Why Do New Work Boots Hurt Your Feet And Legs? (5 Reasons)

If you’re new to work boots and you just bought a new pair of boots for work that seems to be a bit uncomfortable or maybe they hurt your feet or legs in different places you might wonder if this is normal or if there’s something wrong with your boots.

I’ll answer all your questions in this post, but if you’re here for a quick and simple answer, let me tell you this.

Your boots hurt your feet and legs the majority of the time because the material they’re made with (which is mostly leather of different qualities and thicknesses) is brand new and it needs breaking in.

It could also be that the boots you bought are not of quality, they might have defects and other things I’ll break down in more detail below so keep scrolling to learn more but first…

wearing my new pair of work boots and they hurt my feet a little bit

Is it normal for new work boots to hurt your feet?

Yes, in my experience it’s completely normal for a new pair of work boots to hurt a tiny bit or at least to be a bit uncomfortable on your feet and lower legs. At least for the first few days anyway.

Some boots will create more discomfort than others based on the type of boots, the materials are made with, and if you’re used to wearing those types of boots or not.

For example, my colleague Dony is testing the Timberland PRO Boondock for us. He wasn’t used to wearing 6-inch tall boots. He prefers the 8-inch tall boots because they provide better ankle support which is needed in his line of work.

The Timbs Boondocks boots were quite uncomfortable for him for the first week because the boots were rubbing against the back of his leg at the ankle level. For me, this is completely normal since the majority of boots I wear are 6-inch tall.

I’d have the same experience he had if I start wearing 8-inch tall work boots but in my case, the boots would rub against my feet much higher up my leg in a place I’m not used to.

5 Common reasons why new work boots hurt your feet

Ok, based on my experience wearing lots of different brands of work boots and different models here’s why I think your new work boots are giving you some hard time…

1. Tough upper material

Some work boots are really comfortable right out of the box while others require quite a brutal breaking-in period.

I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about PNW boots used many times by linemen, wildland firefighters, and loggers among others. These boots are going to be rough on your feet and legs, many times for weeks or months before they fully break in and become like a glove.

The leather work boots are made with is usually thicker than what you’ll find in your regular, casual boots. I know this because I learn a lot about how work boots are made by cutting my work boots in half after wearing them for a while on my day job.

The leather on the work boots I wear varies between 1.8mm to 3mm in thickness. Obviously, the thicker the leather is, the harder will be on your feet and lower parts of your legs.

Some boots, for example, these Thorogood moc toe (steel cap) work boots, are made with what’s called “tumbled leather”.

This type of leather is already soft because it went through a process called tumbling which consists of placing a big amount of hides in a massive drum and they spin over and over and over again. Kinda like a washing machine or a tumble dryer. That’s where the name “tumbled leather” comes from.

2. Soles are too stiff

Not many people pay attention to the outsole the work boots they’re about to buy. If the soles of your work boots are too stiff and you work on a hard concrete floor all day for example, then you might start to feel a lot of pain and fatigue in your feet.

That’s because work boots with hard or stiff outsoles are meant for outdoor work where you need the lugs to dig into the ground in order to provide with you good traction and stability.

Working outdoors in a pair of work boots that has a stiff sole won’t be as bad as wearing the same boots working as a mechanic for example in a garage where the floor is smooth and hard.

Hard, stiff outsoles absorb shocks better on soft ground therefore you won’t feel pain but you will when used on hard concrete.

3. Factory defects

There are many brands out there that are selling their work boots as “factory seconds as they’re known. This means that a particular brand of work boots will have a batch with particular defects.

Well, many times these boots don’t get destroyed but they will end up on the market selling for a lower price.

That’s one of the reasons you will find some brands that YOU KNOW are expensive, selling their boots at a lower price.

Sometimes it’s just a cosmetic issue but it could be also structural. So keep that in mind when you buy expensive work boots at lower prices. You might end up buying some really uncomfortable boots.

4. The wrong boot for the job

This unfortunately happens a lot. That’s because many people think it’s not that important what boots you buy and what features to consider when buying work boots.

They’re just boots. All you need is something on your feet to do the work.

The most common mistake people do is buying work boots with heels when they work mostly on flat surfaces.

So if for example, you’re an order selector in a warehouse or maybe you work as an electrician on commercial buildings, you could not wear logger-style boots or any heeled boots.

I mean you could but that would be a terrible mistake. The best option for you would be a pair of wedge sole work boots.

And vice-versa, landscapers and farmers for example should use work boots with a bit of a heel and deeper lugs for traction and support due to the fact that they’re working mostly outdoors, on uneven grounds, and on rough terrain.

So make sure you buy the right work boots for your environment and for the type of work you’re doing!

5. Poor quality manufactured boots

I remember my first job that required safety boots. I was working cleaning the streets so in order to get the job I had to buy some boots with a safety toe cap.

Of course I went and bought the cheapest work boots available on the market. God, that was top 3 worst decisions I took in my whole adult life. Those boots killed my feet. The toe cap rubbed my toes until I started to bleed.

Because of that bad decision I had to quit this job since I couldn’t walk anymore. I stayed in bed for 1 week. Anyway, it’s ok to buy affordable work boots but please, do not make the same mistake and go for the cheapest of the cheapest.

If you already bought a pair of boots like the ones I just described, you’ll be better of to get rid of these and get a more decent pair of work boots.

You’ll thank me later.

How do you stop new work boots from hurting your legs?

These are some of the tricks I’ve used to make my work boots more comfortable and stop hurting my feet or the lower parts of my legs.

1. Oil your work boots

There is a ton of leather conditioning products out there. Coconut oil, dubbing, grease, mink oil, boot oil, etc.

Just choose one that you like and that’s also good for the type of leather your work boots are made with, and start to condition the leather by applying mink oil to your new work boots every week or every couple of days, depending on how much and how fast the leather of your work boots absorbs the oil.

Here you have two options

  1. start wearing the boots at work
  2. leave them at home with an adjustable shoe tree inside

Wearing the boots at work after you just oiled them is going to have a bigger impact and the breaking-in process is going to be faster and more effective.

But if don’t want to get oil on your jeans or simply don’t want to feel the pain as the boots are being broken in then simply stick a shoe tree inside the work boots and leave them at home.

You should put them on though when you come back home from work and do some bends and flexes. This should help the leather become softer, and faster.

2. Try to stretch them a little bit

Depending on where the boots are hurting your feet it might be a good idea to try and stretch out the leather of your work boots using some rubbing alcohol or even just warm water and an adjustable shoe tree.

If you feel pain at the ball of the foot area this is a great trick to try. This usually happens when the boot fits too snugly or simply they’re just too narrow. It’s also helpful if you suffer from bunions.

3. Wear Merino wool socks

If the pain you’re suffering is in the lower parts of your legs kinda like my colleague Dony who had a few blisters at the back of his leg because the boot’s collar was rubbing against his leg, a great idea is to wear Merino wool socks.

Yeah, I didn’t know about this either but wool socks are worth the extra money. Never had a blister again once I started to wear Merino wool socks.

4. Wear better insoles

I know some of you are wearing orthopedic shoes or work boots and the soles of this type of footwear tend to be quite stiff but that’s the case with many cheaper work boots brands.

If you’re on a low budget and you can’t buy good quality work boots one thing you can do to compensate for the lack of comfort is to buy better, more comfortable insoles.

Many of the insoles I wear have arch support and comfortable heel cup plus cushioning under my feet.

So if your boots hurt your underfoot a good solution for both, people on a low budget and people wearing orthopedic boots, is to get your hands on a better pair of insoles.

Last notes

So if you’re new work boots are killing your feet is probably because one of these reasons:

  • Tough upper materials used on the upper
  • Soles are too stiff
  • Factory defects
  • They’re not the right boots for the tasks you’re doing or the environment you’re working on
  • Or simply you bought poorly made work boots in order to save some money

I’ve experienced all of the above in my working lifetime and I’ve always find a solution for each one of the above situation. Try some of the tricks I’ve used myself over the years and hopefully one of these is going to fix the issue:

  • Use leather conditioners to smoothen the leather and make it more comfortable
  • Try to strech them a little bit
  • Wear wool socks
  • Use better quality insoles

Let me know if this was helpful and also I’d love to hear from you what other reasons you think your new work boots might hurt your feet and maybe what you did to resolve the problem (if you could fix it).

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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