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Home > EMS Products > Apparel & Accessories
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Insights on Innovation
by Dan White

6 places to buy a great work boot

The difficult part of picking a great boot is finding the one that fits you the best, with a price and feature set you can live with

The Rescue Boot by Redback

Updated July 14, 2014

A good pair of boots is invaluable, especially at that moment when you really need them. I was talking to a 9/11 responder who said he always used to wear black tennis shoes on the job — up until the World Trade Center disaster. Now he always wears Danner boots. When disaster strikes, good foot protection is a high priority.

This statement is particularly true for me. Perhaps it traces back to my father and grandfather, who were both very particular about their shoes. They both lined up all their favorites along one side of their bed, as do I. None of the shoes were cheap and every pair was solid enough to be re-soled until eternity. I am much the same way; I won’t compromise my footwear.

My Redback Rescue boots are simply the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn. They're built like a tank with triple-stitched full-leather uppers, full leather lining, a center zip, and even ANSI steel toes. By the end of the first day wearing them, they felt like familiar old friends on my feet.

But the Redbacks are not cheap. They are manufactured in Australia with one of the thickest and most durable leathers I’ve ever seen. The soles and mid-soles are made of high-tech composites and they don’t break down easily. They are also extremely waterproof; you basically have to fully immerse your feet in water in order to get them wet.

However, there are many other great boots on the market today and a boot that feels great to one person may not fit well on others. The difficult part of picking a great boot is finding the one that fits you the best, with a price and feature set you can live with. Here are a few companies that are certainly worth looking into the next time you need a new pair of good boots.

A look at the current EMS footwear market

1. Danner Shoe Mfg. Company began in 1932 with five employees and focused on manufacturing handcrafted work boots. Danner attempts to set itself apart from the competition by highlighting the “overbuilding” of its products that results in sturdy, quality construction. Danner is also one of the few boot companies to offer footwear “re-crafting” – they will replace the sole and give the boot a face-lift once it’s worn out. It only costs half the original price ($110 to $350).

2. HAIX produces very functional, high-quality and innovative footwear built for professionals. While these are some of the most expensive duty boots on the market, you can make the argument that you will get what you pay for. They also offer a boot re-sole program that lends to the idea of the boots being a long-term investment.

3. Timberland is another huge name in duty footwear. They have one of the largest selections on the market that range from $110 to $200. They also offer custom-made boots, where you can select every detail, from color to stitching, to create a one-of-a-kind, personalized boot. Timberland is an interesting company with a strong sense of corporate values and adherence to a civic mission.

Timberland also produces the new Pro Valor Series, exclusively distributed by I. Spiewak & Sons. These boots have an innovative sizing system that allows the wearer to modify the boots’ insole. The Pro Valor designers claim that 60 percent of people cannot find a comfortable fit with current, conventional sizing, and that 35 percent have different sizes for their left and right feet. Pro Valor’s “PreciseFit” system aims to solve this problem by featuring a system of inserts that allows customization of each shoe. Forefoot inserts lock into a removable EVA foot bed base and can be used to either take-up more or less space to size each foot individually. Inserts can be changed at any time to accommodate different socks, activities and seasons.

4. Redwing Boots have been around for many years. They make many different styles and types of great quality boots. I’ve owned several pairs of Redwings over the years and have always been very happy with them. Prices range from $70 to $215.

5. Converse, most popularly known for its tennis shoes, has recently introduced its new line of tactical boots. This boot design is the perfect choice for people wanting comfort and performance in a more lightweight boot. Prices range from about $80 to $110.

6. Ridge offers boots with a great price point for departments that are on a tight budget, but still want decent quality. Selection ranges in everything from a leather/nylon boot to a full leather blood-borne, pathogen-resistant boot. This company has been in the market for over a decade and offer good quality at great prices ($45 to $130).

These are only a few of the many footwear companies that offer quality boots for the EMS professional. When selecting a boot, start with finding the right fit, then focus on which features you really need and can afford. Boots are probably one of the most expensive parts of an EMS uniform — but they are also one of the most important.

Protecting your feet can protect your life and can help you do your job to save someone else’s. In this instance, spending a little more money is worth the extra performance and value that you will receive from a good pair of boots. Finding the right boot for you can prove to be a difficult and challenging task, but you will find it to be both rewarding and crucial in allowing you to do your job well.

About the author

Dan White, EMT-P works for Intersurgical, Inc. as the National Account Manager for EMS. Immediately prior he ran Arasan, LLC. He served as Sales & Marketing Director for Truphatek, Inc. and before that Director of Corporate Planning & Product Development for AllMed. He has been certified as a paramedic since 1978 and an EMS and ACLS instructor since 1981. Dan has designed many emergency medical products since his first, the White Pulmonary Resuscitator, including the Prolite Speedboad, Cook Needle Decompression Kit and RapTag Triage System. His more recent EMS product designs are the Arasan Ultra EMS Coat and the B2 Paramedic Helmet. To contact Dan, email

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Phil Pechman Phil Pechman Tuesday, July 15, 2014 6:18:37 AM Great article but please try to buy some quality boots Made in the USA. Be sure to check the label. Corcoran Boots model 985 with side zip is what I have been using for 15 years, not to mention it looks sharp. Redwing Boots, Danner, Belleville Boots most which are Made in the USA.
Brian Goodwin Brian Goodwin Tuesday, July 15, 2014 6:30:39 AM I love my 5.11 boots.
Matt Lalicki Matt Lalicki Tuesday, July 15, 2014 6:43:14 AM Have used converse boots loved them but only downside was the durability was not that great lasted about 6 to 9 months max
Jeffrey Vanderpool Jeffrey Vanderpool Tuesday, July 15, 2014 7:11:24 AM I am on my second pair of Haix, first pair lasted 10 yrs of 24/48 at a fire station and two 12's at a private ambulance.
Diana York Diana York Tuesday, July 15, 2014 7:39:47 AM I love the Ridge boots. On my third pair. Fit great, comfortable right out of the box.
E.b. Jones E.b. Jones Tuesday, July 15, 2014 7:44:30 AM Many years ago (in 1970) I had a doctor tell me to buy the best boots I could afford. When you use your feet to make your living take care of them. Buy boots that are comfortable and make your feet feel good. Don't buy imitation leather as they do not breath and will harm your feet. Last but not least buy AMERICAN.
Dominick Walenczak Dominick Walenczak Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:14:29 AM Totally missed Thorogood Shoes. I swear by their Commando Deuce line of boots. Waterproof, bloodborne pathogen proof, anti-microbial moisture wicking lining, oil resistant, slip resistant, electric shock resistant to 18,000 volts. Some varieties come with a waterproof YKK side-zipper. Essentially, every OSHA checkbox you can have. What other brand can say that?
Dominick Walenczak Dominick Walenczak Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:15:24 AM And composite safety toe too.
Steanson Parks Jr Steanson Parks Jr Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:02:43 AM where I got my Corcoran Side Zip jump boots. most comfortable all leather boots this side of UA shoe-boots.
Steanson Parks Jr Steanson Parks Jr Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:03:45 AM Corcoran
Steanson Parks Jr Steanson Parks Jr Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:08:59 AM my 995's will only be replaced by the 985's. Same boot, but my sole is like an ice skate...totally smooth. I'll trade for the "engineer boot" sole...that is, the vibram lug sole. Our Corcorans polish up really nice, especially the cap toe and heel!
Char Manley Char Manley Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:52:41 AM US Calvary also has great boots and prices. At least they used to
Mark Peck Mark Peck Tuesday, July 15, 2014 10:48:53 AM If only these companies would produce their boots in Extra Wide Widths..EEE and EEEE. Ive been forced to use Bates boots, and while I love that they are lightweight and very comfortable, they dont last a year and are not waterproof. They make a waterproof version of one in EEE, but the cut is different and it didnt fit well. Weinbrenner/Thorogood makes one that fits the requirements, but its been back ordered for months at 2 major distributors. Very disappointed that Danner and Belleville are ignoring this market. One big issue with many of the boots on the market is the lug soles/deep treads. Perhaps a great source of traction while hiking, but they trap mud and snow that you bring into patients homes and require a high pressure hose to clean.
Scott Roy Scott Roy Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:45:21 AM Hey, Bates gets a bad rap, but I really loved the ones I wore. they had a gel disc in the heel that you could adjust for how your feet tilted, and the first pair I had lasted SIX YEARS! I'm hellish on boots, too.
Scott Roy Scott Roy Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:46:01 AM Plus, they were six-inch boots, which let the cuffs of my pants go where they were supposed to go instead of hanging up and requiring adjustment!
Tammy Wheeler Tammy Wheeler Tuesday, July 15, 2014 12:03:57 PM Does anyone know of a company that will literally custom make the boots?? it would be oh so nice to wear a pair in the normal fashion .. I have tiny feet ( size 3.5) I hate wearing a 6 and multiple pairs of socks.. I should own the tinactin company by now. I cant find anything smaller than a 6.
Sharon McGehee Sharon McGehee Tuesday, July 15, 2014 12:30:03 PM I prefer SWATS very light weight and durable. I have a pair now for about 4 years and they are are awesome.
Sharon McGehee Sharon McGehee Tuesday, July 15, 2014 12:31:41 PM S.W.A.T.
Ryan Knight Ryan Knight Wednesday, July 16, 2014 5:08:30 PM Great article! I just bought a pair of original swat boots to replace my 5 year old ones and was I ever surprised at how much the quality has dropped off in such a short time. 1 month in the stitching on the top cuff has let go and customer service hasn't answered my emails. I'll be looking elsewhere in the future.
Les Lambeth Les Lambeth Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:31:50 PM HAIX sells boots in extra wide. I just got a pair of Airpower R7 boots in 12.5 extra wide and they fit me pretty good. Before that I had the Airpower R1 boots in 12 wide and they killed me even though I loved the design of the boots. The tread isn't that aggressive.
Santi Salas Santi Salas Thursday, July 17, 2014 11:06:03 PM blauer are seriously the best, so comfortable and reliable, 511 is ok too
Tim Walker Tim Walker Friday, July 18, 2014 8:22:44 AM I feel you, my sister. Size 6 EEEE. Can't find boots, sneakers or tap shoes. I could have been the next Gregory Hines.
Morgan Young Morgan Young Monday, October 20, 2014 6:27:59 AM They say the same thing in the Infantry.
Sarah Burns Sarah Burns Monday, October 20, 2014 6:40:48 AM Seconding Thorogoods. They're so worth the money!
John Raschke John Raschke Monday, October 20, 2014 11:17:22 AM Haix...they have one of the most comfortable and safe boots, I have ever worn, and they are BBP resistant. The pair I own now are three years old and I'm just getting ready to buy a new pair now...well worth the money!
John Raschke John Raschke Monday, October 20, 2014 11:18:41 AM Haix...they have one of the most comfortable and safe boots, I have ever worn, and they are BBP resistant. The pair I own now are three years old and I'm just getting ready to buy a new pair now...well worth the money! I've had blauer and 5.11 before and can't stand wings are a close second, but their EMS boot is so hot and make my feet sweat since they don't breathe at all.
Vinnie Catenacci Vinnie Catenacci Tuesday, October 21, 2014 11:30:53 PM You can never go wrong with Haix, Thorogood, or Globe.
Kerry Grizzard Kerry Grizzard Wednesday, October 22, 2014 8:19:34 AM I swear by Rocky boots. They fit well are waterproof and pathogen resistant.