Lace Up Versus Pull On Work Boots: (What Are The 8 Main Differences?)

If you’re wondering which pair of work boots is better, the slip-on or the lace-up boots you just landed on the right page.

If you’re after a quick basic answer, the most important difference between pull-on and lace-up work boots is that they have some different features that will be used for different purposes protecting you from different hazards.

For example, you can use lace-up boots to pour concrete. But is it safe? Not really! Because you need a chemical-resistant boot to protect your feet from wet concrete burns and that’s not the case with most lace-up work boots.

a man using a shovel to dig wearing a pair of lace up work boots and a women with a shovel using a pair of slip on work boots

So keep reading to find out what are the differences between lace-up and slip-on work boots and which one is best for different jobs. We’ll have a look at the differences in price and give you a few examples as well, and much more.

Let’s get into it.

What are the uses for these boots?

This is not a matter of lace-up work boots being better than slip-on work boots or vice versa. 

This is more a question of what are you going to use them for? What’s your job? Something along those lines…

…here’s what each one of these boots is usually used for.

What are lace up work boots used for?

Lace-up work boots are used by most workers, no matter the industry and what the job is.

From van and truck drivers to warehouse workers, construction workers to plant operators, and everything in between.

They are a great choice for anybody working indoors and in dry conditions. Also if you need ankle support you must go with a lace-up pair of boots. They’re much better than the pull-on boots in this case.

What are slip-on work boots used for?

Slip-on work boots are used much more when you have to work in wet conditions.

Personally, I prefer to wear a pair of rubber boots than a lace-up work boot when it’s wet and raining outside. 

Yes, the slip-on boots are going to be less comfortable, but at least you keep your feet dry.

This type of work boots is perfect for farmers, and people working in the oil and gas industry. Also a good option for those of you working in construction where there’s a lot of mud or even concrete pouring.

Different types of slip on and lace up work boots

Both types of work boots have a few variations when it comes to how tall they are. For example, when you shop around for any of these work boots you’ll find that they have different heights as you see in the table below.

The pull-on boots are usually taller. You can find many models that are knee-high and over sometimes.

6 Inches Model6 Inches Model
10 Inches Model8 Inches Model
11 Inches Model9 Inches Model
14 Inches Model
16 Inches Model

8 differences between lace up and pull on work boots

Ok, now that you’ve seen what each one of these boots is used for, let’s dive in a bit more and look at some of the most important differences between lace-up and slip-on work boots.

1. Boot construction

Nowadays, work boots come in a wide variety of materials. Which is great. That gives us a lot of options to choose from.

Before, you could only see slip-on work boots made of rubber. Now you’ll find that most online stores sell slip-on work boots that are made of

  • PVC
  • Leather
  • A mixture of leather and nylon (amongst other things)

It’s almost the same with lace-up work boots. Only that this type of work boots are mostly made of different types of leather.

On some occasions, you’ll find some boots made of a mix of leather with some nylon or textile material.

That’s better for work boots that need to be breathable to avoid sweating a lot in summer.

2. Purpose

Just as I’ve mentioned above, when you look to buy pull-on work boots or lace-up work boots, you must look at which one fits your purpose/activities better.

So if you’re an electrician, working mostly indoors, you really should go for a nice pair of lace-up work boots. Here’s our best work boots for electricians’ round-up review page if you’re looking for some ideas.

And if you’re a landscaper, it makes much more sense to go for a slip-on boot or maybe a pull-on work boot.

Here are some suggestions on what boot is better for different jobs or industries based on my own experience, knowledge, and research.

Slip-On Work BootsLace-Up Work Boots
Concrete pouring
Construction in general
Oil and gas industry
Pipe Installations
Food processing
Plant operators

3. Comfort 

When it comes to which one is more comfortable, slip-on or lace-up, I’ll have to give it to the lace-up work boots.

Especially if you compare PVC or rubber work boots with lace-up work boots.

The rubber is a bit better since it’s not as stiff as the PVC but the outsoles on these boots are usually a bit more uncomfortable.

Although if you buy leather slip-on work boots, these tend to be much more comfortable. They come with a midsole and an insole that makes it more comfortable than rubber or PVC boots.

You can even improve that by getting some good quality insoles. 

It’s the same with lace-up boots. Many companies will not put too much effort into a good insole because they know you’ll probably remove it and use one that makes you feel good at work.

I personally change my insoles every 3-4 months. I even wash them to remove the sweat and avoid stinky feet.

The way these two types of boots are built, the material used to make the lace-up boots, and other little details make me prefer lace-up over slip-on boots in terms of comfortability.

Another detail is that by having the option to tighten the boots all the way up and make them stick to my feet like glue I felt less tired at the end of my shifts.

When wearing the slip-on boots it seems like I’m dragging them around and by the end of my shift, I feel like I’ve been working for a whole week.

Based on my experience the lace-up work boots are more comfortable than slip-on boots. 

The only time I feel slip-on boots are more comfortable than lace-up boots is when it comes to putting them on or taking them off. Easy peasy! (sometimes I feel lazy and I do prefer them for this simple reason though)

4. Protection

Not all boots are made in the same way or for the same user. Each type of boot is going to protect from different hazards.

Usually, you’d go for a slip-on boot when you want to protect yourself from water and hazardous chemicals that could get into the boot and cause you injuries.

Many slip-on boots nowadays come with some kind of toe protection, electrical hazard, and other safety features to keep you safe.

The same goes for lace-up work boots. Lots of different safety features to suit all your needs.

You’re going to be well protected with both types of boots (assuming you buy good work boots that is)

The biggest difference is that pull-on work boots offer better protection working in wet conditions dirt, mud, etc but lace-up offer better ankle protection.

5. Maintenance

Lace-up or slip-on, which is easier to maintain?

Many times I feel tired (or lazy) and I don’t want to spend my day taking the laces off, cleaning the boot, oiling it (assuming is made of leather), and all that jazz.

So in all honesty, the easiest one to clean and maintain is the slip-on work boot. And remember that the more you take care of your boots, the longer they’ll last. Here’s a guide on how to clean your dirty work boots with items you might have at home.

6. The look & style

Which one is more stylish? The slip-on or the lace-up?

Depending on your style you can go for either of them.

Some people really like the look and the feel of wearing a pair of jeans with a beautiful cowboy-style work boot. And by the way, here’s the difference between cowboy boots and work boots in case you’re curious about that.

Others want to feel more urban and prefer the lace-up work boots since they usually look more casual and you can wear them outside of your job too.

I’ve seen people wearing slip-on boots that looked so good on them and I wish they could look as good on me too…

…but when I go and try them on I look like a clown!

So I stick to what looks good on me. Lace-up work boots for me! By the way, check out how I lace my work boots for more comfort and also to look a bit more stylish.

7. Size 

The only thing I wanted to highlight here quickly is not necessarily the size of the boots but the fact that usually (not always) slip-on work boots have a wide feel when you put them on.

If you read the reviews on any online store you’ll quickly see people saying the lace-up type of boots feels tight for some of the users.

You won’t see that very often when reading slip-on work boots reviews. They usually have a lot more room around your feet and toes.

8. Price

How much you’ll spend on a slip-on work boot or a lace-up work will depend most of the time on the brand’s name and popularity.

Also, the material it’s made of, where the particular work boot is manufactured, safety features, etc.

Below I show you a few examples of some of the most popular brands and models. Just click on the boot image or name to see the most up-to-date price. (It will take you to Amazon)

But for a slip-on boot usually, you can spend anywhere from 25 all the way up to a couple of hundred bucks. And for a pair of good lace-up work boots, you should start at 70-80 bucks all the way up to a few hundred dollars.

Examples of comfortable lace up work boots

These work boots are in no particular order. They are just examples and I hope it can inspire you either to get a pair for yourself or to dig further!

If that’s the case, we’ve put together an awesome list of some of the most comfortable boots for work here if you want to check it out for more inspiration.

5. Irish Setter

Great pair of soft toe work boots. Being a non-safety toe you won’t be able to work with them on a construction site for example. The Irish Setter is a sub-brand of Red Wing and they make some of the most comfortable work boots you can buy. 

The model you see is made of 100% leather that will adapt to your feet as you wear them. Electrical hazard and EVA outsole are just some of the features you’ll find in this boot.

They are great if you work a lot standing and walking on concrete floors. (security guard, superintendent, retail, etc)

4. Dr Martens

Iconic footwear brand. Not only do they look very stylish (especially the brown color) but they have some pretty good safety features.

Some people don’t even know that some Dr Martens boots are actually safety boots. But that’s how they’ve actually started. Doctor Martens made these boots for work primarily.

That’s until some famous people decided to wear them and that took Dr. Martens to the next level.

Anyway, contrary to the Irish setter model above, these Dr. Martens boots can be used on construction sites, warehouses, and other industries where a toe protection work boot is required.

3. Timberland PRO Pit Boss

The Pit Boss is one of the toughest work boots you can find out there. Read our Timberland Pit Boss work boot full review here. This boot is heavy due to all the safety features that come with it.

Thick leather, rubber sole, steel toe, steel shank, and much more. The part that’s weird is that although it is heavy … is very comfortable at the same time. Especially if you need foot support. 

Also, if you’re into Timberland boots, check out this Timberland PRO work boots reviews round-up we did in which we’ve included the top-rated work boots from this brand.

2. Ariat Hermosa

Hermosa means beautiful in Spanish. And I have to agree that this boot is “Hermosa”! 

Many Ariat fans are using these boots to ride horses. If that’s what you want them for you can choose the soft toe. And if you feel like you need toe protection the Ariat Hermosa comes in a steel toe version too.

They are slip-resistant due to the rubber soles that provide good grip on most surfaces. 

1. Carhartt RuggedFlex

This is a rugged lace-up work boot. If you want something that’s heavy-duty this Carhartt is a good option.

What’s interesting is that even though they’re heavy-duty they are not that heavy. And that’s probably because Carhartt decided to go for a composite toe instead of a steel toe!

We’ve put together a great review of some of the best rated Carhartt work boots here if you want to read more about this brand.

Examples of good pull on work boots

Just like the lace-up boots above, these pull on work boots have been picked randomly based on my experience and knowledge.

Here you’ll see what I was saying above regarding the different boot heights. Let’s start with a very cheap, affordable work boot

5. Servus 

This Servus work boot is an excellent option for you if you just want to use it every now and then around the house, in the garden, or around your animals.

Also, being chemical resistant it’s a no-brainer to buy a pair of these work boots if you’re pouring concrete. Nothing fancy really but it has some good safety features including a steel toe cap. It’s a great steel toe work boot for less than 100 dollars. (less than 50 actually)

This is a 14” high slip-on boot. The next one is a 10” high boot.

4. Wolverine

A very stylish cowboy work boot that comes fully packed with safety features. This is a great boot to use as a farmer and ride horses. It will keep you on your feet safe when working on wet surfaces thanks to its rubber outsole.

Having a square toe will give you a bit more wiggle room inside the toe box which is always welcomed.

You don’t really want to have your toe compressed in there. It’s going to give you a lot of pain. So the more room, the better.

3. Georgia 

This is even a shorter work boot. It’s only 4 inches high from the arch and this makes this Romeo boot excellent for those of you who want a stylish work boot with a casual look.

It looks modern, casual, urban, it doesn’t even look like a work boot. It’s one of the few brands that still manufacture their work boots in the US. You can find out here where your favorite work boots brand is manufactured. (over 30 brands checked)

One of the great things about this boot is that it is made of high-quality leather and the sole has a welted construction. This simply means that you can resole these work boots in the feature. Helping you save money in the long run. 

2. Cebu

What a great-looking work boot. This reminds me of a motorcycle-riding type of boot. That doesn’t mean you should buy it and use it for that purpose though. We wrote a separate article about this here Can you wear work boots for motorcycle riding?

It definitely looks like a slip-on work boot that is made for people working in the toughest industries and harsh environments.

Due to all the heavy-duty features, this boot comes with, the Cebu pull-on work boot is recommended to anyone working in construction, oil and gas industry, welding, etc.

This will be overkill if you’re just looking for a boot to be used in agriculture, the food industry, or similar.

1. Caterpillar

Another big name in the work footwear industry. This Revolver Caterpillar work boot is just another great example of a good slip-on work boot.

Caterpillar likes to call it the “no nonsense work boot”. And that’s because this boot does exactly what it says on the tin.

Electrical hazard protection, steel toe cap, PVC midsole are just a few of these boots. 

Some of the most important to mention is the upper made of water-resistant leather and the Goodyear welt construction will help prevent water from getting into your boots when working in wet conditions.

Pull on vs lace up work boots: which one is the best for you?

I believe we’ve covered this topic pretty well here. If you’re out there looking to buy a new pair of work boots just keep in mind that these two types of footwear are quite different.

Sometimes they are good for the same industry, sometimes they are totally the opposite.

When I have to choose between lace-up and slip-on work boots the only thing I ask myself is:

Am I going to work in a messy place with mud, soil, sand, concrete, animal waste, soil, water? If the answer is YES … most probably I’ll go for a slip-on.

For all the other activities I like to go with lace-up work boots.

Team Members Working On This Page

Adrian – Editor / 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, take 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 I hope you’ll find our content helpful and enjoyable! See you around, thanks for reading!

Theo Cox / Researcher, Writer

I’m an MA student currently working on a research project for King’s College London Museum of Life Sciences alongside my MA dissertation. I have been published in my student newspaper, The Spectator, and the Adam Smith Institute. I’m doing part of the research and writing of the content you’ll read on Enjoy!

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