-sealed soles that prevent water from slipping in through any cracks.

Are leather work boots waterproof?

I’ve learned this the hard way when I was younger from mixing up my regular leather work boots with my waterproof ones, and sadly, the answer is no.

Why?

Leather is a porous material by design, meaning that water can soak through it just like any other fabric.

However, most work boots have some form of coating to prevent a few splashes of water from getting in, but that doesn’t mean a leather work boot is fully waterproof.

To give you a bit more context behind the science of it all, in hydrostatic head tests [1], aka the industry-specific test used to measure the degree of water resistance in footwear, waterproof boots tolerate at least 1,000mm of water pressure before leaking.

In water-resistant work boots, that figure goes down to 200mm.

As I’ve covered in the previous section, only a work boot that’s been coated with water-resistant material and is labeled as being fully waterproof can prevent your feet from getting soaked after stepping into a puddle or the like.

Are waterproof work boots breathable?

You might be thinking that since water can’t come into your work boots, then it can’t come out.

Rest assured, manufacturers have that covered.

Most work boots include breathable lining on the interior of work boots such as GoreTex that provides ventilation and lets out built-up humidity.

That means that you won’t have to worry about sweat building up throughout your shift. Here’s an example of good breathable work boots.

Can you make waterproof work boots that are not waterproof?

Yes, you definitely can waterproof non-waterproof work boots! (to an extent)

Whether your work boot was waterproof and no longer seems to protect your feet from water, or even if your work boot wasn’t waterproof in the first place, it’s pretty simple to get them ready for any puddle ahead.

Here are a few ways you can waterproof your work boots DIY style:

Editor Note

Make sure your work boots are clean first. Dirt and grime can prevent the waterproofing process from thoroughly coating your work boot.

Option 1: Use a waterproofing spray

Hold the spray can about six inches away from the boot and apply a thin coat. Some types of sprays require a second coating, so make sure to read the instructions first.

Fun fact: you can use good ol’ WD40 to waterproof your work boots, but only use it for dark-colored leather since it will leave dark stains on light-colored leather. It’s not ideal but many of us in construction do it.

Option 2: Use wax (for leather and suede)

Warm-up wax with a hairdryer and apply it to your work boots with a clean cloth. Remove excess wax and buff your boot to shine.

Option 3: Use mink oil

I’ve used mink oil for most of my work boots, especially leather ones.

Mink oil (liquid, paste, or spray) is not good only for protecting the leather and extending the life of your boot but it can do a good job when it comes to repelling the water from your boot.

The most effective product was the mink paste. I guess is because it’s thicker and not only penetrates the leather very deep but also creates a good barrier on the top of the leather.

Option 4: Use cream (for leather)

Use the applicator that comes with the cream or a clean cloth, rub the cream on the entire boot to get absorbed by the leather’s fibers.

With all these options, you might notice that your work boots will become slightly darker, so it’s always best to read the instructions of each product thoroughly to know what to expect and prevent any damage or discoloration to your footwear.

Once you’re done waterproofing your work boot, you’ll want to let your work boot dry completely.

Under no circumstances should you use artificial heat; leave them to dry at room temperature. Otherwise, you might cause the glue of your work boots to melt or loosen up, or worse yet, make the leather dry and crack.

What work boots are 100% waterproof?

This is where you need to be extra careful since many work boots claim to be 100% waterproof, but in fact, they’re only waterproof in a specific area such as the upper or outsole. Or in most cases, just water-resistant or water repellent.

The trick to finding fully waterproof work boots is to go through the description of each model to see if it specifies if it’s fully waterproof.

I’ve found this to be the only way to make sure that I get exactly what I want to avoid having to return a work boot.

Which by the way, is nearly impossible since it’s hard as is to replace a worn work boot, let alone a soggy one after finding out you got the wrong product.

If you’re into specific models, I’ve covered various top work boot brands and included waterproofing information to save you the trouble of sorting through categories on manufacturers’ websites.

Who makes good waterproof work boots?

There’s no shortage of work boots with full waterproofing or even partial waterproofing.

The list of models would be endless if I listed every waterproof model out there, or even simply my collection of waterproof work boots, so instead, I’ve gathered some of the best brands that make reliable waterproof boots for you to dive into.

Here are some great brands you should check out if you want quality water-free work boots:

The bottom line

If you get a chance to get a waterproof version of a work boot, you should go for it.

You can never tell when you’ll be stepping in something wet or even hazardous, so it’s always best to stay on the safe side and never risk exposing yourself.

Waterproofing isn’t just limited to specific styles of work boots, so you’ll never run out of models to choose from or additional safety options; plus, you get to have dry feet during a storm.

What more could a worker ask for from their foot’s first line of defense?

That’s it from me. See you in the next deep dive into a work boot feature!


External resources for extra reading

  1. https://www.gester-instruments.com/blog/method-for-waterproofing-fabric-hydrostatic-head-test-method_b3

Team Members Working On This Page

Victor Adrian – Editor And Webmaster

Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!

Jessica Flynn
Jessica Flynn – Writer And Researcher

Love technology, going to the beach, taking care of my body, and writing (amongst other things). You’ll see my face around here a little bit since I’m responsible for part of the research and writing of some of the articles you’re reading on BestForMyFeet.com. I hope you’ll find our content helpful and enjoyable! See you around, thanks for reading!


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