Best Firefighter Boots Reviewed & Rated
For a firefighter, every day on the job presents a myriad of hazards. To be adequately protected from the constant dangers associated with this challenging profession, a highly-rated and well-manufactured pair of boots is required.
Firefighters need protection from high-temperatures and heat, rough terrain, slippery and wet conditions, punctures, falling debris, and more. It’s also essential that these boots allow for ease of movement and proper agility, so they don’t slow you down. A fireman needs to be able to move without hesitation as one split-second delay can mean the difference between a life or death situation.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
1000 Denier Nylon/Full-Grain Leather Upper
Vibram® Kletterlift Outsole
Wet/Dry Surface Traction
Top 10 Firefighter Boots
1. Danner Acadia
1000 Denier Nylon/Full-Grain Leather Upper
Vibram® Kletterlift Outsole
Wet/Dry Surface Traction
Waterproof GORE-TEX® linings work to keep your feet dry during those precious moments when you need to concentrate on the job at hand. In addition, the upper is durable with the 1000 denier nylon and full-grain leather combination. The Vibram® Kletterlift outsole handles well on both wet and dry surface types. Furthermore, with the stitch-down construction, you can be certain these will last for years to come.
With 1000 denier nylon and full-grain leather, you cannot go wrong with this tough-as-nails pair of boots, so to speak. The upper is durable and should last for years.
This is a rather important attribute to have in firefighter footwear. In addition to giving you stable traction on both wet and dry surfaces, the Vibram® Kletterlift outsole is thick and sturdy, as well.
2. Bates DuraShocks
Nylon Side Zip
Bates Durashocks Technology
Stitch-Out Welt Construction
The heel and forefoot area have shock-absorbing pads which help to transfer energy. This, in turn, aids in giving you a day in comfort. In addition, the upper is made with leather and ballistic nylon; perfect for situations requiring heavy-duty action. A nylon side zipper makes for easy on and off and the rubber outsole is slip-resistant. These are, also, metallic-free and are undetectable in electronic environments.
This pair is one tough set of footwear. Made with leather and ballistic nylon in the upper, these are sure to last, even in the toughest of environments.
Comfort is important, as we all know. With this technology, the forefoot and heel areas have shock-absorbing pads to help transfer energy and, thus, lower load-rate.
3. Bates Ultra-Lites
Removable EVA Insole
Lightweight & Comfortable
Made from Ballistic Nylon
When the alarm sounds and the station becomes a teeming swirl of action, firefighters need a firefighter boot that is easily removable so that they can get into their protective wear as quickly as possible. The Bates Ultra-Lites 8 Inches Tactical Sports Side-Zip allow for the most efficient way of managing this, all while being a sturdy, rugged tactical boot made out of high-quality materials and featuring slip-resistant outsoles.
High top work boots have the benefit of providing security and stability to the wearer’s ankle. A lace-up vamp and breathable lining make the Bates Ultra-Lites a high top work boot that is as stabilizing as it is comfortable. Its rubber sole and durable, slip resistant outsole make it perfect for the times when duty calls and every second count. They are also constructed of ballistic nylon so that they can take a beating.
The Bates Ultra-Lites have a cushioned insert that is removable, making them uniquely modifiable depending on the surrounding temperature. For those that need it, the removable EVA footbed has shock absorbing pads and helps alleviate joint pressure. The rubber outsole is also 30% lighter than previous incarnations of tactical boots in the series, allowing for efficient movement in an environment that often demands a change of direction at a moment’s notice.
4. Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0
Removable EVA Insole
Like Under Armour, the Smith & Wesson brand is associated with excellence and quality. Branching out beyond the firearm industry, they have created a tactical boot that sets the standard for quality, durability, and affordability. Like the previous tactical boots mentioned, they are constructed of fine leather and nylon, as well as having a removable EVA insole. Where they differ is the addition of a steel shank in the midsole for support, and a gusseted tongue to keep debris out of the interior.
The rubber outsole is a unique design that prevents loss of traction on a wide variety of surfaces such as concrete, metal, wood, wax, and brick. This makes it perfect for the firefighter that has to quickly ascend a ladder or run through a building interior where smoke may be obscuring their vision. Not having to worry about whether or not your boots will be able to keep your feet firmly planted in a life or death situation means a firefighter can keep their focus on subduing any calamity.
The Breach 2.0’s consist of high-quality leather and nylon on the outside, with board-lasted designed interior, which fights against foot fatigue as well as improves the boots integrity. Unlike the Bates’ brand of firefighter boot, they have YKK side zippers, which last much longer.
5. Original S.W.A.T Classic
Custom-Molded Thermoplastic Heel Counter
Stitched Heel & Toe
Waterproof & Breathable
Custom-Molded Phylon EVA Midsole
The full leather make of the S.W.A.T. Classic is an all-around favorite. With a moisture-wicking lining, a custom-molded thermoplastic heel counter, and phylon EVA midsole, your feet will stay comfortable. That way, you can focus on your tasks, knowing that you’ve got the support of one of the best pairs of firefighter boots available.
Made to be extremely slip-resistant in any conditions, the outsole on the S.W.A.T Classic features a leather sole to keep your footing safe. Additionally, you will benefit from the 1000 denier nylon upper that is extremely durable and comfortable.
The custom-molded thermoplastic heel counter and toe box gives you instant comfort and lateral support for those times that you might be unsure of your footing. Along with the phylon EVA midsole that is lightweight and supportive, and the AEGIS antimicrobial moisture-wicking lining, you'll love how your feet feel in these boots.
6. Under Armour Stellar
Treated Leather & 900D Nylon Upper
Comfort of an Athletic Shoe
No Side Zipper
Under Armour is a name synonymous with high impact interval training and high powered workouts; a titan in the fitness clothing industry. The Under Armour Stellar Tactical boot upholds the standard of excellence associated with the Under Armour brand by providing a boot that is lightweight, durable, and comfortable. They are a boot that feels more like an athletic shoe, giving them an added level of versatility beyond a typical high top tactical boot.
Waterproof and made from DWR treated leather and 900D nylon, the Under Armour Stellar Tactical boots have toes that can be polished so that after the beating they take hour after hour, day after day, any scuffs can be easily removed. The hardy material of their construction combined with durable rubber soles make them fit for a wide variety of terrain and environments.
If you’re on concrete floors for 10 hours a day, these boots will save your feet. The dense station floor will no longer leave you needing a long soak after a long shift. They’re lightweight and well padded, the tongue having the cushion of a basketball shoe. The feel of an athletic shoe makes you forget you’re wearing tactical boots at all.
7. Thorogood Knockdown Elite
NFPA and ASTM Certified
Fire and Ice Vibram Sole
Ankle Lock and Heel Kick Plate
From a brand known not just for its stylish line of boots, but also for work boots that can handle extreme conditions, Thorogood brings to the forefront of it’s firefighting boots the Knockdown Elite. Qualified for all the safety standards needed to do the job, it’s waterproof, flame resistant and cut resistant. Add to all the safety technology additional comfort features and a Vibram sole designed for specific grip, this is one pair of firefighting boots that’s worth every single penny for years on the job to come.
Uppers on the Knockdown Elite are a flame resistant and waterproof leather, with added rubber toe protection and heel protection. StedAir PRFE creates a waterproof barrier against you and any chemicals or water, while the Poron SRD padding protects the heel area. Once inside the boot, Thorogood’s ankle lock helps to keep you inside, but just until you’re ready to take them off. Using the heel kick plate, you can easily remove this pull-on boot. It’s certified compliant with NFPA 1992 and 1971 standards, as well as ASTM F2413-11.
Inside, you’ll find a dual density PU insole that is removable should you so choose, and a steel ladder shank for support and stability when on the job. Patented Lenzi L-Protection insole makes it flexible for movement, but it’s also puncture resistant as well as non-metallic. A composite toe helps against falling debris, and at the base of it all lies Vibram’s ATS sole, which was constructed to protect against both icey or fire scenarios. Although it’s a pricier option, the Knockdown Elite was built for survival, and can get the job done.
8. Danner Wildland Tactical
Fire Resistant Leather Upper
Vibram S587 Fire & Ice Outsole
Low Quality Laces
The Danner Wildland Tactical provides the perfect balance between a hiking model that provides cushioning and support, and an NFPA-certified boot developed to protect the wearer from any complication that comes with a job. It comes in a large number of sizes, as well as three widths, meaning that almost anyone can purchase this model and reap its benefits. Handcrafted in Portland, Oregon, this is definitely a great investment for any professional, but also those who are looking for NFPA-certified protective footwear.
The leather upper of the Wildland Tactical has been chemically treated to deter flames, while still giving you a comfortable and durable pair of shoes. The outsole is made by Vibram, and was made for rugged and high-angle terrain. It’ll provide you with great traction both in extreme cold and hot conditions, making this a versatile boot.
Made to mimic the fit of hiking boots, the Wildland Tactical will provide you with the arch support and cushioning you need when you’re out on a job and can’t afford to be distracted by uncomfortable shoes. The footbed is made by Ortholite, featuring their popular cushioning, and a steel shank creates support and stability, and an extra layer of protection underfoot.
9. Danner Striker II EMS
Removable Foam Insert
Cross Tech Lining
The Danner Strike II EMS is designed with first responders in mind, providing them superior penetration protection from the fluids in their environment and any harmful chemicals. They are made from full grain leather and designed for maneuverability, safety, and durability. It has all the best benefits of a high top boot of its class, with durable traction that spans heel to toe, a sturdy side zipper, an outsole that is spill and slip resistant, a removable footbed, and a nylon shank to provide support and stability on long shifts.
Water, organic oils, bodily fluids, and blood are no match for the Cross Tech fabric of these boots, engineered to withstand all manner of hazardous waste. Their Gore-Tex leather is not only tough and durable, but it can also be polished to a high shine, which is preferable when you want your boots cleaned quickly. A Terra Force X Lite provides great traction and transfer of energy, and the nylon shank in the toe cap is non-metallic and thus easily maneuvered through metal based security systems.
Not all high top tactical boots have a padded tongue and collar, but the presence of these features on the Danner Striker II EMS boot certainly makes them more comfortable as a result. Cross Tech fabric designed to provide penetration resistance also provides maximum breathability. The X Lite platform provides lightweight and durable traction, while the TFX Lite outsole gives you protection from foot fatigue. The lightweight non-metallic Pro-Tec toe cap resists the conduction of heat and cold.
10. 5.11 Company 2.0
Oil-Resistant, Multi-directional Tread
To some firefighters and first responders, being able to get out of their footwear and into their fire protective gear quickly is almost more important than any of the footwears’ other features. Never is this more easily done than with a slip on boot like the 5.11 Company 2.0. It features top of the line full grain leather, a synthetic sole, and a number of features that make it incredibly easy to pull on and slip off. It’s even oil and slick resistant, which is a feature previously only seen in high top boots
Though a small boot, it can still play with the big boots and hold its own. It’s leather, and synthetic construction is lightweight yet sturdy, and a “Quick Call” collar and kick plate make it easy to pull on or slip off. Its outsole is oil resistant, and its multi-directional tread provides excellent traction on slick surfaces. It has built-in climbing lugs which make it extremely good for scaling buildings and climbing ladders.
Like the Smith and Wesson Breach 2.0, it has an injection molded Phylon EVA midsole, making it padded for comfort and providing extra cushion. It also has a moisture wicking liner which is antimicrobial treated, to add to dry, cool, and itch-free feet, as well as an OrthoLite sockliner.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
While it’s true that firefighter boots need to stand up to high temperatures, it helps if they have a certain level of breathability built into their construction. Firefighters and first responders are depending on boots that are made from materials that can withstand high heat but also not retain it. This means that along with leather and other fabric choices that comprise their design, they might even have some mesh weave or insole technology that makes sure heat doesn’t get trapped inside the boot. Some of the best fabrics and materials to withstand high-temperatures are:
While some of these materials will resist fire naturally, most will be chemically treated to improve their heat resistance. Both the upper and the outsole should perform well in extremely hot conditions, but should also be able to perform at the same level should the temperature outside be cold.
Professionals should always look to get NFPA-certified boots as these have been proven to provide adequate temperature protection and regulation to be worn on the job.
According to performance standards, the inside surface of your insoles should never exceed 111F. This means that you should look for breathable linings in your boots. This way you'll get both an added level of breathability and moisture control, as well as a shoe that won't become odorous after a few weeks.
Fighting fires brings first responders in contact with hazardous conditions. Protection against flames is just one aspect of combating them when extreme high heat can melt metal pipes, make trees crack and explode, and warp concrete. Therefore, firefighters often favor a tall boot versus a short boot for extra protection along their calves, made from materials like the Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0’s ballistic nylon, and midsoles that are puncture and penetration resistant.
Any metal components to their construction, like steel midsoles or steel toes, need to be resistant to corrosion at high temperatures so that they can remain functional. Wildlife firefighters may even want a gusseted tongue to keep falling debris out of the interior of their boots, and reliable traction if their environment is uneven, rocky, or precarious.
In extreme conditions with the presence of different types of fluid, slip-resistant outsoles protect against oil, grease, pathogens, and other unusual substances that might impair a firefighter’s footing. Some boots provides exceptional penetration protection from the liquids and any harmful chemicals. They’re designed for maneuverability and safety with Cross Tech fabric that was engineered to withstand hazardous waste.
Protective toe caps are also an essential aspect of a firefighters boot and are essential for protecting the delicate area surrounding the toes. There are several materials used to produce a toe cap including:
From descending sides of mountains to scurrying up ladders leaned against skyscrapers and apartment units, a firefighter never knows what hazards their terrain will bring. All firefighters will want sturdy boots with great traction, durable traction that is skid and slip resistant, as well as a component in the midsole like a steel or nylon shank that stabilizes the footbed. They should also be waterproof and made from treated leather and nylon, like Under Armour’s Stellar Tactical boots. When the waterproof layer covers the entire boot and not just the fabric portion, it ensures a tight seal against moisture (though some brands have built-in moisture wicking lining). This sort of footwear protection is ideal for when a firefighter is surrounded by the several tons of water needed to put out a fire, encounters muddy conditions, or is simply hosing off their boots after their shift.
Common features to expect on wildfire firefighter boots
Common features to expect on station firefighter boots
Because firefighters can face a high number of unknown variables when it comes to their environments, having the reliability of superior traction and grip means that they can spring into action without worrying about their footing being jeopardized.
Boots that have rubber outsoles prevent loss of traction on a wide variety of surfaces, such as:
This means that whatever their environment is comprised of, the only focus the responder needs is on containing the situation and not on keeping your footing sure. Excellent traction and grip also mean that if a firefighter has to quickly ascend a ladder or run through a building interior, they won’t lose their bearing even if smoke may be obscuring their vision.
Not all firefighter boots weigh the same, despite many of them having similar properties. Firefighters who combat wildfires usually want heavier, thicker boots because of debris and contact with the elements, whereas those in urban environments or around the station want boots that are lighter and slightly more maneuverable.
Boots made by 5.11, Inc, Bates, or Rocky weigh in the vicinity of 5 pounds, usually attributed to the addition of steel instead of nylon shanks in the midsole, more rubber along the outsole and sole, and more practical hardware. Original S.W.A.T. and brands that make boots that fit and feel more like athletic shoes tend to be a lot lighter, somewhere in the vicinity of 2-3 pounds, which allows for efficiency of movement when you have to change direction at a moment’s notice. Heavier boots also mean more work for the firefighter, who is already laden down with heavy gear, oxygen tanks, and has to still concern themselves with moving debris in extreme heat. Some of the lightest materials used in the construction of a firefighter boot are:
Comfort plays a critical role in the selection of a firefighter boot because most firefighters will be working long hours while standing on their feet, ducking, and crawling. Features like a hypertext lasting board and cushioned insoles provide enduring comfort, and when they wear out, they can be replaced.
Generous open cell foam cushioning that run the entire length of the footbed and collar ensure that no matter how long you have to be on the job, you won't feel tired. Padded collars and tongues provide a glove-like fit around your foot, as well as prevent ankle chafing over time. A lightweight Pro-Tec toe cap that resists the conduction of heat and cold means a firefighter can enjoy a regulated temperature inside their boot. A lightweight boot with less hardware can also mean less foot fatigue and less wear and tear on a firefighter’s joints and muscles.
Shock absorption is an aspect of the firefighter boot that wasn’t always a prominent feature, especially when firefighter boots were simple rubber slip-on boots that looked more like rain gear. Adequate shock-absorption is a crucial part of maintaining the health of our feet, legs, knees, hips, and back, if these areas are repeatedly exposed to high-intensity shock waves, they begin to deteriorate and will cause all sorts of aches and pains.
It has now become a significant part of the overall design and construction because of its protection of a firefighter’s joints. Shock Mitigation systems of shock absorbent padding mean long-lasting joint health, while brands like Original S.W.A.T have put “air cells” in the heel of their boots that absorbs impact. Almost all modern firefighter boots have EVA footbeds that can be removed, similar to many athletic shoes.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you're interested in becoming a firefighter, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of being accepted.
First and foremost, you'll need to meet minimum requirements by getting your GED, and even go a bit further to become an EMT.
State specific entry level certs will help you as well, including keeping yourself fit, healthy, and involved in the community will show your serious about yourself, and helping others.
Lastly, you'll have to pass a written exam, and most likely a psychological evaluation, so prepare yourself as best you can!
During a fire, a firefighters priorities are many, including putting out a fire they must try to make sure others are out of harm's way.
You can help prevent fires in your own home simply by having a few key things on hand.
Smoke detectors are vial to alerting you of smoke, and potential fires, so be sure batteries are replaced regularly to ensure they work.
Having a small fire extinguisher in the house can be a great method of prevention, easily stored somewhere you can access quickly.
Lastly, have a plan. Discuss with your family what you would do in case of a fire, what steps you would take, and how you would find each other to get out safely. This is your best weapon against fires!
Other Factors to Consider
Since firefighters are often on their feet for long periods of time in varying terrain, it’s important for their boots to be flexible and have a lot of energy return. The degree of flexibility can vary, as some first responders will want a boot that fits tight against the foot and doesn’t leave a lot of room for bending so that the structural integrity won’t be compromised.
But if there’s no flexibility at all, and a boot can’t respond with the appropriate celerity the situation calls for, a firefighter might become injured. With a high amount of energy return, there’s less of a chance of foot fatigue and joint pain. Rubber boots, like Viking Footwear’s Firefighter WP, are ultra flexible, exceeding a 305,000 flex rating, which allows them to move with the motions of your feet and still provide incredible arch support, ankle support, and energy return.
Having an ill-fitting boot puts a firefighter at a greater risk for injuries, as the propensity for a firefighter to trip while in their gear is high. Not even taking into consideration downed trees, power lines, rubble, or the blurred vision that a firefighter might be facing at any given call, a clunky, loose boot is just one more thing that they don’t want to have to deal with.
That’s why so many brands now offer slip-on, bucket boots with stirrups, side zips, front zips, and a combination of laces. This allows a first responder to be able to customize the fit of their boot, by tightening or loosening one of the closure features at their discretion. Some modern manufacturers have even implemented standards like a double-stitched upper of 3-ply bonded nylon thread, that won’t start breaking apart at the seams the way other boots can after only a few months of being worn.
When fitting your footwear, ensure that you choose the end of your workday, as this is the time when your feet will be at the largest. In addition, you need ample room in the toe box for toe splaying. There are times when heavy lifting may be involved and the last thing you want is a cramped toe room area. Be careful, however, that it is not too roomy, per se. That is, you don’t want your toes slamming into the front of your boots after coming to a sudden stop during a run.
Consider the volume, as well. Depending on your foot type and conditions, thereof, you may need to add an orthotic to ensure better overall foot health and stability. Removable insoles are a plus, in this regard.
That concludes this list of 10 of the best firefighter boots available today and hopefully, it has helped you to narrow down your search for the most appropriate pair of boots for your specific area of specialties. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that even though many firefighter boots may look the same and have some similar features, there are distinct differences that make them useful for specific purposes. Though some may have side zippers and removable footbeds, they may not both have a shank in their midsoles to protect against footbed penetration. One may be water resistant, and another entirely waterproof. Some may defend against organic oils and chemical hazards, but may only come in a lace-up model where a slip-on model is preferable. Depending on the sort of environment a first responder finds themselves in, a boots functionality depends significantly on what features set it apart. It is prudent to note the similarities, but more important to note the differences, because they may be the aspect that saves a life.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What’s the difference between wildfire firefighters boots and station firefighter boots?
While both the boots used to fight wildfires and those used around the station share many of the same features, where they differ tends to be in those areas that are dictated by the sort of environment they’re most often in. To fight wildfires, heavier boots are often favored because the more weight put into areas like the soles, outsoles, steel toes and midsoles shanks, the more durable they are. As the elements wear them down potentially more than station boots, they need to withstand enviornmental hazards as well. Wildlife firefighter boots will often be taller, with more protection around the calf and shin, and be made from fine quality leather over rubber.
Station firefighters may find themselves climbing ladders, stairs, and so forth. As such, this footwear will tend to be lighter. This is to ensure you don’t become too exhausted during the climbs, especially in situations where you might find yourself in dire and urgent situations. The last thing you want is to tire down too quickly when there are two more flights of stairs to cover, so to speak.
q: Are there specific standards for all firefighter boots?
Specifications of firefighter boot standards fall under the requirements in the NFPA 1977 Protective Footwear for Wildland Fire Fighting 2005 31DR Edition. They must be at least 10 inches high, measuring from the inside of the boot to the highest point of the boot where there technically continues to be liquid protection. There is also a range of heel breast angle allowed, between the heel and the sole. The NFPA requires a wide variety of sizes be made available to first responders to prevent discomfort and injury from ill-fitting boots. They are field tested by firefighters through wear trials, one of the best ways to get an accurate assessment of their durability and functionality. They measure the ease by which a firefighter can get through standard hazards or obstacles, and with what degree of difficulty.
q: What brand of firefighter boots is the toughest?
Because firefighters face a variety of hazards in a plethora of different environments, there is no boot considered the toughest. Many have specific features for specific types of terrain and conditions, and therefore can’t be measured in the same way. However, there are specific features such as side zippers for easily getting them on and off, removable EVA foam insoles for maximum comfort and the reduction of foot fatigue, a shank in the midsole for arch support and stability, and many are steel-toed or water resistant. But they do come in a variety of heights, with a variety of closures, and in a variety of aesthetic styles, colors, and weights. The upper is likely to be made of ballistic nylon and leather. This helps to ensure a toughness factor, as it were. This is an ideal material combination and can, also, serve to lengthen the associated longevity, as well.
q: Which is better: a nylon or metal shank in the midsole?
A shank in the midsole is helpful for arch support and also the structural integrity of the boot, providing stiffness along the footbed in front of the heel. A non-metallic nylon shank makes it easy for a first responder to get through metallic based security access points and is less prone to corrosion than a steel shank. A steel shank is superior at resistance in field tests, however. Again, this is one of those situations in where your environment will dictate the proper features. As such, the most common environment you face should be the guide ruler you use to choose between a nylon and steel shank.
q: How long do firefighter boots last?
Because firefighter boots take a beating over time, and that various elemental and physical factors cause them to wear down, there are critical features put in place to prevent this from happening. They are designed with corrosion and penetration resistant materials, as well as waterproof exteriors and protection against viscous liquids like oils, fats, waxes, and even human-born pathogens. That being said, they will wear down over time, but a quality, durable firefighter boot should last you several years, where the only aspect you have to replace is the insole every few months. Also, the amount of action you see will determine the speed rate at which your footwear breaks down. For rural areas, some firefighters may only see action a few times a week; whereas, in urban areas, these men and women could be sent out repetitively in a single day.