How Do You Know if Your Work Boots Are Worn Out?

Outdoor work is one of the most hazardous and demanding jobs. This type of work will always require strong, sturdy, and comfortable foot support. While I have covered the best insoles for work boots, the best work boots for sore feet, and the best work boots for flat feet in separate articles, here I want to share some tips that will tell you if your work boots are worn out.

Worn-out work boots will reduce support, comfort, protection, stability, and shock-absorbance. They can, therefore, cause lots of foot problems if you don’t replace them. Investing in the proper work boots for your feet from the get-go will prolong the life, but when they eventually weaken and tire, make sure you change them. Alternatively, it may be possible to replace the parts that are worn out, like work boot insoles or even the outsole.

Let’s jump into the common signs you can look out for today to tell if your work boots are past their best. Later in the article, you’ll see that I have included some tips around looking after your boots to slow down the wearing.


How Do You Know if Your Work Boots are Worn Out?

Knowing if your work boots have worn out can be tricky, but hopefully, this section will help point out some things you may not have known or previously realized.

The Outsole

The first and the most crucial sign of worn-out boots is damage to the outsole. This kind of damage is quite common because the outsole makes the most direct contact with the rough surfaces in and around the workplace. As a result, it faces the most friction, causing regular wear and tear.

Damage to the outsole can be in the form of a damaged pattern, cracks, or cuts. It may also form holes with continued use, affecting the protection, waterproofing, and insulation capabilities.

Eventually, this kind of damage will lead to common slips and falls and increased friction due to loss of traction, which is especially dangerous for outdoor workers. Therefore, if you experience any outsole damage, change the boots, or get them repaired immediately.

The Upper and Laces

Another sign of worn-out boots is the upper separating from the soles. This separation can also cause frequent slips and falls due to reduced grip. But, this can be fixed temporarily via a sole replacement.

Other kinds of upper damage, like cuts or cracks, can also reduce protection from workplace hazards such as chemicals, water, and cold weather.

Similarly, if the upper gets wrinkled and soft, it’s losing its structure, which can cause rolled ankles. Unfortunately, if your boots are in this state, you need to replace them quickly.

Moreover, damage to the laces can cause reduced stability and grip, increasing the chances of mishaps. If laces look fluffy, frayed, or you can see the inner thread in places, then you could replace them immediately as they may be about to snap – leaving you with a boot that’s not secure.

Lace damage does not mean that the boots have worn out, though, but I couldn’t leave them out.

The Insoles

Moving on, insole wear and tear can be hard to check. It often begins with reduced comfort and stability and soon leads to pain throughout the feet.

Sometimes, however, it might not cause foot discomfort but instead pain in the lower back. It is so because the compressed insoles affect your posture, causing an irregular alignment, resulting in the development of lower back pain.

Damaged insoles, particularly the cushioning, can also lead to reduced shock-absorbance, resulting in problems like shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Or, the wear and tear might affect the insoles’ support and protection, leading to issues like extensor tendonitis.

Fortunately, problems in this area can be solved easily by simply replacing them with better work boot insoles rather than getting new boots.

Toe Guards

This kind of damage is most harmful as it means diminished protection from the riskiest elements of your workplace. The most common type of damage is to the protective toe area, which protects the front part of the feet from falling objects.

Metatarsal guards can get poorly damaged after just a couple of serious incidents. A visible dent on the front upper part of the boot indicates this. This damage will diminish support and protection, but it can usually be repaired.


Most cold and damp work environments also demand waterproofing and insulation. Such features, however, get worn off eventually, and the shoes tend to begin leaking.

If you notice this, replace the work boots immediately, or you will risk damage from moisture, bacteria, or cold. In the long run, this can lead to permanent tissue damage too.

Natural Structure

There are also some other signs to tell if your work boots are worn out, which can be equally as unsafe as the ones above.

For one, improperly fitted shoes will increase muscle and nerve pressure, causing nerve damage. In turn, this will hurt your whole body, particularly the legs and the lower back. Therefore, you should get the boots re-fitted if they get too tight due to wearing or foot growth.

Finally, work boots should also rest flat when placed on a level surface. If they tilt inward or outward, it can lead to improper body alignment while moving. Over time, this will result in extreme back and hip pain. So, if the boots do not align well, you should replace them immediately.


How Look After Your Work Boots.

I’m sure by now you will have a clear opinion on whether your work boots are worn out or not. Either way, I wanted to share a few points, some may be obvious, to help maintain your shoes and prolong their life for your feet.

  •   Clean dirt and dust from them every day. This cleaning will help prevent dirt accumulation which can speed up the wear and tear of the boots or even cause cracks.
  •   Washing them regularly with chemical-free products will help keep them look polished without causing any harm.
  •   Do not use heat when drying them, and, instead, air-dry the work boots. It is because heat can cause cracks on the upper and even reduce the outsole traction.
  •   Polish them or treat them with impregnating spray often to keep the professional new look.
  •   If the boots get wet, remove the insoles and laces and keep them within a newspaper. The newspaper will quickly absorb the water without causing damage, unlike heat.
  •   Use two pairs of work boots, alternating them after each shift. This will allow significantly reduced stress upon both, hence increasing their longevity.

Using a shoehorn will ease wearing and prevent heel damage to the boots as you won’t be pulling them back as hard.

Written by Chris

I'm one of the founders of this site and having worked in environments were I'm on my feet most of the day, I took a side interest around the different work boot products and what they are best used for. I now write part-time, adding more content as my knowledge expands.

September 6, 2021

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